Friday, 30 August 2013

A good year for butterflies

It's not been a bad summer, has it? Dawn till dusk sunshine, warm enough to swim in the sea, cool beer, cold ices, no irritating long flights to suffer - all in all a good year to stay at home.

To answer last year's fretting about the lack of bugs on the windscreen, some muggy drives have even had these, although the report of a clouded yellow squished against the screen was rather unnecessary.

And butterflies have appeared in (relative) profusion. Buddleias are covered with whites and aristocrats while the herbs and grasslands are alive with blues and skippers.

The biggest news was, of course, the discovery of a veritable colony of long-tailed blues on Kingsdown Leas, with around seven adults and 47 eggs recorded, plus an egg in each of the villages of Kingsdown and St Margarets. The adults would have been blown north from the Mediterranean area on the warm "Spanish plume" wind in early August, along with many other unusual insects. The arrival even made the national press.

The eggs were laid on broad-leaved everlasting pea which grows profusely on the clifftops. The six-week life cycle of this butterfly is continuous throughout the year, so we may see an emergence of adults in late September if weather permits, but it is not possible for them to repeat the cycle through the winter.

I caught a brief glimpse of a female before being submerged beneath a pile of camera-toting twitchers, but for the record here's a photo taken in Rhodes a couple of years ago, in more familiar surroundings (note the pea leaves behind).

Also just for the record, here's a selection of sundry pics taken this summer, mostly without the tedium of commentary.

I like woolly thistles. I shall devote the rest of my life to spreading their downy seeds.

After all the work done of the catastrophic disappearance of the once-common small tortoiseshells, can any of the experts now explain why they have returned this year in such profusion? Have they also flown across the water, or are they our recovering native population?  Will we again see them in sheds and garages in the winter?
[ Answer from BTO: This year’s boost for Small Tortoiseshells is probably due to three reasons. Firstly, the long period of dry, hot weather has been good for both butterflies and the flowering plants they feed on. Secondly, there may have been an influx of immigrant Small Tortoiseshells from the continent, benefitting from the warm weather and boosting our British population. Finally, it is possible that the parasitic fly Sturmia bella, which is thought to be a partial cause of the overall decline of Small Tortoiseshell, is at a low in its population cycle.]

 The undersides of some butterflies are unjustly ignored.

In other news......

Autumn gentians have appeared at Lydden, but I've not seen any autumn ladies' tresses yet.
[Stop press - news just in..... tresses seen on a lawn in Kingsdown.....]
Dwarf elder is in flower beside the A2 by Brenley Corner.
In common with many plants, sea heath seems to have had a good year, with its patches beneath Shakespeare Cliff seemingly doubled in size. The climb up to see it is, however, getting more difficult [it's your age!]

And on the bird front, there's been lots of interesting migrants (all of which I have missed) and although a visit to Oare ticked my first UK cattle egret.....
...I failed to see the long-staying Bonaparte's gull. Oare is lovely in the late summer sunshine, although when I shared my affection for the place to a passing birder he replied "not much about though". Good grief, man.


jelltex said...

I counted eight Small Tortoisells last night just outside our kitchen window. The huge numbers of painted ladies has been wonderful, as has the many peacocks. The blues have been maginificent this year, with Common Blues very common indeed.

The only downside really has been the almost total lack of Commas. I think I have seen 5 this year in total.

Michele said...

What an impressive photo collection of butterflies! Happy Summer to you!