Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Is it a Moth or a Butterfly? Is there a difference?

Last year I photographed a Dingy Skipper on April 23rd. This year I was just one day earlier.

The colony at Landon Cliffs is on the short grass on the Tramway above the port. Today I was surprised to find the first one I saw only about 20 yards down the path form the NT car park.

At the bottom on the path I saw at least five more. I must admit that I find them difficult to follow by eye. They are small and I suddenly loose them against the background of the mixed grasses.The skippers are the most moth like of the Butterflies and emphasise that the division into these two groups is rather artificial. The clubbed antennae is a common feature of the groups of Lepidoptera that we call butterflies.

All the individuals I saw had small subtle differences in the patterns on the wings. They were all in perfect condition and had presumably not be out for many days. Alan Cooper saw his first here on April 11th, a sign that butterflies are early this year and with luck we will have a much better year than the last two.

I saw my first Small Heath of the year, but after a quick, partly obscured "snap" I failed to get a decent photograph.

Having said how moth like Dingy Skippers are, the converse could be said about Common Heath Moths, not related to the Small Heath Butterfly above these moth are members of the Geometridae family and do not have clubbed antennae. The males, have "feathered" antennae and the females are plain.

Looking back to last year I see that I said that they always have a knack of being obscured, and both of the specimens above landed amongst the grass stems and never in the open.

While I was waiting, unsuccessfully, for a Lesser Whitethroat to stop creeping about in side a bush and sit out for it's photo, this tiny moth landed in front of me. It's a Small Purple-barred, and each wing is only about 9mm long. They are on the wing up until August, but at home I've only caught three, all in July. They fly in sunshine and are active at night as well.

There were a lot of Rabbits around today. They play an important role in keeping the grass short and the invasive scrub under check. A good management tool, that seems to be flourishing here despite the fact that myxomatosis is still around. The Rabbit is native to south-west Europe and was introduced to Britain by the Normans.


Susan said...

As I am sure you know, the French name for the Dingy Skipper is le Point-de-Hongrie. I assume this is after the eponymous parquet flooring pattern. I love the subtle but rich shades of brown on these little butterflies.

(And my understanding is that there is no consistent taxonomical reason for the division between moths and butterflies, merely an historical convention of convenience.)

Tony Morris said...

Thank you Susan, I didn't know the French name, I love to live and learn, too many things and not enough time though|!

Anonymous said...

You`re right about how difficult it is to follow the Skippers once they`re airborn. You need eyes like an hawk.

An excellent and interesting post, Tony.

Tony Morris said...

Dean, I thought it was because old age is getting to me, my senses are beginning to fail!

Jill said...

Dear Tony, Lovely to see the Dingy Skippers at Langdon I was there on Tuesday trying to work out where you were seeing all the butterflies you did the other day too. I have to admit I failed miserably. Now you've shown there are Dingy skippers too I'll have to go back! We always check your blog daily and enjoy so much your posts. Take care now, Jill

Tony Morris said...

Jill, e-mail me if you want details of how to get to the site.