Part Three: the Butterflies…

I’ve been holding off on this butterfly post waiting, waiting and some more waiting for the first appearance of the Purple Emperor (Apatura iris). New camera with super zoom at the ready. But, sadly the colony has disappeared this year … or despite all my hours spent scouring the oak trees with my binoculars I just haven’t been there at the right time. So, no Purple Emperor photos. If the colony has died out there are many possible reasons, but the most likely may be weather related. As I understand it the week or so of heavy rain and colder temperatures in June just as the butterfly was about to emerge meant that it stalled, and was predated on as a result. And night time temperatures were chillier and windier than the Purple Emperor likes…

However, that’s not to say that there haven’t been butterflies! And amongst them two new species for me here.

First of these is the Heath Fritillary (Melitaea athalia).

It’s one of the rarest UK butterflies and although widespread in Europe its habitat preference – Heathland – is becoming increasingly scarce. However, as luck would have it, there’s a bit of an abundance of Heathland here! But this one had found its way into my garden.

The next is also a new to me species. This one again likes Heathland and isn’t found in the UK. In French it’s called ‘Le Miroir’ because of the markings on its underwings. In English it’s called the Large Chequered Skipper (Heteropterus morpheus). I photographed it up on the Landes de St Maudez, and then the following day on the Landes de Kerlouet. Again, it’s habitat preferences make it relatively uncommon in France – Brittany being one of the few places with damp, acid heathland, is one of its strongholds.

This Common Blue is a bit of a misnomer – not being that common at all here at least not in my garden where the ‘blue’ that’s around almost all year is the Holly Blue. It’s not by any means rare but I’m not confident identifying them and got help from the butterfly forum I use a lot. There were five or six of them bombing around in the sunshine, but this one sat still long enough for me to photograph it.

The first butterfly pictrue I posted this year was of a tatty Large Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros) that was in my porch. This beautiful, pristine one spent a couple of days mainly on the Verbena bonariensis in the garden. I’ve spotted several this year.

A Purple Hairstreak (Favonius quercus). Like the Purple Emperor this one spends most of its time up in the canopy of oak trees where it is hard to photograph. But if the weather is good it comes down in the morning onto bramble flowers, and in the evening – always at around 6 or 7pm – I can watch the little colony in the garden whirling and boxing each other in the late sunshine; looking like a handful of 5p coins chucked up in the sky! The ‘purple’ refers to the iridescent upper-wing which you don’t often see as it usually perches with its wings closed.

of course these are just a few highlights. There will, I hope, be more…

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