He darts across the canal and I follow him with my binoculars. Against the dark water and the shade of the trees opposite, the blue on his back shines with the intensity of the markings on a neon tetra.
A large dragonfly glides past in the opposite direction but disappears into the trees before I can focus on it.
Cryptic CommaA comma butterfly also does a disappearing act. It's red-orange but as soon as it lands in the branches of the overhanging hawthorn ahead of us it disappears from view. Barbara spots it and, with some difficulty points it out to me. She almost has to touch it before I see it. It's hanging from the end of a branch with the brownish undersides of both its front and rear wings showing so that it resembles a withered leaf amongst the greenery. The edges of its wings are deeply scalloped in an irregular fashion to improve the deception. This isn't the result of bird attack as it is with the bedraggled tortoiseshells you see towards the end of summer; this comma is in fresh condition. There seems be an emergence of commas; we see another further along the towpath.
Soldier beetles add an accent of colour as they climb amongst the grasses or make their way alongside the hedge with a slow hovering flight.
CygnetsWe're delighted to see a pair of mute swans leading their family of three cygnets along the canal. With so many mink about this year, and so much disturbance from passing dogs and people, they've done well to rear so many. The cygnets are at that 'ugly duckling' stage; they look like small, grey, downy, long-necked goslings.