For previous years' lists and commentaries, often incomplete, click 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009; 2008;
2007; 2006; 2005; 2004; 2003; 2002; 2001. I seem to have
lost the file for 2000.
Some of my friends also keep, or have kept, online year-lists. Tim Cowles,
living in the Monts du Lyonnais, publishes his list HERE
and Matthew Rowlings, who lives not far from me in Vevey, Switzerland,
has his HERE.
Both of these seem to have let their lists slip recently, but another
friend, Robin Fox, in Italy, keeps a regularly updated sightings diary HERE.
SCROLL DOWN for the 2016 CHECKLIST or use the menu below to jump to the
COMMENTARY for each month.
FOR THE YEAR 2017
Queen of Spain fritillary (Issoria lathonia) - 21st January - Valais
Red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) - 29th January - Valais
Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) - 2nd February - Vaud
Speckled wood (Pararge aegeria) - 15th February - Cantabria
Peacock (Inachis io) - 15th February - Cantabria
Large white (Pieris brassicae) - 15th February - Cantabria
Small white (Pieris rapae) - 15th February - Cantabria
Geranium bronze (Cacyreus marshalli) - 18th February - Málaga
Monarch (Danaus plexippus) - 18th February - Málaga
Southern common blue (Polyommatus celina) - 18th February - Málaga
Spanish festoon (Zerynthia rumina) - 18th February - Málaga
Painted lady (Vanessa cardui) - 18th February - Málaga
Western Bath white (Pontia daplidice) - 18th February - Málaga
Clouded yellow (Colias crocea) - 18th February - Málaga
Green-striped white (Euchloe belemia) - 18th February - Málaga
Wall (Lasiommata megera) - 18th February - Málaga
Long-tailed blue (Lampides boeticus) - 18th February - Málaga
Swallowtail (Papilio machaon) - 18th February - Málaga
Iberian scarce swallowtail (Iphiclides feisthameli) - 18th February - Málaga
Provence hairstreak (Tomares ballus) - 18th February - Málaga
Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) - 11th March - Valais
Large tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros) - 11th March - Valais
Comma (Nymphalis c-album) - 11th March - Valais
Eastern Bath white (Pontia edusa) - 11th March - Valais
Holly blue (Celastrina argiolus) - 25th March - North Italy
Nettle tree butterfly (Libythea celtis) - 25th March - North Italy
Green hairstreak (Callophrys rubi) - 25th March - North Italy
Wood white (Leptidea sinapis) - 25th March - North Italy
Orange tip (Anthocharis cardamines) - 25th March - North Italy
Camberwell beauty (Nymphalis antiopa) - 25th March - North Italy
Southern small white (Pieris mannii) - 29th March - Valais
Green-veined white (Pieris napi) - 29th March - Valais
Southern grizzled skipper (Pyrgus malvoides) - 29th March - Valais
Dingy skipper (Erynnis tages) - 31st March - Valais
Scarce swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius) - 31st March - Valais
Grizzled skipper (Pyrgus malvae) - 1st April - Vaud
Baton blue (Scolitantides baton) - 3rd April - Valais
Violet fritillary (Boloria dia) - 3rd April - Valais
De Prunner's ringlet (Erebia triaria) - 3rd April - Valais
Berger's clouded yellow (Colias alfacariensis) - 3rd April - Valais
Small heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) - 21st April - Vaud
Green-underside blue(Glaucopsyche alexis) - 22nd April - Valais
Adonis blue (Polyommatus bellargus) - 22nd April - Valais
Spotted fritillary (Melitaea didyma) - 22nd April - Valais
Glanville fritillary (Melitaea cinxia) - 22nd April - Valais
Rosy grizzled skipper (Pyrgus onopordi) - 22nd April - Valais
Safflower skipper (Pyrgus carthami) - 22nd April - Valais
Osiris blue (Cupido osiris) - 22nd April - Valais
Chapman's blue (Polyommatus thersites) - 22nd April - Valais
Turquoise blue (Polyommatus dorylas) - 22nd April - Valais
Provençal short-tailed blue (Cupido alcetas) - 22nd April - Valais
Pearl-bordered fritillary (Clossiana euphrosyne) - 22nd April - Valais
Chequered blue (Scolitantides orion) - 23rd April - Valais
Little blue (Cupido minimus) - 23rd April - Valais
Common blue (Polyommatus icarus) - 23rd April - Valais
Nickerl's fritillary (Melitaea aurelia) - 29th April - Valais
Oberthür's grizzled skipper (Pyrgus armoricanus) - 29th April - Valais
Chequered skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon) - 29th April - Valais
Duke of Burgundy (Hamearis lucina) - 29th April - Valais
Sooty copper (Lycaena tityrus) - 30th April - Vaud
Short-tailed blue (Cupido argiades) - 30th April - Vaud
Red-underwing skipper (Spialia sertorius) - 9th May - Valais
Cardinal (Argynnis pandora) - 13th May - Valais
Iolas blue (Iolana iolas) - 13th May - Valais
Geranium argus (Aricia eumedon) - 13th May - Valais
Meadow fritillary (Melitaea parthenoides) - 16th May - Vaud
Black-veined white (Aporia crataegi) - 20th May - Valais
Apollo (Parnassius apollo) - 21st May - Valais
Northern wall (Lasiommata petropolitana) - 21st May - Valais
Olive skipper (Pyrgus serratulae) - 21st May - Valais
Mountain dappled white (Euchloe simplonia) - 21st May - Valais
Large wall (Lasiommata maera) - 25th May - Vaud
Marbled skipper (Carcharodus lavatherae) - 26th May - Valais
Meadow brown (Maniola jurtina) - 27th May - Geneva
Black hairstreak (Satyrium pruni) - 28th May - Geneva
Heath fritillary (Melitaea athalia) - 28th May - Geneva
Pearly heath (Coenonympha arcania) - 28th May - Geneva
Knapweed fritillary (Melitaea phoebe) - 28th May - Geneva
Large copper (Lycaena dispar) - 28th May - Geneva
Marbled fritillary (Brenthis daphne) - 28th May - Geneva
Reverdin's blue (Plebejus argyrognomon) - 28th May - Geneva
Brown argus (Aricia agestis) - 28th May - Geneva
Marsh fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia) - 29th May - Vaud
Violet copper (Lycaena helle) - 29th May - Vaud
Tufted marbled skipper (Carcharodus flocciferus) - 29th May - Vaud
False heath fritillary (Melitaea diamina) - 29th May - Vaud
Southern white admiral (Limenitis reducta) - 31st May - Valais
Ilex hairstreak (Satyrium ilicis) - 31st May - Valais
Marbled white (Melanargia galathea) - 31st May - Valais
Provençal fritillary (Melitaea deione bersalii) - 31st May - Valais
Large skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus) - 31st May - Valais
Northern brown argus (Aricia artaxerxes) - 31st May - Valais
Dark green fritillary (Argynnis aglaja) - 2nd June - Vaud
Essex skipper (Thymelicus lineola) - 2nd June - Vaud
White admiral (Limenitis camilla) - 3rd June - Geneva
Woodland brown (Lopinga achine) - 3rd June - Geneva
Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus) - 6th June - Vaud
Titania's fritillary (Clossiana titania) - 9th June - Vaud
Sloe hairstreak (Satyrium acaciae) - 10th June - Vaud
Mazarine blue (Cyaniris semiargus) - 10th June - Vaud
Lesser marbled fritillary (Brenthis ino) - 11th June - Vaud
Arran brown (Erebia ligea) - 13th June - Vaud
Great banded grayling (Brintesia circe) - 13th June - Vaud
Great sooty satyr (Satyrus ferula) - 16th June - Valais
Swiss zephyr blue (Plebejus trappi) - 16th June - Valais
Escher's blue (Polyommatus escheri) - 16th June - Valais
Rock grayling (Hipparchia hermione) - 17th June - Valais
Mountain green-veined white (Pieris bryoniae) - 17th June - Valais
Darwin's heath (Coenonympha gardetta darwiniana) - 17th June - Valais
Large chequered skipper (Heteropterus morpheus) - 17th June - North Italy
Purple-shot copper (Lycaena alciphron) - 17th June - North Italy
Silver-washed fritillary (Argynnis paphpia) - 17th June - North Italy
Hungarian glider (Neptis rivularis) - 17th June - North Italy
Lesser purple emperor (Apatura ilia) - 17th June - North Italy
Idas blue (Plebejus idas) - 17th June - North Italy
Mountain clouded yellow (Colias phicomone) - 18th June - Vaud
African grass blue (Zizeeria knysna) - 17th July - Córdoba
Sage skipper (Muschampia proto) - 18th July - Córdoba
Two-tailed pasha (Charaxes jasius) - 23rd July - Málaga
Dryad (Minois dryas) - 27th July - Vaud
Scotch argus (Erebia aethiops) - 27th July - Vaud
Purple emperor (Apatura iris) - 1st August - Valais
Brown hairstreak (Thecla betulae) - 4th September - Vaud
* Some recent books count gardetta and darwiniana
as different species, against the more general consensus they are
subspecies. Either way, they are very different butterflies (away from
the hybrid zones), so I include them both here. Commentary (Links in the
commentary are to pictures of the particular butterflies referred to)
Began the new year in Suffolk, UK. It rained much of today and
butterflies were definitely off the menu. Here are some dunlin feeding on the mudflats and here some turnstone on the sea wall in Woodbridge.
