Monday 13 August 2012

'... and Meadow Browns of course': A Lesson

'Against the hot blue sky, the terraced knoll loomed enormous, its summit lost in a shimmering heat-haze. The grassy flanks seemed to radiate a reflected heat, enfolding us in a weighted, thyme-scented silence, enhanced rather than disturbed by the monotone of a thousand insects. On the banks at the hill's foot, the cropped turf was gemmed with the small downland flowers, many of which I had never seen before: rockrose, milkwort, centaury...'
  Thus Jocelyn Brooke in The Military Orchid - a memoir (which I'm reading at the moment) built around his passion for wild flowers, especially orchids. He is recounting a first boyhood visit to the downs above Folkestone which kindled a lifelong love of chalk downland flora. 'Rockrose, milkweed, centaury...' I couldn't visualise Centaury and meant to look it up, but was distracted by the name. Apparently it does derive from the obvious source - Centaur - and from a legend that it was Chiron the Centuar who first divulged the secrets of Centaury's healing powers (it's still widely used in herbal medicine).
  The chalk downland flora were in their high summer glory yesterday when I took a walk in the Surrey Hills with my cousin down from Derbyshire. Blue scabious and yellow hawkweed over knapweed and wild marjoram, bird's-foot trefoil and clover... And the lovely pale Chalkhill Blues were flying in uncountable numbers, along with Common Blues - disappointingly no Adonis - and the odd Brown Argus. Gatekeepers were everywhere, and Meadow Browns of course. A pale-looking specimen flew past which I instantly identified as yet another Meadow Brown - but my cousin, not so sure, watched it land and called me over for a closer look. Yes, I confirmed with one glance of my expert eye, a paler-than-usual Meadow Brown. But then I took a proper look...
 Yes, it was pretty pale, but the eye on the forewing that was just showing was altogether too small and lustreless - and why were those wings staying so firmly closed? That's not Meadow Brown behaviour. The obliging specimen stayed put, quite immobile, long enough for me to consult my trusty field guide and conclude that this was no Meadow Brown, but a Grayling, a species I hadn't (knowingly) seen in years. When it eventually, reluctantly took to the air and flew weakly away for a few yards, then dropped to the ground again in the identical pose, wings tight shut, slightly off-vertical, the identification was confirmed, and I had learnt a lesson: Use your eyes! Look properly, even if you think you know what you're seeing.
 Amid all the butterfly spotting (and misidentifying), we were also taking an interest in the flowers - among which was a pretty little item with small pink, five-petalled flowers. We took one stem (came off in my hand, honest) home to identify. Yes, it was Centaury. Now I know.


  1. We have just moved house. The new place has two mature elms and one, smaller, that is dying (no doubt of Dutch Elm disease). Last weekend we were joined in the garden by a butterfly we hadn't ever seen before. Our researches revealed it to be a white letter hairstreak (lives in the tops of elms). What now if our old elms die? The loss of two lovely trees and rare butterflies too - how would we bear it? Almost wish we hadn't moved.

  2. ahhh so THAT'S Centaury (having now just googled it)

    Still only seen literally a handful of butterflies or moths this whole summer, given up looking to be honest

  3. A White Letter Hairstreak! I envy you that, Anon - they're notoriously elusive, living in the treetops as they do. I hope your elms hang on - the hairstreaks can probably make do with just one at a pinch. I had a Purple Hairstreak in the garden once, which must have come down from a nearby single oak.

  4. Thanks for that consolation, Nige. I read that the Purple Hairstreak is very rarely seen. It looks a particularly beautiful butterfly. The White Letter was much quieter in its effects.

  5. Yes all the hairstreaks keep themselves to themselves - the Green, early in the summer, is the most outgoing. Very beautiful too.

