The earlier pictures were taken on my wee compact Canon ixus 970IS, which involved sneaking up on the butterflies. This can be very frustrating when they fly off, but very rewarding when they don't!

Since 2012 I have been using a Panasonic Lumix FZ150, which allows me to zoom in to the butterflies from a couple of metres away.



Wednesday, 17 January 2018

East Lothian Butterflies 2017 - Part 1

2017 was a strange year for butterflies. It started off reasonably well, but the summer butterflies were rather disappointing. Luckily there was a late autumn resurgence of Speckled Woods and Red Admirals, which boosted the overall number of butterflies seen.
We had a good spring in 2017 after a mild winter with only one dusting of snow. From the end of March until mid-June we had decent weather, but then we had a period of very heavy rain. This seemed to impact on many species of butterflies (and I am told some species of birds). Certainly I saw a batch of Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars wiped out by the rain in June and also an enormous group of Peacock caterpillars perished after three days of continuous rain in July.
This year, we had more people than ever sending in records. This has given a bit of a false impression of the number of butterflies that there were around. One thing I noticed this year was that there were very few records of large numbers of butterflies being seen.
I have looked back over the last five years' worth of records and noticed a worrying trend in that the number of butterflies per sighting has been steadily reducing each year.
Below is a summary of how each species did in 2017.

Peacock, Aglais io
A really early sighting this year, the first Peacock record I received was on 16th January on an unusually warm and sunny day. They were recorded every month through to November, with numbers peaking towards the end of August. Peacocks did reasonably well this year, unlike the Small Tortoiseshell, which has a very similar life cycle.

Small Tortoiseshell, Aglais urticae
The first Small Tortoiseshell was spotted on 25th January. They had a very poor year this year and despite the record number of butterfly records sent in, we had our lowest number of Small Tortoiseshells recorded for five years. What I found interesting is that the first Small Tortoiseshell recorded hibernating was on 17 August, only a couple of weeks after it must have emerged. More hardy Small Tortoiseshells were seen flying until 14th September.

Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta
The first Red Admiral recorded was on 9th March. I would speculate that this was an individual that had spent the winter here. They were seen every month after that right through to December, with numbers peaking in September. This was our most commonly recorded butterfly this year, and it did very well all over the UK. This is a butterfly that only a few years ago was considered as a migrant, but which has now firmly established itself here.

Comma, Polygonia c-album
The first record of a Comma this year was on 12th March. The Comma has never been a particularly common butterfly in East Lothian. Since first being recorded here in 2001 their numbers have picked up each year, peaking in 2015. For some reason 2016 was a terrible year for them and in 2017 there have been a few more seen, but still worryingly low numbers.

Green-veined White, Pieris napi
The first Green-veined White was recorded this year on 1st April. They seemed to have a fairly average year, but I think in reality numbers were lower than usual (given that we had more people recording butterflies). Certainly, the number recorded on the transects was lower than average.

Orange Tip, Anthocharis cardamines
The Orange Tip was first recorded on 6th April. The number recorded was a little higher than average, as expected. The adult stage of this butterfly usually flies between April and mid June, so they missed the terrible weather just after that.

Speckled Wood, Pararge aegeria
The first Speckled Wood was seen on 8th April. There are generally three peaks in population of adult Speckled Woods throughout the year. Possibly the first to appear had spent the winter as a chrysalis. The second peak, in June, could be those that spent the winter as caterpillars. This year the number of records received in June was much greater than in previous years, but the later generation was not so spectacular, although there were a great number of records received in late September, making this the second most numerous butterfly recorded in East Lothian in 2017.

Small White, Pieris rapae
The Small White was also first recorded on 8th April. I think that the Small White is generally a little unrecorded, as it is difficult to identify unless it lands. 2017 started off reasonably well for the Small White with normal numbers being seen in the spring. However, the summer generation was very reduced, presumably as a result of the heavy rain during June and July.

Large White, Pieris brassicae
The Large White would normally follow a similar pattern to the Small White. The first record for 2017 was on 8th April and thereafter the Large White had a fairly average year. More were recorded this year than the previous three years, but remember there were more people recording them. Why the Small White struggled and the Large White didn't appear to be affected by the weather is a mystery to me!