11th: It has been very cold and, more recently, snowy in Switzerland. This picture was taken at 22h00 this evening, under a nearly full moon.
13th: Another evening photo, with heavy snow falling.
14th: Still heavy snow. No possibility of butterflies.
15th: A buzzard circling in the mountains.
21st: Forecast temperatures at Martigny were for a minimum of – 8°C before dawn to a maximum of – 1°C
during the afternoon. Despite that, I went to look for Queen of Spain
fritillaries, as it was also forecast to be a lovely day. I set off
late, arriving at my first hotspot shortly after midday. Within a
minute of my arriving, a male Queen of Spain flipped up from the
vineyards, spun over the path, flashing silver as it went, checked out
the sunny bank and flew on. I waited a further 15 minutes there but no
more appeared. This
is the location. Then I checked my other hotspots, without success.
Finally, from 13h00 to 13h30 I waited at the first hotspot, still
without seeing any more. By this time, the chilly breeze that had
prevented the earlier Queen settling was stronger and it felt
intrinsically unlikely any more Queens would appear. I saw no lizards
and just a handful of flies during the walk.
29th: Another trip to the valley on a sunny day. This time, although I still (probably) only saw one Queen of Spain, I was able to photograph it. Here is another shot. The ambient temperature was about – 3° but it felt warmer in the sun. In some places there was lots of snow, in others it had mostly melted. The only other butterfly I saw was this red admiral, my first of the year.
2nd: The Föhn was blowing today. At lunchtime I saw a single small tortoiseshell fly past my house.
11th: Sunny in the Rhône Valley with hazy cloud increasing during the
day. My first Queen of Spain hotspot was quite windy and I saw just one
there, which checked out the exposed rock but didn't want to settle. My
next hotspot was well shaded and I photographed four different
individuals (here, here, here and here), probably seeing more in total. Here is a shot with two individuals basking not far from one another and here is an underside. No other butterflies were on the wing. I came back via the first hotspot, again seeing a single Queen of Spain, and then the Bulbocodium
fields. These were already in flower but no small tortoiseshells were
nectaring on them. A few bees were visiting them. Otherwise, firebugs
and lizards were to be seen on the walk; but there are no real signs
yet of the beginning of the season.
13th: Sunny in the mountains and a little hazy in the valley. No
butterflies were on the wing in Huémoz (I expected the odd small
tortoiseshell) but at a wintering hotspot a little lower down I found a
couple of red admirals zooming around, defending territories. They were
rarely basking and I only got this one, record shot. Nearby I found this brown hairstreak egg.
15th: Arrived by bus in Santander, Cantabria (Spain), this morning. On a sunny bank in town I found a speckled wood (and here)
sunning itself and nectaring at about 10h00. I found at least two more
at the same site later in the day, when large and small whites were
also zooming around, very seldom stopping. Elsewhere, in an urban park,
I saw two peacocks, and during the day spotted at least three red admirals in flight.
16th: Met my sister off the ferry from Portsmouth at 14h15, for drive
south to Córdoba but had time in morning to look for a few butterflies
in town. Saw some of the same as yesterday, including several speckled woods (and here), lots of small whites and a few red admirals (and here).
17th: Day in Córdoba. I saw a few whites here and there but we didn't
leave town or visit any real green spaces. It is a lovely, old town.
18th: Left for Málaga on the earliest bus, which unfortunately didn't
get me there until 11h15. On the way south the weather seemed to get
worse and worse, with thickening cloud and mist, but suddenly as we
approached Málaga itself everything cleared and it was hot when we
arrived. I began my butterfly search by looking for African grass
blues. It seems too early still for this, as I found none despite
thorough searching (on my way back, too). But I did see a couple of geranium bronzes (and here) in the usual grass blue sites. Then suddenly a pair of monarchs
gliding majestically high up caught my eye. One landed very briefly and
I got a record shot but I didn't get any half decent shots until I came
back the same way later in the day. here, here and here
are three shots of the same monarch. In total I saw eight of them,
including one mating pair in flight. Apart from the one, none were
interested in posing for pictures and even that one was not very
cooperative! I saw my first of many clouded yellow
in the same place - these were reasonably frequent all day. I left the
town and headed for the hills, photographing this presumed female Polyommatus celina - presumed because I am fairly confident this is a male celina and they were at the same place. Later I photographed this underside, which might also be celina - I'm not sure if icarus flies here too. As I climbed up towards my hilltopping site I got this record shot of a Bath white and my first Spanish festoon of the day. I saw about three festoons in total. Hilltopping were red admirals, painted ladies, green-striped whites, western dappled whites, long-tailed blues, walls, swallowtails and southern scarce swallowtails (and here).
I saw a single small tortoiseshell heading off down the hill. Leaving
the hilltoppers, which were so active it was almost impossible to
photograph them, I set off to look for Provence hairstreak. I wasn't
sure if this would be on the wing here yet but was delighted to find at
least two individuals - here and here. All in all, it was a wonderful day in the hills, capped by the monarchs in town.
23rd: A few small tortoiseshells drifting around Huémoz banks during my short, mid-morning walk.
25th: Very cold in the mountains but sunny, with snow still on the
roads. I waited until 11h00 to cycle down the hill, but even then it
was freezing on the hands. In my usual wintering spots in the valley
about half a dozen Queen of Spain fritillaries were flying, upwards of 20 small tortoiseshells and a couple of red admirals.
26th: Sunny in Huémoz for much of the day, with episodes of clouds.
Small tortoiseshells were flying freely over all the grassy areas.
March 2nd: Small tortoiseshells were on the wing in Huémoz.
5th-7th: Heavy snow returned.
10th: Peacock flying over the meadows near my house after school.
12th: Last year on 12th March I set off along the Rhône Valley in
search of large tortoiseshells. Then, I found none at my first site so
headed further east in the afternoon to a second site, where I found
the species. So today I headed directly for the second site, arriving
at about 11h00. No large tortoiseshells. In fact, no butterflies at all
except a handful of brimstones doing circuits along a track and up a
hillside. Here is a grey wagtail by the water. In the afternoon I went back to last year's first site and soon found my first large tortoiseshell (and here).
This one didn't bask at all, but further along I found several more -
at least 4 in total but probably more - some of which were prepared to open up (and here) The problem was, they were constantly being harassed by the many small tortoiseshells at the site. Small tortoiseshells and brimstones were nectaring on sallow catkins (and here, and here with a passenger).
There were lots of brimstones - usually several nectaring on the same
tree at once and always one or two roding along the track. Other
species seen were a couple of Queen of Spain fritillaries, several commas and a single eastern Bath white, Pontia edusa.
I left before 15h00 because I had a lot of work to do back home. As I
left, things were apparently beginning to hot up. Roll on the clock
13th: After a cloudy start it was a warm day. Although I had to spend
it working I did see several small tortoiseshells on my lunchtime
14th: Warm again - small tortoiseshells flying.
15th: Intermittently cloudy and sunny. I saw three brimstones as I
cycled into school at lunchtime, as well as one each of small
tortoiseshell and red admiral during the day.
16th-17th: Sunny. Small tortoiseshells in Huémoz and a few brimstones seen as I cycled into work on both days.
19th: Mostly cloudy. This is (I believe) the remains of a silver-washed fritillary pupa (and here),
found on honeysuckle while looking for white admiral caterpillars. The
honeysuckle is coming into leaf throughout the wood. Here is a white admiral caterpillar, probably on his first sortie outside the hibernaculum.
25th: Up early and off to Italy, arriving at Domodossola shortly after
10h00, in the hope of nettle tree butterflies, green hairstreaks and
maybe chequered blues. Despite a good forecast, it was in fact cloudy
almost all day, with sunny intervals of a few minutes at a time. As I
cycled to my first nettle tree spot I saw brimstones and small whites.
