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, 16 September 2016

Buddleia activity

We have just been spending a few days down at the property we have inherited from my father down in the Scottish Borders. We were very busy preparing two areas where we hope to build a garage and have a hen run, but I took some time out to watch a Buddleia bush in a rather overgrown flower bed.

Back home, only 40 miles north of there, our Buddleias finished flowering about two weeks ago. However, there was still a good number of flowers on the bush in the Borders. Maybe it is a different species or variety, but I noticed that a cutting I had planted from home was also in flower there.


When our Buddleias flower back home it often coincides with the period when there are not so many butterflies around. However, with the Buddleia flowering later in the Borders it was covered in butterflies and bees! It was almost like being in a butterfly house!


The Red Admirals, Vanessa atalanta, were the first butterflies to arrive each day, usually arriving by about 8.30am. I would love to know where they spend the nights, but they would come drifting down, either from the surrounding trees, or possibly just flying over the trees to get there.

I watched them in the evenings to see if I could follow some of them to see where they went, but failed in my mission! One day was much cooler, about 17 degrees and it was raining, but the Red Admirals still turned up. They tended to feed on the underside of the flowers when the rain was heavier, moving to the tops of the flowers when the rain eased.


I was very pleased to see a Comma, Polygonia c-album, among the butterflies there. There don't seem to have been many of them around this year.


There were also a few Peacock butterflies, Aglais io, feeding there preparing for their winter hibernation. 


Another butterfly that has been doing very well here this year is the Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui. I was pleased to see a few of them visiting the Buddleia over the last few days. I presume they were fueling up in preparation for their migration back to Africa.


Whilst it was great to see these four species of butterflies, it was sad not to see any Small Tortoiseshells, Aglais urticae. In a normal year they would be seen in far greater numbers than any other species just now, but sadly they have done very badly this year and I haven't seen one since July.

While I was watching the butterflies and trying to get some photographs, I saw a small bird out of the corner of my eye. It was a Spotted Flycatcher, Muscicapa striata. It was watching the butterflies and other insects flying from flower to flower. My camera was set on video at the time, so the picture below is a screenshot from the video. When my father built his house he asked the builders to make various holes and ledges for birds to nest in. I remember him showing me one hole and telling me that it was for a Spotted Flycatcher to nest in and, sure enough, each year a Spotted Flycatcher took up residence.


Just after I finished videoing, it flew down, narrowly missing a Painted Lady and caught a bee. 

I had a look in a bird book to find out more about the Spotted Flycatcher and found out that it visits the UK each year to breed and in September/October it migrates back to sub-Sarah Africa. It is an interesting thought that it may see the Painted Ladies again over the winter while they all enjoy the better weather there!

I tried uploading a video of the action, but the quality has reduced dramatically, but it gives an idea of what was going on!








12 comments:

  1. I’m always marveled by your photos. I loves seeing them nectar on the Buddleias. What a timely post, how fortunate to catch them nectaring on these flowers during their peak blooming period!

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    1. Thanks Maria. It was a thrill to see so many butterflies at this time in the season.

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  2. That is a lovely butterfly, and big. I am familiar with the budleia as i read often in blogs, so the first time i saw one in a thicket in Strasbourg, France i stayed a few moments for the butterflies, but i didn't see any. It was just actually 3 blooms arising from the forest-like bush, that we pass by as we walk from our hotel to the training venue at the International Space University. I will not be envious of it anymore, as my blue duranta is getting lots of butterflies too. It is my inexpertise with the camera that limits my good photos.

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    1. Hi Andrea. Buddleias do seem to attract a lot of butterflies, so you must have been very unlucky not to have seen any. I was talking to a farmer yesterday who told me that they had more than 85 butterflies on their Buddleia a few days ago. I wish I had seen that. I tend to take hundreds of picture of the butterflies and then delete most of them, keeping only the best! They rarely stay still in a good pose, with no leaves in front of them or shadows. But what would be the fun if it was too easy?!!

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  3. Good morning Nick!:) Beautiful captures of all four butterflies. Nice to see the Comma and Red Admiral on the same flower. These gorgeous species also grace our buddleias, more than any other kind, and I'm glad of it, as they are the most showy and beautiful butterfly visitors we get. The flycatcher is a pretty little bird, and I enjoyed the video. A lovely memory of your father, to see the Flycatcher return each year to the same place. You may be right about the Spoonbill, after the edit I wondered about it myself, and although a little unclear in the photo, it does look like one, but it was really too far away to ID it when I took the shots.

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    1. Hi Sonjia, We have just returned from my father's house where we were working all weekend to keep the place in check. My wife is clearing Rhododendron to create views that we didn't know existed over the neighbouring field with cattle and sheep. I cut a rank area which I would like to develop into a wild flower meadow. It seemed wrong to be cutting down the tall grasses, wild raspberries and tree seedlings, but I am sure in the long term it will end up better for the wildlife. There are so many jobs we want to do there, so plenty to look forward to.

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  4. ¡Precioso reportaje, Nick!. Hay que tener cuidado con la buddleia ya que es una planta invasora, aunque para las mariposas es muy atractiva. Ayer mismo vi cerca de casa a un Papamoscas gris, el buen tiempo que seguimos teniendo está retrasando su partida. Fuerte abrazo desde Asturias.

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    1. Gracias Belén. Curiosamente, sólo he encontrado dos plántulas Buddleia allí, pero ahora he plantado varias plantas más. Voy a tener que tener cuidado de que no se propaguen. Hemos estado quitando Rododendro ponticum que es muy invasiva.

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  5. those flowers sure do attract wonderful critters! such lovely butterflies.
    Sounds like you had a nice time away. Maybe some work there too. I need/want to plant flowers for butterflies next year. I will have to figure out how to do so without the deer eating everything and also the ground squirrels... wonderful photographs of them.

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    1. Hi Tammie Lee,
      There is always a lot of work to do when we are down there, but it is all fun. I have planted a row of Buddleia on a bank, which I hope will attract a lot of butterflies. We have also planted some Ceanothus and some Ribes sanguineum, which we hope will be attractive to insects. We have been warned that the Ribes and Buddleia can be invasive, so we will have to keep an eye out for seedlings. However, we are clearing enormous areas of Rhododendron pontecum, so we are used to invasive species! I believe that the above three plants are not eaten by deer or rabbits, and so far they have been fine with us.

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  6. Your Peacock butterfly is gorgeous Nick. Buddelia can be invasive in the warmer climates but it does attract pollinators. I did not have any this year and did not see many of the larger butterflies. Great images, as always. Look forward to seeing more of your property there. Best of luck with your plans.

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    1. Carol,
      A few people have said how invasive it is. I have only ever found two seedlings there, but I have just planted several cuttings, so I will keep a close eye on them. They certainly seem to attract a lot of butterflies.

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