Wall Brown, Lasiommata megera
The Wall Brown was one of 2017's success stories. First recorded here in 2010 the Wall Brown has since been spreading westwards around the coast and to several inland sites. In 2017 the first record was on 20th April and the first generation continued to be seen until  3rd June. The second generation started on 5th August and it was recorded through to the 19th September in much greater numbers than in previous years.

Small Copper, Lycaena phlaeas
The Small Copper has been fairly consistent in East Lothian over the last five years. 2017 wasn't very different from the average. 
I will continue with the remaining 12 species in my next post.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Corfu Butterflies II - July 2017

On 1st July I decided to walk up the hill behind our villa. For the first one and a half kilometres I walked along a narrow road and then tracks through olive groves and past houses. I only saw a Meadow Brown and a Skipper while I was walking this section, which didn't bode well!

However, I then turned up a track past a tumbled down farm house and as I left the olive groves, I immediately started seeing great numbers of butterflies. First off, in the shade of some trees were what I think were some Southern Graylings, Hipparchia aristaeus.

In this same area there were also a couple of Meadow Browns, Maniola jurtina.

High up on a banking of brambles, there was a Silver Washed Fritillary, Argynnis paphia, and a Sage Skipper, Syrinthus proto.

As soon as I was back out into the light there were Wall Browns, Lasiommata megera, all along the track.

Among them were some Large Wall Browns, Lasiommata maera, which interestingly were smaller than the Wall Browns here.

The Wall Browns were out-numbered by Balkan Marbled Whites, Melanargia larissa, but here they seemed lighter in colour than those I had seen on the other side of Mount Pantokrator.

I was really thrilled to see a couple of Spotted Fritillaries, Melitaea didyma, on a sunny spot on the track. I spent some time watching them and they kindly stayed still for photographs feeding on yellow thistles.


A little further up the track I saw a Wood White, Leptidea sinapis. Unfortunately, it wouldn't come out into the sun, so it was impossible to get a picture of it without a shadow over the wings.

While I was watching them I photographed a little skipper, which I later identified as a Lulworth Skipper, Thymelicus acteon. There were also several more Sage Skippers higher up the track.

I walked as far as a saddle in the hill where I could see down to the coast on both sides of the island.

It was lovely being in amongst so many butterflies. The Wall Browns and Balkan Marbled Whites continued to be the most common, but there were plenty of other butterflies including Large Whites, Pieris brassicae, Brimstones, Gonepteryx rhamni, Scarce Swallowtails, Iphiclides podalirius, and Small Heaths, Coenonympha pamphilus.

A few days later I walked up there again, but towards the top of the hill I took a different track. This lead me into a wooded area, which was full of Eastern Rock Graylings, Hipparchia syriaca, and various other species, sheltering from the hot sunshine. I spotted a pair of Speckled Woods, Pararge aegeria, on a tree trunk and on the undersides of leaves there were Meadow Browns, Silver Washed Fritillaries and Purple Hairstreaks, Quercusia quercus.

Again, the most numerous butterflies were the Balkan Marbled Whites and Wall Browns. There were a lot more Spotted Fritillaries on this track, including this one with unusual markings.


There were also Sage Skippers, Common Blues, Polyommatus icarus, Long-tailed Blues, Lampides boeticusSmall Heaths and Meadow Browns and I was thrilled to see this Eastern Bath White, Pontia edusa.

Further down the track I saw some Southern White Admirals, Limenitis reducta. They were all quite active, flying from tree to tree, so didn't offer many chances to photograph them.

However, there were so many other butterflies flying around. Corfu has to be one of the best places I have been for butterflies.

I saw a total of 38 species, with 11 of them being species I hadn't seen before. It was very apparent that there were very few butterflies in the olive groves, but they were very abundant elsewhere.

Initially, I found it very difficult to find out anything about which butterflies occur on Corfu, but then I found the Corfu Butterflies and Moths Facebook page. This lists 86 species for the island, but some of those species have only been recorded once or twice.

