Flylady Photography by Wendy Cooper

It Started With A Comma...

Blogs on my Local Patch > It Started With A Comma...
14/10/2018 - 10:44

April…

It started with a Comma.

 

In early April, after the snows had gone and the weather started to be a little warmer and brighter, spring suddenly arrived with a rush and as blossom and fresh greenery began to cautiously emerge, so did the Butterflies.

Comma Butterflies (amongst others) will find places to hibernate during the winter months and can sometimes be seen on milder winter days.  This was the first one I saw this year, basking in the sunshine to warm up before fluttering off to try and find food and a mate.

Around the same time, a small number of Small Tortoiseshells appeared, along with Peacock Butterflies.

Small Tortoiseshell

One afternoon, I watched Small Tortoiseshells basking alongside Peacocks, every so often both species would flutter up and joust mid-air as they competed for a mate or territory.  I would have to wait to see if any were successful in their searches for a partner. 

 Peacock

 

As the month progressed, Holly Blues could be seen fluttering busily about with a few fresh looking Brimstone Butterflies also on the Wing.

Brimstone

May

During May, in addition to occasional moments with Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells, glimpses of Holly Blues and Brimstones, it looked like it was going to be a good year for Orange Tips – usually I’m lucky to see one on my local patch, however this year, there seemed to be quite a few about, patrolling up and down in search of a partner. 

One afternoon, I was lucky enough to spot a male who was taking time out to refuel

Male Orange Tip

 

Before he spotted a female, also taking a moment for herself, before they both flew off, tumbling along in the air.

Female Orange Tip

June

And now it started to warm up… 

In the fallow field where I walk, Burnet Companions began to chase back and forth.  I have found over the past few years that these pretty moths herald the emergence of some of the summer species, so anticipation grew…

Burnet Companion

Sure enough some treats were in store as the month progressed! 

One afternoon as I watched Burnett Companions chasing through the long grasses, a flash of tumbling blue caught my eye – a pair of courting Common Blue Butterflies! 

Common Blue

 

As I watched, two or three pairs made their presence known and I watched transfixed as they chased around.  Last year, I had only seen one pair mating, after that they had (again) vanished for the remainder of the summer, was this year going to see a return?

Close by to where I was watching the ‘Blues’ a further treat was had – five feisty Small Copper Butterflies all in courting mode, settling only briefly from time to time, before continuing on their quest.

Small Copper

Further along the same path there were also a few Brown Argus Butterflies fluttering or settling in the grasses.  It was beginning to look like a Lycaenidae convention!

Brown Argus

As the month went on I began to see Silver Y moths fluttering low down amongst the orchids and Stitchwort, as well as Lattice Heath and Mother Shipton moths. 

 Silver Y

Large Skippers made an appearance, not in any great numbers compared to previous years, but they were definitely taking advantage of the wildflowers in bloom.

Large Skipper

 

Over by the brook in a bank of stinging nettles, it appeared the Peacocks had been successful in their quest as there were a large group of black spikey caterpillars.

 

In the tall grasses Meadow Browns began to appear

Meadow Brown

As well as Ringlet butterflies – these would both roost deep in the grasses, taking to the air at the merest hint of disturbance.  

Ringlet

Elsewhere Large White Butterflies and Commas were on the wing

Large White

 

And as the thistles came into bloom, Five Spot Burnet moths could be seen busily nectaring.  

Five Spot Burnet

July

During July it was incredibly warm and things began to quieten down as many of the nectar bearing blooms faded in the heat. 

There were many Large and Small White Butterflies about, flying amongst the grasses with the remaining Ringlets and Meadow Browns.

 

Small Skippers appeared briefly – as with the Large Skippers, they were low in numbers. (The fallow field was mown and flayed severely last year and as Skippers lay their eggs in the grasses, I strongly suspect this had a knock on effect).

Small Skipper

New tones of brown and orange appeared amongst the grasses and around the remaining bramble banks – the Gatekeepers had arrived!  I watched quite a few of these amongst the grasses and also nectaring on the available bramble blossom.  

Gatekeeper

On one morning walk I had a few surprises.  I have known they are here, but had only ever seen one before, however as I was watching a busy Whitethroat foraging, a colour and flight caught my eye, watching where it had settled I saw a Purple hairstreak Butterfly.  

Purple Hairstreak

These usually live up in the tree canopy, usually in Oaks and feed mostly on the honeydew left by other insects.  For that morning and a few others, I definitely saw three or four more on the wing.  

Here and there I saw a few Red Admirals on the wing, these mostly were too busy to stop, however whilst watching one, I learnt how easily they can be missed when they do settle!

Red Admiral going incognito!

 I also caught fleeting glimpses of two Silver Washed Fritillary Butterflies who were somewhat camera shy, however, coming across a patch of Forget-Me-Nots and thistles, a colour caught my eye – two pristine Brimstone Butterflies nectaring, in July! 

 

Brimstone

August

Speckled Wood Butterflies began to emerge and I often saw them jousting furiously inside the woodland.  These, as always had made a late appearance – back in June on a trip to the Forest of Dean, I had lost count of how many I saw out on our wanderings.

Speckled Wood

 

By now, scorched by the heat, the Common Hogweed, St John’s Wort, Trefoils, thistles and other wildflowers across the meadow had all but expired, however one large patch of Rosebay Willowherb remained, a patch of shocking pink amongst the dried blonde grasses. 

One afternoon I had a tiptoe along the rabbit paths to see if any of the remaining Butterflies were taking advantage of the nectar source.  I was in Butterfly heaven – I ended up standing in the middle of a roost of Common Blues.

 

As it was so warm, I visited the spot a few times in the late afternoons; during those visits I got to watch them settling to roost or if I was lucky the gentlest of courtships. 

After a while, the Blues mostly dispersed - their courtships done, but I had also seen a few Brown Argus nearby as they went to roost.

Brown Argus

On one occasion when I was there, they as well as the few remaining Common Blues were making the most of the Willowherb as a food source.  

Watching the behaviour of the Brown Argus Butterflies, I could also see that several were in courtship mode, settling, summoning and dancing around one another.

 

Brown Argus pair

 

Further away in the field, the occasional Peacock could be seen as well as Large and Small White Butterflies; Small Tortoiseshells, Red Admirals and Commas were scarce once more, however, in the spot where I had seen them earlier in the year, a few Small Coppers remained

Small Copper

and a wander closer to the brook gave me some beautiful views of a solitary Common Blue.  

Common Blue

October.  (During September I was away)

A few wanders out and the Butterflies have mostly gone.  It is still mild though, so I went in search of the local Common Lizards..  Whilst watching them, a few bright spots amongst the greens and bronzes of autumn foliage caught my eye… 

 

 

As it started, It ended with a Comma....

 

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