Image

ShareMondays2020 – Brown Or Blue?

ShareMondays2020 – Brown Or Blue?

Some butterflies can be hard to identify at first sight! Can you tell from this image which species this is? You can get some help by visiting the Butterfly Conservation website or app. When I first spotted this small butterfly flitting around the grasses and wild flowers, at Papercourt Meadows, I suspected it was a female common blue. Many female Lycaenidae (blues and coppers) have a similar appearance, especially the open wings, and this can make identification difficult in the field. You really need to see some of the close-up details and view the butterfly from different angles. Once I got the side view I was able to confirm that it is, in fact, a brown argus. Of course a brown argus is technically still a blue! Confused yet?

Brown Argus side-on view
Left – male and female common blue. Right – male brown argus.

Key identifying spots that are present in the common blue, but missing in the brown argus, are circled in the guide image above. In the hindwing of the brown argus, the two spots that are circled are closer together than on the blue, almost a figure of eight shape. Another key identification help with this one is that the abdomen (body shape), viewed from above of the argus, is long and thin. This means that it isn’t carrying any eggs and can therefore only be identified as a male brown argus!

Image

ShareMondays2020 – Spotting The Spotted

Silver-spotted skipper on hemp-agrimony

ShareMondays2020 – Spotting The Spotted

A breezy hour spent on a small patch of grassland on Box Hill looking for silver-spotted skippers last Thursday was definitely time well spent! One of the plentiful grasses on the hillside is sheep’s fescue, which is the sole food plant of the silver-spotted skippers’ caterpillars. It is also a food plant of meadow brown, gatekeeper and small heath caterpillars, all of which are numerous on the hillside!

Small Heath

I also saw a number of six-spotted burnet moths and I couldn’t resist them! They’re one of over a hundred day-flying moths in the UK, many of these are micro moths and I struggle to name them. Burnets are so recognisable and, like me, are attracted to the colour purple! It’s a good thing that the hillside is a patchwork of purples still.

Look closely for the tiny crab spider on this macro image!
Knapweed is a wonderful wildflower for many pollinators and the burnet moths love it!

I spotted at least six silver-spotted skippers on the hillside which is the most I’ve ever seen in one visit! When they’re perched up on a flower or grass stem they’re pretty easy to find with those white spots against the gold wings. It’s a different story when they’re basking on the ground! They really do blend into the habitat well.

Spot the skipper!

One of the skippers had a close call with a crab spider that was blending into it’s own surroundings on a knapweed flower! I probably wouldn’t have seen the spider if the skipper hadn’t lifted off so suddenly. They’re ambush predators and cleverly disguise themselves while they wait for a potential meal.

A near miss!

I would have loved to have captured a perfect shot of a silver-spotted skipper on field scabious. What a perfect combination! Unfortunately it was so breezy the butterflies were having a hard time staying on top of the delicate blooms. The closest I got to my ideal image was this one below, which I am being picky about as there’s a shadow falling across the skipper from another stem. Still a beautiful sight though and I can aspire to capturing my perfect shot one day in the future as we continue to protect this precious habitat and the treasures that live there.

Silver-spotted skipper on field scabious
Image

ShareMondays2020 – Caught In A Lightbeam

Juvenile Whitethroat

ShareMondays2020 – Caught In A Lightbeam

I had the most beautiful encounter with a family of whitethroat at Papercourt Meadows last Friday. I’d missed the arrival of these wonderful summer migrant birds while I was shut indoors, shielding. What a wonderful and welcoming return for me to one of the local birding sites, being greeted by these gorgeous fledglings! The adults are starting to look rather untidy (pressures of parenthood and the start of the moult!) so I will keep their modesty intact and not share their photos. The fledglings are doing quite well picking insects from the buddleja and brambles, but they’re still demanding plenty of feeds from their parents!

The meadows are looking wonderful! A great variety of grasses and wildflowers that provides such a fantastic habitat for lots of insects and birds. Distant, but wonderful sighting of the kestrel, hovering over the grassland, and so many wrens singing their little hearts out!

A fabulous array of butterflies greeted us too! Peacocks, red admirals, gatekeepers, commas, large and small whites, skippers and absolutely stunning ringlets! They have fabulous false-eye markings and really shimmer in the light.

I shall definitely be returning soon to collect numbers for the Big Butterfly Count for Butterfly Conservation! You can join in the annual citizen science survey HERE. Have a great week everyone!

Image

ShareMondays2020 – Nymph

Marbled White Macro

ShareMondays2020 – Nymph

What’s in a name? Melangaria galathea, the marbled white, sometimes called the half-mourner or chequered white, is actually a member of the Browns family. They are Satyrinae, a subfamily of the Nymphalidae, brush-footed butterflies. When Carl Linnaeus originally assigned names to the butterflies he had identified, he placed them into families and genus with distinctively Greek and Roman mythological origins. I love thinking of these beautiful insects as nymphs, sylphs and satyrs! It’s so very appropriate.

