That’s me back in Shetland from a week in France – a week primarily intended as a chance to recharge the batteries after a (non wildlife-related) stressful past few months, but with a significant element of work thrown in for good measure – I had a major piece of wildlife-related writing to work on, and the absence of any distractions was hugely welcome.
That’s not entirely true though… The garden of the rural house I was staying in had a lawn that was keeping the local butterflies busy – Clouded Yellows, Meadow Browns, and Common Blues were all frequent visitors laying their eggs in the garden. The Clouded Yellows and Common Blues were typically fussy, taking their time to choose just the right foodplant upon which to carefully lay an egg; the Meadow Browns were much less choosy, landing briefly before dropping an egg loosely to fall into the grass’s understory.
Occasional Scarce Swallowtails flashed through the garden’s airspace, but weren’t lingering. The same couldn’t be said for my only new (in the wild) butterfly of the trip – Geranium Bronzes were a constant presence feeding on the clover. This species was originally from South Africa and was introduced (accidentally or perhaps deliberately) into the Balearic islands, from where it’s now colonised mainland Europe.
Whether their introduction is entirely benign is debatable. Native to France, but definitely packing a punch were the European Hornets that droned around the garden’s fruit trees, making light work of ripe plums. It had been years since I’d seen one at close quarters; I’d quite forgotten what a substantial wasp these bad boys were.
Also present, and most active in the evening were Praying Mantises – there always seems to be a faintly diabolical intelligence and awareness in these predatory insects. Any movement near them caused them to rear up and present their razor sharp barbed forelegs. A creature not to be trifled with – as no male mantis would need telling. The females are partial to consuming the males while they’re still mating…
Watching one impartially consuming a live beetle was strangely grimmer than seeing Killer Whales hunting seals back here in Shetland. Less challenging were the fabulous lizards that skittered up and down the farmhouse walls. It’s easy to like (and anthropomorphise) a lizard – their faces are as lovable as a mantis’s eyes are cold and calculating.
In other news, there was much wine, good food, and added sunflowers. Back home now for the autumn. More writing to come from me shortly, and a trip somewhere much more exotic to look forward to before the year’s end…