Sunday, 9 October 2011

Butterflies in a Polish Autumn

September 2009: a swarm of butterflies arrived in the garden, with about 60/70 gathering on asters in front of the dining-room window. It was an amazing site, far exceeding the show provided by the various Butterfly Centres I have visited, and something I had never seen before.

This year, there were about half that number, but they were still lovely to watch.

From 2011 09

A quick diversion with a thought about the evolution of language. One might guess that languages with little similarity in origin (eg comparing Polish and English) will tend to differ most for common objects, particularly those related to basic rural life, predominate when the languages originally developed. The extent this might apply to butterflies is not self-evident, so see below.

The most numerous type was the Peacock - Pawik (pron Pavik) and also 'Peacock' in Polish. Although I have only seen them in large numbers in the autumn, solitary butterflies visit throughout the year. The earliest this year was in March, indoors: perhaps awakened when wood from the pile outside was brought inside for burning.

In slighter fewer numbers were the Small Tortoiseshell - Pokrzywnik (po-kshiw-nik) or 'Nettle' in Polish. Adding a slightly fanciful interpretation of the family name, a nicer version would be 'Nettle Nymph'.

There were also Painted Ladies - Osetnik or, fancifully as before, 'Thistle Nymph' in Polish.

The particular beauty of this butterfly comes from having brightly coloured wings on both sides.

A few Red Admirals came along - just Admirał in Polish: 'ł' becomes 'w', but English 'Admiral' should be (miss)understood.

Finally, as part of the swarm, there were Queen of Spain Fritillaries (I think, but they all look much the same) - Latonia in Polish, whose full name I would have tried to twist into 'Dignity in Flight' or 'Summer Dignity', but it is actually Polonisation of the Latin name 'Lathonia'. Anyway, I am saved from all of that by having the common name 'Lesser Mother of Pearl' - perłowiec mniejszy (with extreme hesitation, per-wov-ee-es mknee-e-I-she, remembering the emphasis is on the second-to-last syllable and there are no pauses between syllables).

A couple of white butteries have also fluttered past, but they didn't participate this year in crowd feeding.

The numbers fell dramatically after a cool, very grey morning and today, after a cold damp night, there are none to be seen.

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