Around this time of year, our local churches are holding their annual Harvest Thanksgiving services and in addition to these I will be leading another Meditative Safari on Turnpike Fields. This will have a Harvest flavour about it and introduce us to our connection to the natural world around us. We will also discover how that natural world holds windows for us to see into the world of faith. Our walk will begin at 2p.m. on Sunday 2nd October and take about one hour. All are invited to join us and dogs (on leads) are also welcome.
Looking around the Fields, at this time, we are aware that we have lost the high bloom of summer. This year, indeed, it finished early due to the dry weather. However, that same dry weather also has caused extra fruiting on trees and plants alike. The Oak trees are having another mass fruiting year and so also sycamore trees. The Brambles too have produced an abundant fruiting. Does anyone go blackberrying any more?
Whilst much of the insect world has disappeared for the winter either in hibernation form or as larvae, one of the last to disappear is the Speckled Wood Butterfly. Recently I saw over twenty of them on a walk. A number were engaged in a aerial courtship dance and with thoughts of the next generation. This will emerge in the Spring. As well as being one of later showing butterflies, the Speckled Wood is also one of the earliest in the Spring. This butterfly , as its name suggests, mainly enjoys the shadier places, although I have also seen them on the grassland on the Fields (that is before the grass was mown).
This unpretentious insect nevertheless has a very fascinating life cycle. In short its life is all about reproduction. The males have two distinct mating strategies “territorial defence” or “patrolling”. In “territorial defence” the male defends a sunny spot in the wood or hedgerow and waits for a female to fly by. A “patrolling” male flies around seeking a female. The female, which only mates with one male, will generally prefer a “territorial defensive” male as the union will produce a higher quality of offspring. This will depend on the energy level of the female and male. Flying around looking for a mate is a high time and energy activity (life is short and energy limited for a butterfly) so the option of the poorer quality “patrolling” male is sometimes a necessity. The offspring winter as a larva or pupae before emerging the following year to continue the cycle of life.
Reflecting on this quiet flutterer of the woods, it remains that all organisms with whom we share this planet have their life, full of purpose and individuality. As humans we have the privilege and the joy to witness this and appreciate it, season by season..