Fredrik Sjöberg collects hoverflies on the island of Runmarö, in the archipelago east of Stockholm. He is also a literary critic, translator, cultural columnist and the author of several books, including The Fly Trap and The Raisin King, which form a trilogy with The Art of Flight.
Day one in Grisha’s study I spotted a ladybird walking over the desk. It looked familiar and yes, it was a harlequin (Harmonia axyridis), an extremely invasive species, originally from eastern Asia, now spreading all over the world, and an old friend of mine since I once found the very first one in Stockholm. My new friends (Nico, Sally, Sean and Kate) were not impressed. Well, I’m used to it. So I said nothing about the magnificent crowd of leaf beetles (Galerucella sp.) in my window. Thousands! The gecko lizard that kept me company in the study had heavy work eating them,
The cherry trees had begun to bloom, so when I didn’t write I sat there watching the bees through my binoculars. Honeybees of course, but also big, blueish black carpenter bees (Xylocopa violacea). As was evident, they are common here. Even though it was only the very beginning of March, there were also butterflies: red admirals first (Vanessa atalanta) and then southern comma (Polygonia egea). After a week or so I saw the first Cleopatra butterflies (Gonepteryx cleopatra) and a couple of swallowtails (Papilio macaon). Now, as I’m about to leave, the orange tip (Anthocharis cardamines) is on the wing.
Every morning the robins and blackcaps were singing in the bamboo grove, and every night I heard the tawny owls howling in the valley. Common buzzards passed, as did long-tailed tits, and green woodpeckers were contantly yelling. So I felt at home. Only the short-toed snake eagle that showed up in the sky one day was new to me. Of course I found a lot more during my long walks in the woods, but to be honest, I didn’t come here to collect flies. My plan was to write. So I wrote. A lot. Santa Maddalena is a perfect spot for writing – and eating. Yes, Rasika made me fat and very happy.