It’s day three of the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild…
Holly Blue. It could be a girl’s name, but actually it’s a butterfly. Little blue butterflies have flitted through my garden at great speed, refusing to settle, every spring and summer since I moved to Kent. Despite my talk of enjoying wildlife without knowing what it is, I do like to know.
It’s not an approach I’m advocating for everyone, but for me to know a creature or a plant’s name makes me feel closer to nature. I don’t think I realised quite how important it was to me until this week when finally I confirmed the blue butterflies are holly blues.
I was sitting at my desk, as usual, when my husband started tapping insistently on the window. I could see him pointing across the front garden. Jabbing his finger urgently. Even without looking I somehow knew this was about the butterflies. I leapt up and ran for the front door. (As you can tell, especially if you read yesterday’s post about red kites, my husband provides a marvellous wildlife alert service!)
It was oven hot in the garden and something of a shock to leave the cool of the house. It was beautifully sunny though and the air was thrumming with the sound of buzzing bees, who were industriously going from flower to flower on a big patch of comfrey just outside the door.
I could see two blue butterflies hanging around. They were flying about, but they weren’t flying away. In between flying, they’d settle. Stepping around our stacks of deadwood, (piles of small logs, branches and twigs for insects), I follow one as it flutters around a patch of alfalfa, the small purple flowers of which are just starting to bloom. Eventually it settles on the shiny leaf of our bay tree, with wings closed tight. I edge closer, making sure not to cast a shadow nor jostle the leaves and disturb it. I’m still about a foot away but I can clearly see the markings on the underside of its wings.
The wings themselves are pale and barely blue underneath. The thin black markings look as if they are absent minded pen strokes, made with a rollerball rather than a biro. On the forewing what stands out to me are four little vertical lines; on the hindwing there are seemingly random dots. I try to commit the pattern to memory for when I go back inside and can consult my field guide.
I will the butterfly to open its wings. Actually, I don’t just will it. I quietly, but aloud, say, “Oh please open your wings. Please!” Obligingly, it complies. Finally I see those powder blue wings close up. I’m struck by the edges of the forewing being very dark, virtually black. When I look in the book and find out it’s a holly blue, I will also discover this means it is a female. As I look at it though I’m just brimming with joy to have finally got close enough to see all this detail.
As I stand over the little creature, probably grinning like a simpleton, my husband hands me my smartphone. Normally I think of them as the devil’s pocket computer, but I know a picture will mean I don’t have to rely on memory alone when it comes to identification – and I can share it with you. (It was a very bright day though so they are somewhat over exposed.)
So that’s the story of how I got to know Holly Blue. I do hope she stops by again over the summer.