Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Birds, Butterflies and Book.

Hedge Woundwort

Peacock Butterfly

17th Aug. I took a short walk to the lake today and just before walking into the church grounds I passed a juvenile Woodpigeon sat on the ground. It didn’t stir at all as I passed closely by and seemed to be enjoying the sun. It wasn’t long out of the nest, but didn’t seem injured. I was hoping no one would disturb it. I think people can do more harm than good in what they think are attempts to help birds. My next Woodpigeon find was a pile of feathers in the field near to the lake. On inspection I found the leg and toes of the bird along with some of its innards. A fresh kill it seemed and I suspect that a Sparrowhawk had been disturbed half way through a meal. I refrained from taking a photo of the remains! There weren’t many birds about, so after watching one of the adult Great Crested Grebes with one of the youngsters (I mistook the youngster for the other adult bird such is its size now) and the Grey Heron, I returned to the grassy area, despite the strong breeze, to look for butterflies.

Another short time out session brought me one Small Skipper which I reckon is now the last of the large numbers which have come to the end of their flight season. There were plenty of Small and Large White Butterflies and I eventually found a Peacock Butterfly. This could well have been the one I found at the beginning of the month as it sat on the exact same bramble leaves and seemed to patrol the exact same area. The grassy area is going back now. I took particular notice to find Yorkshire Fog grass Holcus lanatus as this is where I have learnt that the Small Skippers lay their eggs. I realised how little I know about grasses.I crossed the road and looked for the Bittersweet Solanum dulcamara which continues to flower. An area of Canadian Goldenrod Solidago canadensis, Rosebay Chamerion angustifolium and assorted plants was attracting lots of insect life including more Peacock and Small White Butterflies. I now realise that one of the assorted plants was Marjoram Origanum vulgare which is especially liked by butterflies I understand. I attempted to get a shot of the Peacock’s underwing. It wasn’t easy in the wind. I met with limited success although one shot despite the butterfly almost having left the frame does show the bark/leaf adaptation quite well. Would you ever find this, still, on a tree? I don’t think so.As I moved on I passed the Hawksbeard species. Well that’s what I think it is. Now the leaf and timing of flowering would suggest Smooth Hawksbeard but it looks ‘owt’ but smooth to me! Anyway on my return the juvenile Woodpigeon had moved on and I found Hedge Woundwort Stachys sylvatica near the pathway.

Now, all of the recent talk of butterflies had me reaching for an old book of mine I purchased in a sale several years ago. The book is Bright Wings of Summer/David G Measures and I paid £1.95 for it. I know the cost as I found the price tag still in the book. It’s not an especially good book, and all of the writing which accompanies the butterfly paintings from the authors note book is almost illegible without straining the eyes! The book is also a bit dated. Were they really worried about the climate cooling in 1976, the date the book was published? How things change. Never mind. I have still enjoyed reading the book over the past couple of days. I think it is good to go back and look at old books, carrying with you a hopefully growing knowledge that ageing brings to at least most of us. The book covers in brief things like butterfly courtship, breeding and egg-laying.

I began to daydream about 1976. I’m sure some of you will remember it was that very hot summer. You could even say I was ‘hot’ then too, with a little stretch of the imagination! I was well into back-packing then folks and I distinctly remember climbing Fleetwith Pike and the Haystacks with my mates in the Lake District. Or was that 1977? Never mind near enough and that was a hot summer too. By the way if you ever climb Haystacks you may find an old hat of mine up there as I left it beside one of the tarns. Its one of those army camouflage jobs. Very nice too, so if you find it please tell me. Wot’s he going on about I hear you ask. Well, it happens that I now find that the scarce Mountain Ringlet can be found on Fleetwith. Now I never knew that! I suppose I had other things on my mind in 1976! Perhaps Bri is going to have to go into training and get back up there, but without a back-pack this time.

There was also a very good programme on Radio Four this morning about the re-introduction of the Large Blue Butterfly to southern England. I learnt that this butterfly larvae feeds on Wild Thyme and then drops off and exudes a sugary substance which attracts a species of Red Ant which carries the larvae of to it’s nest where the larvae eat the ant's young over the coming months, before dragging their selves out as fully developed imago Large Blue Butterflies. They don’t survive long in the full adult stage, but do mate, which is something I suppose. Then the whole thing begins again. Interesting or wot? I’ve never seen a Large Blue Butterfly. I must get that on my list of things to see.


  1. Nice book that one. I like DGM's spontaneous artwork, I have Butterfly Season 1984 and its a real inspiration. Stick with some old ones, they tell great tale of times gone by....

  2. I have B S 1984 too Stewart. It's one of a number of very good art books that were issues a few years ago by Arlequin Press. Sadly I believe the chap behind the issues died and they suddenly dried up. Other authors included the likes of Keith Brockie and Michael Warren. I especially like Keith Brockie's work.