August has so far been an excellent month for all things fluttery in the garden. It’s been warm and mostly sunny. We have had the odd spectacular thunderstorm but not the flooding experienced in other parts of the Country. The last two days have been very windy, but this has not stopped the little winged ones. The buddleias are living up to their common name ‘butterfly bush’. At times dozens of Red Admirals, Painted Ladies and Peacocks have been feasting on the light purple sprays with their heady scent. These are joined by various species of white and brown.
And now the dragonflies are appearing. Hyperactive Migrant Hawkers zipping around, slower, larger and more colourful Southern Hawkers, even a Brown Hawker but with none of the drama of my last post. Now they just seem satisfied to hunt tiny flies, not each other. The seasons are slowly starting to change. The fruits of the hawthorn hedge are turning red and the elderberries a deep glossy black, a sure sign summer is on the wane.
Mid-week I took a drive a few miles east around the coast to Winterton. In autumn this is an excellent site for finding migrant birds but I went to look for butterflies and odonata. This is an area of outstanding natural beauty and managed by Natural England. The beach is wide and sandy and is backed by an extensive area of sand dunes that stretch for several miles. At this time of the year the inland section is covered in beautiful flowering heather. There are also a few little groups of stunted oak trees. It was among the heather and along the sandy paths that I searched for the Grayling (Hipparchia semele). These butterflies are the masters of disguise. You see one in flight, it lands and almost instantly folds it’s forewing into the hindwing. It turns to angle itself into the sun so as not to cast a shadow and disappears, only to fly up when you step too close.
About a mile west of the village, nestled in the dunes, are two ponds known as the ‘toad pools’. The toads in question are the rare and protected Natterjacks, none around today. There was a lot of damselfly activity but since I last visited a few years ago someone has kindly erected a fence. No one about so let’s get closer. The damsels were Emeralds (Lestes sponsa). In the past the very rare Southern Emerald has bred here but I found none today. Two large and impressive Emperors patrolled the pools and dozens of tiny darters, Common and Ruddy, went about the business of creating a new generation. A lovely morning out.