It was the flight I noticed first and the iridescent bright green that caught the sunlight as she maneuvered between the oak leaves and the buckthorn in search of nectar. Although Green hairstreaks are widespread, they are not particularly common and seeing them is always noteworthy. This remarkable butterfly can be found in shrubby places on chalk downlands, woodland clearings and some heathlands. They always feed with their wings shut tight to hide their brown upperside, but this doesn’t matter to the onlooker as it is their undersides that are so captivating.
As I watched the subtle movements of this dainty butterfly swivelling around her bounty, the world stood still for a moment. Her greenness graduated from lime at the tips of her wings to fine emerald hues alongside her body. Then there were the striking, snazzy, black and white antennae that twitched in tiny gleeful gestures. The quietude of that fleeting moment with this little green marvel reminded me of why I love butterflies so much.
It stems back to my childhood when my friends and I would spend hours with jam jars collecting the poor specimens that flew into our path. Mostly we let them go once we had captured them but some, I confess, ended dying a slow death, confined in their glass prisons in my bedroom. I regret that now. Nevertheless it was a good way to learn the common species and to revel in their magnificence. Their diversity, colours and movement made the countryside dance.
Back in the 70s the fields were brimming with butterflies. Alas insecticides have changed all that. However there are places I know that are carefully managed to safeguard them and that is where I spend my sunny summer days.