Monday, 8 July 2013

Elusive Butterflies, The English Countryside In Summer And The Greenfinches Child

Moth contact has been fantastic over recent weeks but my interaction with butterflies by comparison has been sadly lacking this year. I decided the only way I was going to see any was to go to our local wildflower meadow up on Broughton Down. 

Saturday was Kayaking Day. I remained sensibly on terra firma photographing the hundreds of damselflies who were unashamedly mating all around me, as well as F and M who were deliberately falling out of their kayaks and bobbing about in their life jackets on the lake, and L who was paddling serenely about.

Wild horses wouldn't have dragged me from the house on Sunday afternoon. I have invested a great deal of emotional energy in Andy Murray winning Wimbledon (hooray he did), so that left Sunday morning free for the butterflies. 

We went early and tramped the (what feels to me pre-historic) ancient compacted chalk trackway up to the down. I wasn't disappointed: there were lots of butterflies. I saw fritillaries, chalk blues and marbled whites to name but three, but it was so bloomin hot (despite our early start) that none of them were landing and sitting still, so photographic opportunities were limited to say the least.  
I did manage (after half an hour of doggedly following various small brightly coloured flapping things around the meadow in an aimless zig-zaggy path that would have done Ted-on-a-scent proud) to get one of a Marbled White at rest...

And a Speckled Wood...

 And I just about managed to snap this orchid before it high-tailed it...

Actually, the meadow was stuffed full of orchids, all of them mercifully stationary...

By this time we'd been out on the down for about 45 mins and we were all feeling hot and sweaty. L, who had already laid his cards on the table before we even got in the car to go to the down ("I do NOT want to walk up a steep hill for an hour to look at flowers and things that look like fairies. I am NOT a six year old girl. I am a teenager, and what we like is swearing and eating sugar") voted with his feet at this point and headed back down the hill towards the distant car in the now familiar stance of grumpy teen: head down, shoulders hunched, skull candy headphones clamped firmly over ears in order to avoid being able to hear instructions such as "COME BACK!" bellowed at full volume. Ted wasn't doing much to further the "let's photograph butterflies" cause either- he'd super-glued himself to my leg and panted violently at any butterfly that looked like it might come remotely within lens shot.

It was hopeless, so I gave up. 

I've decided I prefer moths: they are far more sensible and quite happy to sit still for a photo and have a chat and be generally admired (well, most of them are, especially if they've been fridged for an hour or two before hand).

Sensing my despair, M took me to see the view, which was indeed lovely....

In fact, all the views were lovely. The English Countryside In Summer is indeed a beautiful place.

We headed home and I consoled myself with my moths, who were all sleeping peacefully in the moth box in the shade waiting to astonish me with their variety and beauty. I'm getting some crackers and have now reached over 100 species. I'm going to put a post together this week to showcase the best of them. 

The funny part is, that moths are coming into the house all the time now, upstairs and down, regardless of the time of day or whether the box is out. M thinks I have become a "moth magnet" and am communicating with them on an ESP level. I just think my awareness of them is there now in a way that it wasn't before and so we see them more as a result. They are absolute masters at blending in with their background for certain (it's one of the reasons I am full of admiration for them) but once you become aware of the various shapes of moths and their colours you can spot them even when they are doing a great job of hiding in plain sight.

Anyway, we got back from the Disappointing and Silly butterflies, had lunch in the garden and then settled down to watch Andy. I'd made a schoolboy (school girl?) error and had a pint of ale with lunch so fifteen minutes into the match I fell quietly asleep and would have missed the whole thing had M not leapt up off the sofa yelling at some point or other. Luckily, no one noticed and I pretended I'd been awake the whole time, shaking my fist and going "Grrr" which I thought was quite convincing and not bad given I'd been asleep a second before.

The tennis was superb and worthy of a Wimbledon final. A chunk of my family are Wimbledonians, and used to rent out their house to the players for the fortnight (very glamourous I always thought) while an Uncle was for many years a steward there, so I feel a kind of proprietary interest in it (which is ridiculous, but there you go). Imagine how thrilled I was when he actually won! He thoroughly deserved it. Go Andy!

L is not a tennis fan, and spent the duration of the match skyping with his mates in the study. Such unlikely phrases as "it's a shame we can't transmute iridium" and "I need to get to the obsidian generator" punctured the spaces between sets. 

M and I stared at each in open mouthed shock.
"He's a genius" I said in awe.
"He's playing Minecraft," said his brother dismissively.

Oh Well. One can live in hope.

This was juxtaposed beautifully later on. F, inspired by the tennis, dreamt up a new form of badminton called "CrotchBall." This involved gaining points for lobbing the shuttle cock at different parts of your opponent's anatomy. Goodness only knows what the neighbours thought as we all yelled out "CrotchBall!" each time we got a point. 

