After a day dedicated to bees last week, this weekend it was time for the butterflies to entice me into the sunshine. It started when I noticed a painted lady fluttering around the bottom of the garden. These migrants are certainly some of the most flamboyant of butterflies – as beautiful on the underside as the upper side of their wings. They were enjoying the buddleia which they were sharing with several red admirals a couple of peacocks and a small tortoiseshell.
So after a quick detour via the front garden where a small skipper was enjoying the verbena bonariensis I went for a wander to a field that I’d seen my first brown argus in last year. In fact it was apparently the first time in many years that it had been recorded in Daventry.
The field is much more overgrown than last year with fewer plants, but it was alive with the sound of grasshoppers and crickets. I only walked a short way in when I saw arguably one of our most beautiful butterfly, the small copper. I have only ever seen it in this field and at the country park in Daventry. It may be small, but it is dazzling. My pictures today really don’t do it justice, but it was constantly hiding behind grasses when it had its wings open.
I wasn’t really expecting to see a brown argus again, but luck was on my side and I got really good views. It is an inconspicuous looking butterfly, and often confused with a female common blue, but the brown spots on its forewing and the lack of blue even near the body convinced me I had found my quarry.
Speaking of common blues – there were quite a few of them about – some of them having a bit of a quarrel and some not. The males are a beautiful blue whereas the females have varying amounts of blue on them, all the way through to almost completely brown.
Sadly all of these butterflies were in a field that they are planning to put old people housing on. So, this could be the last time I see brown argus and small coppers in Daventry.
In the UK a bank holiday weekend is approaching and who knows, maybe the weather will be warm and sunny. So, a nation will get into its cars and head to the coast or the national parks, spend a few hours in traffic jams, looking for somwhere to park, looking for somewhere to eat etc etc. But, what are you missing closer to home? This weekend is the perfect opportunity to go out and look closely at what nature has to show you (for free and without needing to sit in a metal box on a long, boring stretch of concrete).
I have a few suggestions to make, these are for those in the Daventry area, but I am sure there are similar things to be found wherever you live in the UK.
Firstly, at this time of the year the bluebells are a must. In Badby and Everdon there are cream teas available this weekend for those going to see one of nature’s most beautiful spectacles. I went to visit the bluebells in Badby Woods for the first time last year. Apart from the spectacle of a sea of blue in all directions, the scent is astonishing as is the constant drone of the bees. I went to Everdon Stubbs this week which is stunning at the moment, but I was later told is also somewhere to hear a cuckoo, something I think of as the quintessential rural England.
If you don’t want to go that far, how about a walk around the country park. At the moment the hobbies have returned and are swooping about at the far end of the dam, just in front of the trees, chasing larger insects and smaller birds. The swallows, house martins and swifts are also there, screaming about the water (being chased by hobbies!) as are the common terns, preparing to nest on the tern rafts and patrolling along the shallower waters looking for their lunch.
The hedgerows are starting to get their second coat of white – the hawthorn is coming into blossom. Along the ground around the edges of the housing estate, industrial estates and country park are an array of wild flowers. Cowslips are still in bloom, along with the more delicate Cuckoo Flower (also known as Ladies Smock) and, if you look closely you may notice the small purple blooms of the Ground Ivy. As always, darting above the flowers are the butterflies; Orange Tips, Large Whites and Speckled Woods are all there, waiting for you.
So, instead of trying to get away from it all, why not stay home in the midst of it all and relax!