Today was the calm after last night’s storm. The estuary was like a mirror. I have never seen it so still. I was sitting outside with a book (The Box by Marc Levinson – a brilliant read), with the robin throwing mealworms and seed around in a reckless manner a few feet away from me, when a red admiral butterfly, its markings quite simply unmistakeable, settled on the balustrade and returned time and time again for the next hour, basking in the sun and warming through. Every time I moved it took off, so the photograph was not the best I’ve ever done. Eventually it took off to engage in a spectacularly intricate aerobatic dance with another Red Admiral. Truly lovely.
Red Admirals appear twice a year – once between May and October and then again between March and April after hibernation. They lay their eggs on nettles, and even though many are born locally others are, quite remarkably, immigrants from Europe. The dance that I was watching is a mating ritual, a dynamic, kinetic language of colour, shape and pheromones.