Posts tagged ‘Small Tortoiseshell’

October 22, 2013

October Butterflies – 2

22 October 2013

Well, the weather seems to have turned. It’s still very mild, but a lot of rain and fairly windy, so the only butterfly around now is a Red Admiral, who appears when I disturb him as I walk round the garden. So let’s go back and look at some more of the species I saw on 5th and 6th of this month to brighten us up.

Small Tortoiseshell on Aster Frikartii 'Monch', with Comma in the background.

Small Tortoiseshell on Aster Frikartii ‘Monch’, with Comma in the background.

I’ve now got five clumps of this aster round the garden – it’s one of my favourite plants, and the butterflies and other insects seem to like it too.

Meadow Brown on Aster Frikartii 'Monch'.

Meadow Brown on Aster Frikartii ‘Monch’.

It’s unusual to see a Meadow Brown as late as October, and this one has obviously been out for a while, given the tattered state of his hindwing.

Comma on Rudbekia 'Goldsturm'.

Comma on Rudbekia ‘Goldsturm’.

I like this shot – if you see a Comma with its wings closed like this, usually all you see is a very dark background with the while “comma”; here, the sun is shining through the wings, so you can pick up more of the colouring, and it did pose itself beautifully on the rudbekia.

Red Admirals on pink Michaelmas Daisy

Red Admirals on pink Michaelmas Daisy


This shot shows four Red Admirals – in fact, there were ten, but it wasn’t possible to get them all in the same shot. It was interesting that they seemed to stay faithful to this bright pink Michaelmas Daisy, even when it got quite shady, although there were other butterflies on other plants elsewhere in the garden. I suppose they had found a good nectar source and were happy to stick with it, rather than waste energy flying around in search of alternative supplies. They all looked to be in quite good condition, so it is possible they were on a reverse migration: that is, they had been born here, but with winter approaching, were heading south – how sensible!

May 31, 2013

You can help wildlife just by counting it

31 May 2013

Did you see Springwatch on TV tonight? Great range of species covered, from the hen harrier to the garden snail. They also announced a Garden Bioblitz this weekend, which sounds fun – I shall join in. The idea is that the general public are asked to record the wild plants and animals in their garden over a 24 hour period in the first weekend of June – which is this coming Saturday and Sunday. If you don’t have a garden, you can’t join in this particular Bioblitz, but you can do one at any time in any place. Go to for full details of it all.

Two of the creatures I shall record in my Bioblitz: Newts in the pond. The male is on the left - identifiable by his crest, his red tummy and being generally darker.

Two of the creatures I shall record in my Bioblitz: Newts in the pond. The male is on the left – identifiable by his crest, his red tummy and being generally darker.

When it comes to recording butterflies and moths, the way is led by, who gather data from a host of sources, much of which gets to them via their 31 branches throughout the UK, like ours in Dorset. Butterflies are one of the easiest forms of wildlife, certainly of insects, to spot and identify – while some of the more specialist butterfly species are hard to find, there are a lot you will see in your garden or your local park, or if you go out into the country.

What excites me about joining in these recording efforts is that it is citizen science in action, and it really does make a difference. If someone said to you “get out there and save the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly”, the first thing you would ask is “well, where do I find them, and when, and where, and what do they eat and are their numbers going up or down ?”  It’s the same for the expert conservationists: they can only base their efforts on known data, and the more of it, the better.

Small Tortoiseshell on bright pink sweet william

Small Tortoiseshell

To take the Small Tortoiseshell as an example, it is known to have declined by 64% over the last 10 years (State of the UK’s Butterflies Report 2011). This is worked out from data contributed by people, including me, who do regular butterfly walks in certain sites every year, producing the data for the conservationists. If you go out and see a butterfly today, and report it to your local branch of Butterfly Conservation, it will be used to direct conservation efforts. So go out and make a difference – report a butterfly, do the Bioblitz, anything – just help put citizen science into action.

May 1, 2013

Wildlife roundup

30 April 2013. Very sorry this is late reaching you, I was convinced I’d sent it out, but I hadn’t. Blame it on the sunshine – it’s gone to my head.

Reading KiwiGav’s blog made me aware of how a list of wildlife can give a really good picture of how Spring is doing, so I thought I’d try a roundup of what I’ve seen in the garden in the last couple of days.

The weather has been really nice – today, particularly, was not just sunny but warm, which was blissful, and has obviously done a lot to bring out the wildlife:

Butterflies: Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and male Brimstone in the garden. Still no Orange Tip, though did see one in Osmington Mills today – a very hard bit of butterfly watching, over a pub lunch in the Smuggler’s pub garden.

Peacock butterfly on aubretia - he's a rather battered specimen with lots of damage to the edges of his wings

Peacock on aubretia – he’s a rather battered specimen if you look at the edge of his wings.

Other insects. Quite a lot, though I am limited in my identification skills, so I’m not sure how many different species.

