March 27, 2011

A mystery

It's full spring now, although autumn still lingers here and there. The beech hedges rattle with dead leaves, and in Palace Road nature garden the ground is strewn with these mysterious and beautiful wooden roses:

What are they? They are the remains of pine cones, nibbled down to the base by squirrels keen to get at the tasty seeds inside.

Yet a few yards away a comma butterfly was basking in the spring sunshine amid the young nettles it had, until recently, been eating as a caterpillar.

Unusually for a butterfly (rather than a moth), this one was resting with its wings open. Newly emerged from its chrysalis, it was pumping blood around its brand new wings, ready for flight.

The comma is named for the small white shape seen on the dull, speckled underside of its wings, making it look, when its wings are held upright, like nothing so much as a dead autumn leaf.