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, 6 April 2015

More Winter Butterflies

Three weeks ago the manager of a large local estate kindly lent me the keys for an old abandoned castle, after I had told him about the hibernating butterflies I had found around East Lothian. This is a magnificent building, now derelict, with parts of it dating from the 1400s.
I had a quick look in one of the outbuildings and found one Small Tortoiseshell, Aglais urticae, on the ceiling and, sadly, a lot of wings on the floor.
I had a little difficulty opening the door into the castle due to a build-up of debris from the local pigeons. I ended up climbing up through a window and clearing the ground behind the door to allow my friend to get in. Inside we were a little disappointed to find that there were very few rooms with roofs.
However, we noticed a room with a vaulted ceiling that looked very promising, but it was about ten feet above ground level.
I managed to borrow a ladder from a local business and climbed up into the room. 
At the far end, in a little nook, I found two Peacock butterflies, Aglais io, sheltering. Again, they were away from any direct light and sheltered from the wind. I found another behind some old lime mortar that was pealing away from the wall.
We were left a little intrigued, as there is a garden centre close by where there are hundreds of butterflies seen in the summer. Then I had a look up a tall chimney and saw eight or ten Peacock butterflies in the section I could see. There were probably more further up, out of sight.
We then found the perfect place, but unfortunately we couldn't get into the room to have a look. It was a basement directly below the room with the vaulted ceiling. There was a small window opening with a shaft down into the room. I could see another room off the main room, which would be the ideal place for butterflies to hibernate. The door into this basement also had debris built up behind it and I didn't want to risk breaking the door, trying to open it. At least I think I know where the butterflies were all hibernating!

We have had two beautiful days in a row now, so all of the butterflies are wide awake. I walked my transect for the first time today and I was delighted to see two Commas, Polygonia c-album, six Peacocks and six Small Tortoiseshells. Those are the three species that over-winter as adults here. I didn't manage to find any hibernating Commas, so that will be next winters mission!

In a coupe of weeks I should be seeing the first white butterflies and that is when I consider the season has really started!


  1. What a beautiful place, I love how the plants have grown on the structures.

    1. It is an amazing old house. I believe the oldest parts of it date from the 1400s. I love seeing nature making use of places like this.