Thursday, 15 August 2019

Joys of Late Summer

It's a rash man who says he has seen his last swift of the year, but I'm pretty sure I have now. It was last Friday (a week after I thought I'd seen my last) – just the one, flying high over the garden – and since then there has been so much foul weather that it's unlikely even the tardiest of swifts has been tempted to hang around.
 This afternoon, however, the clouds broke up and the sun finally came out, so I headed for Box Hill to see what butterflies I might find. It was rather blowy when I got there, and the sun was coming and going, so I wasn't too hopeful, especially of seeing the heat-loving Silver-Spotted Skipper, so short-winged and plump in the body it needs a good charge of solar energy to get it off the ground.
Amazingly, however, almost the first butterfly I saw was a Silver-Spotted Skipper, no less, sitting on the ground with its wings neatly folded to display those diagnostic silvery spots on the green underwing – and then another joined it before they both flew off, showing a remarkable turn of speed. A little later, I found another settled on a flower head and was able to take a longer look. It's always one of the great joys of late summer to see these exceptionally pretty – and obliging – little beauties.
  There were also Chalkhill Blues galore, and – what I was most hoping for – Adonis Blues. Not many – maybe half a dozen – but thrillingly beautiful as ever: there is no blue in nature (in English nature) quite like the intense celestial blue of the male Adonis's upperwings. With the Skippers and the Chalkhills too, this was a glorious show to end the butterfly year. It added what are surely the last two species to my 2019 list (unless a fluky Clouded Yellow appears, or a still flukier Brown Hairstreak). The total stands at 37 – all but one seen in my home county – which makes this, despite the vagaries of the weather, a pretty good year.

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