Have you seen this butterfly?


I have been to an art gallery. Not really news in normal times but this is hardly an ordinary stage in our lives. This is the first time I have been to a gallery in 18 months. I am taking things very steadily and slowly in order to keep safe.

I have not been to an indoor venue for pure entertainment all these months. This was for pleasure and what a joy it was. We were all spread out and had time alone to look at the exhibits. It is a small, delightful gallery in town. It is a great step forward for me and for the gallery who had an interesting display of local crafts, for their summer show. There were paintings and prints, with stories and poems about valuing our local countryside.

The other thing that is occupying me at the moment is the butterfly count which goes on into the first week of next month. The numbers of red butterflies like the red admiral, peacock and tortoiseshell are startling low in our garden. At this time of year, with the warm weather we have had, I should be seeing clouds of them especially on the buddleia which has purple hanging flowers full of sweet nectar.

It is an all-time low. After ten years of the Big Butterfly Count, this year is showing that some butterflies are struggling. Apparently, we had a cold spring (I can’t remember that far back!) which could have affected them. I do not know what the cause is, but I do know that I used to be able to walk in the long grass and weeds crowding our fields and they would be dripping with caterpillars. Today, when I walked the fields, I did not spot any. The nettle, particularly, would have hungry black, red admiral caterpillars heaving all over them eating the leaves as fast as they could. I would normally see the chrysalis hanging from leaves and, of course, I would see the adult butterfly. Today there is nothing.

The swallows are showing a similar pattern. I can remember when there were more than a hundred swooping over our fields. Today there are only few (but a delight all the same). They sat on the electricity wire and chatted excitedly. There were about ten of them. Then all at once they took off together and circled the grass gliding over, scooping the air for flies. Next, they went round and round the house, as if excited to rise up and over the warm roof slates where the unwary insects were hoping to hide.

Taking care of our countryside is more complex than it seems.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)



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