I had big plans to see more of Britain’s butterfly species this year but, in the immortal words of Robbie Burns, plans and schemes ‘gang aft agley’. The Covid 19 lockdown put a stop to all the butterflying plans I was hatching and I’ve missed seeing an awful lot of species this year. But, yesterday, I did manage one more species for 2020, that master of camouflage, the Grayling.
I have a friend who lives not far from Aberbargoed, with its Grasslands National Nature Reserve and the neighbouring coal spoil tip, so I was able to combine a delightful socially distanced walk with some butterflying. It was a little late in the month – last year I visited the tip in mid July – but we got lucky, with wonderful close sightings of just one individual.
In his Life Cycles of British & Irish Butterflies, Peter Eeles notes that the Grayling was once known as the Rock Underwing, a testament to its ability to blend in perfectly with the surrounding earth and pebbles when it lowers its forewings. Fortunately, when the Grayling is feeding, it raises its forewings and we were able to see more clearly its two eye spots.