At the site, I initially saw only large tortoiseshells, flying despite
the cloud - this was the commonest species of the day (a large tortoiseshell from my second site). Then a first holly blue put in an appearance, then a wall, and then finally I spotted this nettle tree butterfly in a nettle tree, sihouetted agains the sky. Suddenly, the sun came out and I got this shot
with the light coming through. Throughout the rest of the day I saw
nettle-tree butterflies here and there in the brief sunny intervals.
There were no good photo opportunities but here, here and here are some more shots. Green hairstreaks (and here, and here)
were also flying in the sunny spells, disappearing as if by magic when
the clouds came over. The full species list was: small white,
brimstone, orange tip, wood white, small copper,
green hairstreak, holly blue, nettle-tree butterfly, large
tortoiseshell, Camberwell beauty (I put up the same individual twice
during a long cloudy spell but never saw where it landed) small
tortoiseshell, peacock, comma, wall.
27th: Small tortoiseshells flying around Huémoz.
29th: Working in morning but cycled down to valley in afternoon.
Southern small whites are now flying, as well as small whites and
green-veined whites - here are both species in one picture. Southern grizzled skippers are now on the wing (and here).
Also seen were: brimstone, orange tip, holly blue, comma, small
tortoiseshell, large tortoiseshell, peacock, Queen of Spain and
30th: I had time after school to check the woods, now the evenings are
lighter. Some of the sallow is in leaf so I scanned for any first signs
of purple emperor feeding. High up one, some 7-8m off the ground, I
spotted this clump of nibbled leaves with a caterpillar
resting on his seat leaf. I named him Kyle (South Park characters for
the 2016-7 season!). He's not going to be easy to follow, at that
height, but I hope to find more before long.
31st: A trip to the valley, where despite haze and a strong wind I was able to find 21 species: swallowtail and scarce swallowtail, small, green-veined, eastern Bath and wood whites, orange tip (and here, rudely intruding on a pair of mating beetles), brimstone, clouded yellow, green hairstreak, holly blue, Queen of Spain (and here), comma, large tortoiseshell (and here, a different individual), small tortoiseshell, peacock, Camberwell beauty, red admiral, speckled wood, dingy skipper and grizzled skipper.
Probably the commonest butterfly of the day was orange tip, though I
saw no females. Large tortoiseshells are common too, and I saw
Camberwell beauties at both sites I visited. In the morning, eastern
Bath whites were zooming around non-stop while the weather was still
reasonably good. By mid-afternoon it was predominantly overcast and by
16h00 I headed home.
1st: Grizzled skipper (malvae, rather than malvoides) in my local woods. Here is a slightly better picture of Kyle, the purple emperor caterpillar, than I was able to get the other day.
3rd: A trip to the valley. New for the year were violet fritillary and baton blue.
There were quite a lot of violet fritillaries about and at least three
baton blues. I also saw a single Berger's clouded yellow and a single
de Prunner's ringlet, both year firsts. Neither stopped for a picture.
I was surprised not to find any chequered blues yet, nor mallow
skippers. Other species flying were: swallowtail, scarce swallowtail,
small white, green-veined white, southern small white, wood white,
eastern Bath white, orange tip, brimstone, clouded yellow, holly blue, green hairstreak, small tortoiseshell, large tortoiseshell, Camberwell beauty, peacock, comma, speckled wood, southern grizzled skipper, dingy skipper. 4th: Found a second purple emperor caterpillar,
in a part of the woods I regularly search but where I have never found
one before. I have called him Mr Mackey. Although I didn't even touch
the branch and did my best not to disturb him, he stopped feeding and
retreated to his resting position when he became aware of me. 6th-7th: Back in Suffolk, in the UK, the weather is mild and butterflies are on the wing. Today and yesterday I saw plenty of orange tips in the garden, male and female (and here),
as well as a few holly blues, commas, peacocks and a brimstone. Today
the first small white drifted through. Yesterday, on a cycle ride to
the coast, I also saw red admiral, small tortoiseshell and speckled wood. This peacock
was taken on blackthorn in local woods. I was surprised not to see any
small coppers but I am sure they will be on the wing any day now. 8th: An evening trip to local woods. Lots of commas (and here) and peacocks (and here) were sparring for the best sunspots. 9th:
Had a quick look in the morning to see if any green hairstreaks had
emerged yet. I didn't see any. Orange tips are everywhere, as well as
commas, peacocks and now a few small whites too. Holly blues are easy
to find but so far I have not seen one settle. Here is a blue tit. 11th: A holly blue in our Suffolk garden (and here).
18th: Back in Switzerland, here is Mr Mackey,
now in his 4th instar. If he keeps going at this rate he will be flying
in early to mid-June! But it's much colder now so things might well
slow down. Here is a new caterpillar I found this evening - Timmy (and here). It was too dark to find Kyle by the time I got there.
21st: It has been sunny but very cold for the last few days. Today at
lunchtime a Berger's clouded yellow was flying, as well as this green-veined white and a few small heaths, new for the year.
22nd: First trip to the Rhône Valley since my return to Switzerland.
Almost as soon as I got out of the train I saw my first green-underside
blue of the year, closely followed by my first Adonis blue. Unsurprisingly, many firsts for the year followed: Chapman's blue (locally very common), turquoise blue (just this pair, which I first spotted courting and here), Provençal short-tailed blue (a few), Osiris blue (locally common), Glanville fritillary (generally common), spotted fritillary (locally common), pearl-bordered fritillary (just one seen), rosy grizzled skipper, safflower skipper. Hibernators are still on the wing, with Camberwell beauty (and here),
comma, large tortoiseshell, small tortoiseshell, brimstone and peacock
all out in reasonable numbers. The full list for the day was: scarce swallowtail,
small white, green-veined white, southern small white, eastern Bath
white, orange tip, wood white, brimstone, Berger's clouded yellow,
green hairstreak (small numbers everywhere), small copper
(surprisingly, just a couple), green-underside blue, holly blue, Adonis blue, Chapman's blue, turquoise blue, baton blue,
Provençal short-tailed blue, Queen of Spain fritillary, pearl-bordered
fritillary, Glanville fritillary, spotted fritillary, large
tortoiseshell, small tortoiseshell, peacock, comma, Camberwell beauty,
red admiral, speckled wood, wall, de Prunner's ringlet, small heath, southern grizzled skipper, rosy grizzled skipper, safflower skipper, dingy skipper.
23rd: I had to be at a meeting in Montreux until after 13h00 and was
held up on the train by a signal failure after that, so couldn't get
very far along the Rhône Valley this afternoon. In a vineyard walk I
saw my first little blue
of the year, as well as walls, lots of Glanville fritillaries, Queen of
Spain fritillaries and a few dingy skippers. I then spent about an hour
at a mud patch, watching common blues (my first of the year, as the ones in Spain were celina), turquoise blues, green-underside blues (and here and here), Provençal short-tailed blues (this individual is apparently exuding waste or water from the tip of its abdomen), holly blues, wood whites, scarce swallowtails and a few more Queens of Spain and dingy skippers. It was late in the day but still warm.
29th: After two days of snow it was still very cold this morning. I
cycled down the hill at 09h30 and by the time I reached Aigle my hands
were numb. We headed off to a site in Valais at about 900m, arriving
shortly after 11h00. It was still cold and very little was flying -
some speckled woods and a few roding orange tips. By midday it had
warmed up considerably and during the afternoon more and more took to
the wing. Four species were new for the year: Nickerl's fritillary (a couple of males - here is another shot), Oberthür's grizzled skipper (quite common - and here), chequered skipper (just one seen) and Duke of Burgundy (just that female). Other species were: swallowtail, scarce swallowtail, small white, green-veined white, Eastern Bath white, brimstone, Berger's clouded yellow, small copper, Adonis blue, little blue, Provençal short-tailed blue, holly blue, green-underside blue, Glanville fritillary, Queen of Spain fritillary, pearl-bordered fritillary, comma, large tortoiseshell, peacock, red admiral, small heath, southern grizzled skipper and dingy skipper. Here are a male and female orange tip and here a female rejecting a male's advances.
30th: Worked at home in the morning but cycled to a local 'tails' site
in the afternoon to look for short-tailed blues. There were plenty of Provençal short-tailed blues (this female laying on medick, and here - here is a male) and also common and Chapman's blues, but initially no short-tailed. Sooty coppers were on the wing (and here, and here). Here is a swallowtail and here a scarce swallowtail. Finally, a single, female short-tailed blue flew through, pausing briefly for that photo before moving on, over a hedge and out of the meadow.
