“A butterfly lights beside us like a sunbeam
and for a brief moment its glory
and beauty belong to our world,
but then it flies on again, and although
we wish it could have stayed,
we are so thankful to have seen it at all.”Author Unknown.
The 2020 butterfly season has somewhat stuttered and stumbled in its efforts to get going. In fact, as I write, the grand total of my butterfly sightings for the year is just ONE. A solitary Peacock butterfly that was prematurely woken from its winter slumbers on a deceptively warm and sunny day on the 24th of January, and abruptly stopped in its tracks as the day turned exceedingly chilly. I found it looking very lethargic and trying to get some warmth from the winter sunshine. The poor creature couldn’t muster the energy to climb up on my finger as I looked for a sheltered spot to put it back into winter dormancy. A timber summerhouse with a sloping roof over a verandah provided what I deemed to be a suitable resting place; in the tight angle of the roof edge, out of the reach of wind, rain and frost.
The only other butterfly sighting that I am aware of in the county was of another single Peacock in the Charnwood area on the 29th of January, as notified by Helen Newbold via Facebook. Given the lengthy wet and windy winter we have had to endure, no one can blame any butterflies for staying in their winter quarters. I guess if we didn’t have to go out, we would probably opt for the comfortable option and stay indoors.
How our butterflies will have coped with the ravages of this winter awaits to be seen, but previous history has shown that they are more resilient than they look. Meteorological spring begins on the 1st of March, although I prefer to wait for the vernal equinox to herald the season’s arrival, with it this year falling on the 20th of March, and along with it comes the hope that better weather will arrive and the prospect of our overwintering butterflies emerging. Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma, Brimstone and Red Admiral all overwinter as adult butterflies and should respond relatively quickly once the weather conditions improve. There could potentially be early sightings of Large or Small White butterflies, or even Holly Blue. The true harbinger of spring, the Orange Tip may well put in an appearance later in March as it usually times its emergence with the flowering of its larval food plant, the Cuckoo flower or Lady’s Smock (Cardamine pratensis).
I’ll post further updates on sightings as and when they happen; assuming that this dreadful winter weather should come to an end soon. In the meantime, if anyone has any sightings information to share then please let me know and I’ll include it in the next Update.
Richard M. Jeffery – VC55 Butterfly Recorder