Marbled White showing mites on body

The name galathea most likely comes from the Nereid, Galatea. One of fifty sea-nymphs of Greek mythology, daughters of Nereus (son of Gaia) and Doris the sea goddess. Galatea means she who is milk-white. The name was also given to the statue of woman by Pygmalion of Cyprus, who came to life in Greek mythology. When roosting, these beautiful butterflies are most certainly statuesque! They are usually found on moist, chalky ground in southern England, were they can gather in large numbers in July. It really is an amazing sight! Another amazing fact about the marbled white is that they are drawn to purple flowers, usually seen feeding on wild oregano, knapweed and thistles.

wp-1594585226012.jpgwp-1594585225998.jpgwp-1594585225984.jpgwp-1594585225976.jpg

Image

ShareMondays2020 – Admiration

White Admiral

ShareMondays2020 – Admiration

Admiration

Battle through brambles
White admiral bearing scars
Admiration grows

My admiration really has grown for these extraordinary, resilient, yet extremely vulnerable woodland butterflies!

White AdmiralWhite AdmiralWhite Admiral

Image

ShareMondays2020 – The Skipper And The Copper

The Skipper and the Copper

ShareMondays2020 – The Skipper And The Copper

What a joyous few days spent amongst the butterflies last week! It started with a first for the camera with this stunning white admiral in the woodlands of Bookham Commons. The commons have the ideal habitat with dappled shade, bramble blossom that adults sip nectar from, and honeysuckle where they will lay their eggs.

White Admiral in woodland

The chalk slopes of the Surrey Hills AONB have the ideal grass and scrub for meadow butterflies like the small, large and Essex skippers that I saw. I stayed away from the hundreds of people heading for the top of Box Hill and took Simon over to Denbies Hillside, near Ranmore Common. Such fabulous views across to Leith Hill, down to Dorking and views up The Pilgrims Ways toward Guildford.

Essex Skipper

The marbled whites emerge, en masse, and are drawn to purple flowers to feed from. They are stunning and ethereal, the spirits, or sylphs of the hillside.

SylphMarbled WhiteMarbled White

There were only a few people out at these National Trust managed sites and I was so relieved to be able to get outside again safely! I can’t resist leading with my image of the chance meeting of the Essex Skipper and Small Copper on the grass seeds. They stopped briefly, at a safe social distance, greeted one another and then took flight again.

 

Image

#FeelGoodPhotoOfTheDay – Gone To Seed

Gone To Seed

#FeelGoodPhotoOfTheDay – Gone To Seed

Gone To Seed

All has gone to seed
Precious repositories
For the years ahead

This is going to be my last in the series of images from my archives with newly composed haiku. I wanted this image to be the last one as it’s all about hope for the future. I can actually leave the house again, so I really want to make the most of new encounters with wildlife and engaging with plants and nature. I hope that you have all enjoyed a moment of mindfulness through these creations. Can’t quite believe I managed about a hundred in total! I hope the future will start to look brighter and safer for us all. Keep enjoying the simple pleasures in life, in the natural world around you, stay safe and do whatever you can to help keep others safe too.

Image

ShareMondays2020 – Skipping Through The Meadows

Small Skipper

ShareMondays2020 – Skipping Through The Meadows

I ventured out of the house for the first time since March 22nd last Friday! I’m still shielding, but we have been advised that we can go outside once a day, for health benefits, as long as we follow strict social distancing. It was so nerve-wracking, but the wildlife at the Heather Farm Wetlands area welcomed me back with what felt like a huge hug to the senses. The sights, sounds, scents, space and the feel of the breeze was just the therapeutic boost I needed. It’s peaceful in the wetlands, with only a few visitors, who were all keeping a good distance. I felt safe and that was really important!

Skipper and Flower Beetles

I didn’t have to go far before seeing skippers flitting about all around me among the grasses. It was magic! A mix of both small and Essex skippers were so abundant in this perfect habitat. One obliging small skipper allowed me to get close-up with the macro lens and I hope this shows you why I just adore them. So fluffy, with the most enormous eyes! They were adorning the thistles along with thick-legged flower beetles, spiders and froghoppers (the larvae produce cuckoo spit!). See if you can spot them!

Skipper on Thistle

Grasses are so important to skippers! Small skipper larvae usually feed on Yorkshire-fog grass, and Essex skipper larvae will usually be found on Cock’s-foot grass. Both species will also use Timothy, False Brome, Meadow Foxtail and Creeping Soft grass. Aren’t they just the most wonderful names? Both the Woodland Trust and Wildlife Trusts have great information about grasses and sedges!

Essex Skipper on grasses

It’s really difficult to differentiate between the small and Essex skippers! It’s actually a bit early to be seeing the Essex on the wing, they would usually appear in July. Many of our butterflies have been emerging early this year, after the hot month of May. I am pretty sure that a number of the skippers I saw were the Essex, as a head-on view showed me the black-tipped antennae. The small skipper has an orange-brown tip.

Image

#FeelGoodPhotoOfTheDay – Common Blue

Common Blue

#FeelGoodPhotoOfTheDay – Common Blue

Common Blue

Uncommon beauty
Common sight on common land
Exceptional blue

Image

#FeelGoodPhotoOfTheDay – Concealment

Concealment

#FeelGoodPhotoOfTheDay – Concealment

Concealment

Hiding in plain sight
Blending into the background
Belying beauty