Saturday 2 September 2023

The Aurelian Breaks His Silence (You Have Been Warned)

 I don't think I've posted anything about butterflies in a while, so perhaps you'll indulge me (or pass on with a sigh)...
   It's been a patchy and generally rather unsatisfactory butterfly season, largely because of far too much cool, wet weather in both spring and summer. However, another factor has also been at play – the fact that I have moved from butterfly-rich Surrey to a part of the country that, for all its beauties, could never be described as butterfly heaven. Lichfield has easily accessible countryside on the western edge of the city (a quarter of an hour's walk from our house), but it is no match for the hills and downs of Surrey, and as a result I have only totted up 22 species (two of them seen over the border in Derbyshire). It would have been ten or a dozen more down South, even in a poor year, and the numbers of individuals would generally have been much higher. On the other hand, I now have a garden that is far more popular with the butterflies than my Surrey suburban patch ever was. All summer it has been alive with Speckled Woods, Holly Blues and Whites, plus abundant Gatekeepers in their season, Meadow Browns and Commas, the odd Tortoiseshell and Peacock (a poor year for both of them), and now a wonderful profusion of Red Admirals, gliding imperiously over the garden, letting the other species know who's boss. After a slow start, Vanessa Atalanta – about which I have written much on this blog (and in my forever forthcoming butterfly book) – is having a great summer: it seems that every Buddleia bush is decorated with anything up to half a dozen nectaring Admirals. I can't remember when I last saw such abundance. 
   The city itself, with its ample open spaces, parks and gardens, has given me many of the year's first sightings, from Brimstones in a city-centre car park to Holly Blues up by the big Tesco (where the car park has a magnificent view of the cathedral – surely England's best supermarket car park view). I guess that, considering the weather, it hasn't been a bad year, and it seems to be ending well, with all those Red Admirals everywhere, and a spell of warm sunny weather coming our way at last – summer in September, a pleasing prospect. 

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