Saturday, 23 April 2011


This morning (well, lunchtime, really) we had a walk on the North Downs to look for springtime butterflies. In stark contrast to other recent outings, this one was successful.

There were lots of Brimstones around. I was watching a female flying along minding her own business, probably looking for some Buckthorn on which to lay some eggs, when a male spotted her. He immediately rushed over and the two began dancing around each other in a frenzy. I'm pretty sure she was trying to reject him and he wasn't listening. Almost at once another passing male joined in and it became a three-way whirl of wings. I took lots of photos, most of which show whitish butterfly-shaped blurs against a sharp background of grass and leaves. Here are some of the successful shots. The trio eventually flew out of view, still tussling away like mad.

I soon spotted one of our real target species - Grizzled Skipper. It looks tiny, grey and buzzy in flight, and today at least most of them were very reluctant to settle, even for a moment.

The other target skipper was a little easier to photograph. Dingy Skipper has a terrible name but is a pretty little thing, with the helpful habit of choosing elevated perches on which to bask. It looks bigger, browner and more fluttery in flight than Grizzled. At rest it often holds its forewings swept back so they completely cover the hindwings, moth-style.

Last target butterfly - the Green Hairstreak. Small and dark in flight but those iridescent green undersides do catch the light. It has a broken white 'hair-streak' on the underside hindwings. The lower photo shows an individual with no perceptible hair-streak - maybe that's why he looks so crest(antennae)fallen.

Besides the butterflies, I saw two Adders, both small, one male and one female. Sadly they'd seen me first and were slipping away to cover, too fast for photos and for a dawdling Rob. There were several Whitethroats singing, and I heard and glimpsed (but failed to photograph) my first 2011 Lesser Whitethroat.

A couple of moths to finish. This very pretty day-flying moth rejoices in the name 'Small Purple-barred'. We saw several of them, though only this one posed nicely in sunlight.

These tiny moths had wonderful iridescent gold wings, which doesn't show well in this photo, and outrageously long white antennae, which do. There were lots of them all swarming around one small area of scrub. I think they are Adela reaumurella.


Phil said...

Good stuff Marianne. You obviously had a successful mission up on the Downs. I really like your in flight Brimstones. Makes a nice change to see butterfly action shots, although the words butterfly and action seem a bit incongruous together.
I agree about the naming of the Dingy Skipper, whose idea was that I wonder? I'm surprised they haven't got a bit of a complex!
Well done finding the Adders, not easy in my limited experience.

Mike H said...

Thanks Marianne a very enlightening and informative account,with some great photos to back it up.