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, 19 August 2016

Red Admirals in an Oak Tree

We had three days of warm sunshine this week, which hasn't happened very often this year! I chose the second day to do my butterfly transect, but I was disappointed that there were so few butterflies flying.

Towards the end of my transect I saw a Peacock butterfly flying towards a small group of trees. It was too far away to count on my transect, but I noticed another large, dark butterfly flying out of the trees. I thought it was worth investigating, so I took a slight detour to have a look.

I was surprised to see a Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta, sitting on a branch of an Oak tree.


As I looked around the tree I spotted another three Red Admirals. They were all fairly high up the tree and it appeared that they were all feeding where dead branches were attached to a live branch.


I don't know if they were able to reach in to find sap, or if there was moisture from the dead wood at that point, but they all seemed very possessive of their own little spot.

Quite often they were buzzed by a wasp causing them to fly off, but they would always return to the same spot.


There were a couple of other Oak trees in the group of trees, but they didn't appear to be attractive to the Red Admirals.


I am sure I have read somewhere about Red Admirals being seen on the trunks of Oak trees. I will have to do a little research and see if I can find out more.

Two of our volunteers also reported low numbers on their butterfly transects this week. Certainly when I was out and about I didn't see very many butterflies, although there were good numbers of Wall Browns along the coastal path. I have also received reports of a lot of Speckled Woods in some woodland sites, so it seems that some species are doing better than others.

18 comments:

  1. Hello Nick!:) Mature butterflies do feed on tree sap, I have seen them in an old Oak tree on the farm, but never so many at one time, it's difficult to see them anyway as they are way too high up to photograph. You did well
    to photograph these. I don't know why they chose a particular Oak to feed off but it appears from what we have both witnessed, that they have a preference for old Oak Trees or old branches. Thank you for your visit Nick. I also noticed the large head, and the two white spots on the rear of the moth, and did wonder if it could be a Hummingbird Hawk moth, but never having seen a stationary moth I wasn't sure, but think you are right in your ID. Thank you!:) Have a great Weekend.:)

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    1. Thanks Sonjia. There always seems to be more to learn about butterflies each year!

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    2. Hi Nick
      I was really interested to find your blog when I asked Mr Google about Red Admirals and oak trees. I live on the coast in Sussex and have a very large old oak tree in my garden. Yesterday morning I counted 20 Red Admirals on the trunk! I can only think that it is something to do with the heat but I am going to explore more.

      16 September 2016 at 10:06

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    3. Hi Masha,
      I imagine that a tree trunk would soak up the heat and be a nice place to roost. It would be interesting to know if they were feeding or just sitting there absorbing the heat. I was watching Red Admirals feeding furiously on a Buddliea earlier this week. I suspect they are taking every opportunity to feed up in preparation for migration or hybernation.
      I would be interested to hear if you find out more.

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  2. They seem to do a fine job of blending into their environment.

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    1. Hi Michelle,
      I probably only spotted them because the wasps kept disturbing them causing them to fly.

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  3. Bello reportaje de esta mariposa migradora. Saludos desde Asturias.

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    1. Gracias Belen. Hay una gran cantidad de numeradas aquí en este momento. Es probable que volarán a España para el invierno !!

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  4. Amazing Nick, this is another great example of camouflage in nature, I love the images!

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    1. They are fantastically well camouflaged when their wings are closed. It was really only when they opened their wings that they became apparent.

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  5. The climate changes must affect certainly the normal behaviour and abundance of butterflies, and guess you will be disappointed by some observations although you will probably have surprises at observing more southerly species in the UK.
    Very nice shots of Red admiral, a very beautiful butterfly.
    Kind regards Nick!

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    1. Thanks Noushka. The Red Admirals weren't being very helpful, but at least the pictures give an idea of what they were doing.
      Climate change certainly seems to be impacting on butterflies. I think that I am currently in one of the best places to witness this just now. We are doing well in as much as we have six or seven new species that have moved up here and so far haven't lost any species. But it is a worry that things are changing so quickly. It is a subject that really interests me.

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  6. That was a very strong camouflage! I also wonder what sweet chemicals they get from the junction, certainly a good thing for research. I am so always impressed with your very clear detailed shots. May i know the secret, or the technique, hehe! Is it the lens, the settings or the editing. Thanks Nick.

    By the ways i always think about you when i was at home these weekends, with a lot of butterflies around the porch. They all seem to love the duranta flowers. But there are a few which prefer other nectar plants around, wonder why one of them Pareronia boebera boebera doesn't like durata. Instead it wants the Impatiens balsamina. I am sad as i cannot get the actual drama there, as i am not familiar yet in phone video. haha!

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    1. Hi Andrea. You are very kind, but the credit should all go to my camera. A Panasonic Lumix FZ150. I leave it on auto-focus and only play around with the exposure. I have considered a DSLR with various lenses, but I would rather spend my time observing than changing lenses and trying to take perfect pictures. Also the Lumix is a lot lighter to carry around.
      I would love to experience your tropical butterflies some day. We have such changeable weather that trying to fit in work, looking after our new property in the Scottish Borders and running our home leaves little spare time, which rarely coincides with decent weather!! It must be amazing to have more consistent weather and regular butterflies!!
      It is interesting that particular butterflies like particular plants. I suppose it is similar to the way caterpillars tend to only survive on one or two food plants. We have so much still to learn about why this is the case.

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  7. Hey , Nick: In Asturias flying 144 species of butterflies. If you send me your email I will send a very interesting pdf. Fortunately in Asturias they are discovering new species. I have the same compact Panasonic, for me, is the best for photos of butterflies.¡Best regards and sorry for my English.

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    1. Hi Belen,
      Hopefully my e-mail has arrived with you. Gracias!

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  8. Nick, my mail is: bmsolar@gmail.com
    Saludos desde Asturias.

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    1. Thank you, Belen for the information on the butterflies of Asturias.

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