Posted by: Ross Gardner | September 16, 2018

Still Summer

Black-tailed Godwit flock (scaled)

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) gathering on the Essex coast.

But for the subtler signs of the seasonal change in the countryside, yesterday was a day plucked from a week in mid-summer rather than one in mid-September, delightfully warm and full of small, summery life.

The Essex coastal marshes are bearing the slow shift towards autumn, with their steadily growing hordes of birds that will have amassed to impressive quantities come the days of autumn proper; the likes of the Black-tailed Godwit gathered in their hundreds and the Teal scattered already plentifully along the low-tide water of the creek.  Yet a couple of hundred metres inland, among the grassy habitats and the woodland edge, butterflies flitted, maybe not with the intensity and number of a month previous, but all the same in a most pleasing number and diversity.

I was pleasantly surprised by the eight species I saw given the lateness of the season.  Among these were a number of Meadow Brown, somewhat unexpectedly as they rarely seem to fly far into September in these parts.  Less surprising perhaps were the Small Copper, Small Heath and Common Blue, the latter which seem to have enjoyed a particularly good year.  The Speckled Wood could still be seen, patrolling and basking in the lea of the woods or within their pool of light filling a gap in the tree canopy, while another Wall Brown fly by cautiously leads me to hope that this much declined butterfly is, locally at least, enjoying improved fortunes.

Pick of the day though was a certain Clouded Yellow, one in particular from the several that I encountered.  These are migrants to Britain, unable to survive our winters.  This one just seemed to gleam a sharper, brighter, almost lemon-yellow than its nevertheless beautiful fellows that I had seen earlier.

I don’t lament the gathering influence of the autumn as some folk might, but I am still given to cherish whole-heartedly these bonus days of summer

Clouded Yellow 4 (scaled)

A stunning Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus).


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