I know we normally deal in those ferocious denizens of the countryside – wild flowers. So, I hope you don’t mind if we peek out from our safe haven, behind the wooden chair we use to keep them all at bay, take off our top hat and bow tie, and rest on our Laurels for a moment. Just round the corner, as we head off downhill, in the direction of the beck, hanging over the garden wall is a large Buddleia, usually full of bees and butterflies. We often stop to admire them on our way past, but the best flowers, and therefore the most butterflies are at the top of the plant, wrapped around with foliage and outlined against the sky. In other words, not good material for a photo. Then, of course, there is the fact that it is a common or garden, completely tame, well behaved bush, not our sort of thing really.
On the way past yesterday, I noticed a branch with yellow coloured flowers sticking out of the middle of the swathe of purple, so I went over for a closer look. At first I didn’t believe it, but I had plenty of the normal Buddleia flowers nearby to compare with. They looked exactly the same to my unpractised eye, except one was purple and one was yellow. There is no reason that Buddleias can’t be yellow, of course, I just haven’t seen one before. While there were bees and butterflies all over the purple flowers, the yellow blooms only attracted bees.
I was chatting to Wikipedia, and he mentioned that tortoises are crepuscular. You wouldn’t think that, to look at them, would you? When I gave in and asked him what on earth he was talking about, he explained that it means active during the period immediately before sunrise and immediately after sun set – dawn and dusk to you and me. I can manage the dusk part but not (by choice) the dawn part. This means that I do not have a bimodal activity pattern and, by preference, I am firmly vespertine. I feel much more relaxed now I understand the situation fully.
I’ve always wondered about tortoises and turtles. Wiki P mentioned that a good guide is that tortoises have feet and turtles have flippers. We just won’t go into tortoises with webbed feet. When it comes to Tortoiseshell butterflies, I have to confess that they never looked like a tortoise’s shell to me. This guy, sitting on his thistle, with his wings folded, does actually look a little like the tortoises I remember coming across, as I roamed the wilds of Africa in my youth. Dirty brown, perfectly camouflaged, looking like staggering clods of the dry parched earth – if you were lucky enough to find them up and about. It’s when the butterflies open their wings I have a problem – that black, orange, yellow and blue pattern would look quite silly on a tortoise.
But then I often think that biologists and naturalists would make great fantasy writers.
Butterflies are an independent lot, they wear whatever they want, whenever they want. Butterfly enthusiasts are used to this and take it in their stride. When the butterflies emerge from their cocoon, they are issued with the correct uniform. but they modify it to their own tastes as the year progresses. If you catch them early enough in the year, before they start getting creative, you’re in luck and when you ask Google to see if he can find anything like your photo, there’s a good chance you’ll see something similar near the top of his list.
We hit the jackpot with this picture. It seems that this guy has emerged fairly recently and he still has his school uniform on. He is male, we can tell because he only has one dark spot on his fore-wing, He’s still quite young, with the green still looking fresh and new. There is just a little grey showing around the top of his rear wing and this shows that he is from the second brood this year.
They differ from their other White cousins in that they prefer wild brassicas to the cultivated variety, they’re more of your wild foraging, than your pop to the supermarket types.
I have to tell you that The Dog is not having a good summer. She is not allowed to chase next-door’s cat, she is not allowed to chase the chickens up the road, she is not allowed to chase the back garden blackbird – and now she isn’t allowed to chase butterflies any more.
The big problem with butterflies is that they just can’t concentrate. I’m sure they’d get a lot more done if they’d just focus. They have a very short life, so you would think that they would knuckle down from the minute they first flapped their wings. Obviously you can’t write your autobiography until you’ve lived enough life to have something to write about. Occasionally though, you do need to sit still and gather your thoughts. This constant flitting from one thing to another just won’t get you anywhere.
This guy is a case in point. I must have chased him/her up and down the road half a dozen times trying to be within range and in visual contact. This is the best picture I could manage – and I needed to cut a piece out of the middle of the original, just so we would have an image that you wouldn’t need a magnifying glass to find the butterfly in.
He or she is a Ringlet (only another Ringlet can tell the difference without a microscope) so named because of the little dots on the wings – which not all ringlets have, but they do all have the light coloured edging on their wings. They love a damp climate (no problem there then) and will even fly about in a light rain. The female makes no attempt to lay her eggs in a secure place, she just drops them where ever she happens to be at the time.
This is a Small Tortoiseshell and it’s up so early because it has probably been hibernating over winter – something I’ve often thought about myself.
It’s still sunny most of the day but we have a return of that very cold wind. It’s not strong enough to make walking difficult and, once you get going, it is actually quite pleasant as it keeps you cool. When the sun goes behind a cloud, it’s time to zip your jacket up though. The Dog doesn’t mind the wind as long as our direction of travel is against it. When we turn round and walk downwind, which I prefer, the wind ruffles her coat and rubs her up the wrong way – she needs to keep her shirt tucked in.