Thursday 17 June 2021

Nature Notes: Good News and Bad

 Well, after a jittery start, the swifts have arrived in full force, and they've been wonderfully lively and vocal in recent days. Such a joy – and relief – to have them back.
  When it comes to the butterflies, however, it looks as if the dreadful spring weather – cold and dry, then cold and wet – has taken its toll. I haven't known butterflies so thin on the ground (or rather in the air) for some years. Even the ones you'd expect to see everywhere – the Whites – have been few and far between, and the numbers of virtually every species flying so far have been worryingly low. The other day, in my son's garden, a Tortoiseshell was nectaring at length on a flowering Cotoneaster and, as I pointed it out to the grandchildren, I realised that it was only the second I've seen this year. It's been the same with most species – I've seen them, but in far lower numbers than I'd expect in a normal year (if there is such a thing, when it comes to butterflies). Brimstones, Holly Blues and Peacocks have been about the only species flying in normal healthy numbers, at least around here. 
  Yesterday afternoon – hot and sunny – I visited one of my favourite local haunts to see its colony of Small Blues (below), those tiny beauties. Happily they were there, though in lower numbers than usual. Otherwise, however, there was almost nothing flying on that stretch of flower-rich chalk downland – one Common Blue, one Small Heath, a few Meadow Browns (my first of the year), and that was it.
  And then, by early evening, it was raining hard, and continued to do so through the night. And the forecast is for more days of cloud and intermittent rain. Oh dear, oh dear.

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