What are your early memories of butterflies? For me back in the mists of time it was the long hot summers of the school holidays. A neighbour had a buddleia so big we could physically climb it and it was always smothered with Small Tortoiseshells, Peacocks, Red Admirals, Painted Ladies and various members of the Whites. They were attracted to the gorgeous heady scent that even today is one of my favourite smells of late summer. We, as children, were attracted to these brightly coloured living jewels. Armed with our little nets and jam jars we hunted the best and brightest, they were always released at the end of the day, it was just the fascination to see them and hold them. Walking, the then, overgrown and traffic free country lanes the brown butterflies would abound, my favourite being the chocolate brown Ringlet. Looking through my old butterfly books there were species I dreamed of as a boy, the Purple Emperor and the Duke of Burgundy, all the Fritillaries, not the sort of butterflies that would appear in my back yard. They lived in places far away and unreachable. However the ones in the books that really caught my eye were the little blue ones.
I don’t have many memories of encounters with blue butterflies but I still have the fascination. Today I can, if I wish (and I do), travel the Country in search of those rarities and childhood dreams. For one species I need go no further than two miles down the lane to a local heath where the beautiful Silver-studded Blue was introduced a few years ago.
On Tuesday I paid a visit to see if they had emerged. The heath had undergone some serious clearance during the winter. All the gorse bushes had been removed apart from around the perimeter. I presume this is to allow the heather to regrow. It was a bit confusing as the paths I used to follow were no longer there! I headed in the general direction of the Silver-studded Blue colony and was delighted to see these sapphire coloured gems on the wing and that the massive amount of ‘destruction’ had not affected them.
These delightful little butterflies like to keep low and nectar on heather. No chance of nice clean backgrounds to my images, I had to get right down to their level and let me tell you, all that debris left on the ground from the gorse removal is very painful to kneel on and difficult to remove from clothing!
Several males were looking for love, criss crossing the ground stopping briefly to nectar on the heather. I saw a few females searching for places to lay eggs. Inevitably a male would find her and pester her to mate. The ladies were having none of this. They may have been smaller but managed to see off the unwanted advances with much wing flapping and aggressive posturing. Once spurned, the male would sulk off for a quick nectar or tussle with a rival.
A lovely couple of hours spent in the company of these beautiful creatures. How nice to fulfill those childhood dreams.