Today was officially the hottest day of the year, clocking in at a sweltering 33C at Brize Norton, which is the closest official weather station to my home. Despite suffering from the effects of mild heatstroke yesterday, I decided to go out and visit my favourite local woodland, Ravensroost, to look for butterflies. In the heatwave we had last year, the drought became so intense that the purple hairstreak butterfly, normally found only at the very tops of oak trees, was found flopping around on the ground looking for any moisture it could find. I even had one sup on my finger for a while. I went looking for them again today, and although I saw one, it was zipping around at a lively pace and unwilling to settle. So were the other butterflies. You know its hot when even the normally sun-worshipping butterflies seek out the shade. I came across this silver-washed fritillary who looked utterly wilted. She (it’s a girl, folks) kept returning to the same spot to rest up, under the bushes but in a small spotlight of sunshine.
But the day’s prize for the most memorable moment came with a young roebuck, his antlers still in velvet (i.e.. growing under their velvety coat). I had watched him and photographed him from afar, then he simply vanished. I figured he’d run out of the wood, so gave up being stealthy and just walked normally, scuffing my feet, snapping twigs, up a track that ran beside the clearing I’d seen him in. Then I just happened to glance to one side – and there was the buck, chilling in the shade of an oak tree. He was no more thantwenty feet from me and could clearly both see me and hear the camera, but it was just too hot to move. You know it’s hot when even the deer don’t run away. Eventually he got up, stared at me for a while as if to say “Really? In this heat?” then ambled out of the compartment. It was a wonderful encounter, and I’m almost sad now that the heat will break tomorrow.