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.

Friday, 25 April 2014

The start of the butterfly season

I chose a good week to take off work last week! The weather was sunny and although not particularly warm, it was enough to tempt a few butterflies out of hibernation and cause a few others to venture out of their chrysalises! I made the most of the weather and took the dogs out for walks several times each day as an excuse to look for butterflies!
Quite a number of the hedges around the fields here are Blackthorn, Prunus spinosa. They have white flowers at this time of year, but I have never seen them flower so profusely.
The black berries are used to flavour Sloe Gin, so it looks like we should have a good crop later in the year!
The Cherry trees are also flowering well this year.
Spring wouldn't be spring without Primroses, Primula vulgaris. They have been flowering for a few weeks now, so are a little past their best.
I came across a fair bit of wildlife while I was out and about. Brown Hares are not as common as they were a few years ago, but I bumped into quite a few last week. Luckily they spotted us before the dogs spotted them and they slipped off safely. I was very surprised to come almost face to face with a Fox on a local shooting estate. This was the first Fox I have seen around here, as they have been almost eradicated to protect the Pheasants. This Roe Deer was one of a group of four I spotted while looking for butterflies. They didn't see me for quite some time, but I think this one heard my camera and they ran off shortly after I took the picture!

The flowers are alive with insects.  This lovely Carder Bumblebee, Bombus pascuorum, was on a Cuckoo Flower, Cardamine pratensis, in a meadow near where we live.
The three usual butterflies were all out in force. The Peacock, Aglais io, the Small Tortoiseshell, Aglais urticae, and the Comma, Polygonia c-album, all over-winter as adults, hibernating in wood piles, hollow trees and in sheds. They start to appear in March on warm days and by April they are regularly seen.
Small Tortoiseshell


My favourite local butterfly is the Orange Tip, Anthocharis cardamines. Not only do I love their colours, but for me they signify the start of the butterfly season. As with the other three white species found here, they spend the winter as a chrysalis. However, unlike the other three species of whites, they only have one generation a year, so are only seen for about six weeks.
I have real problems getting good pictures of them, and I am never satisfied. They are very fickle and will only fly or open their wings when the sun is shining. The white areas on their wings reflect the sunlight causing quite a glare. Almost as soon as the sun goes behind a cloud, they will close their wings. I have found that the best option is to find one feeding and wait for the sun to go behind a cloud, and quickly get a picture before they close their wings! This isn't easy as the males tend to fly up and down paths and river banks looking for females.
When their wings are closed they are very well camouflaged.
The female Orange Tip lacks the orange tips!

I am sorry to have put on so many pictures, but I can't resist these butterflies! 
This week the weather has returned to grey and cloudy, so unusually I took my leave on the right week!


  1. Wow! Looks like your spring has really come on. I'm so glad you are seeing so many butterflies already. And you should never apologize for too many photos, as far as I'm concerned. The more the better! You got some really great shots this week. I'm so jealous of that Peacock. I really hope I get to see one of those someday. I can't believe how lovely they are. Our weather has been unusually nice and even sunny, but I haven't been able to find butterflies! I'm worried that the pollution was so bad this winter, it may have really affected them. But I'll keep searching. I'm glad you are having such wonderful luck!

    1. Hi Sylvia,
      Yes, this is a great time of year, with so much to look forward to. It is concerning to hear about the lack of butterflies with you. I hope that it is just a late season, but I am sure that butterflies must be very susceptible to pollution. Hopefully you will see a Peacock this season. We are quite complacent about them as we see them regularly, but they really are beautiful butterflies.

  2. Look at those flowers!! I thought we had quite a flowering season over here until I saw your first picture. Lovely deer too. It must have been so thrilling to see one so close. Again, don't apologise for the pictures!! They are all beautiful. I love the orange tip pictures. It's such a pretty butterfly. I've never heard of a white that behaves that way opening and closing its wings like that.. I guess it's just too hot over here!

    1. Hi Jonny, Yes, everything does burst into flower at this time of year. This year has been rather exceptional though. I think the butterflies have to make the most of any sunshine they see over here. We haven't had any sun today and the forecast for all of next week is for cloud and it is going to cool down to about 8 degrees max!!

  3. Quite a great series you're showing Nick, here and worth a few comments!! ;-)
    Since you seem to have more Cuckoo Flowers than I do, relax, you'll get many OT pic opportunities!
    I find it easier to got "hunt" them down when there a few clouds and light is slightly dimmer, they perch and open their wings more readily.
    you have captured newly hatched individual when I have only still the old ones from the previous season!
    I see that where you are the Nymphalidae also perch on the ground! That drives me crazy! LOL!
    I enjoyed seeing your deer too!

    1. Hi Noushka, I think our damp, cooler weather suits the Cuckoo Flower and Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata, so that is why the whites do so well here. I have specifically been looking for Orange Tips early this season in the hope of finding nice fresh specimens. I love their white antennae, which slowly wear to away to black. I think the Nymphalidae like to perch on the ground or logs to gain some extra warmth. Probably something that they don't do in other parts of the world!!

  4. Congrats on your butterfly season! However, don't forget about the moths in case you bump into the Hummingbird or Hawkmoths; they seem to be spectacular!

    1. Hi Maria, I had my moth trap out again last night, but only caught three moths!! It's still a bit cold for them. I have just seen next week's forecast and things don't look very good for next week either! Hopefully we will be seeing some more exciting moths later in the year.

  5. Hi Nick, i lost my comment. I said i can sense your delight in seeing your beautiful butterflies, i love those colors. Here, at the height of our dry season they are not yet around except for the very small ones. Besides, i am engrossed tending and photographing my hoyas, in fact weekends are not enough for me.

    1. Hi Andrea,
      I often wonder if I would love butterflies so much if they were flying all year round here. I really hate the winters when there are no butterflies, but I get such a thrill when I see the first one of the season. The Orange Tips above really mark the start of the butterfly season. They are definitely my favourite local butterfly. I used to think that countries like the Philippines would have lots of butterflies flying all year round. I will never stop learning!!!

    2. Oh i saw some of them last weekend despite the heat, but i guess they feel it so so they hide early. But they are 2nd priority for me now, as my hoyas need more of my short time spent at home.

    3. Great to hear that the butterflies are surviving the heat. I guess that they will be very active and difficult to approach when it is so hot. Good luck with watering your plants!