Wednesday, 4 August 2010
Aye, aye sir
Continuing with butterflies on Paxos, here's one I was specially pleased to see: the Southern White Admiral, whose name belies a wonderful mixture of colours. The black on its upper wings is more of a petrel blue, shimmering like a BP slick (below), and the underwing (above) replaces the black with that lovely tawny brown. White Admirals fly as skilfully as their human namesakes sail (apart from Sir Cloudesley Shovell of Scillies and chronometer notoriety). Sometimes they skim, sometimes power dive (I wondered initially if the prism 'meteor' in the photo was one doing that) and very occasionally they behave docilely enough for your ageing blogger to photograph. I feared that I would come home without a picture, but on our very last day we swam off a little beach called Lakkos which is backed by a wooded glen, and there was a whole colony of the butterflies. Several obligingly posed, including these two, and we celebrated afterwards at an excellent taverna up on the hill. We have our own White Admiral in the UK, very similar to the Southern one, but it will be a glorious, climate-changed day indeed if I ever see one in Leeds.
Afterthought: I meant to add that in butterfly terms, 'admiral' is a corruption of the original 'admirable' which the White and Red Admirals certainly are. I wondered if the naval term 'admiral' was itself derived from 'admirable', thus allowing us to go round in an etymological circle. But it isn't. It comes, like a surprisingly large number of English words, from Arabic: in this case 'Amir-al', meaning 'Commander of the...'