Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Birthday king

Hooray!  It is my birthday! Traditional celebrations at home and then - clue below - guess what sort of outing we had yesterday for my pre-birthday treat.

I should explain that I am a great publicist for this joyous occasion, ever since a muddle when I was small and away at school which resulted in my getting only one card, from Mr Higgins of the Canada Life Insurance Company. He and it have always had a special place in my heart.

Anyway, the trap has been abandoned for the festivities but on our outing, to Hughenden Manor, the former home of Benjamin Disraeli and very well worth visiting, P and I had an interesting sighting, not of a moth but a butterfly. (There was an arm's length moth experience, illustrated above, when P spotted an informative notice board featuring the Striped Lychnis).

Here is our butterfly, above as a speck on the path through shady woods dappled with sunlight which Dizzy and his devoted wife Mary Anne created as a 'German Forest'. Zoomed-in on below, it's a Red Admiral, a common enough butterfly but not one I'd expect to see on the wing at this time of the year. However, on checking the Butterfly Sightings page of Upper Thames Butterfly Conservation - that noble body which also brings us the Upper Thames Moths blog - I see that there have been half-a-dozen similar encounters so far this year.

Researching further, it seems that the previous wisdom that the Red Admiral is a summer migrant, unable to survive the winter by hibernation in the way that Small Tortoiseshells and Peacocks do, has been modified. A few individuals used to appear in the Spring but the number has now increased to the point where a small resident population is thought to survive in the South of England all year round. I am sorry that the pictures are not better, but the butterfly was very jittery and we had to get home for cake and tea, pausing only to admire and enjoy this triumph of nature below. If John Major were still in power, we would have rung his famous 'Coneline' to celebrate.

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