Dear Readers, the price of going on holiday is the small mountain of work that’s on my desk just waiting for me to come back. But one joy is the buddleia that I can see through my window. I honestly don’t remember ever seeing it so full of butterflies, all new-minted. Look at this Peacock butterfly! Its caterpillars feed on nettles, so if there was ever a reason for not being too tidy in the garden this is it. The eyespots always astonish me – the white dots seem to make them look more dewy and realistic.
And then there are the Red Admirals. These can be migratory but the ones on the buddleia look too neat and tidy to have made a long journey. At one point there were six different individuals on the flowers, sometimes fighting over a particular raceme, sometimes getting buzzed off by a passing bumblebee.
There were the usual white butterflies as well of course, but it was the Vanessids – the red admirals, peacocks and small tortoiseshells – that outnumbered everyone else today.
And then, this. And for once, I actually managed to get a photograph.
And of course, I remember my Mum insisting and insisting that she’d seen a hummingbird on her red valerian, in spite of me telling her that such a bird would be a very, very long way from home. You can see why someone would think that they’d been visited by such an exotic spirit, though. I still remember the delight in her voice when she told me, and now I wonder why I felt the need to disenchant her. Sometimes we are too clever for our own good.
I am so grateful for my tatty, aphid-ridden old buddleia, which is living up to its alternative name of ‘butterfly bush’ today. Every few minutes, a dark shadow flies over the house, lands on the plant, opens its wings and transforms into a fragment of jewelled velvet. It makes me feel both infinitely blessed, and unworthy. What have we done to deserve such beauty, what with us wrecking the planet and all? And yet, here it is, maybe to remind us that all is not lost and everything is still worth fighting for.
It does feel like an exceptional year for butterflies here in London – what are you seeing, Readers? Does it feel like a good July, after a very slow start? Let’s hope that butterflies and moths are popping up all over the place.