Yesterday was a day of two firsts, my first sightings of (several) Ringlet butterflies for this year (and at two different locations), and my first gorgeous Small skipper as well. Here they are …
I’ve been spending a lot of time over the past couple of weeks staring at Hemp agrimony flowers. I’ve not yet found what I’ve been searching for – you’ll be the first to know when/if I do – but, in the meantime, here are just a few of the lovely creatures I’ve spotted nectaring on these pretty flowers: a Dingy footman moth, a Six-spot burnet moth and a Gatekeeper, a Painted lady, a Red admiral, a Ringlet, a Speckled wood and what might be a Willow beauty moth, but the jury’s still out on that one.
On Wednesday I made my second visit to Aberbargoed Grasslands National Nature Reserve with my friend Sharon. Last time we dipped on seeing the Marsh fritillaries because it was too overcast; this time, we dipped again because the recent spell of hot dry weather has meant their season has finished for the year. Still, we have now walked most of the paths around the reserve so we’ll know exactly where to look next year. And, though we missed out the fritillaries, there were still plenty of other butterflies and moths to charm and delight us.
#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.
Today, on day 18 of #30DaysWild, I walked along the coastal path to Lavernock Nature Reserve, intending to do some sea-watching – and I did – I watched the sea for over an hour. I saw a couple of gulls and a lot of waves and a couple of large container ships heading up and down the channel. Of course, that was not what I was hoping to see. Over the past few days, there have been reports of large numbers of Manx shearwaters flying back and forth, as well as the occasional Storm petrel, Arctic skua, Gannets, Guillemots, Fulmars, etc. Today there were none – well, maybe 2 or 3 birds a long long long way out – but none that I could see with my bins.
Luckily for me, though, I bumped into Alan, a fellow birder, who’s also a fan of butterflies and dragonflies – many of us birders are – and he very kindly showed me a Ringlet butterfly he’d just spotted. It was the first I’d seen in 2018 and, once I’d finished staring at the sea, I wandered around Lavernock and found another – or, possibly, the same one – plus a few other butterflies. So, I may not have bagged a new bird for my year list but I did bag a new butterfly (metaphorically speaking, of course).
The supporting cast consisted of Large skippers, Common blues and a Small white.
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!
I saw my first Meadow brown (Maniola jurtina) and Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus) butterflies of the year at Cosmeston last week. And now there seem to be hundreds of Meadow Browns everywhere, though not so many Ringlets. Such pretty little things.
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).