French Butterflies

Rather “off-patch”, but here are some of many butterflies I saw during our August road-trip around France.

Fritillaries were very plentiful, especially Silver-washed Fritillaries, which were present in numbers right through the Auvergne. I took nice pictures of these Knapweed Fritillaries in the Gorges du Tarn in Southern France; also the Scotch Argus and Jersey Tiger Moths there in the riverside vegetation.

In the French Alps I was very happy to find this Apollo butterfly, seen above Courchevel in the Vanoise National Park. The flower-rich Alpine meadows were full of butterflies and moths, including also Mountain Fritillary.

Peacock Butterfly (Aglais io, #437)

Last summer I managed to go right through from June to the end of the year without seeing one, so it’s good that the Peacocks are back this year. After seeing one in the warm spell at the end of March, this week there have been a few about in the garden, including this one posing nicely on the garden fence.

Other butterflies right now include large, small and green-veined whites, red admiral and the odd ringlet,, On the other side of the balance sheet, speckled wood which I saw plenty of last year have been totally absent and I didn’t see a comma or a common blue yet either.

#437 Peacock Butterfly (Aglais io)

#437 Peacock Butterfly (Aglais io)

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui, #513)

Having not seen any butterflies at all in the garden for the last 4 weeks - more or less the whole of June - there’s finally some warm summer weather and a few of them about again: Red Admiral, Ringlet and my first Painted Lady butterflies. Painted Ladies seemed scarce last year and I didn’t see any in the garden all summer, but apparently there is a bit of an influx this year. These migrants arrive from Africa in varying numbers each year, sometimes making it as far as the Arctic Circle. Making a 9000 mile round trip, they actually migrate twice as far as the more famous migratory Monarch butterflies in North America. The caterpillars feed on thistles, and then as it’s too cold for them to over-winter in Northern Europe, the new generation of butterflies make the return trip to Africa in the autumn, flying at an altitude of up to 3000 feet. This individual is pretty faded, so it’s probably one of the new arrivals.

#513 Painted Lady Butterfly

#513 Painted Lady Butterfly

One year of BTO Garden Birdwatch

It's the anniversary of my starting the BTO Garden Birdwatch, logging all the birds in the garden over the course of a year. As well as birds I’ve recorded butterflies, mammals & amphibians. These graphics are off the BTO site, showing the frequency of the most common birds that actually use the garden (pure fly-overs are not counted).

Surprisingly out of the 47 bird species I recorded during the year, only four were seen absolutely every week: Woodpigeon, Blue Tit, Goldfinch & House Sparrow. The rest of the top 10 were Robin which only missed one week (reporting rate = 98%), Blackbird with reporting rate of 96%, Collared Dove, Jackdaw and Great Tit all on 92%, then quite a big drop to Wren at 75%. Most of these species disappeared during late Summer / early Autumn, when the species count was at it’s lowest.

At the other end of the scale six birds only showed once: Fieldfare during winter snows, Whitethroat, Siskin & Hawfinch during Spring migration and Grey Wagtail & Lesser Whitethroat also migrants during the late summer.

Butterflies at Greystones Farm

Back at Greystones today for a walk. Despite the windy day there were still some butterflies about in the sheltered spots. Several Commas around the brambles, Small Coppers and also some Speckled Wood butterflies. The meadows are growing back a bit after their July hay harvest haircut, allowing some flowering of Devils Bit Scabious, Silverweed and hawkbit. Four Little Egrets on the nearby gravel pit were a sign of the season.

Butterflies on Lavender

It's colder today and the lavender is coming to an end, but here's a few snaps of butterflies that have been in the garden over the last couple of weeks.  One or two of Common Blue, Gatekeeper and Meadow Brown butterflies have been through on a more or less daily basis during early August.  Though there have been plenty of Large and Small Whites, often they've not stopped for the flowers, and I've had Comma and Red Admiral visiting a few times.  Other species which I might have expected, like Small Tortoiseshell, which I remember as being so common when I was a kid, seem very scarce - only seen 2-3 times this year.  And so far I didn't see a single Peacock or Painted Lady in the garden despite it seemingly being a good year for butterflies.  It's thought the decline of some of these butterfly species might be due to a parasitic fly (Sturmia bella) that has spread from the Continent in recent years.  We sent in some counts to Butterfly Conservation's Big Butterfly Count - be interested to see the outcome from their UK survey when it comes out.