There is also a book, Butterflies of Corfu, which I managed to obtain a copy of. I think that it is not generally available outside Greece. This book lists 69 species, which I think is closer to the number of butterflies that regularly are seen on Corfu.

So, yet another place I would love to go back to. The island itself is lovely, the people are just so friendly and of course there are plenty of butterflies!

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Mount Pantokrator, Corfu - Butterflies

On 29 June I drove up to the top of Mount Pantokrator. At 906 metres, it is the highest point in Corfu. When I arrived I was surprised to find that I was the only person there, but I was quite pleased, as there was very little room to turn the car around!

The top of the mountain is a mass of masts and satellite dishes and there were great views across Corfu and over to Albania. I had read that Southern Swallowtails, Papilio alexanor, have often been seen there, but unfortunately I didn't see any that day. I was pretty windy up there, so not idea for butterflies.

However, on the way up there I had spotted a track leading off the road with bushes on either side. I stopped the car and thought I should take a look. Despite the wind, or maybe because of it, there were hundreds of butterflies in this more sheltered area.

As I walked through the grass on this overgrown track, butterflies flew up ahead of me. I was delighted to see a Balkan Marbled White, Melanargia larissa, and then another.

These were the most common butterflies along the track.

There were also quite a few Brown Argus, Aricia agestis, in the grass...

... along with some Common Blues, Polyommatus icarus.

In an Evergreen Oak I saw some little hairstreaks. I was able to identify them later as Ilex Hairstreaks, Satyrium ilicis. I also found out that the Ilex Hairstreak shares it name with the scientific name for the Evergreen Oak, Quercus ilex.

A little further along the track was a more open grassy area where I found a small colony of Small Skippers, Thymelicus sylvestris.

Walking back along the track, I saw a Silver-washed Fritillary, Argynnis paphia.

On the other side of the road I noticed another track leading up-hill, so I thought it would be worth exploring. Almost immediately an orange butterfly flew up and dropped down below the track. I scrambled down and tried to circle where I thought it had landed and I was over the moon to see that it was a Southern Comma, Polygonia egea. This was the only one I saw on my holiday.

There were fewer butterflies on the dry part of this track, but I did see a Small Copper, Lycaena phlaeas.

Further along the track it became more overgrown and lush. There continued to be a lot of Balkan Marbled Whites and a few Wall Browns, Lasiommata megera.

There were occasional Clouded Yellows, Colias crocea ...

... Large Whites, Pieris brassicae ...

... and Swallowtails, Papilio machaon.

There were also Small Whites, Pieris rapae, Cleopatras, Gonepteryx cleopatra, and Brimstones, Gonepteryx rhamni, but they were all too quick for me to take a photo of them.

In the most shaded end of the track, just before it became totally impenetrable I found some Purple Hairstreaks, Quercusia quercus, enjoying the shade.

A little further down the road, on my return journey, I spotted a gate just next to where the road crossed a bridge. I thought that I may see some different butterflies in this shaded spot, so stopped the car for a quick look. These gates turned out to be the gateway to butterfly heaven! Just beyond the trees the track opened out into a lovely meadow, with a terraced vineyard to one side. It was all a little overgrown and covered with wild flowers.

I could see butterflies flying around everywhere I looked. The most numerous was the Balkan Marbled White.

There were Cleopatras feeding on lovely pink wild flowers.

Brimstones and Large Whites were doing the same, all in large numbers.

Occasionally a Great Banded Grayling, Brintesia circe, would fly up from rocky or more open areas of soil.

I was thrilled to see a Southern White Admiral, Limenitis reducta, flying along the trees at the edge of the meadow, but I was unable to catch up with it. However, it did lead me to a Wood White, Leptidea sinapis.

Interspersed among the butterflies above, were Clouded Yellows, Common Blues, Silver-washed Fritillaries, Wall Browns, Small Skippers and Brown Argus. I spent ages just watching the butterflies, amazed by how many there were there!

As I watched, I kept seeing the occasional Southern White Admiral. They were always heading to one particular point, so I went and stood there to see if it came back. I spotted a Purple Hairstreak in the trees and as I was trying to photograph it a Southern White Admiral landed on a branch next to it.


What a delight. This was the butterfly that I really wanted to see on this holiday.