Monday 3 September 2012

Ending Well

Well, it may have been - may have been? It was - a terrible summer for butterflies, but at least it's ending well. In Derbyshire, my spiritual second home, at the weekend, I had probably my best butterfly day of the year - on the first day of September. Walking with my cousin from Monsal Head to Miller's Dale, I clocked up 13 species (my highest count of the year), including my first proper sighting of a Small Tortoiseshell - and, wonderfully, my first Comma. I caught sight of him quite high up on a rough flowery bank, nectaring methodically on the flowerhead of a Devil's Bit Scabious. What's more, he was showing no signs of any inclination to fly away, and was spreading his wings and showing them off, this way and that, in all their downy, freshly-emerged glory, as if posing for the cover of Comma Monthly. Needless to say, I did not have my camera with me, but we were able to watch him for many minutes, and I even managed to climb the bank for a close-up view. And still he didn't take flight...
  There were more Commas too - two of them - the next day, amid countless Peacocks, another Tortoiseshell, a Brimstone, Red Admirals, Meadow Browns and a Holly Blue. All of these were on a patch of derelict land in Wirksworth, flat, stony and shingly but, after just a few years, already rich in flora, with abundant wild Marjoram and Goldenrod now in flower, a wealth of lower-growing plants, and a burgeoning grove of butterfly-magnet Buddleia. This was very much the kind of terrain where, down by the sea in Kent many years ago, my love of butterflies was born. And this wonderful patch of land is due to be cleared of all its ragged glory, bulldozed, dug out, and 'affordable housing' built on it. I hope this destructive scheme is somehow stopped.


  1. I've seen this 'wonderful patch of land' change over the last ten years to become the best habitat I know for butterflies, orchids, and newts. It was here I heard a nightingale last May for the first time ever, and usually see the first bats of the year. The council have already marked it for a new housing estate. Has anyone out there has any ideas how to stop, or indeed slow down, this building project?

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