Saturday 14 September 2019

Good News (for now) on Butterflies

Like many, I'm listening to Radio 4's Today programme less and less (and generally avoiding all news programmes, especially on TV), but early yesterday morning I happened to catch a pleasantly surprising item on Today – a report on the state of the nation's butterfly population that was actually upbeat in tone. What was still more surprising was that a spokeswoman for those dismal Jimmies at Butterfly Conservation was in the studio sounding positively cheery and delivering only good news – not a word about threatened species or 'climate change'. What occasioned all this good cheer was the news that this summer has been a Painted Lady summer, with a huge influx of these beauties swelling the numbers of butterflies being seen and contributing to a very heartening Big Butterfly Count result. John Humphrys, who was doing the interview, seemed very happy about it all, and also seized the opportunity to launch a little tirade against people replacing their lawns with Astro Turf (quite right too).
  In my inbox this morning was the Butterfly Conservation report that led to all this jollity – and it is indeed an unusually upbeat document, which arrived with the label 'A Smashing Summer' (not the kind of language BC often uses). The picture it presents is actually quite mixed, with, for example, 'Whites on the Wain' (to quote a bizarre crosshead) – but there is more than enough to justify the 'smashing summer' label. No doubt by the time all the numbers are in, Butterfly Conservation will have found ample contrary evidence to justify their traditional yearly jeremiad.
 My own butterfly summer – which has indeed been pretty 'smashing' (37 of Surrey's 41 species spotted) – continued this afternoon with a stroll around Belmont Downs, where there was a fine abundance of butterflies. Most of these, admittedly, were late Meadown Browns, flapping around with a decidedly fin de saison air (though one pair had mustered the energy for a bit of lepidopteral how's your father, as we scientists call it). But I also saw several pretty little Brown Arguses and Small Heaths, a few late Common Blues and the odd Speckled Wood. Earlier in the day I'd also seen several Red Admirals, a Peacock and a lovely, burnished Small Copper. So yes, a good season – and it's not over yet...

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