‘… flowers that fly and all but sing’
~ from ‘Blue-butterfly Day’, a poem by Robert Frost
These are some of the ‘flowers’ that have been flying around me this week, causing my heart to sing.
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.
I am sometimes guilty of overlooking the ordinary but this photo, which I am very pleased with and now have as the desktop image on my laptop, reminds me of how truly lovely is the ‘ordinary’ Meadow brown butterfly. I tend to overlook it in favour of more colourful or unusual species, yet it is a butterfly that continues to grace the local meadows even now, when many of the other butterflies have gone for the year. I am rebuked by its beauty!
It’s often quite difficult to catch up with Emperor dragonflies as they seem to be in constant motion, patrolling their patch or hawking for food across flower-filled fields and meadows. But I spotted this one carrying a large load, relatively speaking, and, though dragonflies will often feed as they fly, this beautiful beast decided to pause and enjoy its brunch quite near to me.
You can’t really tell from my photo but it was munching on a Meadow brown. As I watched, first one wing, then another was plucked off and discarded, before the main course was consumed. Not exactly what I’d fancy for my brunch, and I did feel a little sorry for the butterfly, but this is the reality of wild life.
I feel like I should be apologising for featuring butterflies three days in a row but this little butterfly is so interesting that I just had to share it. There are a ton of Meadow browns flitting around the wildflower fields at Cosmeston right now and they mostly look like this – or, at least, the females do.
So, I think you can see why the butterfly in this next photo caught my eye. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a really clear shot of it, as it kept flying further into the flowers and I didn’t want to trample them, but you get the idea. Thanks to a tweet from UK Butterflies, I now know “This aberration is referred to as ‘pathological’, where wing scales fail to pigment – thought to be caused by some type of damage (physical or chemical) to the pupa. Asymmetrical examples are known too where only 1 wing is affected.” Isn’t it fascinating?
birding, birdwatching, British birds, British butterflies, butterflies, Cinnabar caterpillars, Comma, Cows, Glamorgan Bird Club, Green-veined white, Meadow Brown, Peacock, Red fox, Red kite, River Ely, Sand martin, Small tortoiseshell, Stock dove
Yesterday I enjoyed another wonderful, if rather hot day’s birding with my friends from the Glamorgan Bird Club, this time wandering a trail alongside the River Ely near Peterston-super-Ely and Pendoylan.
On the way there, my friend John and I had incredibly close views of three Red kites and more of these magnificent birds of prey were gliding overhead during our walk.
We saw Stock doves (one pictured above) sitting obligingly close to Woodpigeons so we could see the differences in the two species.
A Red fox was spotted trotting along in a distant field, its lunch in its mouth.
A large herd of large cows moved reluctantly away from the river so we could pass by. You’d have to be crazy to mess with this lady, who was keeping a steady eye on us in case we ventured too close to her calves.
The fifteen participants … well, fourteen really, as I was taking the photo.
The meandering River Ely was running low due to the recent drought conditions here in south Wales.
As well as birds, we also saw lots of butterflies, including these: Cinnabar caterpillars, Comma, Green-veined white, Meadow brown, Peacock, and more Small tortoiseshell than I’ve ever seen in one day before.
The highlight of the day for me was watching these Sand martins hawking for food over the fields and then returning to their burrows in the river bank to feed their hungry young. Magic!
#30DaysWild, 30 Days Wild, British butterflies, British moths, butterflies, Common blue, Large skipper, Meadow Brown, moths, Pyrausta purpuralis, Ringlet, Six-spot burnet, Small skipper, Small white, Speckled wood
Day 25 of #30DaysWild was hot – the hottest day of the year so far in Wales! I’m not a huge fan of the heat or the burning sun – one of the reasons I moved to Britain was to escape them, but the climate is a’changing. The only good thing about sunshine is that it brings out the Lepidoptera, the butterflies and moths, though even they looked a bit frantic, as if the heat was making them crazy. Still, on my Penarth – Lavernock – Cosmeston – Penarth circuit, I did manage to see my first Small skipper for the year and a host of other fantastic Leps as well.
#30DaysWild, 30 Days Wild, Bee orchid, Blackcap, Brimstone butterfly, Common blue butterfly, Common spotted orchid, Emperor dragonfly, Grangemoor Park, Holly blue butterfly, Large skipper, long-tailed tit, Meadow Brown, Pyramidal orchid, Southern marsh orchid
Day 9 of #30DaysWild saw me at Grangemoor Park, a place that used to be Cardiff’s rubbish dump: when it closed in 1994, it contained an estimated four million cubic metres of garbage, both commercial and household. Now, it’s not only a public park but also a SINC (Site of Importance for Nature Conservation), and is home to a wonderfully diverse range of flora and fauna. My photos show just some of what I discovered there today …
The Painted lady (Vanessa cardui) is supposed to be quite a common butterfly but I’d only seen two this year until this morning’s butterfly fest at Cardiff Bay, in a tucked-away spot full of Buddleja, Ragwort, Hemp agrimony and other assorted wildflowers.
The nectar bonanza was being licked up by four Painted ladies, two Red admirals, one Small white, two Meadow browns, and two Common blues. What a riot of colour they made!
It’s Monday. I’ve had a meeting about a forthcoming fungi presentation, followed by a busy morning on the computer and feel I need a blast of fresh air so decide to do one of my local walk circuits, taking in one side of Cardiff Bay and Penarth Marina. And I’m so glad I do ’cause the air is alive with butterflies and moths. They are common enough species but I am amazed and delighted to see such a variety and so many in just a 2-hour walk.
There are Comma (Polygonia c-album), Common blue (Polyommatus icarus), Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus), Large skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus), Meadow brown (Maniola jurtina), Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus), Six-spot burnet (Zygaena filipendulae), Small skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris), Small white (Pieris rapae), and Speckled wood (Pararge aegeri). This is my idea of heaven!