Small insect on dandelion

Small bee? wasp? hoverfly? on dandelion

Birds, in descending size: Pheasants (3 regular visitors); Crow (one); Jackdaws (several – they nest in a couple of local chimneys and particularly come down when there’s big chunks of food on the ground; Wood Pigeons (several); Collared Doves (2+); Blackbirds (sadly, I think our pair may have abandoned their nest – I don’t think anything fledged and they’ve stopped looking for multiple worms); Starlings (quite a few, though their noise makes them sound as if they are in greater numbers than they are); Chaffinches (lots); Dunnocks (2); House Sparrows (only a few: there were a lot more in winter); Robins (2); Great Tits (I particularly notice one male, who is very handsome with a solid black waistcoat, but I think there is at least one other) and Blue Tits (several: they come and go so fast, they are difficult to count). Also swallows overhead, with occasional buzzards and even a heron the other day.

Crow at foot of bird feeder. Taken from inside the conservatory, as the bird is very wary.

Crow at foot of bird feeder. Taken from inside the conservatory, as the bird is very wary.

Other: Slow worms (three max so far; we found one dead under the tray we leave down for them: it had lost the end of its tail, which was also under the tray and looked very battered generally); Shrew (one for sure – under one of the slow worm trays – could it have had a go at the slow worm that died? I know they are very fierce, but???); Newts (max of 19 so far – a good way to count is with a torch at night); something that looked like a small Crane fly, laying eggs on some not-quite submerged growth in the pond. And – nearly – next door’s dog, which likes to peer under the gate – you could see its tail was wagging today, from the shadow it cast!

Have you done a list of what you see in your garden? Remember there are all sorts of wildlife organisations needing records, so get on the internet and see where you can help.

PS. Three cheers for the European Union and their two-year ban on neonectonoids; three boos for our anti-Environment Secretary Owen Paterson. Bees have a right to thrive on this planet – and we need them.

April 22, 2013

Wildlife galore

22 April 2013

Saturday was a gorgeous day here – lots of sunshine. That, predictably, brought out the wildlife.

Two Small Tortoiseshells and a large beetle

Two Small Tortoiseshells and a large beetle

I was lucky to catch the two Small Tortoiseshells – I’d come back from the far end of the garden to get something, got delayed, and these two flew in and settled on the bare earth of the being-replanted herb bed long enough for me to take the photo, then flew off again. The beetle is one I see increasingly in the garden, though I’m not sure of its exact identification – I guess its a ground beetle; the body is about an inch long (2cm +) and the antennae are like dark blue beads strung on wire. Do tell me if you know what it is.

Blackbird bathing

Blackbird bathing

We are now pretty sure that we have a pair of blackbirds nesting in our juniper bush/tree – it’s about 15′ (3m) high. The male is very friendly: whenever we are gardening near the house we find him watching us to see if we’re going to do something useful, like dig up some worms, so he can take them back to the nest. Interestingly, he doesn’t follow us to the other end of the garden when we are working on the vegetable beds, possibly because there are one or two other pairs regularly seen up there, so that is their territory. We have now seen both him and his “wife” using the pond to bathe: we had a pebble ramp put in one end when it was built, and the loose pebbles have been a total pain, we’ve taken most of them out now, but a few big ones were cemented to the liner, so they give a good point where a bird can get just deep enough to have a bath (apologies for the poor photos – I was using a zoom lens so I didn’t disturb him, and I think this is camera shake).

The pond is now thirteen years old, and this is the first time I’ve actually seen a bird bathe in it – only goes to show, you just need to keep watching….

April 8, 2013

Two butterflies and a blackcap

8 April 2013

Wow, what a wonderful day we had on Saturday: the sun shone all afternoon, even if the wind remained cold. It started well, with a Small Tortoiseshell (first of the year for me), soon followed by a Peacock. The photo shows the Small Tortoiseshell apparently nectaring on a crocus which looked way past its best, but as a bee also seemed to get something from it later, I can only think that though the petals looked collapsed, there was still nectar inside. You can see in the picture how dry the ground is at the moment, so plants are having it a bit tough. I was very chuffed that the Peacock used the aubretia, as I grew them from seed last year for this exact purpose: nice to find one bit of wildlife that has read the books and does what it should.

Left: Small Tortoiseshell on crocus. Centre: Peacock on primrose. Right: Peacock on aubretia

Left: Small Tortoiseshell on crocus. Centre: Peacock on primrose. Right: Peacock on aubretia

A bit later we were sitting enjoying a cup of tea  (an essential part of gardening) when I became aware of a bird call I had not heard before, and grabbing the binoculars I could see there was a blackcap on the bird feeder! We’ve had the odd blackcap before, but never staying long and not on the feeder, so this was a great first. I see from the Portland Bird Observatory website that they recorded some blackcaps on 5th, so I wonder if this one will stay around or is just passing through. There was a chiff-chaff calling stongly too.

A good chunk of the afternoon was spent on pond clearance. I’d usually aim to do this in Oct/Nov, but it was in great need of doing, as parts of the pond were fast reverting to land. We found a couple of big and several small dragonfly larvae and six newts in the process. The chunks removed have been left on the side of the pond, in the hope of any wildlife getting back into the pond, but I think the blackbrds and robins have other plans. We’re in the process of re-laying the stones round the pond, so hopefully it will soon look a bit smarter, as the stones were getting very wonky. By the way – if anyone suggests you use loose pebbles as a ramp to allow wildlife to get out of your pond, don’t be tempted: the pebbles don’t stay where you want them, and make cutting through the growth in the pond to get it out extremely difficult.