The earlier pictures were taken on my wee compact Canon ixus 970IS, which involved sneaking up on the butterflies. This can be very frustrating when they fly off, but very rewarding when they don't!

Since 2012 I have been using a Panasonic Lumix FZ150, which allows me to zoom in to the butterflies from a couple of metres away.



Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Butterfly Transect

Today was just about the perfect day!
The forecast was correct and we woke to a beautiful clear blue sky. That is something we haven't seen for a very long time! Even better, I had booked today off work and it is even rarer for the weather to be good on a leave day!

At 11:30 I jumped into my trusty old Triumph and drove down to the town where I work to walk my butterfly transect. This is a route that I walk once a week between April and September to log the number of butterflies I see. The route goes from close to my office, along the River Tyne for about one and a half kilometres through open woodland and into a meadow.

Initially I didn't see any butterflies, but on the third section of the transect an Orange Tip, Anthocharis cardamines, flew past me. I was thrilled to see it, as I always think the butterfly season has really started when Orange Tips start to appear. When I reached the area pictured above I saw a pair of Green-veined Whites, Artogeia napi. The Green-veined White is one of our most common butterflies, having two generations a year.

While I stopped to take a picture another Orange Tip flew past and it was soon joined and pursued by another Green-veined White. They, in turn, disturbed another Orange Tip that had been feeding on some Cuckoo Flower. Luckily it briefly returned to the plant.


It then posed for me on some Forget-me-not.


These were the first Orange Tips I have seen this year. They normally appear around about the middle of April, so they are about three weeks later than normal. However, they are better late than not at all. Last year we had a flood in July and most of the area covered by my transect was flooded. The plants where they lay their eggs were all under water and I feared that I wouldn't see any Orange Tips this year. If the good weather keeps up, I hope I will see more over the next few weeks.
I saw five Orange Tips on my transect today, and a few more on my way back. Interestingly they were all male. The males always seem to appear before the females and they patrol up and down the river, presumably looking for a mate.
My transect also produced seven Green-veined Whites, a Comma, Polygonia c-album, and two Small Tortoiseshells, Aglais urticae.
The Small Tortoiseshells are all looking a little faded and ragged after their long hibernation.

Even on the days that I don't see many butterflies there are usually a few birds to keep me occupied. Normally I see a Buzzard or two gliding over the trees by the meadow and almost every time I walk up the river a Kingfisher flashes past me. Today I saw a Grey Heron and plenty of Mallard ducks.


After returning to the car, I put the roof down and enjoyed the drive back to our village in the sun. I often dream about living somewhere warmer where I would be able to drive my Triumph more often and see more butterflies. But I guess if that was the case, I wouldn't get the thrill of days like today.

12 comments:

  1. This is beautiful! I love the The Small Tortoiseshells and the Forget-me-not. The flowers are amazing and the backgrounds very nice! I love the blue flowers of the Orange Tips!

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    1. Hi Maria,
      An old lady once told me that if you want to find colours that go together well, have a look at nature. She pointed out how well many of the wild flowers compliment each other. You notice that the centre of the forget-me-nots are the same colour as the Orange Tip wings?

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  2. Oh, I love that Green-Veined White! How interesting looking! (I had to come over and see for myself if you've had butterflies yet. Glad to see your season has begun!

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    1. Hi Dawn,
      Yes, it is a case of getting out between the showers to see what I can find! It is great having butterflies around again. It does seem like it was a loooonnng winter!

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  3. Hi Nick :-) Judging by the second photo it does look a lovely place to see butterflies. So good to see them again after a winter which seemed to go on for ever. Unfortunately, I missed the entire period of good weather due to being unwell :-( My husband has seen Speckled Woods, Small Torts, Peacocks and Orange Tips while walking our dog and I hope to get out and see some myself before too long, it has been so frustrating! Lovely photos especially the Orange Tip looking so pretty on the Forget-me-nots.

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    1. Sorry to hear you were unwell and missed the good weather. It is sad that we really have to take the opportunity to go out and look for butterflies during such short windows of good weather. Hopefully things will pick up soon and we will be overrun with butterflies!

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  4. Hi Nick:)
    Your photos of the Orange Tips and Tortoiseshell are really beautiful.It's nice to see them on pretty flowers.We are back to rainy weather again, and I haven't seen many butterflies at all so far this year.Snow is forcast for the next few days in some áreas of Portugal!! The weather this year is weird:)

    Thanks so much for stopping by my last post.I had to replace my computer with a new one,thank goodness I had made some back-ups. I changed my post of the Small White to a Green-veined White,and I'm even more convinced that your suggestion was right after seeing your photos.Thank you Nick:=)

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    1. The weather has been very strange all over Europe this year. It is very changeable her and generally poor.
      I am glad that you have sorted your computer problems and I am pleased to have been able to help with your Green-veined White. I hope you see plenty more butterflies this year.

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  5. I love your trusty old Triumph - so cool!
    Your forage into the meadow has produced some amazing photos of butterflies. It really look like the butterfly posed for you on the forget me nots.

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    1. I've had the Triumph for more than 22 years now and we have done many miles together!
      It is rare for a butterfly to stay posed nicely on a flower like that. I have always wanted to picture an Orange Tip on a Forget-me-not. Two of my favourites.

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  6. I have been enjoying your butterfly photography, and was interested to see that you run a monitoring transect, For many years now I have monitored a site in the US for the Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network. This program was modeled after the British Butterfly Monitoring Scheme.

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    1. Thanks Doug,
      The transect is proving very interesting, although it is not easy to manage to walk it each week, when the weather is a little problematic! I also collate the records from the Countryside Rangers and volunteers for East Lothian. It has been an incredible few years with seven new species moving into East Lothian in the last eight years.
      I have been enjoying all of the different butterflies on your blog.

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