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.