Wednesday, 16 July 2014
Is there a word for ...
people who become obsessed with spotting butterflies, like twitcher for Bill Oddie? Because I fear I may have become one.
Across the UK I've heard from several people who feel that there aren't as many butterflies this year as last. This seems to be on a par with policemen getting younger and nostalgia not being what it used to be but there have been some differences in the relative populations of species over here compared to my (admittedly poor) recollections of last year.
The Marbled White was very common last year and is still very frequent this year. We saw very few of them until a couple of years ago, not sure if it's something to do with our change of land management or just random variation. They are pretty but skittish and catching one in a good pose is always a challenge.
Gatekeepers are pretty little things and this year seem to be particularly bright and tidy looking. I never saw many of them in the UK in urban surroundings but there are lots here in the woodland edges.
Meadow Browns are so ubiquitous and unassuming in colour that they almost become overlooked as the season progresses. It's rare to find one with its wings outspread. This female is probably waiting for a mate.
The Ringlet is even more dull than the Meadow Brown, but the little ring markings it's named for are delicate and pretty if it holds still long enough for you to take a look.
The Comma is pretty bold and in your face by comparison. There seem to be a few more of these at this time of year than last year, although the population is always greatest as autumn approaches.
These are so distinctive that I think everyone should recognise them. Big strong flyers they love rotting fruit and can be seen in swarms around plum drop time sucking up the fermented fruit juices.
And the winner is, the Skipper which has had a marvellous year here, more than we've ever seen before. I have to confess there are several types and I suspect we have more than a couple of them but they're not that easy to distinguish and I'll need to study them harder before I can give reliable identifications.
So far, so native and the ones that got away are mostly in that category too. Peacock butterflies are just hatching the second brood but unusually aren't ready to pose for the camera yet. Give them time, they are natural exhibitionists with a camera pointed at them. The Small Tortoiseshells are between broods too and so there are very few about for me to take a snap of, but there were plenty earlier in the year. We've had the odd Copper, some Holly Blues and one or two Map butterflies, which you won't see in the UK but are usually quite common here. These three species along with the Blues do seem to be in short supply as yet. No Silver-washed Fritillaries which seems odd as there were plenty last year but maybe it's a bit early for them and it's been another year without a sighting of a Wall butterfly so far too.
And there are very few migrants turning up. I'm hoping the Spanish Plume forecast for the next couple of days will give them a boost and hurry them to us. As well as old favourites like the Painted Lady, Clouded Yellows and Hummingbird Hawkmoths I'm hoping to spot the Long-tailed Blue this year which reached the south coast of England last year but didn't come here. And there's news of another unusual migrant which might come to us via the Netherlands, the Yellow Legged Tortoiseshell, like a Large (which I've never knowingly seen) but with yellow legs. It all seems so exciting.
It's o.k. I've taken my pills and I'll stop now.