May 5th: I am currently following five purple emperor caterpillars, named this
season after South Park characters. I checked on them all today. They
are: Mr Mackey (he has been in fourth instar some weeks and should enter 5th very soon), Timmy (also fourth instar, but a little younger), Wendy (third instar, currently laid up for shedding her skin), Stan (fourth instar for some weeks now - that picture was taken two days ago - here he is today) and Mr Garrison
(fourth instar - that picture also from two days ago - he was still
there today). It was sunny today. Brimstones, orange tips, wood whites,
speckled woods, peacocks and pearl-bordered fritillaries were all
flying in the woods.
9th: Took a trip after school to see if cardinals and iolas blues were
flying yet. It was sunny but windy and late in the day so perhaps not
surprising I saw no cardinals. No iolas blues either. The bladder senna
was not really in flower yet - no more than a few flowers on any bushes
- so I think it is still too early for this species. I did see my first
red-underwing skipper of the year, as well as turquoise blue, common blue, green hairstreak, Provençal short-tailed blue, Adonis blue, holly blue, wood white, Queen of Spain fritillary, wall and safflower skipper.
13th: A trip to the valley for cardinals and Iolas blues. It was sunny when I arrived at my first cardinal site and I saw a single male (and here),
which stayed just long enough for those record shots. As clouds were
brewing I moved to my second site but it was overcast by the time I got
there. At first, all that was flying were a swallowtail,
a turquoise blue, a wood white and a couple of Berger's clouded
yellows. I couldn't find any Iolas blues on the bladder senna. Then, by
a stroke of luck, I found a single, female Iolas blue perched out in the open (and here, and here). Here is an underside shot,
after she moved and settled on some rocks. It was still overcast so I
moved further up the valley to where sun was forecast, visiting two
different sites. Camberwell beauties (and here) are still on the wing, but rather tatty now. This is my first geranium argus of the year. There were no Provençal fritillaries but plenty of Queen of Spain fritillaries and a single Glanville. For the skippers, I saw southern grizzled, safflower and dingy. Eastern Bath whites were common, as were wood whites. Other species were: red admiral, comma, peacock, speckled wood, green-underside blue, turquoise blue, Adonis blue,
Provençal short-tailed blue, common blue, Chapman's blue, swallowtail
and scarce swallowtail. There were a few small heaths over the meadows
and brimstones drifting up and down near the woods.
16th: First properly sunny and warm lunchtime walk for ages. Meadow fritillaries (and here) are now flitting over the meadows, though I only saw males today.
20th: Saw my first black-veined whites of the year while I was looking for ladies' slipper orchids. This geranium argus was roosting in the cold in a local meadow in the morning.
21st: Expedition to Valais for mountain dappled whites. Surprisingly,
although the foodplant was abundant and in full flower, I saw just one dappled white, a female (and here). I imagine they were very early this year - it is
difficult to believe this is the very beginning of the season. I also
saw a single cardinal zooming up the road. This is a considerable
distance from my usual cardinal site and I believe a satellite colony.
Also new for the year were northern wall, olive skipper and Apollo. I
thought I saw Escher's blue but have no proof this. Other species seen
were scarce swallowtail, brimstone, clouded yellow, Berger's clouded
yellow, small white, wood white, orange tip, Glanville fritillary,
Queen of Spain fritillary, wall, speckled wood, small heath, de
Prunner's ringlet (and here), common blue, Chapman's blue, little blue and
22nd: Current state of the purple emperor caterpillars I am following in my local woods.Stan (and here
- both photographs taken today), the most advanced, entered 5th instar
on 12th May.Today he moved from his old seat leaf and relocated to a
new leaf about 4m away. It is too soon for him to be pupating but it is
possible he sees his new site as a possible pupation site. Or, he may
move again in a few days. Mr Mackey
(that picture taken two days ago - he is still there today, on the same
leaf) entered 5th instar on 18th May. Mr Garrison probably entered 5th
instar yesterday. Here he is today. Wendy is still laid up for transition into 5th. I took this rather poor picture today.
25th: All the purple emperor caterpillars have moved and I couldn't
relocate them on today's walk. All ate half their resting leaf - a sign
they intend to travel some distance. Stan almost certainly went off to
pupate. I saw my first large walls of the year.
26th: Worked in the morning but had time in the afternoon to check on the cardinals. They were on fine form. Here, here, here and here are some females and here one of the few shots I got of an uperside. Here, here and here are some males. Good photographs were very difficult because it was so hot and they were very mobile. I also saw about a dozen iolas blues.
These were even more mobile and that was the only photo I got. I saw my
first marbled skipper of the year, as well as red-underwing skippers, a
safflower skipper, various other blues including turquoise, little and
Adonis and lots of Queen of Spain fritillaries.
27th: Trip to Geneva to see if poplar admirals were flying yet. They
weren't - and indeed very little at all was flying at my chosen site. I
did see my first meadow browns
of the year. Apart from that, the species list was: small white,
green-veined white, wood white, Berger's clouded yellow, black-veined
white, speckled wood, comma and chequered skipper.
28th: Another trip to the Canton of Geneva, this time for black
hairstreaks and large coppers. At my first site, black hairstreaks were
quite visible, flitting over the tops of blackthorn thickets or
disappearing deep into them, but almost impossible to photograph. Here
is one, distant shot of the first one I saw. It was a very hot day -
over 30 degrees C - and very little was settling, of any species. At
the same site I also saw my first heath fritillaries and pearly heaths
of the year. I have seen large coppers here in the past but there were
none in evidence today. Moving on to my main large copper site, I
thought at first they were not flying there, either. Then I caught site
of what seemed to be a male, at some distance, but it was not behaving
territorially like most of the males I see. I got a poor, long shot of it. At this site there were also heath fritillaries, and Glanville and knapweed too - and quite a lot of very fresh, summer brood violet fritillaries. As I was preparing to leave, I saw another large copper, this time a female,
and followed her. She was flitting around well away from the water.
Thinking large coppers laid their eggs near water I assumed she wasn't
doing this and wondered what she was doing - stopping for just seconds
at a time and always searching. But soon I had found another three females (and here), and these were definitely laying. Here and here
are some shots of the eggs laid by these females. These are in a hot,
dry field, near a river but not damp in any way. At the same site I saw
grizzled skipper and dingy skipper. Finally, I moved on to get a year
tick for Reverdin's blue. This had obviously been on the wing a while
and I saw just one, very worn individual.
Like large coppers, Reverdin's blues are double brooded and will fly
again in August. Other species seen during the day were comma, speckled
wood, meadow brown, common blue, my first brown arguses of the year, my
first marbled fritillary of the year, swallowtail, brimstone and
29th: Went locally in the afternoon for violet coppers. These were out
in force, with plenty of males competing for sunspots among the Ranunculus
plants. Some males were tatty and none very fresh, suggesting we are
well into the flight season. I saw no females. These lay a little
distance from the main male territories. Also on the wing were very
many marsh fritillaries (and here) and a few green hairstreaks, as well
as plenty of little blues, a single false heath fritillary, sooty
coppers, a couple of tufted marbled skippers, an olive skipper, several
grizzled skippers, several dingy skippers and lots of small
tortoiseshells. A few painted ladies and a couple of red admirals
passed through. Small heaths were common. I tried higher up the
mountain but by that time clouds had come over and I only saw a single
31st: Last day of half term. I took a trip to the Rhône Valley hoping mostly to see Provençal fritillary. I found just a few males, all fresh, suggesting the species is only reccently on the wing. I also saw a single ilex hairstreak - my first of the year. Southern white admirals were out in good numbers and marbled whites (here is a female) were suddenly common. Other new species for the year were large skipper and northern brown argus - very surprising it has taken me until now to see one. Here is a marbled skipper and here a turquoise blue.
Other species flying today were: Apollo, swallowtail, scarce
swallowtail, small white, southern small white, green-veined white,
Eastern Bath white, wood white, orange tip, brimstone, Berger's clouded
yellow, common blue, Chapman's blue, Adonis blue, little blue,
Provençal short-tailed blue, Queen of Spain fritillary, marbled
fritillary, Glanville fritillary, comma, small tortoiseshell, speckled
wood, wall, large wall, meadow brown, small heath, southen grizzled
skipper, safflower skipper and dingy skipper. I'm sure I've missed some
out there ... Notably absent were Swiss zephyr blue and purple-shot
copper. It is not a particularly early year for many of these valley
June 1st: After a week's absence, Wendy came down to her old leaves again. This is the 10th day of her 5th instar. Here is a video of her. She was very active when I first found her, looking all over the lower branches for a good seat leaf. When she found this she settled down. I think she is actually a male. I am waiting for someone to confirm that these blue patches on her back indicate her (or therefore his) sex. Here is a white admiral caterpillar, poised over a spider's web (where he has been living and feeding for a week or two now, with no interaction with the spider). Finally, here is a brimstone caterpillar.
