This is a butterfly we’ve taken for granted. The Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae was once one of our most familiar and numerous garden visitors. Sadly it is no longer as common as it once was. In recent years, particularly in the south it has declined, possibly due to predation by the parasitic fly Sturmia bella. Somehow our buddleia bushes just don’t look quite the same without these butterflies nectaring on every other mauve, orange-centred flower head. But, let’s not get overly maudlin. Instead let’s reflect on what a stunning little insect this still is. Gorgeous orange set off with deft little touches of black, dabs of yellow and white, ringed with a necklace of brilliant turquoise. What’s not to like?
I spent a fab morning at Collard Hill taking photographs of these colourful and striking butterflies. Cheered to see them there in good numbers again and clearly enjoying the warm sunshine. Basking on what at times seemed like every other purple thistle. Yet lovely as it was, after a few hours the combination of the steep hillside and trudging around in the heat really began to get to me. So I headed for the shade of some fir trees further down a very steep slope.
As I entered the cool shadows I slipped on the damp grass. For a moment I had the sensation of levitating in mid air before slamming hard into the ground. The impact knocking the wind out of me. Struggling to get some air back into my lungs and gritting my teeth against the pain coming from my back. Through watery-eyes I noticed three young coal tits flitting about in the branches above. I swear they were sniggering.
Few people realise what a dangerous activity macro photography is.