The highlight for me was seeing 17 marbled white butterflies at the end of the month. Their headquarters is the scrubby field alongside the A2 embankment, but this year sightings have extended into some of the other fields, so it looks like being a good season for them. Despite their name, they aren’t in fact related to the much-maligned “cabbage whites”, but are grouped with the “browns”, which includes meadow browns and gatekeepers. If you get a chance to see the underwing of a marbled white (above), the arc of spots, not present on the white butterflies, is one indication of the marbled white’s true affinities.
A lesser whitethroat was singing on the 2nd, and a reed bunting on the 10th, when a flock of 25 starlings (adults and young) were feeding among the cattle. I have only heard cuckoos twice on the marshes this year, which was most disappointing, and then they were calling in the distance, but other people may have been more fortunate. However, seeing a kingfisher on the 2nd, the first for over a month, did at least put a smile on my face.
It was also encouraging to see a mute swan on the river in the last fortnight. My records of Canada geese flying along the valley suggest that they put in extremely erratic appearances, and two mid-month were the first I had seen for over two years.
There is a nice little patch of pineapple weed near the entrance from Whitehall Road. A humble, low-growing plant associated with heavily used areas on farmland, such as gateways, it doesn’t get much attention from botanists, but I think it is quite an attractive little plant. The flowers do look vaguely like pineapples when viewed through half-closed eyes, but if you crush a piece in your fingers it really does smell of that fruit! It is a member of the daisy family, technically known as the Compositae, so named because each apparent flowerhead is actually a composite arrangement of many tiny flowers. In most daisy species a few of these diminutive flowers each boast a single petal, forming a ring around the central head of petal-less flowers, so making it look like a fairly conventional flower, but in the pineapple weed those petals are absent, giving it a naked appearance.