Tuesday, 3 August 2010
Here comes the sun
Apologies for my absence, though to be honest, I'm not really sorry. Who wouldn't want to spend two weeks of unrelieved sunshine, dawn to dusk every day, on the Greek island of Paxos? Naturally enough, I succumbed to the beautiful butterflies there. This blog is primarily about moths because Britain's butterfly species are so few in number and have been so well described for so many years, that I feel I have little to add. But like 99.999 percent of the human race, I naturally prefer them to moths. So bright, beautiful and vivid.
Interestingly, for those alarmists who go on about the decline of Britain's species, Paxos was not over-rich in either its number of different types of butterfly or the actual tally of individuals. Today in Leeds I have seen more on the wing - Peacocks, Holly Blues, Whites and masses of Meadow and Hedge Browns - than I did on an average day in Greece. But the Paxiots have some real crackers and here are two of them: above, the Scarce Swallowtail, which was anything but scarce. And below, the Swallowtail itself, a regal butterfly found in the UK - Norfolk's wetlands are your best chance - but only very rarely.
One occasion featured myself. I went on a press trip to the chateaux of the Loire and captured some Swallowtail caterpillars at Villandry, much to the approval and amusement of the Marquise or Duchesse who showed us round in person. They chrysalised in Leeds and some months later, when it was clear that the adult insects were about to emerge (because you could see their colours through the pupa case), I took them up to the boys' primary. That morning, to the wonderment of the children, they hatched, dried their wings and flew away towards Yeadon airport. I have always wondered if anyone saw them, and suffered sceptical frowns from butterfly recorders when they sent in a report. Both these swallowtails fly with a sort of effortless splendour, suggesting that they know their place as aristocrats of the butterfly world.
This is going to be a Paxiot blog for the next few days, as I have returned to the usual mountain of email etc and may not have time to use the light trap for a few days.