2nd: New for the year in my local woods were dark green fritillary (three or four males in different parts of the woods) and Essex skipper. Here is Wendy again (and here).
3rd: Back in Geneva to hunt for poplar admirals with a friend. Again, populi didn't put in a show, thought there were plenty of white admirals on the wing (and here, and here) - and not a few perished along the path too. A few woodland browns were flying too. Moving on, we checked for large coppers at a different site, seeing one male and one fresh female as well as more eggs than last week (here is a hatched egg) and this caterpillar (and here, showing its position on the leaf). At a third site a couple of black hairstreaks
were seen, despite the weather having turned by then. Other species
seen during the day were: Other species seen today were small white,
green-veined white, wood white, black-veined white, common blue, little blue, small copper, brown argus, Queen of Spain fritillary, heath fritillary, violet fritillary, marbled fritillary, comma, red admiral, small tortoiseshell, large tortoiseshell, meadow brown, speckled wood, pearly heath, small heath, grizzled skipper and dingy skipper.
4th: In the pouring rain, I discovered a nest of large tortoiseshells, defoliating a local cherry tree. Here is one of the caterpillars. These, I believe, are the discarded skins of earlier instars.
5th: Spot the caterpillar! Here is a close-up of him (it is Wendy, but I'm sure Wendy is a he). Here is one of the large tortoiseshell caterpillars.
6th: Here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here
are some photos of brimstone caterpillars. The eggs were laid on
10th-15th May and the larger caterpillars are now over an inch long.
Here is Wendy. I saw my first ringlet of the year today.
9th: First Titania's fritillary of the year seen flying locally.
10th: Visited blackthorn scrub in the Jura part of Vaud for sloe hairstreaks. These were numerous, mostly very fresh but some alreadyrather worn. Here, here and here
are a few more shots. I also saw a few ilex hairstreaks, though none
stopped, but no blue spot, which I was looking for. Nor were there any
black hairstreaks, despite the extensive blackthorn. Mazarine blues
were quite common - here is a female - and there were plenty of Adonis
blues but no other blues except a possible northern brown argus (which
got away before I could really get a look at it). Other species seen
during the day were green-veined white, black-veined white, small
copper, wall, large wall, meadow brown, marbled white, small heath,
pearly heath (very common), violet fritillary, Queen of Spain
fritillary, Essex skipper and large skipper.
11th: A working day, but on my lunchtime walk to my local lesser
marbled fritillary site I found many males flying. They never stopped,
searching incessantly among the meadowsweet and on flowers for females.
Mazarine blues were flying at the same site. Dark green fritillaries
are common and there were probably high brown among them - from what I
could see when they passed close - but none of these stopped either. It
was a hot, active afternoon.
12th: Cloudier today. On my lunchtime walk I was able to photograph a beautifully fresh male lesser marbled fritillary (and here). I also discovered - embarrassingly, since this is just 10m walk from my house - a rather worn violet copper! I have been sitting on a colony without knowing it!
13th: Very hot. The Tour de Suisse came through Huémoz (and here, and here). In the woods in the afternoon I saw my first Arran brown of the year, but it didn't stop. Here and here are two of the brimstone caterpillars I have been watching for a while, all of which are now huge. They have completely stripped
several branches of their alder buckthorn. Finally, as I took Minnie
for her evening walk I saw my first great banded grayling of the year
right next to my house.
16th: An afternoon trip to Valais to look for blue-spot hairstreak
where a friend saw one very recently. I didn't see any but did find my
first great sooty satyrs of the year. Also plenty of Adonis blues, safflower skippers, marbled skippers, knapweed fritillaries, marbled fritillaries and heath fritillaries.
17th Up and out early to join a friend looking for Hungarian gliders in North Italy. We stopped on the way for Swiss zephyr blues (and here, and here), where we also saw the first rock graylings, a few Apollos and several Escher's blues, and got out briefly higher up too, where we saw Darwin's heaths and mountain green-veined white.
In Italy, before heading to our main glider site we looked for large
chequered skippers, seeing just one. At the same site were purple-shot
coppers, a huge baton blue that I mistook at first for a chequered
blue, great sooty satyrs, some more rock graylings,
silver-washed fritillaries, wood whites, sooty coppers and more. The
glider site has changed considerably over the years, my normal point of
entry now being barred and normal path overgrown. Large banks of
goatsbeard that were cut down have only just started growing back.
Nevertheless, we eventually saw plenty of gliders at two different
spots. They very rarely came to rest and I was hanging back anyway so
my friend could get in closer, but I did get a few very poor shots (and here, and here, and here) at the second, drier, site. This is a male pestering a female. While we stood by the river, a lesser purple emperor was flying around. Two Camberwell beauties, relics from the wintering generation, were still going strong. Also flying at the site were heath fritillary (and here),
knapweed fritillary, several large fritillaries (that never stopped),
purple-shot copper, idas blue, brimstones, whites, grizzled skippers
and large walls. It was a great shame to have to leave and catch the
train back to Switzerland ...
18th: A lazy morning, then a trip up the local mountain on a beautiful, cloudless day. New for the year were bright-eyed ringlet, which is sudenly common everywhere at altitude, carline skipper, mountain clouded yellow, purple-edged copper
(a very poor shot!), clouded Apollo and large blue. Locally there were
dozens of clouded Apollos but they never stopped longer than the time
it took to focus the camera and I got a single, record photograph.
I will have to go up again as soon as possible earlier in the day - or
on a day with clouds. Other species flying included black-veined white,
Berger's clouded yellow, Queen of Spain, false heath fritillary,
Titania's fritillary, pearl-bordered fritillary, small tortoiseshell,
sooty copper, Adonis blue, common blue, geranium argus, little blue,
alpine heath and dingy skipper.
21st: White admirals suddenly common in my local woods. Woodland browns
also very common. I saw several Arran browns during my afternoon walk,
as well as plenty of dark green fritillaries and a few high brown
fritillaries. But best, two cardinals over the meadows as I came back
home. The meadows are covered in clover and I am sure this is what
attracted them. I lost both and couldn't follow them over the meadows
our of courtesy to the owners but will check again tomorrow morning,
when the sun will be better placed for the accessible parts.
25th: A trip up the local mountain in poor weather, mainly to see if I
could get photos of clouded Apollos. I did indeed see a couple of these
in the rare intervals when the sun shone but only one sat for a photo -
and it was an individual that had already lived well (and here)! New for the year were Niobe fritillary (no photo) and a very amenable lesser mountain ringlet, which first landed on my leg then posed for a proper shot. Here is a golden eagle
against the grey skies. As I walked back down the hill the sun came out
strongly - as much a function of place as time - so I decided to go via
a dense meadowsweet meadow to see if more lesser marbled fritillaries
were around. They were, in very good numbers. Here is one. I saw my first silver-studded blues of the year too - already worn.
30th: Went high, in the hope of finding some early Cynthia's
fritillaries. I was not disappointed. Although it was bitterly cold
(snowing at times) and a glacial wind was blowing, lots of male Cynthia's fritillaries were keeping territories low to the ground and flying when the sun was out. Here, here, here and here are some more pictures. Here is one with a little blue. Also on the wing were alpine marsh fritillaries, shepherd's fritillaries and Grisons fritillaries. I saw one or two peak whites
and a single female Apollo in flight, which could have been small
Apollo but didn't pass close enough to get an idea. For the blues, idas and little blue were the commonest but I also saw mazarine and one or two alpine argus. New ringlets for the year were silky, dewy and small mountain. The only skippers I saw were a few dusky grizzled skippers. Eventually the weather turned too bleak and I headed home. Here, here and here are some marmots. Here are a couple of marmots cuddling!
Stayed local to look for mountain alcon blues. The weather began grim
but warmed up and by the time I left the site I had seen a reasonable
number of males and females. The males were mostly quite worn. Here is
a female ovipositing (and here, and here with the eggs she has laid). Large blues were also flying, as well as silver-studded, little, Osiris, mazarine, Damon (and here) and Eros. Here is a very well marked maleTitania's fritillary and here a more typical female. Here is a pair of Queen of Spain fritillaries. Other fritillaries flying were pearl-bordered, dark green, false heath and silver-washed. Arran browns were flying at lower altitudes. While I was high enough for other Erebia it was not sunny.
