The latest butterfly species to grace the fields in my area is the Meadow brown (Maniola jurtina). I actually saw my first on Monday but it’s taken a few days to get even half decent photos as all the butterflies I’ve seen have either been flying frantically from place to place and/or hunkering down in the vegetation so effectively that they’ve been almost impossible to see.
In his fabulous publication Life Cycles of British & Irish Butterflies, Peter Eeles notes that, due to their colour differences, the male and female Meadow browns were once thought to be two separate species, the male named the ‘Brown Meadow Ey’d Butterfly’ and the female the ‘Golden Meadow Ey’d Butterfly’. In the photo below, the male is on the left, the female on the right.
Apparently, there are also colour variations in different parts of Britain, and scientists have officially identified these as four separate subspecies. The ones I see here in south Wales are Maniola jurtina insularis, which is the most widespread. Personally, I often have trouble simply telling male from female, and that’s something I’m going to try to improve during the next few months.