Having recently moved house, this summer has provided some great opportunities to get to know my new surroundings, despite the fact that I am within six miles of the farm where I was brought up. There are nightjars and black grouse within a short bicycle ride, but I was particularly intrigued by the idea that this area is known for its rare butterflies. Taking an hour to explore at lunchtime on Thursday, I found both pearl bordered and small pearl bordered fritillaries within a few minutes of wandering around on the recently managed bracken stands above the house.
It was a perfect day for butterflies, with a stuffy, almost oppressive heat bearing down on the hill. Cuckoos called incessantly, and a family of of pink-eyed juvenile long tailed tits came to squeak and giggle amongst the tumbling gusts of willow down and drowsy, buzzing insects. They fizzed around the birch scrub and clashed happily with garden warblers and flycatchers before flaring away into the leaves.
There are a few other local butterfly rarities on that particular hill face, but it was very satisfying to find two of the rarest and most beautiful species in such abundance and with such little effort on my behalf. I have seen several different species of fritillary before, but the small pearl bordered was a first for me. While most of these butterflies look more or less the same from above, the delicate detail is incredibly beautiful and subtle, and it took some time to confirm my sightings when I got home and inspected my photographs on the big screen.