4th: Another high trip, this time to a site that is very good for blues. The weather was perfect and hundreds of blues were gathering locally in the shade (and here). Here is a little group venturing into the sun. Species included little blue and glandon blue (little blue being abundant - here is another glandon blue), Osiris blue, mazarine blue, cranberry blue, geranium argus (here and here
are geranium argus from lower down - it was very common everywhere),
Chapman's blue and a very bright one which I took to be Adonis but
which never stopped. It is between seasons for Adonis. Lower down I saw
large blue. I am not certain what species this aberrant blue is - possibly Osiris. Here
is the other side. If it is a male, which I think it is, it must be
little blue, because of the brown showing. Sooty coppers were common
and I saw my first scarce copper of the year as I walked up (poor photo here!). New for the year were blind ringlet, Swiss brassy ringlet, Mnestra ringlet and large ringlet. I saw but did not photograph a marbled ringlet on the way down. Alpine heaths were abundant everywhere. There were several alpine graylings
around and plenty of large walls locally. A few swallowtails were
drifting around, especially lower down, and locally there were a number
of fresh male small Apollos. I saw my first mountain fritillaries
of the year, as well as shepherd's fritillaries higher up. Lots of
pearl-bordered fritillaries were flying at all altitudes. Other smaller
fritillaries on the wing were false heath and Titania's (and here). For the larger fritillaries I saw lots of Niobe (and here) and a few dark green and silver-washed (at lower altitudes). I saw a few alpine grizzled skippers and a couple of dusky grizzled skippers.
The only other skippers were large and small (or Essex - I didn't
check) at lower altitudes. Both moorland and mountain clouded yellows
were flying - both non-stop. Other whites included large, small, mountain green-veined (and here), wood and orange tip (two males). All in all, a very productive day! Here is Minnie.
5th: In my local woods, white-letter hairstreaks are on the wing. Here
is a female. White admirals are very common. Here is a female, pausing
before heading in the direction of the honeysuckle. I didn't see any
purple emperors. Here is a large white. There are plenty of high brown and silver-washed fritillaries cruising along the tracks and nectaring on the abundant scabious, thistle and other flowers.
6th: My annual trip to photograph Thor’s fritillary in lush, light but shady, alpine woodland in the Canton of Bern My main mission was to get a decent underside shot
and finally I achieved this! Thore’s fritillary keeps to the shade and
is in almost constant motion, twisting and turning all the time. Here, here and here are some more shots. Here is one on a Turk’s head lily.
In fact, I saw many fewer than last year, and all were in good
condition, suggesting that I was in fact early this year - even though
I visited the site on a later date last year. Other fritillaries flying
included Niobe, pearl-bordered, false heath, silver-washed and lesser
marbled. Doubtless there were other large fritillaries too but I didn’t
identify everything - it was very hot and the butterflies were very
active. The first chalkhill blues were on the wing and I got my first photographs of Eros blues for the year. This alpine argus was in constant motion, often on me, often crawling over the mud, never stopping even a moment. Other blues were geranium argus and Idas blue. The main Erebia was large ringlet but Arran brown was almost as common. Here are both species together.
I saw a couple of Pyrgus skippers but neither stopped. Apart from that,
there were several golden skippers, which I didn’t stop to identify.
Here is a chequered skipper.
Mountain green-veined whites were common and there were a few wood
whites but no yellows or orange tips (last year there were quite a few
orange tips on my Thor day). Lots of large wall. Some were rather small
and dark but I didn’t definitively identify any northern wall.
8th: A day in the Simplon region looking for Erebia christi.
I visited a site where I saw and photographed the species in 2013 and
2015 but sadly didn't see any today. I arrived on the site at about
midday, after a very strenuous cycle-ride with Minnie on my back! By
coincidence, a friend was at the same site earlier the same day and
also saw no christi, so we
can be fairly certain it did not fly there today. I took very few
photos as I didn't want to take my eyes off the hillside, watching for
my target, but I did take this female Apollo,
clearly showing a sphragis (meaning she has been mated). New for the
year was almond-eyed ringlet. Other ringlets flying included large,
lesser mountain and marbled. The commonest satyrid was Darwin's heath.
The commonest butterfly altogether was probably scarce copper, which
was bejewelling every stand of flowers. Purple-edged coppers were
flying too. Cycling back down to the valley I stopped off to see my
first dusky meadow browns of the year (without any photos) and
photographed this rock grayling and this Escher's blue.
10th: The shadow of a white admiral and a freshly laid white admiral egg.
12th: Flew to Barcelona yesterday. Today I had time to spare before
heading north into Aragón so went looking for geranium bronzes. As
usual, I found these, as well as several long-tailed blues and this
Lang's short-tailed blue. I arrived at my hostal in Aragón at about
19h00. A short evening walk produced a few southern gatekeepers, a few
Agenjoi's anomalous blues, Iberian marbled whites, a mallow skipper, a
brimstone, some small whites, lots of walls, a Spanish chalkhill blue
and a few common blues. All were diving into their roosts for the
night. Nothing posed in the sun!
13th: Left the hostal at 07h30 and returned at about 18h00, after
spending the whole day walking the tracks and pine scrub in the region.
It was very hot, and even in the early morning most species did not
open their wings. By the afternoon, almost everything was seeking the
shade, making photography particularly difficult, given the extreme
brightness out of the shade! Species seen were: Iberian scarce
swallowtail (just a few), brimstone and Cleopatra in more or less equal
(and quite small) numbers - but only males, clouded yellow, Berger's
clouded yellow, small white, wood white, Bath white, common blue
(common), Escher's blue (locally a few - and here for a female), Spanish chalkhill blue (common
everywhere - and here), Forster's furry blue (locally common - never opening its
wings properly at any stage of the day - this is the only upperside shot I got - here are a female underside and upperside and here is another male underside), Ripart's anomalous blue (and here and here - very common;
ranging greatly in size and in the presence or absence of a white
strip; in the past I have called the ones with no or only vestigial
stripe Agenjoi's anomalous blue, a subspecies of Ripart's; both forms
coexist quite happily here), holly blue (a few), southern brown argus (quite common - I
never saw the upperside of one today!), false ilex hairstreak (just two
seen, or one that moved quickly!), small copper, Queen of Spain
fritillary, silver-washed fritillary, Niobe fritillary, knapweed
fritillary, violet fritillary, southern white admiral (and here - quite a few, in
many different parts of the walk), Iberian marbled white (and here, and here for a pair mating - very common),
dusky heath (and here - locally common), pearly heath, gatekeeper (and here - locally a few),
southern gatekeeper (very common), Spanish gatekeeper (and here - very common),
meadow brown, tree grayling (just one), rock grayling (numerous,
generally diving for the shade!), woodland grayling (also numerous, and
also always in the shade), great banded grayling (local), wall (very
common), mallow skipper, red-underwing skipper, small skipper, Lulworth
skipper, rosy grizzled skipper.
14th: Yesterday I walked north from the village. Today I headed south
and west, to see if there were any different terrain. My track took me
through farmland, pine woodland, mixed woodland, scrub, oak woodland
and back to farmland. First thing in the morning it was cloudy and
cool. Even so, I saw all three gatekeepers before 09h00. Only the
ordinary, northern European gatekeeper seemed to want to open its wings
for more than a second at a time. I say 'ordinary' - but the underside is quite different from that of northern European gatekeepers. As the day warmed up and the clouds
cleared I began to see some blues, including Spanish chalkhill blue.
Later on I found chalkhill blues too, subspecies asturiensis. The Spanish chalkhill blues in
Aragón are a very pale blue and I have been unsure about distinguishing
them from Provence chalkhill blues. But it is the wrong time of the season to
see so many Provence chalkhill blues, whose second brood should not be
underway yet and whose first brood is over. So I think all the individuals I've seen have been Spanish
chalkhill and chalkhill. The Spanish chalkhills have much paler underside hindwings than the chalkhills. In the woodland part of the walk there were
both rock and woodland graylings, as well as two striped graylings.
Dusky heath was very common. Pearly heath less so. Spanish gatekeepers and
southern gatekeepers were common, with Spanish the commonest. Iberian
marbled whites were abundant. Many were of the form cataleuca, with a
pure white hindwing underside. Here is a particularly beautiful
individual of this form. Throughout the woody parts I saw southern
white admirals. At one point I watched this female laying on some
rather thick and fleshy species of Lonicera. Here is one of the eggs
she laid - on the underside of the leaf, rather than the upperside like
white admirals. I also saw my first non-Swiss cardinals! The first was
probably a male, cruising through the woods without stopping. The
second was this female, nectaring the other side of a fence, so
difficult to get at. Other blues seen today were common, Chapman's,
Forster's furry and both Ripart's and Agenjo's anomalous blues. Again,
they appear to cohabit this region. Here is a pair of Agenjo's (and here), the
male on the left, showing his androconia. His underside is marked just
like the female, with a short, rather faint, white stripe. As well as the two cardinals I saw
silver-washed fritillaries, high brown fritillaries, knapweed
fritillaries and violet fritillaries. A single, rather worn, false ilex
hairstreak posed for me, and I saw one other hairstreak - this purple
hairstreak in an area of dense oak. Clouded yellows and Berger's
clouded yellows were common. Here is a helice female. In the afternoon,
Cleopatras suddenly became common - though only males. They were roding
along the rides just like spring brimstones but they will not breed
until after the winter. Very occasionally, one stopped to feed and I
was able to get a few photos. This shot shows a little of the
orange colour. I saw a few red-underwing skippers and just one other
skipper - a Pyrgus species that didn't stop.
