Tuesday 23 December 2014

Recalling Januarys' Painted Ladies.

Now that January is almost here again and perhaps the worst of our winter weather is yet to come I remember the month of January 2013 when summer and winter arrived.
The first day of the year produced the first butterfly of the year with a Painted Lady at Wheelers Bay, at Ventnor. The mild weather then continued and on one of a few spring-like days during that first two weeks of the month we were treated to at least three Painted Ladies at the bay. At this time of course,flowering plants are at a premium but the slopes of cliffs at the bay are covered in Winter Heliotrope and it is in flower.This was obviously a welcome food source to these butterflies and they spent a lot of time and energy nectaring on these plants.
But the balmy weather was not to last as within the next few days the winter blast arrived and cold snowy conditions prevailed. I hope that they had the sense to head south after stocking up on the Heliotrope at the bay.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

The African Queen.

More commonly known as the Plain Tiger but also has the title of African Queen or African Monarch, as well as several others perhaps.
It is a beautiful butterfly with the male smaller than the female but more brightly coloured. Apart from size and colour intensity the male can be distinguished by the presence of a black scent producing pouch located on the lower- centre of the hind wing.On the underside this feature appears as a black patch with a white centre.This can be noticed in two of the following photographs
I have as yet only had the pleasure of seeing the Plain Tiger(Danaus chrysippus) in Egypt which seems to be very apt as this species was the first ever butterfly recorded in art, on  a three thousand five hundred year old Egyptian fresco in Luxor..
This species can however be found in certain areas around the Mediterranean including Greece as well as Africa and right across Asia where it is very common.
In fact at least one has turned up on the Isle of Wight as the individual pictured in the last photo was snapped by a visitor to the Newtown Nature Reserve in 2011.(Thanks to Andy Butler for providing the photo.)

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Thinking of Next Year.

Now that the winter is fast approaching my thoughts turn to next year and what I can look forward to seeing.Of course the first possible treat would be to see the return to our local woodland rides of the Large Tortoiseshell from early March onwards depending on the kindness of the weather.
If I am fortunate enough to visit the Greek Islands in May the wonderful sight of the Cleopatra awaits.This butterfly of the Mediterranean resembles the Brimstone in general shape and pattern but is larger in size.
Above all, the males have an extensive orange flush across the fore-wings that can be seen when in flight.This dazzling butterfly hibernates over the winter and appears again in the spring just as the first flowers are coming into bloom.

Monday 27 October 2014

Missed Mega Highlight of 2014.

The UK has its own sub-species of Swallowtail Butterfly,Papilio machaon britannicus, which is only found in the fen land of Norflok So when news got around that a European Swallowtail had emerged in a garden at Ventnor it was a must to go and have a look.
Sighting reports of this continental cousin of our British Swallowtail are received on a regular basis in  Southern England but a local emergence is almost unique.
This magnificent butterfly was noticed clinging to a flower pot by the house owner and as it had a deformed wing it was not expected to travel very far,if at all. By the time I reached its last known resting place which turned out to be an area of very overgrown former allotments the butterfly had moved from its spot within the last hour.I am very disappointed to say that despite an extensive search of the immediate vicinity I was unable to locate it.
Still,although I was unable to see this beauty I am glad to say that Andy Butler did and it is with his kind permission that I am able to use his excellent photographs on my blog.(Taken early July 2014)

Sunday 26 October 2014

Best Bits of 2014.

Unlike 2012 and 2013 which were highlighted by sightings of the Large Tortoiseshell at Walters Copse,Newtown, this year the butterfly was not to be seen despite a good search in the spring.We can just hope that next season it will excite us with it's presence.
At the end of May I took a trip to Hod Hill in Dorset to get my first look at the Marsh Fritillary. This lovely butterfly is no longer resident on the Isle of Wight and I was not disappointed when at last I came across several individuals sheltering away in a grassy old hill fort moat from the inclement weather that day.
Another excellent highlight was a second brood of White Admirals in Walters Copse in September.This species had done well here in the summer but to see three pristine White Admirals  so late in the season was a treat.
Perhaps the highlight of 2014 though,had to be recording the first Glanville Fritillaries on the wing in the UK.As usual they appeared at Wheelers Bay,Bonchurch in April.This site is always the first site to produce this unique butterfly and is followed throughout May by other Island colonies on our south west coastal cliffs.
The Glanville pictured below is from Wheelers Bay,photographed on the 30th April and it can be classed as a variant partly due to it's rather dark hind wing colouring.

Monday 29 September 2014

White Admiral Pupa.

Following the sighting of a second generation of White Admirals on the Isle of Wight earlier this month(see blog entry of the 15th September) what better time to show a photo of the butterflies' pupa or chrysalis stage.
The pupa is typically formed upside down suspended under a leaf or the stem of the foodplant and secured by the cremaster.It is a very unusual shape with two prominent horns on the head and a curious protrusion at the back.This stage lasts two to three weeks. 

