The cover story of the Autumn issue of the indispensable Butterfly magazine is, of course, the Summer of the Painted Lady. The numbers are still being crunched, but it seems likely that around a billion Painted Ladies swept across the UK, at the western end of a front some 850 miles long. They flew with such vigour and carried on so far north that some reached St Kilda - the first butterflies of any kind seen there in two years - and others flew on all the way to Iceland. The article poses an intriguing question: What happens now? As the weather cools, the butterflies can't survive, and the obvious thing for them to do would be to turn round and migrate south for the winter, as Red Admirals do. But Painted Ladies have rarely been observed flying south in autumn. Are they flying at high altitude, making use of faster winds? No one knows...
Naturally, reading this got me thinking back over my own butterfly summer, from
the first Holly Blues and Speckled Woods to the profusion of Orange Tips,that memorable encounter with a Green Hairstreak and those beautiful Dark Green Fritillaries. There were happy times among the
Silver-Washed Fritillaries and White Admirals - and more Silver-Washed Fritillaries; an indoor Peacock; those uncommonly beautiful Common Blues that treated me to so many close-up inspections - and there was one great day on the downs, the high point of the season. I glimpsed my first Gatekeeper of the season from a train, and, much later, a Clouded Yellow from Bryan's car - then more Clouded Yellows in the October sun in France... And that was the end of summer. Still, the sky is blue today, the sun is warm. There will be a few stragglers still flying.