Monday 28 June 2010

Yesterday Afternoon

So there I was in my lucky white England shirt, flag of St George draped over my shoulders, face painted in red and white, in one hand a vuvuzela, in the other a pint of Wifebeater... Only joshing. In fact, when our brave boys were showing the quaking Hun who's boss (i.e. he is), I was out and about in the hot sun on Ashtead common, catching up with my butterfly friends. I was richly rewarded. Within minutes of walking into the woods, a White Admiral swooped past me and glided off into the trees - and it proved to be the first of many, in fact more than I have ever seen on any one occasion before (when I got into the 20s, I gave up counting). As I might have mentioned before, the White Admiral, with its simple restrained beauty and graceful flight, is just about my favourite butterfly, and last year I saw disappointingly few of them, whereas I encountered Silverwashed Fritillaries galore. This year - so far - the balance seems to be reversed and I was seeing at least two Admirals for every Frit. Yesterday both these beautiful species were flying - flying energetically and with purpose, seldom pausing for a drop of nectar. The Silverwashed has a very fast, no-nonsense flight, brash, aggressive, almost swaggering, whereas the White Admiral's flight, though almost as fast, is an elegant affair of few wingbeats and much gliding. The effect in strong woodland sunlight is extraordinary, as the black-and-white butterfly, passing between bright light and inky shade, seems to disappear and reappear and even to change shape, often appearing a much smaller and more insignificant insect than it is seen to be when it lands. It was a rare joy to see so many of these beautiful creatures in flight, and I fancy I shall remember that magical afternoon long after I've forgotten that there was a football match on too.


  1. Skiving off, Nige? It's detention for you. Write 'Vuvuzelas are intoxicating things to parp' 500 times.

  2. Sounds a lovely afternoon. Last year near here, many commas but relatively few common skippers; this year so far, few commas but thousands of common skippers. I haven't seen either of the two species you mention locally, though I expect they are around, but on the other hand within a few miles there are grizzled and dingy skippers. My little target for this year, being fairly new to all this, is to find a purple hairstreak as these are known to occur nearby.

  3. Good luck Mark - the purple hairstreaks do come down from the trees (oaks) later in the season. I envy you the grizzled skippers - and I noticed a heck of a lot of skipper activity yesterday too, both Large and Small were everywhere, dashing about madly. Wonderful how it all changes from year to year...

  4. I've still to see anything of interest this year. I am getting the feeling that my current abode is a butterfly black spot

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