Annie’s Blog #2 – The Knoll of Knockan Hill
On May 17th my friend Kate and I went up Knockan Hill, one of my favorite places to find butterflies. We were not disappointed. In previous weeks I had already sighted a Sara Orangetip, a Mourning Cloak, a Pale Swallowtail, a few Propertius Duskwings and even a Western Tiger Swallowtail along with a number of Western Spring Azures, so I decided that, for Kate’s first butterfly field trip with me, Knockan Hill might be our best bet.
The honeysuckle was out and the cooler temperature made me hopeful that the Western Tiger Swallowtail might reappear and land a bit lower and a bit closer… maybe just close enough so that I wouldn’t have to wade into the thorny Himalayan blackberries to get a decent photograph as I had to when I initially spotted it on May 11th. The Mourning Cloak, which I had seen earlier on May 7th, and the Pale Swallowtail which I had observed on both the 7th and 11th of May, were both on my wish list for this day.
As Kate and I headed up the trail towards what I like to call the “Knoll of Knockan Hill” I felt cautiously optimistic on how things could go and what we might see. A few Azures, but no Propertius Duskywings were spotted on the way there so, on we went until we came to a rounded clearing near the top; the Knoll. Upon first approaching it there was little to be seen, but I knew my patience would be rewarded… and in less than two minutes it was. Hearing the sounds of wonderment in Kate’s voice reminded me of why I was doing this work, for there is nothing quite so magical for me as witnessing the transformation that seeing a butterfly alive in the wild can work on another person. Two butterflies appeared simultaneously: the Western Tiger Swallowtail with the Mourning Cloak in hot pursuit. We were both enthralled, especially when they landed: first, the Mourning Cloak for a great photo opportunity, though looking a bit worse for wear since May 7th, and then that lovely Swallowtail settling on a leaf long enough for me to get my closest shots yet. Unfortunately the Pale Swallowtail was nowhere to be found.
Then along came someone walking their dogs, one of which was a little bit too enthusiastic for the butterflies. There was no time for impatience, because as they fluttered up and away, suddenly, and seemingly out of nowhere, there was a flurry of orange! More butterflies? Yes! Yes! I’d never seen these ones at Knockan Hill before! Two more people, a mother (later introducing herself as “Carolyn”) and her son, came along, igniting that flame of orange again, and they stopped and watched with us as the butterflies flew closer and closer until they finally landed. My first shots were from a distance with each successive shot closer as I inched my way forward. I was pretty sure I knew what they were, but the camera doesn’t lie. They were Satyr Commas (one a bit “fresher” than the other, although not by much). And seeing them here with Kate was like seeing them for the very first time. I’ve spotted Satyr Commas in nearly every location I’ve been, but this was the first time at Knockan Hill. This was the first time at the Knoll that I had seen so many different species in just a few weeks.
The Satyr Commas became quite aggressive and territorial. I often hear people comment on how a butterfly is being “friendly”, and I used to think that way myself as I have had many a butterfly land on me. But nothing can take away the incredible feeling when it happens no matter what the reason. As one Satyr Comma landed on Carolyn’s arm, I took a shot. When it landed on me there wasn’t much I could do since I had the only camera! Before I knew it, there I was explaining butterfly behavior to three new butterfly novices; it was my first time leading a butterfly field trip of sorts. The questions and answers seemed endless as I exhausted myself talking about the different species we were seeing, but it was one of the most rewarding experiences I can recall having in several years. I felt I was actively doing something to raise awareness and enthusiasm for our local butterfly population. It felt great!
Before I was done, my business card was requested (more an ID card than a business card) and promises made to Carolyn and Kate for pictures of some of what they had experienced. Carolyn greeted news of our blog with a lot of enthusiasm and thought we were doing a very worthwhile thing by raising awareness of wildlife on the island. That too was very gratifying. So was meeting and making a new friend!
Then it was time of us all to get going so, bidding Carolyn and her son Dylan, the Swallowtail, Mourning Cloak & two Commas a fond farewell, Kate and I skipped away and down the path, arm in arm, just like kids. Upon reflection I realized that for both of us, what happened today at the Knoll on Knockan Hill was like drinking from the Fountain of Youth…
Once we arrived home, and Kate took her leave, I was inspired to write this poem which I have called:
The Knoll of Knockan Hill
There’s magic for me on this hill
I find it at the Knoll.
On Knockan Hill things may seem still
if you’re out on a stroll.
But fairies watch with stained-glass wings,
they watch you passing by
with matters on some other things —
they try to catch your eye.
And if you turn and stop awhile,
look up instead of down,
you’ll see a cloak all trimmed in white
the middle, velvet brown,
and Tiger stripes at first a blur
then soaring on a breeze
,then landing lightly on a leaf,
and for a moment, freeze.
And if you wait and if you watch
more fairies will appear,
and land upon extended hand
or even on your ear!
There’s magic in this Knoll up here
and so up here I come
where Nature is so very dear
and I don’t feel so numb.
I let the fairies dust me well,
my future in their hands,
so silently rings Nature’s bell
that rings across the lands.
But here on Knockan Hill they call,
such voices do I hear;
the song they’re singing to us all
in voices loud and clear.
And in this moment how I feel
this land beneath my feet;
the butterflies to me appeal
“Please don’t let us deplete!”
And then they’re gone, flown off to sun
or nectar on a flower,
while I relate this tale to you
and say you have the power
to listen to what Nature says
and go up to the Knoll
and stay awhile on Knockan Hill
to wander and to stroll
and marvel at these lovely creatures
I’ll meet you there — perhaps you’ll see
some fairy dust instead…
© Annie Pang May 17, 2012