The return of the Large Blue
Sunday before last I drove down to Somerset to catch a glimpse of the Large Blue Maculinea arion. Always a rare insect, our native Large Blue became extinct in 1979. It has since been reintroduced from stock brought in from Sweden to various sites in southern England, most of which remain ‘secret’. However, Collard Hill which is owned by The National Trust is open to public access. Thirteen years ago larvae were introduced there and the population has now grown to the point where it is one of the best sites in Europe to see this rare butterfly. Well, at least it has been. Last year’s extremely wet summer and this year’s cold spring haven’t helped. But that’s not the only problem it has to contend with.
A large crowd of people up on the hill to the left of me was a sure sign that either a Large Blue had been spotted or Mick Jagger had gone walkabout from the nearby Glastonbury festival. Not wishing to add to the aurelian paparazzi I headed in the opposite direction. Now I’ve always been a lucky so and so when it comes to spotting or finding wildlife and lo and behold a few minutes later a little flicker of blue fluttered into view. Guessing it might well be an arion I slowly moved up the grassy slope to where it had landed. I waited a few seconds as it had it’s wings closed and sure enough it slowly began to open its dark blue wings. I noticed it was the female which was attempting to lay eggs. Keeping a reasonable distance I managed to take just two frames before being startled by a booming ‘Is it the Blue?’
Foghorn then walked around the side of me and in the process of bending down to take a photo scared her off with his shadow. The buffoon then clambered to his feet and shouted out ‘There’s a Large Blue here’. He then galumphed up the slope to where she next settled spooking her again. He then took out his mobile and phoned his friends to get their attention, waving them in like someone calling in an air strike. I looked around and to my horror from almost every direction people were homing in on us like zombies from a B-Movie. He then spotted her again and this time the great lummox got down on all fours and began snapping away like a man possessed. For a second or two while he had his fat arse pointing skywards I had an almost overwhelming urge to fire one of my walking boots deep into his corduroys.
Calculating the difficulty of retrieving it and explaining the mishap to the warden I decided to leave. Perhaps I’ll return another day. Or then again, perhaps I won’t. So apologies for the rather poor photo.
I think this excerpt from The National Trust’s Large Blue blog rather sums up the day for me.
‘Just under 100 visitors today. 4 large blues including a female seen below the Hawthorn in the middle of the slope. Unfortunately one of the Wasp Orchids and several of the Pyramidal Orchids in the meadow at the bottom of the slope have been trampled on.’
I rest my case.
As a postscript I did return. Last Friday I took he day off work and within minutes of arriving spotted another female and then the larger male. As I was in the process of taking a photo another photographer piled in beside me and frightened him away. Sadly I didn’t see any more that day despite looking for another 6 hours. That photographer is now dangling by his Canon camera strap from one of the pine trees holding a notice that says, ‘This way to the Large Blue.’