I am no expert photographer, preferring to capture the moment than get a perfectly composed shot. The pictures on my blog are either taken with a compact Canon, a Panasonic Lumix FZ150 or on my phone.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Common Blue, Polyommatus icarus

I have been lucky to see quite a few Common Blue butterflies, Polyommatus icarus, this year. They have all been beautiful fresh butterflies in lovely condition.

The males are a fantastic blue colour on the upper side of their wings, but the underside patterning is quite different.

Many books describe the upper side of the wings of the female as being brown with a row of orange spots around the edge and a dusting of blue scales towards the body. They are also described as being highly variable, with specimens in Ireland and Scotland having more blue markings. We are lucky that the females in this area are beautifully marked.

Although the males are undoubtedly beautiful, I think I prefer the contrast of the blue with the orange markings of the female Common Blues.

Normally I see about ten or twenty times as many male Common Blues as I do females. I guess that the males are more active, seeking out females and defending teritories. However, for some reason this year I have noticed almost as many females as males.

I am always so please to see Common Blue butterflies. They are the only blue butterfly that occurs here (apart from the odd Holly Blue that has been seen). Next year I think I will make more of an effort to search out the females!

Monday, 6 July 2015

Red Admiral Invasion

Red Admirals, Vanessa atalanta, are regularly seen here most summers. They can't survive the winters in the UK, although there are some sightings early in the year suggesting that in some circumstances they do make it though the winter. In central Europe they hibernate as adult butterflies reappearing when the weather warms up in spring. During the summer they migrate northwards ariving in East Lothian over the summer.

It is thought that Red Admiral butterflies may be able to withstand the cold of our winters, but they tend to wake up too early if there is a warm day early in the year. At that time there are no flowers for them to feed on, so they can't replenish their energy reserves and sadly therefore perish.

This year I had only received three reports of Red Admirals in East Lothian up until the end of June.
Then, on 1st July I was walking our coastal path on a cloudy and windy day and I saw my first Red Admiral of the year. As I walked a little further another Red Admiral flew in from the sea and over the path. In the short distance that I walked a further five Red Admirals blew in from the coast. I thought this rather unusual and wondered if it had been the same butterfly that had been flying in circles!

When I arrived home I received an e-mail from a recorder who had seen seven Red Admirals flying or blowing in from the sea a little further up the coast and over the last few days I have received various similar reports suggesting that thousands of them have arrived.
Last night I drove along a local farm track and eleven Red Admirals flew up in front of the car. So, this evening I returned at the same time with my camera. There did not appear to be any on the track, but as I walked into a slight dip a Red Admiral flew up next to me.

It flew up into the trees and was joined by a second butterfly. Then, as I watched, two other Red Admirals flew out of the tree and spiraled up into the air together. There turned out to be at least eight Red Admirals in those trees.

Occasionally one would fly down and land on the road, or on a plant next to the road, but as soon as another flew past they would spiral up into the tree again!

They were so brightly coloured when their wings were open, but the underside of the wings is incredibly well camouflaged.

It was fantastic watching so many butterflies in such a small area. There were also four Speckled Woods, Pararge aegeria, in those trees and they would join in the aerobatics each time the Red Admirals flew close to them!

It wasn't until I enlarged this photo that I noticed how many flies there were amongst the branches of the trees!

I have never seen so many Red Admirals in one place. It was a delight to see them and they were unusually approachable. As usual I am left asking more questions. Firstly, I wonder where they have all flown in from? The wind was blowing in from the south-east, so I wonder if there had been a westerly wind further south pushing them out to sea. Their instinct to fly north could have brought them into line with our south-easterlies. Imagine if the wind had been blowing the other way!
I am also intrigued as to what was so attractive about this particular spot on the farm track? And was this spiraling flight a form of courtship?
There are always more questions than answers!!