Friday 31 July 2020

An Aurelian Writes...

Today being blazing hot, I launched a Timely, Targeted and Time-limited one-man expedition to a butterfly-haunted Surrey hillside in the hope of seeing one of my favourite little butterflies, the heat-loving Silver-spotted Skipper, and perhaps that famous beauty, the Adonis Blue. Oddly, having left home in all too still air, I found the hillside raked by a strong, if warm, southeasterly breeze – never good news for butterflies, especially if they're as small as the Silver-Sotted Skipper.
  The sturdier Chalk-Hill Blues, pale and milky, were flying in abundance, especially in the more sheltered spots, where they rose up in clouds (mingled with other chalk downland regulars) as I passed. My hopes of seeing their Adonis cousin were not high – it's a bit early, even without the wind – but, as I began the long climb back up the hillside, I spotted a flash of that unmistakably intense jewel-like blue and, sure enough, it was an Adonis Blue (not my first of the year this time, as I'd seen a first-brood specimen back in June). I also had a surprise sighting of a skipper I wasn't expecting to see – the Dingy Skipper, which these days sometimes runs to a second brood. But still no Silver-spotted Skipper, and, as I drew near the top of the hillside, I had given up all serious hope of seeing one. Then, suddenly, as if from nowhere, a perfect specimen appeared just inches from my left elbow, perched on a flowerhead with its beautiful underwing – sage green spangled with silver – on display. It was one of those moments when, as Nabokov puts it, the aurelian experiences 'a thrill of gratitude to whom it may concern'. I might never see another Silver-spotted Skipper this year, but today's belated encounter was one that I'm not likely to forget.


  1. Yesterday I chanced upon a colony of silver washed fritillarys in a woodland glade - very handsome butterflies!

  2. Yes indeed – spectacularly beautiful!