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.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Scotch Argus - Erebia aethiops

We are going through an amazing period for butterflies just now. There are literally hundreds flying at the moment, presumably because conditions have been perfect for them this year.

I visited my father in the Scottish Borders on Saturday and thought that I should be able to call in to an area where there is a colony of Scotch Argus butterflies, Erebia aethiops, on the way home. Unfortunately, the day turned out to be cloudy and it rained in the early afternoon, so I didn't think I would have a chance to see them. On the other hand I had been told that they are one of the few species to fly in overcast conditions.

Despite the weather, on the way home I thought I should at least have a look at the site that I had been told about. It was 5:30 in the evening, 15 degrees and cloudy, but I thought it was worth a look as I was in the area. I parked the car, crossed a golf course and walked down a track to a grassy area. There was no sign of any butterflies, and I was about to give up when I saw a small dark butterfly fly out of the grass ahead of me. I managed to catch up with it, switched on my camera and then heard it beep and switch off as the battery was flat!

I had another battery in the car, so I ran back and grabbed it. My poor son was waiting for me and now he was going to have to wait even longer. At least on the way back I was able to go straight to the right place. By now it was 6 pm and you normally don't see any butterflied at that time.

However, the Scotch Argus is obviously a hardy soul and over the next 10 or 15 minutes I saw about 30 of them. They seemed very timid and difficult to approach, but I did manage a few pictures. Unfortunately, when they land they tend to drop down into the grass and the cloudy weather made getting a clear picture almost impossible.

These are truly beautiful butterflies. Due to the light conditions the pictures don't do them justice. They are a dark chocolate brown, with bright orange markings containing black ocelli with white pupils. The white pupils really stand out very brightly.

The books give a wingspan of 40mm, but the sub-species occurring here, caledonia, is said to be smaller. Certainly the butterflies I saw seemed smaller than that.

The Scotch Argus occurs in scattered colonies across Scotland and northern England. It also occurs in central Europe.

I will definitely return to this site next year to look for these butterflies. Hopefully, it will be a sunny day and I will have more time to spend watching them.


  1. Great shots as usual. I like that last one with the wildflower.

  2. Thanks Maria. They are not the best pictures, but I am determined to go back next year and get some pictures on a bright day after the butterflies have freshly emerged.