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Ethan Cutler's summer journey along the river stour

Posted on: 16/08/2021

It is early August, and it is a warm, sunny day. The wind silently whispers through the trees, making their branches dance in the light breeze. The river is transparent, reflecting the warm glow from the sun and the trees like a mirror. Summer is a kaleidoscope of colours with the flowers in full bloom and a ‘buzz’ in the air. The sky is a whirlwind of activity filled with bees, butterflies and dragonflies.

On this beautiful, sunny day as I walk along the riverbank, I spot an unmistakeable and enigmatic Peacock butterfly, with a spectacular pattern of mesmerizing azure eyespots on its wings. It is resting on a purple thistle, warming its wings up in the morning sun. Out of the corner of my eye, I suddenly see a fluttering of wings; it is a Comma butterfly. It gets its name from the distinctive white ‘comma’ shape on the underwing. It has cryptic colourings of orange and brown on its wings which have delicate scalloped edges.

As I continue my journey along the river, I hear the constant buzzing of busy bees. As I peer closer at one of the bees, I can see its long proboscis whizzing in and out of each flower sucking up the nectar and I could also see the pollen stuck to its legs. Bee pollen sacs are called ‘pollen pellets’ and they account for 30% of a bee’s weight. They hang off the bee’s hind legs like overstuffed saddlebags. I find it truly amazing how they can still manage to fly carrying all this extra weight around with them. I find it exceptionally tricky to take photos of bees because they are constantly moving from one flower to the next, always on a mission. I strongly believe that we really need to appreciate bees and butterflies more because they play a vital role in our ecosystem.

As I gaze towards the river, I see an eye-catching species of damselfly, the Banded Demoiselle skimming across the water. It is a male because it has characteristic patches of dark blue on its wings. Nearby, a green damselfly is resting on some grass, its fragile, intricate wings folded along its back. It shimmers like an emerald in the bright sunshine. Suddenly, a dragonfly darts over the water like a miniature helicopter. I can see each of its wings working independently. It flies like a fighter jet but sounds like a helicopter. It truly is the aerial assassin of the insect world.

Summer is a brilliant time of year to see a great variety of butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies and bees. Next time you are out on a walk, see how many different species you can spot!!

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