Reg Snook's "park jottings" have been a special feature of the friends' noticeboard since early in 2010. He publishes a new one each fortnight, providing a naturalist's insights into the lives of the birds and animals of our park.

butterfly.pngJottings 13 June 2017 – “Beautiful!”

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That may be so but most people's idea of beauty is so varied that it is difficult to explain what this term means. Some opinions are particularly striking. The Dedham Vale is stunning so too the North Norfolk coast, the Brecks, the Broads, our lovely local rivers, including the peaceful Deben and the Alde and the whole of the Suffolk coastline. Some, not many I would imagine, even find our power stations beautiful – that great white dome next to a concrete block (Sizewell Nuclear Power Station if you haven't guessed) sufficing as a backdrop to RSPB Minsmere. So varied and yet so difficult to define is nature's beauty. People have often described to me a thing of beauty. Only yesterday I was told of a beautiful fox (not I hasten to add the beautiful fox that was digging up my garden). A beautiful blackbird, a beautiful mandarin, a beautiful sparrowhawk. All beautiful creatures. I have not yet heard of a beautiful squirrel in Christchurch Park but this may surprise you, though I was recently made aware of the 'beautiful rats' by the Wilderness Pond. Yes, beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder.

Talking of beautiful things and scenery, I was recently fortunate enough to visit the Cirques de Navacelles in the Cevennes in southern France. This is a UNESCO world heritage site and therefore much money has been lavished on it to make it more welcoming. These improvements have been made without disturbing much of the beauty and habitat of this area. Tucked away amidst all this wilderness is a reception centre/conference hall to which is attached a smart restaurant. Great except that it was closed. Not only that there were few people around – certainly a ghost amenity but I prefer it like that! Perhaps it is busier during the school holidays. However, the area is certainly a wilderness with miles and miles of scrub growing on basically poor soil and rock. Small oaks and other trees abound but mainly sweet chestnuts which people and their animals used to depend upon. Nightingales were singing, and there were cuckoos, golden orioles, red-backed shrikes and overhead griffin vultures, a golden eagle and a couple of short-toed eagles. Surely enough for any naturalist but no, the thing that really uplifted my heart was the wild flowers and the butterflies - multi-coloured wild flowers all being tickled by dancing butterflies, wonderful things of beauty. I will not list them all but some are worthy of a mention. Inevitably, there were swallow-tails, continental ones - the French call this butterfly 'le flambé'. I saw a large tortoiseshell. I have yet to see one in England. 'Le petite sylvan' – the white admiral, 'le citron' – a brimstone and of course the magnificent 'le tabac éspagne' the magnificent Queen of Spain fritillary. But I must mention the blue butterflies. There are so many blues in this part of France. It had rained slightly and clouds of blue butterflies had floated down to a muddy area amidst the flowers and grasses. The above-named butterflies were to me exotic but my lasting memory is of clouds of blues on the mud their colours ranging from purple to azure blue. I really know what a thing of beauty is.

Ironically, the best photo we took of a butterfly was a swallowtail the kind of which is very rare in Britain and found in Norfolk. This perfect specimen was a swallowtail seen in a street market in Sully sur Loire and it was very interested in the flowering geranium plants which were for sale. It was a wonderful sight in a most unlikely habitat.

Reg Snook