"I never expected to be asked how to spell crotch by one of the boys," M mused later that evening as we relaxed by the pond with a glass of wine. "I feel it's marked a whole new stage of parenting."
"I bet Andy Murray would be really proud," I replied. "Just think: his career high of winning Wimbledon has directly inspired a game called CrotchBall."

I'll get off that subject and finish with the Greenfinches' Child who has finally made a proper solo appearance in the garden. Yay! All speckledy like a siskin, he (I think) has the characteristic GF golden yellow band on the wing and is BEAUTIFUL. Dad was feeding him earlier but after lunch he was busy working out the feeders all by himself, which largely involved him landing on top of them and sliding slowly off several times. 

Adorable. I am a total sucker for baby birds (and moths).


I also saw the Nuthatch Parent this morning (but no sign of any children yet). He was looking thin, bedraggled and frankly knackered. So unfair, all that hard work and you produce plump fluffy healthy babies and end up looking like a tattybogle in comparison. I do hope after all this effort they bring their Children into the garden.

I'll end with the Chaffinches' Child, who has also made an appearance today (in fact there are two), and was busy getting Dad to do all the hard work for her, even though she is a Big Enough Girl To Be Feeding Herself.....

Hope you all have a good week.

CT :-)


  1. Thought Murray was great yesterday, too! We did the whole strawberries, cream and Pimms thing, well Daughter and I did. Andy skulked around upstairs doing I don't know what, but I suspect Dr Who may have been involved.

    Are you becoming the Moth Whisperer, perchance?

    1. I particularly loved the fact he didn't want to go to sleep last night in case he woke up this morning and found it wasn't real. Ahhhh ;-)


  2. I can fully sympathise with your butterfly woes and I too have spent many a sunny day chasing just one butterfly around a meadow looking for a decent photographic opportunity !

    It's also interesting that you should note that you are seeing more moths in your house and garden since buying a trap as I am too seeing more in and around my home. It's also great being able to identify most of them without referring to a book as well isn't it (my nieces and nephews are always asking me about moths now !).

    Anyway it looks like you had a great week-end and you certainly live in a very beautiful corner of England :-)

    1. At least 2/3 of this morning's box I got without needing to refer to the book, but before I had a chance to bask in the smugness the rest proved to be new and took most of the rest of the day to ID!

  3. Me too on the butterfly front. I creep up behind the very few I've seen and off they fly. I've even resorted to the zoom rather than macro to no avail. As for the crazy damselflies and dragonflies, they WILL not keep still and I'm beginning to feel very foolish stalking around after them again, to no avail. Well done on the two lovely shots you did get!

    1. Thanks Em :-) It's good to know I am not alone in this! I felt very frustrated at not getting the shots I wanted because they are such beautiful creatures and we've barely had any in the garden this year :-( At least the moths are more than making up for it!

  4. A very entertaining post CT. I love the grumpy teenager bit, and the photo of 'the boys' walking down the lane! I too was jumping up and shouting at the telly, delighted he won. I struggle with butterflies too. I have tried the telephoto lens recently and it's a little better but you still have to see them first. I managed to get a small tortoiseshell today in the garden. It's not bad-but they are definitely not an easy subject matter. Your two images are great.

    1. It seems that everyone suffers from the same problem with butterflies, which is some comfort!
      Well done on getting your pic today, they certainly aren't easy subject matter :-)

  5. I've given up trying to photograph a Brimstone butterfly this summer as none of them will stop for a second. Your butterfly pics are lovely; I love the Marbled White, I've not seen one this year. I watched the tennis, too, and didn't feel too guilty because it was too hot to do any gardening etc. I'm missing Wimbledon now it's over.

    1. I don't remember ever seeing a marbled white before, but I'm not very knowledgeable about butterfly types at the best of times :-)
      It was great to have an excuse to be indoors on a Sunday afternoon in all that heat wasn't it?!

  6. Certainly looks like you enjoyed a sunny weekend :) I love the speckledyness of the green finch's child :) I'm glad you have been out enjoying our English countryside, more people should really!!

    1. We tend to get out most weekends regardless of the weather (which thrills the children as you can imagine!). Neither of us are indoor people and as you say the countryside is so beautiful and just waiting to be enjoyed.

  7. Wonderful post - lovely to see the orchids and butterfly photos - agree they are hard to photograph! Can empathise with lack of interest from family - mine groan at the mere thought of going somewhere to look for flutters. They once drove off and left me on a nature reserve because I was spending so long trying to id and take photos!!!

    So pleased for Andy Murray - great match and wonderful achievement :)

    1. It does seem that most people find them very hard to get pics of, which is making me feel better about Sunday's efforts!
      I laughed at your tale of your family driving off and leaving you- it's the kind of threat the kids make all the time to me when we're out and about. I'm waiting to see who hides the camera next time :-)


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