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160716 Meadow Brown (1)

The two butterflies I see most often at the moment are fifty shades of brown and, when flying, very difficult to tell apart. Both enjoy the sheltered areas of tall grass and wildflowers in the conservation areas of Cathays Cemetery and, on a sunny day, I might see a combined total of perhaps thirty. Both are difficult to photograph as they rarely keep still long enough for me to reach them, let alone get focused shots, and they often settle down low in areas of long grass so, even at my most stealthy, I can seldom step through the greenery without disturbing them.

The Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus) is not a Shirley Temple lookalike – its common name comes from the series of little ring markings on its hind wings. One of the advantages of being brown is that it is more easily able to warm itself up so can still be seen flying on overcast days. Common throughout Britain (except for the northernmost parts of Scotland), it tends to live in colonies, sometimes numbering up to several thousand individuals – what a sight that would be!

As its name suggests, the Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) is brown and lives in meadows, and it’s one of the most common, widespread and least endangered of British butterflies. There are, in fact, four separate sub-species, differentiated by location and extremely subtle variations in markings but I’m not going to venture in to that level of specialisation (there’s a wealth of information on the UK Butterflies website if you’re tempted).