Friday, 26 July 2013

A sweet shop of butterflies

It is well known that when a group of people gather around a tin of sweets, everyone has their favourites, and there's always some varieties everybody overlooks or ones that are rare and prized above all the rest.
It is much the same when embarking on a day butterfly-watching.
Take Quality Street for example (other brands are available!) there are the little nuggets of orange and gold, the more unusual but not always so popular pink ones. These are the gatekeepers, the coppers and the brimstones.
At the bottom of the tin you find the brown wrapped toffees, by far the most common and considered by some as perhaps a little boring. Meadow browns and 'cabbage' whites in butterfly terms.
And what about the blue ones, of which no one is ever quite sure of the flavour when the leaflet has been lost? Those will be the blue butterflies of course, the chalkhills and the adonis, the common, small, silver-studded and holly.
Then, there is the triangular green one. No more than a very few are ever found in a single tin, often tucked away and hidden between the browns, pinks and blues. Finding one of these is like a rare green, brown, purple or even white-letter hairstreak, easier if you know where to look and have a little luck. The fritillaries and white admiral sit here too, beautiful and uncommon.
Last of all, the most prized, the precious and greedily rummaged for, the big purple caramel and hazelnut one. There is only one butterfly to take the place at the top in this metaphor; the Purple Emperor. Most majestic of all, our largest uk species, with a following of dedicated supporters.
Enough of my rambling, its time for some some photos...

Friday, 19 July 2013

Heat wave days

The early morning cool is delightful after the heat of the past few days.
Keeping an eye on the pond's water levels, topping up birdbaths and watering thirsty plants have become an every day garden task. 

At the height of the sun there is a slight droop to the leaves of the birch whilst the oak has taken on it's dark green dusty summer hue, so different from the bronze and brilliant greens of spring. The dark eyed faces of the sun flowers track their namesake's progress across the sky with unfailing accuracy. Aeroplane contrails trace patterns in the blue, above flickering white gulls high in the haze. 

There is the constant chatter of sparrows from the gardens, and now and then the stamping of feet accompanied by laughter as children run down the road in pursuit on one game or another. 

The cool of early morning is already rising to heat of day. It will soon be time to retreat to shade and like a sunflower, watch the sun make its daily commute from east to west.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

A piece of poetry for a summer's day

Many of us remember fondly the summers of our childhood, and during dark winter evening often dream of those seemingly endless summer days when school was finished and holidays ruled. Fun times of ice cream and seaside, or exploring fields beyond our homes, or meeting friends for football in the garden, are the ideals of many folk at the mention of summer. The recent hot spell of dry weather has meant I have been spending an increasing amount of time pottering with a watering can amongst thirsty plants; a pause after a busy day, a fabulous time for thinking. I was inspired to write a piece of poetry, it is called "Stay Awhile"...

I love Autumn, with her cloak of mellow mists and subtle perfume of smoke and rain-damp leaves; the rustle of the browning bracken, the shimmer of bronze, russet and green on pheasant feathers, and the delight of collecting fruit.
But Lady Summer there is no hurry; please, stay awhile. Do not rush. Mingle among the soft rose petals and hum in tune with the bees in the lavender by the garden path. Laze for an afternoon by the side of the lake, an audience for the golden insects there that dance their ballet in pools of light. Turn fluttering white butterflies to fairies in children’s heads and shady woodland to adventurous lands. Allow us each day a few more hours of playful light after work or school, between teatime and bed. Come with us now, tomorrow too, to lie in meadowland, with tassel-topped grasses waving high above our heads, tracing our fortune in the shapes we spot in scudding clouds.I look forward to Autumn, her fruits and morning chill, but for now Lady Summer, there is no hurry. Stay awhile. Do not rush.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

A picture-perfect-postcard kind of day

On a warm sunny day last weekend I went for a drive in the South Downs of West Sussex. It was a picture-perfect-postcard kind of day when flowers bloom, sun shines and the sky is blue. The sort of day when traffic queues shimmer and flicker in the mid-day haze, and thoughts turn to ice-creams and finding a patch of cool grass in the shade. 
It seems as though this month's heatwave is almost trying to apologise for the months of cold and wet. The season is progressing in a hurry, flowers bloom and go over within days, allotments are glutting and salad bolting, as if the summer is rushing; trying to catch up after the long winter and cold spring. 
The cricket season ignites county pride, and beneath the white canvas of village fĂȘtes old rivalries play out in the competitive displays of home-made cakes, vegetables and flower arrangements. 
As the sun bakes the fields and shrinks the shadows on the slopes of the downs, it is cooler by the side of a hidden steam that giggles between the roots of trees in the ancient woodlands. Inside the shepherds' churches the centuries-worn stones are smooth and cold, soothing to weary feet and aching palm. Light streams through the lead-light windows where, beyond the candles, those who look can catch a glimpse of six martlets on blue, proudly flying over thorn and thyme-clad hill-top, and valley of grazing cattle and waving corn.