Spoiled for choice

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By rights, I should have thighs like Cyd Charisse’s by now, having made three trips all the way down the vicious slope of the Masts Reserve at Prestbury Hill today, and then – obviously – back up again.

When I went to the site last week I had four target species in mind, but only found the Green Hairstreak; but Hillyblips paid a visit on Monday and reported that the Duke of Burgundy and Small Blue were also now showing, so I was hopeful of ticking off two new species during my trip today. In the event I also found a couple of Dingy Skipper (or Dinghy Skipper as I now mentally call it, having had it pronounced that way to me recently by someone I didn’t have the heart to correct), so I’ve been able to sew three more badges to my camera strap this evening.

As usual, I’ve havered for ages over which to post, but in the end I’ve gone with the Duke – partly because of its rarity, and partly for its spectacular looks. R said of the Pearl-bordered Fritillary I posted on Tuesday that it put him in mind of a stained glass window, but the PBF is almost drab compared with the Duke of Burgundy, which positively glows. It’s relatively small, but quite feisty, and as it zooms back and forth patrolling its territory the vivid colour of its wings (which I haven’t enhanced) make it quite easy to spot. It also seems to be unconcerned about being approached by humans: in the set I’ve put on Facebook there’s a side view of a different individual, which sat quite still while I lay down on the ground and then squirmed forward until the lens hood was within a few inches of it.

Very much smaller and harder to spot is the Small Blue – Britain’s smallest butterfly – which almost got the nod tonight for being simply lovely. I found several of these on the section of the Cotswold Way that runs along the bottom edge of the Masts Reserve, basking on the limestone path and taking minerals from it – and being chased away from time to time by a very territorial Dingy Skipper, which is a rather pretty butterfly, and not actually dingy at all. My last nice find of the day was a lovely moth, which I’ve also posted to Facebook. After checking my book I was moderately confident that it was a Light Orange Underwing, but according to Butterfly Conservation there’s a moth called the Burnet Companion that is sometimes confused for the Duke of Burgundy – which indeed, is how I came to be chasing this one today.

Arriving back at the top of the hill after my third circuit, I tottered back to the car on jelly legs, thought briefly about going back with the long lens after a cuckoo that was showing well in the upper part of the reserve, dismissed the idea as ridiculous, and instead called R and weakly whispered the word “Cake…” Forty minutes later we duly met up in Broadway and ate cake – which could just possibly have something to do with my thighs being less like Cyd Charisse’s than they might be.

Back at home I was sitting in the garden while my files uploaded to the computer, and saw something sort-of-butterfly-coloured-but-bigger-than-a-butterfly land on the weeping pear tree. I wandered over to take a look, did a double-take, yelled “Dragonfly!” at R, and ran into the house and upstairs to my study for the camera and long lens. By the time I got back (of course) it had gone, which means that I don’t get to claim the record – but it was either a Four-Spot or (more probably) a Broad-bodied Chaser, neither of which I’ve ever seen in the village before. For about the next hour I was more upset about missing one dragon than I was pleased about three new butterflies, but over the course of the evening balance has been restored: today, by any sensible measure, was a Good Day.