Wednesday 23 November 2016

Favourite Find of 2016.

The 2016  butterfly season in the UK has been disappointing with sightings down on recent years.The results of The Big Butterfly Count can be viewed here.I have found this trend too on my forays around the Isle of Wight this year.A noticeable lack of butterfly numbers in the common species that I would expect to see doing well as our summer  had good spells of warm,even hot weather.
I was pleased to see that the Newport town centre White-letter Hairstreaks were back on the elm tree where they were discovered in 2015.Along our southern seaside cliffs the Glanville Fritillaries seem to have had a good season too.
During my two visits to the Greek Islands in 2016 I had the treat of  seeing several Lang's Short-tailed Blues and that import from South Africa,the Geranium Bronze which has now spread all along the Mediterranean coast from Spain to Greece.An unexpected sighting was a colony of Lulworth Skippers among the wild flowers of an olive grove on Greek Island of Lefkada.A rare butterfly in the UK,only seen on the coastal cliff tops of Dorset.
However my favourite find was during May when a trip was made across the Solent to the New Forest in Hampshire to see the beautiful Pearl-bordered Fritillary.Now alas,gone from the Island since 2011 due to a lack of sustainable habitat at its last location in Parkhurst Forest.The particular New Forest inclosure visited on that day was named New Copse and despite the rather cloudy weather there were good numbers of these fritillaries on the wing.The habitat here is well managed  for the needs of the Pearl-bordered.


Wednesday 2 November 2016

Circus Maximus.

The site of  ancient Rome's chariot racing stadium,Circus Maximus is in the centre of the city between the Palatine and Aventine Hills.It measured over 2000 feet in length and just under 400 feet in width and today is a public park.During a short stay in the city last weekend,I was pleased to see at least eight species of butterfly here as I strolled along the grassy banks of the Circus that in the days of the Roman Empire could accommodate well over 100,000 spectators.Quite a selection of wild plants grow here and they still attract butterflies at this time of year,especially in the warm sunshine that we enjoyed on our visit.
Whites were numerous,such as Bath,Large and Small White,together with several Clouded Yellow that all flew along the slopes searching out the small flowers, while Common Blue,Small Copper,Small Heath,Mallow Skipper,and Geranium Bronze seemed to find their own spot amongst the grass and plants.

The grassy slopes of the Circus Maximus

Friday 30 September 2016

Bright & Beautiful.

With autumn here any nectar rich flowering plants in the garden are now attracting butterflies. Along with the reliable Red Admiral. I am still seeing the odd Speckled Wood,an occasional Painted Lady stopping off to feed on the buddleia,Large and Small Whites,and today this very colourful Small Copper.A very recent emergence by the look of it with bright markings. Individuals from later broods such as this tend to be often larger and brighter.This one also has a slight row blue dots on the hindwings of the form caeruleopunctata.   

Thursday 8 September 2016

Late Summer Colours.

Not too far from Wheelers Bay is Bonchurch Down, well known for its downland butterflies.This south facing Down has a good population of Adonis Blues and now the second brood of the year is on the wing.Many of the stunningly coloured males are now showing signs of wear but they are still strikingly impressive.
Among other butterflies seen on the Down yesterday are Common Blue,Brown Argus,Meadow Brown, and I am very glad to say,Small Copper.These quarrelsome and restless little butterflies have suffered a decline recently,perhaps due to poor summer weather,so it is good to encounter them now.


The Red Devil.

Red Valerian is known by numerous other names one of which is Devil's Beard.So on a long overdue visit ot Wheelers Bay yesterday it was a treat to see drifts of these red flowers along the banks and cliffs of the Bay.The flower is a magnet for butterflies and insects here, particularly as a nectar source for any new arrivals coming in off the sea.
Among the regular visitors to the Bay at this time of year is the Painted Lady ,which like Clouded Yellow, also seen at this time here too,are sometimes out  in good numbers.The latter in particular can be observed flying continuously up and down the revetement only occasionally stopping to nectar from the valerian.

Wednesday 24 August 2016

A Common Skipper.

Skipper butterflies can be very insignificant mainly due to their small size and also because of their fast and low flight.While on the Greek Island of Thassos recently I saw several skippers all of which were the Mallow Skipper.This particular skipper is common in central and southern Europe perhaps due to the diverse range of habitat it is found in.

Tuesday 23 August 2016

Wight Downland Blues.

Three of our four Isle of Wight downland blues were on show today.On West  High Down reasonable numbers of Chalkhill Blue roamed over the chalk hills together with some Common Blues that kept to the more sheltered spots.Nearby at  Brook Down this year's second generation of Adonis Blue are now on the wing.

Friday 12 August 2016

A Busy Blue.

August is the month for a holiday to the Greek Islands and it was back to the Aegean Island of Thassos.Near to the resort of Scala Panagia there are many tracks that lead towards the mountains and along them plenty of chances to come across butterflies. One of the smallest but no less beautiful is the busy and sometimes elusive Lang's Short-tailed Blue.An African species and now resident in some parts of Greece.

Wednesday 27 July 2016

An Unexpected Treat.

After several visits to the Greek Islands and encountering the butterflies that are in the vicinity of our holiday homes,I have learnt to be aware that a 'blue' may not be just another Common Blue or a 'skipper'.just another Large or Small Skipper. This proved so following a trip to Lefkada at the end of May this year.In  a nearby olive grove dispersed with wild flowers and long scrubby grasses there were many skippers busily buzzing about.If the opportunity presents itself, it is a good idea to take some photos just in case I have stumbled upon something more interesting than 'just another skipper'.
That is where I left it until thankfully a fellow butterfly enthusiast advised me that my skippers were Thymelicus acteon or the Lulworth Skipper as it is commonly called in the UK.This species is not widespread in Britain,in fact it only occurs along the south facing grassy cliffs of Dorset.In continental Euorpe however it is found  throughout and tends to be more common in the south including the Balkans.

Friday 22 July 2016

Small Blue Join the Summer Blues.

With very recent reports of a second generation  of Small Blues on the mainland,I was very pleased to see several  at Whiteways Quarry today. They  were in the company of increasing numbers of Chalk-hill Blues,Common Blues,and Brown Argus.All were very active in the warm sunshine.

Wednesday 20 July 2016

Back In Town.

The White-letter Hairstreak colony discovered last year on a disease resistant elm in Newport is still going strong. The first individual was spotted about two weeks ago and today several females were seen on the lower branches.This particular elm was planted around the time of the millennium and last season was the first time that any hairstreaks were recorded on the tree.

Sunday 17 July 2016

Summertime Blues.

This typical British 'on-off' summer  is perhaps on again, with my first sighting of a Chalk-hill Blue on West High Down today.In fact three males were spotted,two beside the track leading up to the Down and one actually on it.Of course this species can be very numerous here and I am sure that over the next few weeks hundreds,if not thousands,of this striking butterfly will be flying on our downland.

Thursday 14 July 2016

A Repeat Performance.

While in my local copse today I encountered this Meadow Brown aberration.Funnily enough it was in the exact same location as another similar aberration of the same species from last year.An offspring perhaps.
The 2015 aberration can be viewed here.

Thursday 7 July 2016

New Summer Sightings.

Three first of the year sightings were made yesterday.On West High Down the Dark Green Fritillaries are on the wing and flying at great speed,not taking time it seems to stop and settle.Two other  sightings were that of a male Small Skipper on the Down and  a fresh Gatekeeper in Walters Copse.Other butterflies now becoming numerous are Marbled White and Meadow Brown.