‘… flowers that fly and all but sing’
~ from ‘Blue-butterfly Day’, a poem by Robert Frost
These are some of the ‘flowers’ that have been flying around me this week, causing my heart to sing.
We’ve had much-needed rain and low-cloud gloom for the past two days but, earlier in the week, when the sun was warm and glorious and my walk took me along the coastal path, it felt like proper Spring. The bird song was almost deafening and – what clinched the Spring-ness for me – I counted 12 Speckled wood butterflies along the path, either perched sun-basking or patrolling their patch of scrub or – the males – engaged in spiralling dogfights over territory. Springtime magic!
Actually, that title should really be three Small whites and a single Speckled wood but it’s a bit long-winded for a blog title. Suffice to say, my butterfly list for the year has grown by these two new species in the past two days.
I think this Speckled wood (Pararge aegeria) is a female – their markings are, apparently, larger and more distinct – but I’m not entirely sure. Working out details like this is something I’m aiming to improve this year.
The Small whites (Pieris rapae) here are two females and a male (below, right). The males only have one spot on their wings and, in this first brood of the year, the wing markings of both sexes are lighter than they will be in the later, summer broods.
I am dizzyingly delighted to be seeing more butterflies flying now. They bring me comfort and joy, something I’m sure we could all do with at the moment. I hope you are all managing to find small moments of comfort and joy in your daily lives as well.
I’ve been spending a lot of time over the past couple of weeks staring at Hemp agrimony flowers. I’ve not yet found what I’ve been searching for – you’ll be the first to know when/if I do – but, in the meantime, here are just a few of the lovely creatures I’ve spotted nectaring on these pretty flowers: a Dingy footman moth, a Six-spot burnet moth and a Gatekeeper, a Painted lady, a Red admiral, a Ringlet, a Speckled wood and what might be a Willow beauty moth, but the jury’s still out on that one.
Ingredients: 1 patch of Bramble, lashings of sunshine, a tablespoon of warmth, a dash of Springtime
Method: Stand and stare
Result: Nursery web spider, Dock bug, hoverfly (Syrphus sp.), Speckled wood butterfly, Green shieldbug, bee species, another hoverfly (Eristalis sp.), Harlequin ladybird, and wasp (Vespula sp.).
I walked further than I intended today but I just couldn’t resist the sunshine, the calls of the birds, the bees and hoverflies buzzing all around, the white blossom and the vibrant green leaf growth … it was magical! Yesterday, I saw my first Peacock butterflies of the year and today I saw four more, plus my first two Speckled woods and my first Comma, my first Common green shieldbug and my first Dark-edged bee-flies, lots of them, and my first 7-spot ladybirds. It gladdens my heart to see so much new life emerging.
On Friday, after I’d paid a visit to the tree I’m following, I enjoyed a stroll along the trail in Cardiff’s Bute Park that meanders through mature woodland alongside the River Taff. Despite this summer’s drought conditions, the recent rains have revived the local trees and plants so everything was looking wonderfully lush and vibrant.
A female Goosander sailing down river was a pleasant sight. Both males and females can often be seen on this part of the Taff from autumn through to spring.
Near the far river bank, a Grey heron stood tall on one of the many exposed rocks and boulders. The river is quite low at the moment.
There weren’t a lot of signs of autumn yet – only the leaves of the Horse chestnuts were yellowing and curling up and beginning to drop.
A Speckled wood was well camouflaged on the woodland floor. There weren’t many butterflies around, just half a dozen Speckled woods and a few Small whites.
A Mallard enjoyed a snooze near the river’s edge.
I liked the colours and patterns of the pebbles and the occasionally blue sky reflected in the river water.
This was one of two Mute swans feeding.
I’ve seen this particular Carrion crow many times before when I’ve walked this way. I know it’s the same crow, not because of how it looks but because it has virtually no voice. It tries to croak but hardly any sound comes out.
Most of the wildflowers have finished flowering but this Green alkanet was a pretty exception.
Just a few hints of autumn showing here. I love how this path meanders through these magnificent trees.
The woodland trail finishes just below Blackweir, where the current low water level means many rocks and boulders have been exposed. This was the perfect spot for a group of perhaps 20 Grey wagtails to fly-catch, and watching their aerial antics was the perfect end to my wander alongside the Taff.
#30DaysWild, 30 Days Wild, British butterflies, British moths, butterflies, Common blue, Large skipper, Meadow Brown, moths, Pyrausta purpuralis, Ringlet, Six-spot burnet, Small skipper, Small white, Speckled wood
Day 25 of #30DaysWild was hot – the hottest day of the year so far in Wales! I’m not a huge fan of the heat or the burning sun – one of the reasons I moved to Britain was to escape them, but the climate is a’changing. The only good thing about sunshine is that it brings out the Lepidoptera, the butterflies and moths, though even they looked a bit frantic, as if the heat was making them crazy. Still, on my Penarth – Lavernock – Cosmeston – Penarth circuit, I did manage to see my first Small skipper for the year and a host of other fantastic Leps as well.
#30DaysWild, 30 Days Wild, Blue-tailed damselfly, Broad-bodied Chaser, Common blue butterfly, Emperor dragonfly, Large Red damselfly, Large skipper, Lavernock Nature Reserve, Six-spot burnet, Small copper, Speckled wood
Day 12 of my #30DaysWild was spent wandering around the nature reserve at Lavernock. Though it’s not yet the riot of colour it will be in another month or so, many wildflowers are already blooming, including the Common spotted and Pyramidal orchids, and plenty of critters were feasting on nectar and pollen.
Today’s highlights included my first Six-spot burnet moth of the year, which was dazzling in the bright sunlight, and my second Small copper butterfly, a rather tatty looking specimen but still lovely to see. The Large skippers, Common blues and Speckled woods were abundant, and I also saw whites, a Brimstone and several Meadow brown butterflies.
The pond was alive with dragon- and damselfly action, with both a female Emperor and a female Broad-bodied chaser ovipositing. There were three male Broad-bodied chasers constantly squabbling over territory and a Four-spotted chaser trying to avoid them all. Damselflies included Large reds, Common blues, Azures and Blue-tailed. ’Twas a very lively place today!
I think it’s fair to say it’s not been much of a Spring so far, weather wise at least. It’s often been cool, frequently wet, and the sun has been elusive. I’m hoping Monday, the last day of April, was a hint of days to come – though there was a cool wind, the skies were mostly blue and it was warm in sheltered spots. Those conditions at Cosmeston persuaded the butterflies to come out to play, and I saw the highest numbers so far this year: 7 Brimstones, 2 Orange-tips, 2 Speckled woods, 2 Commas and 4 Peacocks. And it was such fun to be cavorting like a crazy woman again, flitting across fields and dancing along hedgerows to try to get photographs.