RICHARD WILLIAMSON Gold of the earth is safe as bullion in the bank

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Wonderful to feel the sweat on the brow and down the small of the back. Lovely to see the steel blue of the sky with its one faraway wisp of a white cloud like a single swan’s feather on a lake.

Splendid to hear the roar far away of the combined harvester like the everlasting drone of Ravel’s Bolero. Our wheat is coming in and the gold of the earth is safe as bullion in the bank.

As the new moon swung low and hovered over the sunset, a lone nightjar flew over my head on its way back to Africa.

The swifts have long gone, many without having bred successfully due to the monsoons of June, but at least there has been this hot spell during and after the Olympics.

I trudged the Downs on my 
old butterfly count which I started 40 years ago, was so glad to see again some of the old gang I first met in 1964. Common blues, chalkhill blues, brown arguses, small coppers and even a silver-studded blue.

Despite this being the worst butterfly year I have ever recorded, those humid days 
of August brought life back to 
the wild places where the butterflies live.

It was nowhere near so hot as that drought time of 1976 when butterflies swarmed in the lovely heat and I began to wonder whether there had been any sense in the old Services’ advice to take salt tablets with your drinks.

So there had been a reasonable end to a poor year after all and the blues have laid down their future generation while the browns have done even better.

One of the Brown family is the marbled white as shown in Carol’s photograph. She lives in Lavant and has known and loved the Downs almost as long as I have.

It is a super picture because it shows the lovely butterfly in its habitat of tall grasses. You can even see the flower heads of Yorkshire fog grass in the top of the picture.

This butterfly is related to the gatekeeper, meadow brown and speckled wood, all of which did well in that hot spell and got their eggs laid for next year’s crop.

Red admirals, peacocks, small tortoiseshells also enjoyed the heat during harvest time, while the silver-washed fritillaries went on and on for three weeks until their wings became as tattered as a Battle of Britain fighter.

The last butterfly of the year to emerge will be the brown hairstreak. I shall be watching every day, the blackthorn bushes wherever I go, in the hope of seeing just one of these rare insects.

All I shall see is a tiny orange dot zig-zagging at terrific speed high up over the sloe bushes. 
I have them in my garden usually because blackthorn grows just over the hedge in the nature reserve.

Summer is nearly gone, the nightjar and the swifts started the remove, but just a bit of it is left with the last butterflies and at least we had a week of hot weather: golden days.