Monday 22 September 2014

Not Just One Clouded Yellow.

After waiting all season to see my first Clouded Yellow,today on a beautiful sunny afternoon at Wheelers Bay,Bonchurch,there were four flying vigorously along the revetment.All seemed in pristine condition and it can be thought that they have all emerged locally instead of making the trip across the Channel.
Still in good numbers at the Bay are Common Blues and as the Buddleia bushes continue in full flower several Red Admirals too.

Friday 19 September 2014

A Small Ray of Sunshine.

This morning has been  muggy and thundery with not a lot of sunshine,but at least in my back garden this Small Copper on a geranium flower brightened up the day.As the sun appeared in the afternoon it was joined in the sunshine by a male Common Blue.

Thursday 18 September 2014

A Quiet Day.

It has really been a pleasure to wander around Walters Copse this week.The excitement of discovering a second generation of White Admirals this year and the activity in the copse this week with the warm and sunny weather has been a joy.
Today in contrast was disappointing as the clouds returned and we had only the occasional sunny interval.
The butterflies did not seem to get going and sightings were low.When the sun did appear just the odd Red Admiral,Comma,and Meadow Brown showed.However the Wall Browns are still in the copse and along the main path two males vied with each other for any sunny spot.

Monday 15 September 2014

Back on the Wing.

A beautiful calm  and warm afternoon at Walters Copse,Newtown, and among the usual late summer butterflies were three White Admirals.This seems to be late for this species and as they all looked 'new', they must have very recently emerged.

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Still Not Seen One.

The drifts of Common Fleabane are still attracting Comma,Red Admiral,Peacock,and Brimstone in Walters Copse,and joining them today.was this Painted Lady.It is the first I have seen for some time but it would have been good to see a Clouded Yellow as I have not managed to tick one off this year so far.


Tuesday 9 September 2014


The Hummingbird Hawkmoth is a summer visitor to the Isle of Wight.Most sightings are made during August and September although it is possible to see this spectacular moth from as early as April to the end of the year.Yesterday at Wheelers Bay,Bonchurch,I had the treat of seeing at least four individuals nectaring on the ample drifts of Red Valerian along the revetment.

Thursday 4 September 2014

Warm Walters.

In my local copse the sun was shining bringing back the warm and summery weather.The butterflies were out in numbers on the drifts of Common Fleabane and in particular  many pristine Red Admirals.Several late summer species were also on show including  Brimstone and Green-veined White.

Thursday 28 August 2014

A BIG Diversion.

The Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar is probably best seen in the month of August.The adult moth is an elegant pink and olive in colour and is a strong and fast flyer.Strictly speaking the caterpillar should be called a larva as it is the offspring of a moth rather than a butterfly.It is a big larva too and the one I spotted today was at least 4cms in length.
If you have fuchsia plants these will be where they are most likely seen as it munches its way through the foliage.However my Hawk moth larva was found on a pond plant right in the middle of my garden pond.The larva gives its name to the species due to the long trunk like nose,although when the larva senses danger it withdraws the 'trunk' creating a more bulbous head shape.


Friday 1 August 2014

Back on Bonchurch Down.

With the dry and very warm weather continuing a second generation of Adonis Blue is now on Bonchurch Down at Ventnor.Yesterdays sightings on the Down included Chalk-hill Blue,Common Blue, and Brown Argus,along with one or two Marbled White, good numbers of Meadow Brown,Gatekeeper,and the odd Red Admiral.

Wednesday 30 July 2014

As Beautiful as a Butterfly.

The Jersey Tiger Moth is certainly a colourful moth and today this one was seen in my garden on the Phlox blooms.I have been fortunate enough to see three in the garden over the last week.

Wednesday 16 July 2014

Graylings Back on Bleak Down.

I hoped that the Graylings were out  on Bleak Down by now and made the walk to their usual site on the Down.The area is one of the few remaining stretches of heathland on the Island and with the heather now in flower it makes a colourful sight.After some time of searching I at last found a Grayling. Obviously I was somewhat early to see the colony, so hopefully in another week numbers will have substantially increased.
2017 update. A visit to this site today the 5th August discovered no Graylings. The area of past activity has now been overgrown with grasses and although flowering heather still remains in places, there is no bare open ground.  

Friday 11 July 2014


A very warm and sunny morning at Walters Copse today and it was not long before I came across a pristine Painted Lady butterfly.Not too far down the path and a Dark Green Fritillary was also feeding on the giant thistles.This fritillary can be found in our woodland as well as on our chalk downland.
Now good to see reasonable numbers of Marbled White,Meadow Brown,and Ringlet in the copse.Not many Silver-washed Fritillaries though and no sign of any Valezina as yet.The normal  females however are in evidence seeking out egg laying sites at the base of oak trees.