Monday 12 April 2010

An Afternoon

Yesterday afternoon I had a simple plan - to go for a walk on the downs. Striding merrily along on the dry turf, I might spot the odd early flying butterfly (there have already been reports, from elsewhere, of the Green Hairstreak). However, like many a simple plan before it, mine was soon ganging thoroughly agley, as I discovered that trains don't run on Sundays on the line I needed. A swift rethink took me, rather laboriously, to my old favourite, Ashtead common, instead. Here, of course, it was muddy underfoot and I was inadequately shod - and nothing in the way of butterflies was to be seen. However, there were several bee flies - the improbable Bombylius - hovering and darting about like something out of Hieronymus Bosch's imagination. And, best of all, beside a woodland path I came across a fine Snakeshead Fritillary, with two flowers - one open, one still hooded - right next to a patch of beautiful white Wood Anenomes. Needless to say, I did not have my camera with me to catch this perfect arrangement - it was that kind of day... There's a foreword to all this: on my way to the station - before any of this had happened and while I had yet to learn that my original mission was doomed - I heard an unusually melodious song coming from an elder tree as I was passing, paused to have a look, and got a fine close-up view of a Willow Warbler. Beak open, it was giving a textbook example of its distinctive, rather sad song, which builds to a rising, questioning climax, then dies away. I have never seen a Willow Warbler so close to home before. If I was a vicar, I could make a sermon from that afternoon's events, so pregnant with moral lessons are they - however, happily, I am not.


  1. That's exactly the trouble with vicars, always drawing lessons.

    [After the Simpsons receive a large idol head of Xtapolapocetl, the Olmec god of war, as a reward from Burns.]
    Marge: The moral of this story is a good deed is its own reward.

    Bart: Hey, we got a reward. The head is cool!

    Marge: Well then... I guess the moral is no good deed goes unrewarded.

    Homer: Wait a minute! If I hadn't written that nasty letter, we wouldn't have gotten anything!

    Marge: Well... then I guess the moral is the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

    Lisa: Perhaps there is no moral to this story.

    Homer: Exactly! It's just a bunch of stuff that happened.

  2. Is Bombylius another name for the hoverfly? Much rarer is the bee fly - I've only ever seen one, which I kept in a matchbox (in my childhood - obviously this would now be illegal, even though the insect was dead). The bee fly is old fashioned (possibly extinct?) and featured in Encylopedia Britannica - click on the link out of curiosity - perhaps the door to door salesmen have all died off by now, but you may be subject to a zillion spam emails, who knows...

    Fritillaries are so rare and delicate and detailed and mysteriously dark purple and divine: If I were a celebrity, I'd probably want to be one in my next life.

  3. These were bee flies indeed, Susan - they are around, tho I only noticed my first when I was already in my 20s. Guess I'm sensitised to them now - amazing creatures...
    Brit - exactly.