Saturday 30 June 2018

Sheer Abundance

Sorry to return so soon to the subject of butterflies – but really this has been a quite amazing summer, an object lesson in the dramatic impact of a good long spell of sunshine and real warmth on the butterfly population. Barely a month ago, the situation was not looking good, despite signs of promise. The terrible early spring weather seemed to have left a lasting mark on the early fliers. Now, however, things could hardly look more different. I haven't seen such sheer abundance in years – sometimes it's hard to believe this is England.
 Last week I returned to Mitcham Common and was immediately rewarded, several times, with close-up views of purple hairstreaks, and having got my eye in, I realised that many of the oaks on the common were alive with these little beauties, flying about the tree-tops in such numbers as I've only seen once before in my life. And there were many more purple hairstreaks in the oak trees on Bookham Common yesterday when I led my walking friends (whose interests lie chiefly in old buildings) on a butterfly walk. Silver-washed fritillaries and white admirals were flying in huge numbers, to spectacular effect, and all that was lacking was an encounter with the purple emperor. He, however, was settled somewhere in the treetops, with no intention of showing himself, even on such a gloriously sunny day. Ah well, you can never count on the emperor.

Talking of butterflies, here's an addendum to my recent post, Seventh Worst Butterfly Year. Last year's figures – reported, inevitably, as a tale of dramatic declne – showed that several species, including common blue, white-letter hairstreak, orange-tip, pearl-bordered fritillary and wood white, had increased in numbers, in some cases dramatically,  year on year. And over the long term (i.e. since 1976) 22 species (over forty percent of UK butterflies) have actually become more abundant. That is hardly a picture of unrelieved doom and gloom – and, if this weather continues, next year's figures should paint a much more hopeful picture. They might even be presented as a good news story – can such things be?


  1. just noticed the very same thing in our garden yesterday, butterflies everywhere!

  2. If the drought in the Southeast goes on, this could be 1976 all over again!