Thursday, 27 June 2013

Bye-bye Butterfly?

When I was small, I used to listen to Nursery Singsong on the radio and there was one song that always made me cry. It had a plaintive melody which was repeated in a different key, and the words, sung by a lady with a very pure voice, were:

Bye-bye butterfly
Born in a bower
Christened in a teapot
And drownded in a shower

Tears would cascade down my cheeks as I thought of that poor butterfly, although I didn't understand what 'christened in a teapot' was all about. I still don't!

The old song sprang to my mind today as I stood in the garden lamenting the lack of butterflies. Back in 1997 when I first started spending most of my time in Hillingdon, there were so many of them that for a season I kept a Butterfly Diary, logging all the species I saw. Peacocks were always the first to appear, followed by Orange Tips, Brimstones, Holly Blues, Gatekeepers, Commas, Meadow Browns, Cabbage Whites, Red Admirals, Fritillaries...the list goes on.

Well, the plants in the garden are still the same. The farm fields at the bottom are still there. Yet the butterflies have gone and I can only blame the dreadful winters. After the freezing cold one of 2011-2012, we counted five dead Peacock butterflies in the garage, frozen to death whilst overwintering. This spring I have only seen one, a very battered specimen. I have seen a couple of Orange Tips and a few small blues. That's it. I can only hope that a few more will appear during the summer, but I fear that those that didn't freeze during the winter have been 'drownded' in the extremely wet spring showers. I am very sad as, along with dragonflies, I find butterflies the most delightful and magical of all the insects.

(Photo taken in July 2012 of Red Admiral sunning its wings on a paintbrush on the windowsill)

Saturday, 15 June 2013

A helping hand for the fox family

The cubs race around the garden so fast that it's hard to take a decent photo. But it's good to see them both doing so well. The odd thing is, a second vixen, whose coat is a darker colour, seems to be helping their mum bring them up. There's no sign that she is feeding cubs of her own. I wonder if she's a sibling of the cub's mother, or one of last year's cubs who failed to found a family of her own? She is so shy that the moment you raise the camera, she's off, speeding into the bushes.

Often, the second vixen is the one who appears first, like the lookout, checking that it's OK for the cubs to appear. Then you see a cheeky little face and the bolder cub ventures onto the lawn, followed by cub number two and Mum. Haven't seen Dad for a while. Perhaps, knowing that the family are being helped, he has gone on his way.