Heartease, or Wild Pansy- one of my mum’s favourite flowers, and mine, so it was lovely to come across patches of them on one of their favourite settings- sand dunes- recently. They also appear on cultivated, sandy soils. The colour-patterns vary and it is easy to see why they are also called ‘Viola Tricolour”. ‘Pansy’ comes from the French, “pensee”, “to think” and Louis the XV decorated the coat of arms of his favourite advisor, Francois Quesnay’, who he called his ‘thinker’ with these little gems. Heartease has long been used in herbal remedies, for skin conditions, chest complaints, as an anti-inflammatory and a diuretic. It also has a long association with grief. Shakespeare, in Hamlet, has Ophelia strewing herbs after the death of he father, saying ” And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts”. Conditions: Warm, with sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 22 Min 12C.
The Painted Lady Butterfly is one of our largest species, and its capacity for strong flight is truly extraordinary. They migrate every year from their native home in North Africa. Some individuals arriving here from late May may have flown all the way, while others will have bred in Europe and it is the second or third generation which we see. This amazing Butterfly can breed several generations while here, and can fly as far as Shetland and to our highest mountains. The Painted Lady is the only Butterfly that reaches Iceland. However, it cannot survive our winters, and while a few may fly back to Europe, most die here by autumn. These, seen this week, are fading from their bright colour when they first emerge. Feeding here on Buddleia, their favourite food plant is Thistle. I have seen very few this year- it is thought that they migrate north when a critical level of density in their population in North Africa is reached, and sometimes this is in their thousands. Conditions: Still and grey. Temperature: Max 17 Min 15 C.
Burnet Moths – the Six-spot Burnet moths can be seen wherever their caterpillars’ food supply- trefoils and vetch- thrive ( see photo). Cyanides in these plants are passed from caterpillar to adult moth stage, deterring bird- predators. However, in Ireland last month, on the wonderful Burren limestone, we saw ( a first for me) these Transparent Burnet Moths on the gorgeous deep mauve Tufted Vetch. You won’t see these in England but the Six-spots ( see one of the photos) are pretty common and flying now. Conditions: continuing parched dry, hot weather. Temperature: Max 24 Min 16 C.
The Marbled White Butterfly can appear in large colonies on chalk and limestone on flower-rich grasslands, which is why we saw these beautiful individuals on Old Winchester Hill in the South Downs National Park today. They are more closely related to the Browns than the Whites and love basking in early sun during July and August. Marbled Whites are the only black and white butterfly remotely
like this in the UK, which explains why I could identify it despite never having seen in before, except in books i poured over as a child! Conditions: A cooling breeze eased the very hot, unrelenting sun. Temperature: Max 25 Min 11 C.
Meadow Pipits are one of the most widespread birds in Britain and Ireland, found on seashores, heaths, meadows and uplands, though their actual numbers have plummeted by 40%. Meadow Pipits have many predators and this one looked round nervously, as they often do, from its perch, as it preened. They eat moths, insects and spiders and can be confused with the larger, less streaky-chested Skylark,
soaring up and singing their (very different, piping) song before parachuting back down to ground or perch. The colour of their back varies from olive green, through buff to grey. A look at a video on the BTO site will help you separate them out from Skylarks and Rock Pipits. Conditions: Very hot, still sunny day. Temperature: Max 27 Min 13 C