Wednesday 21 October 2015


Yesterday afternoon being warm and sunny, I was drawn magnetically to the Surrey Hills to enjoy the mellow sunshine and the glorious autumn hues, and to see what was flying. The sun did not disappoint, the trees and shrubs were in their autumn glory - maple and dogwood spectacular, beeches turning golden-bronze, abundant hips and haws, sloes, buckthorn and pink spindle berries - and the sun-raked views were breath-taking, but disappointingly little was flying. Apart, that is, from a number of red-bodied ichneumon wasps and tiresome swarms (I use the word advisedly) of ladybirds - the all-conquering Harlequin invaders, sadly. I had to knock dozens of the blighters off my clothes and hair. As for butterflies... well, none of the late fliers I might have expected (I was walking in prime butterfly country) - Brimstone, Red Admiral, Peacock, Tortoiseshell, Small Copper - not even a Speckled Wood. What I did see were two tired and faded Meadow Browns and - a real surprise, this - one remarkably fresh-looking Gatekeeper basking in the sun. A lovely sight, and extraordinarily late - I know Gatekeepers have been flying later in recent years, but October 20th, for heaven's sake? I wonder if anyone else has seen one recently...

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