Posted by: Ross Gardner | June 7, 2015

The Duke and Other Animals

Duke of Burgundy Fritillary (Hamearis lucina).  Copyright 2015 Ross Gardner

Duke of Burgundy Fritillary (Hamearis lucina). Copyright 2015 Ross Gardner

A visit to Denge Wood in Kent the other weekend, to go in search of the Duke.  The nobility in question is, of course, the Duke of Burgundy Fritillary.  And we duly found him….. her……. them.  Obviously they cannot all be Dukes and neither are they fritillaries.  They were once classified among these others, given something of a similarity in marking and colour, but have long been disassociated from them and while the latter part of the name has stuck, they take position as the sole British member of the Metalmark family.  The apparently noble origins of the rest of the name surprisingly seem rather elusive.  It could have coined by some brown-nosing 18th century lepidopterist attempting to curry favour with the landed gentry of the day.

To a more casual observer it is perhaps a pretty, if unspectacular butterfly.  For me they were a rare treat; indeed, they are certainly one of our more scarce species.  At a personal level they are a rarer one still.  Their May/June flight seasons has always made them one of those “I really must get round to seeing” butterflies.  For one reason or another it always seems difficult to get away at the right time, given that that time of year often seems a rather busy one (a shan’t bore you with the details).  I should add though, that I see this is a pleasing dilemma to have.  Busy is – by and large – good and having those “need to see” members of our flora and fauna provides a compelling frustration.

The greater pleasures though, are the places you find yourself going to in search of them, in this instance a herb-rich, open woodland area with plenty of Primula foodplant (Cowslip or Primrose) present.  The spring sun was pleasantly warm and the place full of life.  The scrubby areas bubbled with the sound Blackcap and Willow Warbler singing within their midst.  The orchids were stunning and the sward busy with small wings.  One may go somewhere with hope of finding something particular, but distractions are always many and inevitable.  This perhaps, is the main source of the boundless fascinations on the natural world and which makes such brief accounts as this one relevant to anyone anywhere they happen to be.  I won’t list all the Denge diversions here, but will finish with mention of a striking little moth that I will associate with the Wood as much as anything else……

Anania funebris - the larva feed on Golden-rod.  Copyright 2015 Ross Gardner

Anania funebris – the larva feed on Golden-rod. Copyright 2015 Ross Gardner

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