Inching along the crest of the hillside I approached ‘the hole’ with some trepidation. A somewhat optimistic visit a few weeks earlier had revealed that someone had used a tractor with a rotary cutter to flail the bramble and blackthorn to the ground and deep into the boundary hedge. To say I was a tadge cross would be to put it mildly, I may have even said a naughty word. This after all is ‘the hidden place’ that I’ve sworn to secrecy and as it is one of the few remaining spots in Wiltshire where it is possible to see good numbers of Duke of Burgundy Hamearis lucina and no people, other than the occasional dog walker, it is my entirely selfish intention to keep it so.
Although the intervening weeks had produced a fresh growth of nettle which covered the worst of it. Shattered branches and scarred trees still bore the signs of the thrashing they’d received. Essentially my favourite patch for sunbathing Dukes had effectively been obliterated in the name of tidiness.
So it was with some relief when my first Duke of the year, a smaller, darker male, intercepted my progress down the path. I know I’ve said this before but I’m always surprised by just how tiny they are. The long winter dulls my memory.
It seems I needn’t have fretted. Others soon followed and I found good numbers of males and females throughout the site. How can I tell the difference? Well the males look as though they only have four legs, rather than the normal six, the first pair being greatly reduced.
Working my way round in a slow leisurely circuit (I can easily turn an hour’s walk into two) I eventually discovered these two lovers. Here’s to the next generation.
More information about this rapidly declining species can be found here.