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.



Saturday, 4 June 2016

Painted Lady - Vanessa cardui

When I was out for a walk with my dog after lunch today I was delighted to see a Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui, fly up from the track in front of us. At the same time I met a friend with his dog and I lost sight of the butterfly. I returned a few minutes later with my camera just in case the Painted Lady had decided to stick around.
At first I couldn't find it anywhere, but then my eye was drawn to a beautiful Hawthorn bush which was completely covered in flowers. To my delight there was the Painted Lady feeding on the blossom and it turned out that there were two!


The Painted Lady is found here in East Lothian most years. Sometimes it is seen in great numbers, but more often than not we only see a few individuals.

The Painted Lady can't survive our cold winters, so those that we see have migrated here. Their parents may have started their journey in North Africa or southern Europe. I wonder where those I saw today started out? Hopefully this one will lay some eggs here, or maybe it will continue to travel further north.


It used to be thought that the butterflies that reached the UK perished when the first frosts arrived. However, it has recently been discovered that Painted Ladies return to Africa at the end of the season. They fly at over 500 metres high and return to the same area that their predecessors left earlier in the year. The remarkable thing is that the butterflies that return to Africa are the great-great-grandchildren of those that started the journey northwards. How is that knowledge passed on?

Occasionally we experience what is sometimes referred to as a "Painted Lady Year", in which tens of thousands arrive on our shores. Two weeks ago the first Painted Lady of the year in East Lothian was reported to me and last week I saw one in the Scottish Borders. This evening I received two more records of Painted Ladies being seen today. So, I am hoping that 2016 will turn out to be a great Painted Lady year.

14 comments:

  1. Such a beautiful butterfly. I love that it was there when you returned to take it's portrait. Today i attempted to take portraits of 5 different types and they just wouldn't let me get near or they flew and flew passing up all the flowers.You did well!

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    1. This one seemed to be in particularly good condition showing its markings well. It did strike me as being more beautiful than others I have seen. I wonder where it had flown here from?

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  2. That looks great, i hope i can also take photos of butterflies when i go home. But i guess my time will be very limited again as i reach home after lunch and leave for the city again at 3pm Sun. Oh i am sure the butterflies are already roaming because the host plants are already growing, and my nectar plants are ready to feed them. Nectar plants at home are not very plenty yet but they can find some to feed them.

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    1. Thank you Andrea. You really do need lots of time to enjoy taking pictures of butterflies. I find that if I rush I disturb the butterflies and they fly away! Also you need time to enjoy them between pictures!! I am sure the butterflies must love your garden. I have inherited my father's house, so like you spend my weekends there trying to look after the place.

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    2. This is what i replied there in my blogpost. "Oh i visualize your area and i smiled, because i suddenly thought there is either a curse on that area or there is a joke. I am also visualizing a lovely property with a stream and a lot of butterflies, oh how lovely to take photos of the dynamic stream. Kidding aside, maybe your inherited area is a little big, to merit such an exemption from a natural phenomenon".

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    3. Andrea, it is such a lovely place, with big old trees, a large pond, wild flowers and all sorts of wildlife living and nesting there. We will be moving there once our daughter has finished at school, and we can't wait!! I have so many plans to make the property even more attractive for wildlife! When we were there last weekend there was thunder all around and two people visited who said that they had driven through heavy rain to get there, yet it avoided our valley! That is what the weather is like here in Scotland, very localized.

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    1. Thank you Linda. It was a very cooperative butterfly.

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  4. ¡Precioso blog, enhorabuena!. Saludos desde Asturias (España)

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    1. Gracias Belén. He disfrutado de tu blog, también. Asturias es un área que me encantaría visitar. Me gustaría caminar en los Picos de Europa.

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  5. I am enjoying seeing your post again, so lovely. Sometimes butterflies can be so difficult to photograph, other times they sit there as though they want their portrait taken. Thank you for your visits.

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    1. Thanks Tammie Lee. I have been a bit busy this year and just returned from a couple of weeks' holiday, so I have been neglecting my blog a bit! It is strange that butterflies can be cooperative at times, but not on other occasions. I guess it wouldn't be as much fun it there wasn't a challenge to photographing them!

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  6. How gorgeous that first image!

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    1. Thanks Maria,
      Yes, I love that picture. I was lucky that it landed nicely for me there!

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