Bit of a Butterfly Fest!
You may recall that in a previous blog I mentioned that summer seemed to be off to a late start, well on my local patch, during July and August, things finally caught up.
all the birds are busy raising young and also, in most cases, going through a
moult, during the summer months I tend to focus on the smaller creatures which
appear. Our non-feathered companions, such as spiders and beetles can
give some folks ( including me) the heeby-jeebies, however since I have been
taking a close up view, (ok, from about two metres away, with a big lens!) not
only have I become less fearful, but I have also seen how beautiful our
Brown (open view)
are often found in grassy areas, such as meadows, hedgerows and along the edges
of fields. My most usual view of them, is when they rest in the grasses,
blending in very well until they flutter up out of the grass. They can be seen
in large numbers and will nectar on brambles, knapweeds and thistles, as
well as ragwort.
a week later, I was out on a morning stroll and there were a fair few thistles
which had finally bloomed, as well as a lot more bramble blossom showing.
This was good news for the butterflies, as these plants provide plenty of
nectar for them to feed on. Previously conspicuous by their abscence,
Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells were out and about and feeding, however I
have not seen them in great numbers at all this year, compared to
Tortoiseshell on a head of thistles
(If you have Buddleia bushes in your garden, then these love feeding on them!)
On the same morning, I spotted one of our day flying moths busy feeding on a thistle head and completely oblivious, a handsome Five Spot Burnet.
whites nectaring and at rest
have missed seeing any Common Blue butterflies on the local patch so far this
year, however, towards the far end of the meadow, away from their favoured
patch of previous years, a few started to appear along with Brown Argus
butterflies. These tiny blue butterflies stay low in the grasses and best
views are often to be had in the late afternoon, when they 'go to roost', often
sitting on a grass stem, soaking up the last of the day's sunshine. I
usually see a fair few of them in May / June time, but this year, not a
glimpse. One afternoon in early August, however, I spied maybe half a
dozen fluttering around in the grasses.
Blue nectaring on a thistle head.
of them were nectaring and others were settling down for the evening,
I was watching them I was fortunate enough to see a female - these usually
stay tucked away low in the vegetation, however this lady was making the most
of the sunshine.
female Common Blue.
Copper (and weevil)
I had also been seeing tiny chrystal blue butterflies circumnavigating my back garden amongst other places, but never settling. Now as I have never seen Common Blues away from their 'patch', I was getting curious as to what these could be. On a warm Saturday morning, I was at the far end of the meadow, which is a big bramble bank under the eaves of some big old oak trees, watching Meadow Browns and Common Darters, when, amongst the brambles, something tiny and blue settled, wings shut tight at first...
a moment or two, it found a sunnier spot and I was treated to a 'wings open'
view of a very dapper male. These tiny butterflies like Holly and Ivy as
well; I was surprised to read that instead of favouring nectar, as most
butterflies do, they have a taste for honeydew, which is a sticky sugar rich
secretion left by aphids and other insects.
butterflies are very distinctive, both by shape and also by their brilliant
colours. When their wings are closed, however, they are somewhat less
conspicuous, although a small comma shape can be clearly seen.
home and having had a trundle around butterly books and ID sites, it became
clear that this was a Purple Hairstreak. (Now as I've never seen any kind
of Hairstreak, ever, there was a spot of dancing!)
Another pair of abundant visitors in the meadow have been Large and Small Skippers, I have been seeing these nectaring on brambles (one of their favourites) and flying about in the grasses, particularly on warm days. These lay their eggs in the grasses, in the case of Essex Skippers, this has helped spread the species by way of hay bale transportation!
Skipper, notice the hooked clubs on the antenna ends.
that we are starting to head towards the end of the butterfly season, two final
species have put in an appearance.
Speckled Wood, sizing me up!
After defending their patch, they will alight up in the tree canopy, with a good view of their territory, whilst basking. They are very striking in appearance, with eyecatching cream spots and various hues of brown, so if you are wandering, look up - you may be under butterfly surveillance!
The last of the butterflies that I have seen this season, are small and colourful and have been, as with the Meadow Browns and Ringlets, abundant on my local patch. They can often be seen basking with wide open wings and are extremely eyecatching - the Gatekeeper (also known as a Hedge Brown) that appears from the middle of summer onwards.
also known as the Hedge Brown.
and field edges often have at least one of their preferred plants for
nectaring- brambles, of which there are plenty of around the meadow. They
will also feed from Devil's Bit Scabious, thistles and Ragwort, as well as
supplementing their diet with honeydew.
are further images from my Minibeast diary for 2015, over in an album