Although life and work are gradually returning to some kind of normality, when weather and time permit, I continue my occasional walks over the local racecourse. It helps to clear the digital world from my mind and lungs, and offers me an opportunity to reset after spending so many hours sitting in the same chair, in front of the same screen.
But, unless I know I have plenty of time to focus on the world around me, I’m unlikely to bother to carry my camera. So although I like to keep a photographic record of the things I see, I have to rely on the camera on my phone, and the photos are not usually great quality. Still, they serve their purpose of reminding me of what I saw when, and sometimes they’re good enough to supply images for this blog.
It’s impossible to take pictures of birds with a phone, and other flying creatures are tricky, too. Bugs sometimes sit still long enough to have their portrait taken, but butterflies are skittish and the least movement of air or threat of shadow can set them fluttering off to the next sunny flower. Even so, I have gathered some pictures together for today’s post.
The first is not from a recent walk. It’s actually from last summer’s mass migration. Then again, I usually don my daps and old jeans to go walking, and – until things are back to normal and there’s an excuse to wear our glad rags to Ladies’ Day – I don’t really expect to see many painted ladies on the racecourse.
A month or more ago, I must have come upon a recently hatched clutch of small tortoiseshells: each step sent one or more dithering upwards and out of my way.
I dawdled and attempted time and again to get downwind and creep up on them, but they were a lot quicker than the name might suggest.
There are dozens, possibly hundreds of innocuous small russet-brown butterflies that I never learned the names of. Or, at least, I learned a lot of names – fritillaries, skippers, ringlets, heaths and hairstreaks – but I never learned to put them alongside the right set of wings.
Even now, after being fairly confident that I’d identified the next butterfly as a meadow brown, I have just been assailed by doubt: could it perhaps be a gatekeeper? It certainly has more orange than some of the pictures I’ve found of the former. But I think it has only a single dot in its eyes, so I’m going with my first idea.
The previous photo was actually an afterthought. My eye had been caught by the next butterfly, which I didn’t recognise. I paused to take its picture and then snapped the other one afterwards. To be fair, I almost always pause when I see butterflies, even if I don’t always reach for my camera or phone as I realise I have no chance of getting a decent picture. Instead, I try and observe and memorise details that might help me identify them later.
I don’t know if I’d have been sure if I hadn’t managed to get a picture, but I am certain what this one is. And that means that I am going to take the unusual step of starting and finishing this blog post with a comma.