Weaving their way amongst the long grasses, fluttering delicately up and down, meandering through the meadows – the Meadow browns are out and about.
I mostly use my Olympus camera for macro photographs, and to get crisp shots I need to get within an inch or two of the subject. As you can imagine, a lot of little creatures are alarmed by a large animal looming over them with a camera so, from time to time, I use one of my daily walks to practise my stealth. After a couple of false starts yesterday, I was very pleased to get up close to these three butterflies – a Common blue, a Meadow brown and a Speckled wood – as the macro photos give such good detail of the anatomy of these beautiful butterflies.
Meadow brown butterflies have a long season, on the wing from early June to the end of October, and those dates are exactly what I’ve observed in my area this year and last.
In 2019, I spotted my first Meadow brown on 5 June and the last was a single butterfly seen on 7 October.
This year, I saw my first Meadow Brown at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park on 1 June.
And, as September was drawing to a close, I kept a special eye out for these lovely butterflies, each time taking a photograph and asking myself, ‘Will this be the last Meadow brown of the year?’
I knew time was fast slipping away for them and, on 5 October, again at Cosmeston, it really was the last time I would see a Meadow brown in 2020. That butterfly is the one shown below … and I’m already looking forward to seeing them again next June.
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!