  6. I am actually thankful to the holder of this web site who has shared
    this enormous piece of writing at here.
    Also visit my blog ... erinmore

  7. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate
    your efforts and I am waiting for your next post thank you once again.
    Feel free to surf my page :: diablo 3 gold farming

  8. Hi there every one, here every one is sharing such know-how, therefore it's pleasant to read this blog, and I used to pay a quick visit this weblog every day.
    my site - drum tobacco

  9. I have been surfing on-line more than 3 hours as of late,
    yet I never discovered any attention-grabbing
    article like yours. It is pretty value sufficient for me.
    In my opinion, if all webmasters and bloggers made excellent content
    material as you probably did, the net can be much more helpful
    than ever before.
    My blog post ... old holborn

  10. With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright infringement?

    My blog has a lot of unique content I've either written myself or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my authorization. Do you know any methods to help protect against content from being stolen? I'd
    certainly appreciate it.
    My webpage spyware software

  11. Hmm is anyone else having problems with the pictures on this blog loading?

    I'm trying to find out if its a problem on my end or if it's the blog.
    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    Feel free to surf my page how to lose man boobs

  12. Wow, amazing blog structure! How lengthy have you ever been blogging for?
    you made blogging look easy. The whole look of your web site
    is great, let alone the content!
    Have a look at my web site ... developmental psychology

  13. Wow, amazing blog structure! How lengthy have you ever been
    blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The whole look of your web
    site is great, let alone the content!
    Also see my web page: developmental psychology

  14. Hi there everyone, it's my first go to see at this website, and post is genuinely fruitful for me, keep up posting such articles or reviews.
    My web-site :

  15. This web site certainly has all of the info I wanted concerning this subject and didn't know who to ask.
    Here is my blog ... how to prevent acne from shaving

  16. Its as easy as pie''when you have a group of programmers
    diligently working like all get out day and night trying
    to discover exactly how Microsoft generates their activation
    codes. Credit cards are readily available in both Sixteen hundred or 1000 stage sects.

    Whatever it may be, it's definitely working right now, so if you want to take advantage of it, now is the time.

    My weblog: microsoft points for free

  17. the author is an executive of Wensil I Technologies and writing articles for.

    You will not go far by indulging in random following.
    Ask your friends and followers to digg, retweet a
    post for you because that will feature you on the Digg homepage
    and you will surely have increased number
    of followers on twitter.

    Look at my web site; Buy Twitter Followers cheap

  18. This is usually considered a fun and effective learning method in
    general. Do not overlook this part of your learning. It is
    very soothing to hear the sound of piano and based
    on such vast change of scales, a song sounds
    so melodious.

    My web blog :: Opm songs with piano chords and Notes

  19. Natural remedies are deemed highly efficient, cost effective, and significantly safe to use.
    The most common feature of yeast infection
    are-. If you apply Aloe Vera gel on the affected areas it can help reduce the
    itching and burning caused by the infection.

    My web site - vaginal yeast infection and yogurt
    my web site - yeast infection and bleeding pregnancy

  20. One thing that you should practice, and the
    only time that I believe you will dump your kayak will be when exiting
    and re-entering the boat. In water types, you can consider cold or warm water, waves volume and
    other related elements. Kayaks can also be classified as ocean kayaks, Hobie kayaks, river kayaks, and tandem

    Here is my web page :: E bay

  21. I seldom comment, but after looking at through a few of the remarks on this
    page "'... and Meadow Browns of course': A Lesson".
    I do have a couple of questions for you if it's allright. Is it only me or does it give the impression like a few of the responses appear like they are written by brain dead folks? :-P And, if you are writing at other social sites, I would like to follow you. Would you make a list of the complete urls of your social pages like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

    Here is my homepage godaddy promo

  22. Cellulite is an unsightly dimpled appearance, especially
    around the thighs. Article Source: tested cream is
    a inexpensive and fast way to remove cellulite. Also, if you are being treated by a physician for
    any type of medical condition, it is important to let the office know.

    Also visit my site; best cellulite removal treatments