The Small Blue Cupido minimus is the UK’s smallest resident butterfly. Females are chocolate brown whilst males, like the one pictured above photographed recently at Martin Down, have a silvery-blue dusting of scales near the base of the wings. The sole food plant is Kidney Vetch Anthyllis vulneraria and so it is reliant on the type of grassland habitat where this plant can flourish. It favours areas with broken ground.
Posts from the ‘Butterflies’ Category
I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve taken over the role of Entomology Sub-group Leader for one of the conservation groups on Salisbury Plain. Each month I lead a BeeWalk in Area 15 which is one of the artillery impact areas in SPTA (C). Earlier in the year we plotted a 5km transect through a variety of habitat and each month a small group of us follow this route and count and identify the bumblebee species we find. The data is uploaded to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT)BeeWalk website. More info about BeeWalk here.
In addition to the bees (which so far have not been numerous) we always find something interesting and this time it was the freshly-emerged Marsh Fritillary Euphydryas aurinia. The day was overcast, great for macro photography in my opinion, as the clouds act as a giant softbox, but there was a real nip in the wind so they were rather sensibly keeping well hunkered down in the grass. To get this shot I had to lie on my belly and wait for opportunities for the wind to drop. Low light can be a problem so inevitably it was necessary to push up the ISO to 800.
As many of you will be aware the Marsh Fritillary has declined in its distribution right across Europe, and is now a protected species and therefore the object of much conservation effort. Fortunately Salisbury Plain remains one of its major strongholds in Wiltshire, the UK and Europe.
Perhaps on my next visit, if it is a little warmer, I’ll get lucky and capture a few images with the wings open.
As a final post from my recent trip to Cyprus, here’s a photo of a Painted Lady Vanessa cardui that I managed to get a quick snap of when the sun momentarily dipped behind a cloud. I quite like the painterly quality of this image.
Although reasonably common it proved really difficult to get close enough to get a shot. The heat increased their flightiness and often as not they would close their wings as they sensed my approach. See below. Not that the underside isn’t equally photogenic.
I’m back from Cyprus now but while I was there this was one of the butterflies I was keen to photograph, the European Swallowtail Papilio machaon. This is the subspecies syriacus. I was lucky enough to get this shot early one morning while walking along the cliffs of Kapparis. The colour of the grass in the background will give you some idea of how hot it was.
We get them here in England and I’ve previously written about them in a post about one I photographed in Kefalonia here but our native subspecies britannicus remains a rarity and is confined to the fens of east Norfolk.
However, in some years we do get a few migrants from the continent. This subspecies gorganus is less fussy and will use many kinds of Umbellifer, such as Wild Carrot daucus carota, as the larval food plant. In 2013 there were many sightings in Hampshire, Sussex and Kent including some evidence of egg-laying. In April 2014 a specimen was photographed near Winchester, Hampshire which suggests that some specimens may have successfully over-wintered. More info here.
So the continental species may well become more common in future.
I’m in south east Cyprus endeavouring to photograph butterflies. It’s not proving easy due to the combination of clear blue skies and an almost constant breeze. The warmth of the sun means they are rather flighty, even at first light and they don’t settle anywhere for long. The bright conditions give rather harsh shadows and the light winds means the vegetation is swaying about like a Brit with too much Keo on board which makes sharpness a challenge. As I said, not easy.
However, yesterday morning while walking along the cliffs near Kapparis there were a few welcome clouds sliding in off the sea and for a brief moment while a white wisp made it momentarily overcast I got this image of an Eastern Bath White Pontia Edusa. According to Butterflies of Cyprus Makris, 2003, this is a very common butterfly found throughout the island.
As I left the office for lunch the other day (Wednesday 28 January) I saw my first butterfly of 2015, a rather tatty Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta similar to this one I photographed last year. This took me by surprise momentarily as it was quite a cold day. It was fluttering around inside the glass canopy that covers the Holly-lined pathway that leads to the entrance of the building and that I suspect was the reason. The combination of the low winter sun and the shelter from the icy wind had warmed it sufficiently to have woken it from its slumber.
The Red Admiral is predominantly a summer migrant that most often arrives in the UK in May and June but a small population do overwinter in the south of Britain and therefore this butterfly is also considered a resident. Unfortunately this hibernation strategy is a risk as many individuals will not survive our winter unless conditions are mild.
However, global warming may help it to become more firmly established as a resident species in the future.
Have you seen your first butterfly of 2015 yet?
Here’s another photograph from back in July, again from Morgans Hill. This time it’s the Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus.
This example is in full sun and therefore appears to be a rather pale brown, but at least that allows you to see the detail. The plumper body suggests this may be a female. However, when freshly emerged the colour is a much darker, velvety chocolate, verging on almost black in some instances. You can get a flavour of this in the example below that I photographed in July 2012 which I’m guessing may be a male. And a very handsome butterfly it is too with the contrast of the delicate white lace-like fringes to the wing edges.
Note the variation in the spots which are much more prominent on the specimen above.
Here’s a photo from Morgans Hill that I took back in July of a female Essex Skipper Thymelicus lineola. Followers in North America may recognise this butterfly as the European Skipper. It closely resembles our Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris which it is often found in company with, but that species lacks the black tips to its antenna.
Because of the similarities, it is often under-recorded and for this reason was not recognised as a separate species until 1889. As such it was the last British resident species to be described.
I’ve recently taken on the role of Entomology Sub-group leader for the Larkhill & Westdown Conservation Group. LWCG is one of three conservation groups that have access to some of the restricted areas of the Salisbury Plain Training Area (SPTA) which is where I took this photograph of a female Common Blue Polyommatus icarus resting on Devils-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis.
The Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria seems to be having a good year in Wiltshire. Whenever I’ve ventured near a patch of sun dappled woodland it’s magically appeared. Darting out to give me the once over before spiralling skywards for a honeydew top-up or returning to a favourite perch to soak up just a little more sunshine.
It’s always a welcome sight in my eyes but these adults will soon be gone as Autumn’s chill is upon us. This one looks to be a male.
It’s unusual as it is the only butterfly in Britain that can survive the winter as either a larva (caterpillar) or a pupa (chrysalis) before emerging again in the spring next year. Although it’s believed the caterpillars need to have reached their third instar (moult).
Get out and enjoy them while you still can.