Thursday, 15 May 2008

Dodmen and Dragonflies and Butterflies

I had a walk down by our river yesterday, and was amazed at the wonderful green reflection from the trees. It really was like a Fairy bower . . .

It's strange how a word should suddenly appear and ring bells. I was reading Phil Rickman's novel "Crybbe" earlier on, a novel which is set in the Welsh Marches (I think that Knighton was the town he had visited and decided was his setting). Anyway, Alfred Watkins ("The Old Straight Track") and ley lines figure large in the book, and standing stones, and "Dodmen" measuring the height of the latter, and Watkins saying how he thought that the Long Man of Wilmington was actually a Dodman, with his two measuring (surveying) sticks . . . I was thinking, Dodman - there's something else goes by that name. Wikipedia didn't let me down, and a Dodman is also a land snail - particularly in Norfolk, where it goes by that name. There are also Norfolk links in the name Dodderman or Doddiman, connected with the Dudman who used to go about the countryside bent over, with a huge roll of cloth on his back (like a snail's "house"). Then it occurred to me, that in my childhood I am sure I remember someone saying they had their "best duds" on . . . Then you have a "doddering old fool" . . .

Then there is D for Dragonfly. When I was out riding this week, I came across a Dragonfly with really brown wings, something I'd never seen before. It took a bit of tracking down, but in my little Collins Gem guide to Insects I found him - the Brown Aeshna. It is Europe's only common brown-winged species. We have Dragonfly larva terrorizing our wildlife pond, and also the similar-looking larva of the Great Diving Beetle, which I've also seen out there on summer days. The poor tadpoles started off in their hundreds, but seem to have been decimated by the predetors (unless they are hiding in the weeds at the edge of the pond). There was a Common Newt in the pond yesterday, walking slowly across the bottom, as if he had had too much to drink and was taking things carefully . . . The Damselflies are back too - crimson and a lovely metallic blue or green. So pretty.

We have had the first flush of butterflies too - some Holly Blues, Red Admirals, lots of Orange Tips, Small Whites, and a few Fritillerys, though they are so swift-flying they are hard to identify. I "think" it is the Dark Green Fritillery which is the one "hefted" to our area and part of the river. I had such a surprise when I saw a Brimstone butterfly in our garden this past week. That's two year's running I've seen them. We used to have lots about when we lived in Dorset, but their feed plant (Alder Buckthorn?) doesn't seem to be prolific in this area, so it was a great delight to see what is a rarity here.

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