His Grace and The Grizzle
Slowly working my way across a hillside covered in yellow cowslip searching for my first Duke of Burgundy butterfly of 2013 I notice a moth-like flicker of dark chocolate brown arc into the dry grass further up the slope. With my eyes fixed on the spot where it lands I move cautiously upwards to find a freshly emerged Grizzled Skipper Pyrgus malvae. It’s not ‘His Grace’ but a real stunner all the same and another first for my year list.
The Grizzle has its wings folded, splashes of milk white on raw umber fringed with cream and roast coffee ochre. I lie down and take a few shots of the almost fritillary-like underwings, focussing on the butterfly’s big black eyes and candy-striped antenna before it flutters to a better spot. Settling for a trifoliate leaf it opens its chequerboard wings and we both take a minute or two to enjoy the warmth straining through the cloud. Whilst it sunbathes I stop down the aperture to slightly increase the depth of field. I want to get this furry teddy bear of a butterfly sharply in focus.
This is a snippet of my life from the middle of May. A late sighting for this species but then everything is 2-3 weeks late this year. Sadly the Grizzled Skipper is in decline because of loss of habitat due to changing land use and is now rare through much of its range. This is a UK BAP priority species for conservation. However, it is a species that will respond positively given a bit of help. Rotational coppicing, managed grazing, combined with patches of bare ground and a plentiful supply of spring nectar plants are all it needs.
Maybe you can help if you can spare a little time?