Re-reading last summer’s entries in my nature diary. The buddleia bushes have been flowering for more than six weeks and from my desk I have been following the small tortoiseshells, peacocks and red admirals that feast on it. Having seen only few butterflies last year, I was excited at first, but eventually my attention waned and I returned to work. I did look up to admire the three red admirals basking in the late summer sun on a low white wall nearby, and sat upright when a coal tit propelled itself through the bush, causing the butterflies to flutter off before gliding back to their perch until the coal tit hit again. I realised how gradually I took the presence of these late summer flyers for granted and how I needed incidents to reignite my attention.
Wildlife encounters: what value do we attach to them? The pattern of fading attention as I start to take the presence of butterflies on the buddleia bush for granted is something I have experienced more often. Early spring those green-veined whites fluttered abundantly, but I took time to take a good look at that one peacock on that dandelion flower. I guess it is something many people recognise. We are keen to rise untimely early and travel across the Cairngorms to watch capercaillie lek, but do we go out of our way in a similar manner for the blackbird courting a female in our garden?
As we get on with our life we encounter wildlife – a spider entering through an open window, a slug on our doorstep, a sparrow on the bird table. Some of us even flock to the coast to watch birds migrate or go for a stroll at dusk to watch starlings murmur. How do we value those wildlife encounters and why do we respond so differently to different species? I can’t wait to see my first butterfly this spring.
Copyright text and image Petra Vergunst