Saturday, 18 April 2009

Fluttering by on a Sunny Day

Already this year is looking like being a better year for butterflies than last year. I've seen Red Admirals, Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells (almost totally absent last year), Commas, Large and Small Whites and Brimstones before today.

This afternoon I decided to take a gentle stroll down to the old tram way, below the NT White Cliffs car park. On the way down I had a brief view of a male Ring Ouzel, as it disappeared into the thick undergrowth in a gully. There were a lot of both Small and Large Whites around, with the occasional glimpse of an Orange-tip, a butterfly that seems to be continuously on the move.

Small Copper

The old tramway has two great assets on a day like today. It is sheltered, so the cold northerly wind has little affect and it has lots of Wayfarer Trees. The tiny flowers on this shrubs have a great draw for butterflies as they have some of the earliest nectar available. One one bush I found three small Coppers.

The Small Copper will have three broods in a year if the weather is good, but the first broods are particularly bright. One of the ones I saw was continually vibrating, presumably to attract a mate. It seem quite early to me to see Small Coppers, I normally think of them being out in May, but the "micro climate" on this warm slope, with the White Cliffs on one side and the concrete desert of the docks parking area on the other may help to speed them up.

Wall Brown

Two Wall butterflies were chasing around. When the chase broke up one landed briefly in the sunshine, but soon flew off, just giving me long enough to get a record shot. Another early record.

Orange Tip

Orange-tips have been flying for a while, but that's the problem they always seem to be flying. Once again it was the Wayfarer Tree to the rescue. This one found it irresistible and stopped for a while to feed.

From this angle you can see the wonderful dappled pattern on the under-wing, making it really difficult to see when the wings are closed. The female doesn't have the orange tips to the wings, so this pattern on the underside is a good identification character. HWile I was watching the butterflies I could here recently arrived Whitethroats and Lesser Whitethroats singing in the scrub, but today was the butteflies day.


Steve Gale said...

Enjoyed the buttterfly photo-fest Tony. I love Orange-tips. I cannot make my mind up whether I prefer their upperwing surfaces, or underwing surfaces. And such a contrast.

Kingsdowner said...

Good choice of location yesterday!
Nice pics of the butterflies, and a good early sighting of the Wall...they seem to be increasing in this area?

Tony Morris said...

I don't see that many Walls Steve, this is just a very good place for them. The Blues should be out soon, and Dingy Skippers, I photographed them on the 25th last year.