Monday 23 July 2012


Yesterday's sunshine - summer sunshine, the real thing, at last! - had me heading as soon as I could for the nearest place I know where White Admirals and Silverwashed Fritillaries might be flying. But would they, or would this dreadful butterfly year have another disappointment up its sleeve? No, happily, it was not long until the first Silverwashed Frit came swooping down impressively to let me know who was in charge in this neck of the woods. Soon afterwards a White Admiral glided down, in a friendlier and more relaxed spirit, landed at my feet and spread its wings briefly before taking off and sailing elegantly away into the trees. There were to be many more, of both Admirals and Frits - a glorious beautiful glut after such meagre times - with the Fritillaries in the end outnumbering the White Admirals.
But the high point of it all was when a Silverwashed Fritillary of the beautiful variant form called Valezina flew down to entertain me - well, that is how it seemed, as if she (this form is invariably female) was there to entertain and instruct me. Unlike all the others I had seen, she settled repeatedly at close quarters, letting me enjoy the muted beauty of her wings, with their greenish metallic sheen and unexpected blue and pink tints. I'd seen Valezinas before but never appreciated quite how subtly beautiful they are. And at one point she flew up to inspect me even more closely than I was inspecting her, coming within an antenna's breadth of settling on me...
My father, in his butterfly-collecting boyhood, once netted a Valezina, thought it was an old Silver-Washed that had lost its coloration, and discarded it - good news for one Valezina, but a 'D'Oh!' moment for one butterfly-obsessed boy. He never forgot it... The great butterfly man F.W. Frohawk, whose coloured drawings of all the life stages of our butterflies have never been bettered, was so enamoured of Valezina that he named his third daughter after her. In 1996, fifty years after her father's death, Valezina, then Viscountess Bolingbroke, unveiled a commemorative sign in the New Forest marking the 'Frohawk Ride', a haunt of the Silverwashed Fritillary in both its forms. To mark the occasion, a Valezina was released from a box. She circled once, flew down, and settled for some minutes on her human namesake.


  1. woweeee! definately never seen one of those

  2. Lovely, soft shading and a super picture too. I've never seen one. Yesterday felt like a day when everyone emerged from a kind of enforced hibernation and, somewhat to their surprise, suddenly stepped into summer.

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