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Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell – Aglais urticae

Aglais urticae

This is a butterfly we’ve taken for granted. The Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae was once one of our most familiar and numerous garden visitors. Sadly it is no longer as common as it once was. In recent years, particularly in the south it has declined, possibly due to predation by the parasitic fly Sturmia bella. Somehow our buddleia bushes just don’t look quite the same without these butterflies nectaring on every other mauve, orange-centred flower head. But, let’s not get overly maudlin. Instead let’s reflect on what a stunning little insect this still is. Gorgeous orange set off with deft little touches of black, dabs of yellow and white, ringed with a necklace of brilliant turquoise. What’s not to like?

I spent a fab morning at Collard Hill taking photographs of these colourful and striking butterflies. Cheered to see them there in good numbers again and clearly enjoying the warm sunshine. Basking on what at times seemed like every other purple thistle. Yet lovely as it was, after a few hours the combination of the steep hillside and trudging around in the heat really began to get to me. So I headed for the shade of some fir trees further down a very steep slope.

As I entered the cool shadows I slipped on the damp grass. For a moment I had the sensation of levitating in mid air before slamming hard into the ground. The impact knocking the wind out of me. Struggling to get some air back into my lungs and gritting my teeth against the pain coming from my back. Through watery-eyes I noticed three young coal tits flitting about in the branches above. I swear they were sniggering.

Few people realise what a dangerous activity macro photography is.

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Lisa Vankula-Donovan #

    Thanks for the beautiful photo and laugh. Always enjoy your way with words.

    July 19, 2013
  2. I wasn’t laughing Lisa I can tell you. Although those little Coal Tits definitely were.

    July 19, 2013
    • Lisa Vankula-Donovan #

      I apologise, I didn’t mean to make it seem that I was laughing at your fall. I guess I should have mentioned the “levitating in mid air” part is what got me. I hope you’re feeling ok. And those Coal Tits will get their due. 😉

      July 19, 2013
  3. Hah, no not at all Lisa. I know you wouldn’t laugh at me. What could be the slightest bit amusing about a fully grown man lying flat out on a bed of thistles and stinging nettles, crying. In fact once I’d stopped sobbing I quite enjoyed the view of the blue sky, it’s so rare in England I’d almost forgotten what it looked like.

    Once the pain had subsided I popped my head up to see if anyone had noticed the screams. As the coast was clear I limped off to the pub for a pint. You’re right though, I’ve got my eye on those cheeky Coal Tits. It’ll be a different story when the winter kicks in and they come around my house looking for peanuts. They won’t be laughing then. Mwaahahaha.

    July 19, 2013
  4. Kaz #

    Just spent a happy hour catching up on your posts. Thanks for reminding me just how beautiful the small tortoiseshell is with its row of little turquoise gems!

    August 9, 2013
    • Yes they are a rather special and due to an exceptionally warm July, the best since 1976 apparently, I’ve seen more this year than I have for many, many years. More good news. The Large Tortoiseshell which is officially extinct in the UK has been spotted in small numbers on the Isle of Wight. They’re almost certainly migrants but who knows maybe a few will breed.

      August 9, 2013
  5. Awesome, love your blog! Thank you for it!

    August 23, 2013
  6. Reblogged this on lepidopteralovers and commented:
    Check out this beautiful Tortoiseshell Butterfly!

    August 23, 2013

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