Wednesday 10 August 2022

On the Hill

 From the train this morning, the dip slope of Box Hill looked more like desert than grassland – as did most of the usually grassy open spaces I saw along the way. This drought is certainly having an impact (though I was pleased to find that the river Mole, though a bit low, is still flowing well, as is the upper Wandle), and it looks as if it will be with us a while yet, along with some pretty fierce heat. Anyway, I wasn't intending to walk up that parched slope. I took a taxi from the station to the famous viewpoint at the top of Box Hill (as featured, I believe, in Emma), and from there I walked down to one of my regular August haunts, where I hoped to find the Adonis Blue and Silver-Spotted Skipper, two of our loveliest, and latest-flying, butterflies.
  My first impression was of a drought-struck and desolate landscape, with barely a flower to be seen, and nothing flying but a few doughty Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns. However, as so often, when I had slowed my pace, often to a standstill, and got my attention focused, I discovered that there was green growth to be found, there were flowers – though nothing like as many as usual – and, praise be, there were butterflies. Soon I was seeing Chalkhill Blues everywhere, then my first Silver-Spotted Skipper – the first of many, as it turned out. The Adonis Blue was harder to find, but after a while, closing in on a slight fluttering I'd noticed in a tussock, I discovered that I had found not one, but two – a male and a female taking a breather in the midst of an epic courtship chase: they were off again as soon as I'd seen them, and were chasing around at speed for the rest of the time I was there. I saw a few more Adonises too, and another one on my way back down the hill, by way of the gentler and less exposed areas of the dip slope. As I also saw a couple more Silver-Spotted Skippers, in a place where I'd never seen them before, I returned home well satisfied: I had seen the heavenly blue of the male Adonis's wings, and more than once enjoyed the Silver-Spotted Skipper's beautiful green-and-silver underwings. My butterfly summer is complete (all bar the elusive Brown Hairstreak). What more could an aurelian ask? 

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