Some might say I chose the perfect week to take off, with glorious sunshine and balmy temperatures. However, as mentioned previously, I am in the middle of a commission to prepare artwork for some nature trail boards, meaning I spent most of the week indoors!
Enjoyable though all that painting is, there comes a point when I just have to get out there - when I can hear the birds singing and see all those insects flying around, it's almost like they're mocking me!
Off to Martin Down I went (of course!) - every year I miss the flowering of the one specimen of the pasque flower on the NNR, as it flowers quite early. Despite my search, I was obviously a bit early - things definitely seem to be slow going this year. Nevertheless, the walk was beautiful and just what I needed to re-motivate me back at the drawing board. The air was alive with the sound of chiffchaffs, chaffinches, tonnes of beautiful yellowhammers, and of course, many, many skylarks. And the flora wasn't too bad either - the gorse is in full bloom, setting off the yellowhammer's plumage rather well, coupled with blackthorn just blossoming (bit slower than other parts of the country, I have noticed), and then there were the violets.
Hairy violets are one of the larval foodplants of the marsh fritillary butterfly (although you won't find this mentioned in the textbooks oddly - instead, they refer to devil's bit scabious and plantain) - you might think that a species with the word 'marsh' in the name would not be found on the down, but you would be wrong. Although it's not a massive population, it is well spread throughout the grassland areas, and you may come across some parts fenced off in a few weeks' time, to prevent damage to larval colonies. It's a beautiful but declining butterfly, and judging by the display of violets, it should be doing well this year.
Now, the down is all grazed down, and most of the sheep removed, ready for the plants to put on a growth spurt and erupt into colourful carpets of blooms - I can't wait to see it all unfurl once more.