Tuesday, 14 August 2012


‘Where should this music be? i' the air or the earth?’ (The Tempest)

You should know by now that I like butterflies. It begun with a cheap fieldguide and my dad's ignorance of the small orange things I pointed at, about a year after first becoming a birder. This was horrifying to someone who had cause to believe that his dad knew everything. Nowadays I still can't identify them all, and Suffolk seems to be in a hole in the distribution map for the exciting blues, fritillaries, Marbled Whites etc. Not enough grassland, and slopes, and thus hardly enough of the magic south-facing grassland slopes. Even the common butterflies have a certain magic about them: at rest they look like immovable withered leaves. When they open their wings they are of the air in a way that makes you wonder how they could ever appear earthbound. And amongst the generally demure British wildlife that vibrant splash of colour is quite wonderful. At least I thought so. I don't generally like captive wildlife without a good reason but I made a (hopefully) rare excuse in my principles for this one: Stratford-upon-Avon butterfly farm. Other than the RSC and an impressively healthy population of bookshops there seemed precious little to do in the town other than to wander around photographing things. And once my lens had demisted, my skin adjusted to the shock of the suddenly tropical humidity, I was astounded. How can you not be? I'll save the analysis of the effect of sanitised nature, the tropical experience without the leeches, rabies jabs and suspicious looking spiders for later. For now, just looking.
Sheer wings and an impossibly bright flower
Queen Alexandra Birdwing?

And sometimes they escape. This was just outside, on the highstreet I saw one the size and general appearance of a Purple Emperor fly past.

(All these were taken with the Nikon D50 with a Nikkor 18-55mm lens. The DSLR is fixed from the tern debacle, but is creaking with age. The ISO performance is really rather poor compared to the current crop of cameras and far too noticeable in the dark areas for my liking.)

Why aren't butterflies more popular? And why do they attract the sickly twee so terribly much?

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