Heath-ens?

This blog is mostly concerned with considering birds with words. I imagine that hasn’t escaped your attention (frequent bird obsession, dauntingly high words-per-post count, etc.).

I’d love to be a half decent wildlife photographer, if for no other reason than to brighten this place up a bit, but currently I neither own nor can afford the necessary equipment – and I do sense photography is a somewhat crowded field. Indeed, during my trawls of the web for pictures and general wildlife information I’ve stumbled across tens or even hundreds of superb photography blogs or websites. Some of them are run by 12 year olds, if I remember correctly, so there is no hope for me. No, I’ll stick to writing.

You’d have to be fairly incompetent, however, not to have got some decent shots of what, to my eyes, looked like a freshly emerged heath fritillary in the Blean Woods area of Kent last week:

 

After resting in the sun for a while it flew a couple of metres and then obligingly turned over, so I could get some shots of the underside:

An absolutely gorgeous little creature. And, sadly, not one that you’ll see every day – unless you live in a very specific place and go out at the right time. An old name for the heath fritillary is ‘Woodman’s Follower’, a lovely moniker the butterfly earned by preferring recently cleared areas of coppice – so that wherever the woodman took his axe, the fritillaries would soon follow.

Common cow wheat – food plant of the heath fritillary.

Nowadays, of course, both woodmen and woods, especially coppiced woods, are much less common, and so too is the butterfly. Thankfully, numerous enlightened conservation charities and landowners are engaged in creating just the right habitat for the remaining populations to thrive in. Though, surprisingly, some people imagine that butterflies and myriad other delicacies (delicate animals, that is, not things that you eat. Unless you are fond of moth sandwiches?) will be just fine, better off, even, without such assistance.

Some even profess to not being bothered by them at all. Uninterested. Unmotivated. Unmoved. I might well be a teensy bit biased.*But who could be unmoved by a butterfly? Such miraculous, immaculate beings? If you can look at these pictures, and not think ‘Wow! That’s beautiful’! – then check your pulse. You’re probably dead.

*What am I saying? I’m incredibly biased!

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