15th: Set off in cloud, following the route of two days ago. I waited
over an hour at my first furry blue site for some sign of sun, but none
came, and none of the butterflies opened their wings. I could see
plenty of Forster's furry blues, both anomalous blues, Spanish
chalkhill blues, southern brown argus and Chapman's blues, and they
readily flew if I accidentally disturbed them, but they always went
back to roost. I then moved on, still in cloud. As the first sun came
out, a lesser spotted fritillary flew - or rather, what is now known as Sagarra's fritillary, Melitaea ignasiti. I was sure it was this, but
unlike the blues, it never showed its undersides! It always landed flat
on the ground (this was my best go at a shot of the underside!) - and I am not carrying a net in Spain. So I felt certain
I had had a life tick but couldn't count it. The rest of the walk was
similar to two days ago, with the main difference that spotted
fritillaries (rather than lesser spotted) were now locally common. They
were distinctly bigger than the lesser spotted I had originally seen.
Naturally, at the end of the day I came back past the same place and
searched diligently for more lesser spotted. I saw one by the side of
the road, followed it, and eventually found a grassy patch where
several were flying and finally I could get the proof. Here and here
are pictures where the disco-cellular vein is visible and here is a close-up of the feature. Other features
are evident, but none are conclusive on their own. In general, these
butterflies were smaller, more straw-coloured and more uniform in appearance than spotted
fritillaries. They were flying with knapweed fritillaries, which were
significantly bigger and less compact. Here, here, here and here are
some more pictures. This was my first life tick of 2017 (indeed, since
2014). The species or subspecies ignasiti is restricted to Spain, Portugal and a tiny part of France and is
considerably rarer than its eastern European cousin. Other species seen
on the walk included swallowtail, Iberian scarce swallowtail, small
white, wood white, Bath white, clouded yellow (including two helice),
Berger's clouded yellow, common blue, Chapman's blue, Adonis blue -
fresh and newly on the wing - Spanish chalkhill blue, Forster's furry
blue, Ripart's anomalous blue, including Agenjo's anomalous blue (here are those last three taxa all feeding together - the one on the wing on the left is a Forster's furry blue; and here are Forster's furry, Ripart's and Eschers blues together), small
copper, Queen of Spain fritillary, knapweed fritillary, cardinal (just
one - my third now outside Switzerland), silver-washed fritillary, high
brown fritillary, southern white admiral, all three gatekeepers, pearly
heath, dusky heath, wall, rock grayling, woodland grayling, great
banded grayling, rosy grizzled skipper (and here, and here, laying on mallow) - my first of this
species outside Switzerland too - mallow skipper, small skipper, red
underwing skipper. I spent a lot of time just watching butterflies,
rather than trying to photograph them - though I did also spend a lot of
time trying to photograph them. Lots of hoopoes were bouncing between
the trees and the sound of golden orioles was constantly present. I saw
one male oriole cross the track, just like yesterday.
16th: Day of travel. Left Aragón by bus early in the morning to Arrive
in Barcelona by about midday. Then spent the afternoon in Barcelona,
leaving on the night bus to Córdoba in the South. During the day I saw
geranium bronzes, Lang's short-tailed blues and long-tailed blues, as
well as a few whites, mostly in the parks and green spaces of Barcelona.
17th: Arrived Córdoba by midday. On evening walk with my sister and her dogs discovered African grass blues flying on wet grass in the centre of town, oviposturing on the clover.
18th: Walk from my sister's house up Avenida del Brillante, through a
rather lovely cut, out west through not so nice, exploited and fenced
off land, to a hermitage west of Córdoba, then up north to lakes and
back home - a total walk of over 40km. Very few butterflies. In total: small heath
(a few, wherever there were butterflies - these are all of the form
lyllus), southern gatekeeper (similarly, in all grassy places where
there were butterflies), meadow brown (a very few), sage skipper (and here - present most places where butterflies, but not all - the only species that did not seek shade constantly), cardinal (many, 50+, always seeking shade, even nectaring in the shade, sometimes roosting in the shade (and here - spot the cardinal!), even beside the road),
the odd clouded yellow, the odd small white, southern brown argus (the
only blue seen - present most grassy places where there were
butterflies), small copper (locally, a few), purple hairstreak, ssp. ibericus (and here - part of an amazing cluster in a cut, where they gathered in groups to roost in the shade). Later in day, African grass blues and a few clouded yellows and small whites in town.
19th: Trip with my sister to a local, wooded beauty spot by the river.
Rather few butterflies on the walk we did, but plenty of meadow browns,
southern gatekeeper and southern brown argus. Quite a few cardinals
too, though not as many as yesterday. Clouded yellows and some whites
too. Speckled woods in the shady parts close to the lake.
20th: A day in town, seeing some of the sites and spending time with my sister. Very few butterflies seen.
21st: Caught early bus to a village west of Córdoba, then did a short,
circular walk from the village and a long out-and-back walk, before
having a beer and catching the bus back home. On my first walk, north
of the village, I saw little: small copper, southern gatekeeper,
meadow brown - nothing else. The longer walk took me through woods,
across the river and out along a dirt track in good habitat. I soon
found a patch with southern brown argus (and here), Austaut’s blue (and here, and here, and here for the underside), small copper and small heath. This poor shot of a small heath, form lyllus, shows a little of the distinctive upperside. Along the main I track found plenty of southern gatekeepers
and sage skippers too. These six species were the predominant species
throughout the whole walk. Interestingly, things here are very local.
Almost everywhere, I see no butterflies at all. Then, in tiny patches,
c. 5 metres square, I see up to a dozen insects. I was very interested
in the Austaut’s blues. All small, all with very broad borders and all
a distinctly paler blue than common blue. Very different from the spring brood I photographed in February.
22nd: Driving trip to a scenic town an hour or so outside Córdoba. Passed through what looked like good habitat for albicans,
though the landscape here at the moment is dry and scorched. In town,
saw several geranium bronzes in the grounds of a little café, by a
fountain where we had a drink before heading into the hills for a walk.
In the scrubby hills, Austaut’s blues, southern brown argus, Adonis
blue, southern gatekeeper and Bath white. On a steep stretch up to a
local high point, several Iberian scarce swallowtails and a single
swallowtail. At the local high point scarce swallowtails were
hilltopping. On flowers near the mediaeval tower, lots of geranium
bronze and several long-tailed blues and Lang’s short-tailed blues.
23rd: Left Córdoba by the first train to Málaga. Unfortunately, as it
was Sunday, this was not very early and I didn't arrive until 10h20. I
walked a little to some places in town where I hoped (but failed) to
find desert orange tips, then along my familiar walk through African
grass blue country and up into the hills. I saw a single African grass blue
and enjoyed watching a single monarch cruise along a cut. Other than
that, I saw nothing other than a few whites before I reached my first
hilltopping site, shortly before 13h00. There, I immediately spotted a two-tailed pasha (and here)
- apparently hilltopping but apparently also female. I saw at least one
more pasha later, at my next hillltopping spot - definitely a male -
but there was no stopping! Only chasing the scarce swallowtails and swallowtails!
Also hilltopping were long-tailed blues, probably Lang's short-tailed
blues, walls and - if this is really what they were doing - striped graylings (and here). Striped graylings were reasonably common throughout my walk in the hills. This is a typical site
where they were flying. Away from the hilltops, southern gatekeepers,
sage skippers, Austaut's blues, southern brown arguses and Bath whites
were nectaring on what few flowers were to be found.
25th: Gloomy and wet today. I found this 1st instar white admiral caterpillar in my local woods.
27th: My afternoon walk in the local woods turned up two new species for the year: dryad and Scotch argus. Both were around in small numbers. I also found five purple emperor eggs (this one is freshly laid being unmarked pale green; this one is older, this one older still and this one and this one
ready to hatch in a day or two - you can see the caterpillar all curled
up inside in that last shot) and a 1st instar purple emperor
caterpillar, Buffy. On the way home I spotted this female white-letter hairstreak skulking around deep in wych elm foliage. I hope I will be able to find her eggs this winter ...
