Recently, I read a wonderful book called The Butterfly Isles by Patrick Barkham (I would highly recommend it if you haven’t already come across it!). The author describes his personal challenge to see every British species of butterfly in one year and I found it gripping reading. There is something intrinsically joyful about seeing the first beautiful British butterflies of the new year on the wing and Patrick captures that wonderfully in his writing. The book also inspired me on a personal level; that is not to say that I intend to try and follow in his footsteps, but it did make me realise that there are quite a few species which I haven’t seen before, be it in Britain or at all.
The first to emerge are those which have braved the winter elements and survived their hibernation. Among them Small Tortoiseshell, Comma and Peacock as well as the original butter-coloured-fly, the Brimstone. Having endured the autumn and winter they have a tendency to look a little ragged around the edges but despite seeming so fragile it is staggering that they appear quite able to continue relatively unhindered.
Next to arrive on the scene are the first new butterflies which have over-wintered as caterpillars or pupae. Unlike their tattered counterparts, they are fresh and almost sparkling in their newness. One of my favourites is the Orange Tip. I’m not certain that I could sum up why in words, I just love them. Strangely though, despite having been a familiar sight for me since my childhood days I still have yet to photograph a male. The females are just as beautiful but are, I think, a little easier to photograph as they seem to sit still longer than the males.
The next butterfly I thought I should be looking out for was the Holly Blue, a species that I had never managed to find before. To be honest I wasn’t even sure where to look, but there were a few reports on social media appearing so I knew that the time was right. Then one afternoon while sitting in the sunshine with my husband in our garden he pointed out a small blue butterfly flitting around above our heads. Needless to say I nearly fell out of my chair in my effort to get my camera, but the photo was not to be as it had disappeared by the time I came back outside. Since that day around a fortnight ago there have been several more in the garden and they have been taunting me but I still haven’t got the image I want. I will have to persevere!
The following day though I visited a local nature reserve briefly and was astonished to find a group of people clustered in one area (I’d never been there at the same time as anyone else before let alone a group!). On further investigation they were butterfly hunting and with some success. They had found another butterfly that I had never seen before in the UK, the Grizzled Skipper. I didn’t even realise that it was a suitable spot for them but I will definitely remember in future! It was much smaller than I had remembered but I managed a couple of photos and met some great people too.
So, as far as this year goes with butterflies I am off to a good start and what’s even better is that I’ve not travelled further than 5 miles from home! I am looking forward to the rest of the summer and all the other exciting species to come.