We've just shared our lunch terrace with the first of this year's swallowtail butterflies, who's spent the best part of the last hour snacking on the nectar from the dianthus in the flower bed around the edge (in fact I think he's - she's? - still there).
Although swallowtails are not uncommon here, and you'll almost certainly see at least one if you're here, it's still a Big Event for us. In the UK, swallowtails are now confined to very small areas of Norfolk, the county where we used to live, and we like lots of others used to make annual pilgrimages to those places - sometimes just a few metres square - where they could be seen. So to have one casually join us for lunch is a huge thrill ...
I was a bit confused by this one when I first saw it, because its markings seemed to be rather different from those I'd seen before. But my learned guide book told me that there's a distinct difference between the first brood, which flies round about now, and the second, which flies from July to August or September: the purply-blue markings are a lot less evident, the red spots almost non-existent, and the yellow and black of the wings are much more pronounced.
I wish I could say that these photos were mine, but I haven't yet found a way to persuade them (the swallowtails, that is, not the photos) to stop fluttering long enough and pose nicely for the camera. So thanks to the RSPB and to this site, which so often comes up trumps with some lovely pics!