Our hopes are high. The date is right and a warm and humid morning with blue sky and bright cloud should favour butterflies. Days of unsettled weather and intermittent showers see flowers tall and fresh. Here is a window of opportunity, with rain to return later in the day. There is rain all night and the next morning is wet and windy so butterflies will be unable to fly and feed. For a few fine hours they dance on the fringe of sunlit woodland glades, flickering against shadows. And seeking nectar from drifts of hemp agrimony and knapweed.
On butterfly watch, we are alert to a play of sunlight and cloud-shadow over the woodland glades.The moment the sun is lost behind a passing cloud the butterflies vanish. Their response is instant. There are lacunae, interludes without butterflies. We stroll through gusts of warm air and herbal fragrance, and when the sun returns so do the butterflies.
Last time we were here we heard a family of sparrowhawk in the canopy and today there are four birds circling above us and calling to each other. The sun blazes about them as they learn how to find prey and to hunt.
'The first brood which start to emerge in April lay their eggs on Holly. Then the second brood lay on Ivy. I wonder if certain chemicals are found in these plants which the caterpillar needs for its development?'
Jell Holmes' comment about the choice of holly in spring and ivy in summer for the caterpillar food plant makes you think. He has not seen good numbers of any butterfly species this summer. He's expert and dedicated- if they're around he'll find them. He confirms my own observation.