Today, a gorgeously golden August bank holiday Monday, I was in Small Tortoiseshell heaven in my back garden with my Olympus 300m lens. With our wildflower meadow newly shorn, I could enjoy wonderful close up views of a late summer brood of Tortoisehell butterflies. They were a beautifully vivid, rich russet-orange colour as they flitted gracefully between the edge of our wildlife pond and our white buddleia, sweeping in to nectar on the pond side water mint. One butterfly cheekily nectared on a water mint flower so close to the water line that it had a narrow escape from becoming dinner with our rather noisy resident frog.
But I’m lucky to be enjoying this sight, because, despite this weeks flurry of emergences, today the Butterfly Conservation Society issued a press release about their worrying decline. The Small Tortoisheshell’s population has plummeted by 73% since the 1970s.
Like many butterflies, habitat loss is an issue, but in addition the growing numbers of a parasitic fly, Sturmia bella may also be a contributory factor.
Due to their complex lifecycle, butterflies need caterpillar food plants for their larval stage, as well as nectar from flowers and fruit after they metamorphose into butterflies. Small Tortoiseshells, like several of the nymphalidae butterfly family, use nettles as their caterpillar host plant.
Gardens are increasingly playing a vital role as a habitat in our rapidly changing environment, so if you are a gardener, allowing a generous patch of nettles somewhere sunny at the edge of your garden really could help a struggling butterfly to recover, and when emerging Small Tortoiseshells grace your flower borders, make late summer days in your garden even more beautifully golden.
Sometimes muted grey skies can be a blessing in disguise, as was the case with this shot. High contrast full summer light can be tricky to contend with during the day. This soft pastel palette of sea lavender in Holkham bay was only possible thanks to some heavy leaden grey cloud skies creating soft even light conditions. Taken with the new Olympus 300mm pro-lens.
It is amazing how much has changed in a month – both in nature and in my home life…
We finally moved in to our bungalow, the builders have gone and so have most of the cardboard boxes. I am finally starting to relax as the stresses and strains of 18 months of a major renovation project and house selling and buying start to fade. We are loving living in the light and airy space we dreamt of and designed at last.
And the sun has finally come out with a vengeance, bringing a flaming July in place of the flaming June of the proverbs. The wheat and barley is turning golden, the rape has gone to seed and everything is becoming parched and bleached from day after day of unrelenting blue skies. As I explore the local trails the meadows are displaying beautiful pastel shades of greens, pinks and beiges with hundreds of ringlet, meadow brown, skipper and gatekeeper butterflies flitting up as you walk through the grasses. They are host to many other mini creatures too and I was pleased to capture this shot of a ladybird, which evokes, for me at least, the feeling of the gloriously hot halcyon days of summer we’re experiencing right now.
The camera is hardly getting a look in, except on class days, and I am restless in anticipation of our long awaited impending move to Nar Cottage. Butterflies seem few and far between this season in Norfolk, suffering after such a long hard winter of lying snow, but the dragonflies and damselflies seem to be doing well, this is a mating female large red damselfly with f. intermedia markings I spotted on one of my favourite walks.
Poppies are one of Britain’s most iconic flowers. One evening I visited a poppy field near my village. Right at the end of twilight after a cloudy sunset the sky suddenly flooded for a brief few moments in vivid pinks and purples.
The vivid colours were so fleeting I only managed to grab three or four shots before the sky faded into twilight.
Photo Of The Month July 2011 -Poppy Field At Dusk Taken: Letcombe Basset Oxfordshire