It was right in the heat of the day – not an expression you use on a routine basis in this country – but I went out anyway. I had a feeling.
One day there are none of them at all, the next day the place is full of them. It’s one of those casual miracles that happen with seasons and shifting weather: you find it with many species across all the taxa.
And I was right: the hot air in the garden and the marsh was jumping with butterflies. The heat and the time of year were right for a mass emergence: the meadows were brown with meadows browns.
Not the most glamorous butterfly of them all: in fact the butterfly most likely to be overlooked while in plain sight. It is, well, a bit brown. Perhaps we should call it the meadow beige.
Familiarity is an odd thing. It doesn’t necessarily breed contempt, more often a certain indifference. In the hot months of the year, the meadow browns are always there, wherever the grass isn’t grazed or mowed to the ground.
But when you go to the length of learning their name and picking them from all the other flying insects that you might also take for granted, the familiarity starts to add a new layer of pleasure.
Good old meadow brows: heralds of the summer, insects of the solstice, back with us to celebrate the hot months, such as they are, the busy males constantly in motion as they hunt for females, flying in mad erratic patterns.
Their ordinariness has a glamour of its own: butterflies with all sorts of homely virtues. It was as if the ground has opened up and released great lavish handfuls of them: fluttering and flittering, dancing and prancing, all of them getting on with the urgent job of making more meadow browns. Well, the more the better, say I.