Sunday, 18 July 2010


Events having again prevented me from escaping to my country haunts yesterday, I made do with a stroll around the 'village', hoping, as the sun was intermittently out, that I might spot the odd butterfly. In particular, I was keen to see some of those cheery little July fliers with the beady eyespots, the Gatekeepers. I wandered into the grounds of the local 'Ecology Centre', enjoyed a Red Admiral nectaring on Buddleia, then, turning to the patch of meadow-like grassland behind me, I realised, with a start of joy, that it was alive with butterflies - not only Meadow Browns but beautiful dark Ringlets in large numbers. I waded in the grass for some while, as people walked to and fro on the path, bearing plates of cakes and goodies to the Fair that was going on elsewhere in the grounds. Nobody seemed to be noticing the butterflies, but that's usually the way. Around the corner from the 'meadow' is the consciously-created 'Butterfly Garden', where straight away I was inspected by Speckled Woods, bombed by a pair of Commas and bamboozled by a fast-flying Peacock - but the real joy was yet to come. The clumps of Wild Marjoram, flowering profusely, were surrounded by orange-and-brown clouds of Gatekeepers - feeding, fighting, mating, or just fluttering feebly from plant to plant, there they were, in astonishing numbers for what is in reality not countryside but a small oasis in suburbia. It's a heartening demonstration of what can be done with a little effort in the way of habitat adaptation. With a few Holly Blues and a Small Skipper also spotted (and Whites Small and Large) this amounted to 11 species seen in one short stroll in suburbia. Ah but those Gatekeepers - they lifted the heart...


  1. Same here but slightly earlier. About two weeks ago, I noticed ringlets on my local patch, quite the Tennysonian butterfly with their dark cloak-like flapping seen from above and a simple but strong underside. Then last week I met a rowdy party of gatekeepers chasing each other around the blackberry bushes, all exuberance while, just as you say, a couple of commas kept an eye on things. It's nice to be alive, isn't it. That's the whole point of this to me.

  2. Quite agree Mark - and yes the ringlets are Tennysonian indeed! I went back to the same place again today and was greeted by a brimstone, so that brings it up to a round dozen species.

  3. I'm suddenly proud of the reluctant work I put into building that ecology centre as a Girl Guide...