As Rosie pushes her way past me into the meadow, keen to investigate the new smells that have accumulated since our last visit, she flushes a small orange moth from the grass. It immediately drops down again, allowing closer inspection.
It's not a moth at all. It's the Small Heath butterfly (Coenonympha pamphilus), which, like so many of our native butterflies, is in steep decline. When I was growing up, most grassy meadows would reveal a dozen Small Heath within a few metres. Nowadays, this isn't the case. It's numbers have dropped by a disturbing 52% in the long term and I would now class it as an unusual sighting- something I would never have dreamed possible as a boy.
|Small Heath butterfly (Coenonympha pamphilus)|
The male Marsh fritillaries are still chasing each other around the tussocks in the culm grassland field, but today Rosie and I are headed to the river, and we don't stop.
In the cool of the woodland, the dappled sunlight is perfect for a different selection of plants. There's a carpet of Pink purslane (Claytonia sibirica) covering the ground in one area, while only 20 yards away, there's none.
|Pink purslane (Claytonia sibirica)|
Instead, there's Alliara petiolata- garlic mustard (or, if you prefer, Jack-by-the-hedge) in profusion, with a white butterfly moving from flower to flower. I expect it to be a female Orange tip laying eggs, as the larvae feed principally on this plant, but a closer look reveals a Green-veined white (Pieris napi) nectaring from the tiny white flowers.
|Green-veined white (Pieris napi) on garlic mustard|
As we push out of the woods, back into the sunlight, we startle a roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) which bolts away showing us its white rump patch- there are deer in reasonable numbers on Volehouse, but they only show themselves every so often.
Further up the field, a buzzard (Buteo buteo) drops like a stone out of the sky and lands on something in the next field. There's a lot of squawking and honking, but since buzzard don't take large birds, I assume that it's an alarm call from some of the local pheasants.
Rosie is intrigued by the commotion but is gently persuaded not to investigate further. I notice that while I've been rolling on the ground trying to photograph the green-veined white, she's been rolling in something too. Something left by a fox, judging by the smell coming off her.
I drive home with the windows open.
|Rosie is delighted to find evidence of fox|