Gaw - of Ragbag and The Dabbler - brightened my day yesterday by sending me this lovely account of an early spring walk in Bow Cemetery - a place I didn't even know existed, but which I clearly must visit; it even seems to have its own microclimate... Scroll down through those beautiful photographs of early flowers and lichened tombstones, and near the bottom is a Red Admiral basking on a broken stone - 'Sadly missed' indeed. I have yet to see a butterfly this year, and I have been missing them and yearning for their return more than ever. Partly this is because my recent bedside reading included Patrick Barkham's wonderful The Butterfly Isles (spoilt only by poor proof-reading and the odd lapse into journalese). This account of a summer, spring and autumn spent in search of all 59 butterfly species of the British Isles is suffused with love and enchantment, while also remarkably honest about the pains and tribulations of the quest. Some lepidopterists tick off all 59 species every year, as a kind of five-finger exercise, but their attitude seems more like that of the 'twitcher' than the true amateur - the butterfly lover. Barkham is most definitely a lover, and the enthusiasm is infectious. As is the frustration that goes with it as February continues grey and cold and butterflyless - so it was a joy to read of that glorious piece of butterfly magic in Bow cemetery.
Incidentally, the Red Admiral, a hibernator, now overwinters in large numbers and is seen by some lucky soul in every month of the year - indeed there was one recent year when it was seen somewhere in Britain on every day of the 365. My own most unexpected sighting was a few years ago, in a shop window in Lille in January. In the dazzling electric light, a fine Red Admiral was careering sleepily about, to the amazement of all. 'Alors - un papillon!'