I’ve had two days recently when I went looking for butterflies and was feeling a little disappointed not to see very many when, all of a sudden, a moth flew by and landed at my feet … like Nature saying ‘Here’s a consolation prize!’ or, maybe, ‘Don’t be a Wally! Look at this amazing creature!’ … and so I did. And then another moth appeared, and another, and …
Aglais io, Brimstone, British butterflies, British moth, butterflies, butterfly, Common blue, Cyclophora annularia, Dingy Skipper, Erynnis tages, Gonepteryx rhamni, moth, Pararge aegeria, Peacock, Polyommatus icarus, Speckled wood, The Mocha
Blue skies, warm temperatures, wildflowers in bloom – what more could a butterfly want? Not much it seems as they were out in force at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park and I spent several happy hours following them around, trying to get photographs but also just intrigued by their flight patterns, the food plants they were choosing and their general behaviour. The Whites, large and small, eluded my lens, as did several Orange-tips and one Red Admiral but I did manage to snap these six.
The first is a Brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni), not to be confused with the moth of the same name. I saw two flying together, land together and then the male heading purposefully towards the female. Turns out though that her spreading her wings and raising her abdomen in the air was not a ‘come hither’ signal but rather the opposite. She was indicating that she had already mated and was rebuffing the male. I saw several Common blues (Polyommatus icarus), also easily confused with other very similar small blue butterflies. They are so vibrant! And seeing a Peacock (Aglais io) is always a treat, though this one was looking a little battered.
Speckled woods (Pararge aegeria) seem to be the butterflies I see most often wherever I go but I love their pretty dappling of brown and cream. The next was a new one for me and I saw two of them – it’s a Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages), a butterfly whose caterpillars feed on Bird’s-foot trefoil so it’s often found on the short impoverished grasslands of former coal tips, rubbish tips and quarries. I’ve just learnt that it’s called Dingy because ‘it loses scales alarmingly as it get older so looks, well, dingy’ (thanks, Steven). The last is not a butterfly but a moth and rather a special moth, The Mocha (Cyclophora annularia). This moth is nationally scarce but more frequent in the woodlands of southern Britain so I was well pleased with this sighting.