28th: I took a morning walk to see if either of the fully ripe eggs had
hatched. On the way out I spotted a sixth egg. Neither of the heads-up
eggs had hatched. I checked on all the egs - the third oldest from
yesterday had now gone heads-up, meaning it will hatch in a couple of days. Yesterday's freshly laid egg was still all green, meaning it was laid yesterday. On my return leg I passed both the other heads-up eggs. One of them had hatched and was eating up his egg. Here, here and here are some pictures of Angel, born between 10h00 and 11h00 this morning.
29th: Another purple emperor egg had hatched by this morning. This is Spike. The egg that was green yesterday and the day before has now developed a weak, brown band. I discovered another freshly laid egg too, meaning that Mrs Iris is still doing the rounds. Buffy and Angel were both sitting at the ends of their respective seat leaves and all the other eggs were developing normally.
31st: Remaining local, I checked on the purple emperor eggs. There are now several empty eggs (and here) - not hatched but predated. This is the fresh egg of four days ago - now with a clear, maroon band. I am currently watching four caterpillars: Buffy, Spike, Angel and Glory. Here is a 1st instar white admiral caterpillar. Walking back, I found this female short-tailed blue (and here) in the woods, as well as plenty of Provençal short-tailed blues.
I popped down to the valley today to see how the cardinals were doing.
This is now the 5th summer I have been watching them and they seem to
be going from strength to strength. I remain convinced they are
single-brooded but we have no solid evidence. The circumstantial
evidence is that in May and June, when they emerge, they are sociable,
communal butterflies, spending all their time nectaring, apparently at
peace with each other. Then during June they disappear, to reappear
typically at the end of July, when they have transformed into
aggressive, territorial tyrants (the males) and egg-layers (females).
In three different years I have seen the odd individual in the
mountains in June and I suspect they escape the heat of the valley by
coming up here to clover. I was on the site in the late morning, by
which time the males were zooming around like fighter planes. They did
occasionally stop, as if to nectar, but rarely for longer than a second
or two. Mostly, they just attacked anything else that moved. However,
away from the sunny Buddleias I did find a couple of males nectaring in
the half-shade (as they had done in Spain) just long enough for me to
get a few record shots (and here).
I saw at least a dozen males but it was difficult to count as they can
easily cross the entire site, which is a winding road going up a hill,
in a few seconds. The females usually feed in the afternoon. I think
they rock up some time after lunch, meet up with a testosterone-fuelled
male if they feel like mating, then sit around talking about life in
general on the Buddleia for the rest of the day. If they are ready for
it, they go off laying in the vineyards. I was also looking for brown
hairstreaks but didn't see any. I don't usually see them until the end
of August or September but I have occasionally seen a male here
earlier. I also expected to see - and saw - my first purple emperors.
Here in the heat of the valley (this is one of the hottest places in
Switzerland, outside the Ticino) they fly late, usually remaining on
the wing into September. I saw two males today. I think there is either
aestivation or some other way of delaying the season. Other species
flying included high brown fritillary, Niobe fritillary, heath
fritillary, kanpweed fritillary, spotted fritillary, false heath
fritillary, idas blue, common blue, holly blue, white admiral, red
admiral, both swallowtails, dryads, great sooty satyrs, ringlets,
marbled whites, meadow browns, assorted yellows and whites and mallow
2nd: A new purple emperor caterpillar - Dawn. She is already 2nd instar. I have lost Buffy. Here is yet another empty egg. Silver spotted skippers are flying in the woods.
3rd: Went to site where I saw a single cardinal back in May and where
one was seen last year too. I had noted down where there was Buddleia
and today sat in the shade where I could survey the Buddleia from a distance. In an hour, I saw lots of silver-washed, high brown, Queen of Spain and assorted other smaller fritillaries, as well as impressive numbers of rock grayling.
Also great sooty satyr, wall, large wall, meadow brown, Scotch argus,
white admiral, swallowtail and scarce swallowtail. I even saw this large tortoiseshell.
But no cardinals. Nor did I see any during the rest of the walk. So I
think the idea they have set up a satellite colony in this village is
probably not right. During the rest of the walk I saw spotted fritillaries, males and females, violet fritillaries, this single lesser marbled fritillary, lots of marbled whites and various blues, including plenty of chalkhill blue. I also saw more Scotch argus (and here), great sooty satyrs, rock graylings and large walls. Walking back down to the bike I discovered this southern white admiral
- my first for this region, though it is also the first time I have
visited the site after the spring flight of mountain dappled whites.
5th: Down in the valley today, great sooty satyrs were waning and dryads waxing. Here are both in one picture, the great sooty satyr on the left and the dryad on the right. Here, here, here and here are some more photos of dryads. The other notable butterfly was southern white admiral, which seems to have done well this year. This female
was nectaring in the shade. I mostly just walked or sat in the shade
myself, with Minnie, enjoying the butterflies without stressing about
photographing them. But I find it difficult to ignore Bath whites and brimstones. 7th: Altitude trip to look for Erebia nivalis. WRITE-UP TO COME VERY SHORTLY, WHEN I HAVE ANALYSED ALL THE PICTURES.
10th: Purple emperor caterpillars: Angel, Spike, Glory and Dawn. White admiral caterpillars: first instar, second instar. Many caterpillars have already perished. Here are three honeysuckle leaves without caterpillars any more. 11th: A new purple emperor caterpillar: Giles. It has been very wet recently. The caterpillars were mostly underwater today: Dawn (and here), Angel (and here), Spike, Glory. 14th: Flew to UK. Holly blues and small whites in our Suffolk garden. 16th: Walk along the river Deben. The only notable butterfly was a wall - a declining species now in the region. I got very distant shots of this greenshank on the estuary (and here).
September 3rd: After several days of cloud, rain and real cold - it snowed
at altitude yesterday - today was sunny. I needed to work in the
afternoon but set off in the morning for the Rhône Valley, where the
butterflies were thoroughly enjoying the change in weather. Species
still flying include: rosy grizzled skipper (in full swing, but because it was still cool in the morning not showing their undersides), dingy skipper, small white, southern small white, wood white, clouded yellow, Berger’s clouded yellow, common blue, Chapman’s blue, Adonis blue, chalkhill blue (all the individuals I saw were at the very ends of their lives), turquoise blue, northern brown argus, brown argus, Queen of Spain fritillary, dark green fritillary, spotted fritillary (some looking very fresh), southern white admiral (amazingly common), speckled wood, wall, small heath, meadow brown, tree grayling (seemingly at peak abundance), dryad.
4th: As I passed a local, isolated patch of blackthorn, where brown
hairstreaks are laid every year, I disturbed a female brown hairstreak.
She flew straight off into a tree and then away - I must hope she had laid some eggs. 15th:
Trip to my cardinal site in Rhône Valley. It was very cold cycling down
the hill to Aigle and I didn’t even think of taking off my fleece until
I had climbed almost all the way back up to my cardinal site. ‘Almost’,
because my chain broke and I had to get off and walk the rest of the
way. En route I saw only
walls, as I cycled through the vineyards. Arriving at the site (11h30)
I immediately saw a female cardinal but it flew off before I had got my
camera out. The Buddleia by the road were mostly over and I saw just
one more female and two males on or near these. Further up, though,
there was a vast area of Buddleia with many bushes still in flower,
where I saw and photographed plenty more. It is difficult to count such
mobile butterflies but they numbered at least a dozen and probably
more. The majority were males but a couple of females were among them
(it was about 12h30 by the time I got here). Here, here, here and here are some males (the last two are the same individual); here and here are two females. Little else was on the wing. I saw a few Adonis blues, a common blue, a large skipper,
several whites (small and southern small), plenty of Berger’s clouded
yellows, lots more walls, a few speckled woods, plenty of Queen of Spain fritillaries and a couple of high brown fritillaries.
Pushing my bike back through the vineyards (without a chain) I saw a
female cardinal, obviously laying eggs but not ovipositing while I was
It has continued to be cold, with rain low and snow at altitude, but
this morning I did find a fresh sooty on my dog-walk. I didn't have a
camera but took this photo with my iPhone.
22nd: I started off rather late this morning, arriving at my first
site, well east of Martigny, not long before midday. It was warm and
most of the expected butterflies were flying. One absentee was southern
white admiral, which was common here just a week ago. But other species
were more numerous than last week. A few fresh rosy grizzled skippers
were on the wing as well as what looked like an Oberthür’s grizzly,
though it was moving fast and I couldn’t get a decent picture of it -
or catch a glimpse of the underside. I only saw it once. A mallow skipper, seemingly at the end of its life, was the only other skipper. For the blues, common, Chapman’s, Adonis and chalkhill were all flying, with quite a few male northern brown argus
still defending territories. I saw probably half a dozen small
coppers. Southern small white, small white, green-veined white, Berger’s clouded yellow and clouded yellow represented the Pierids. Fritillaries included Queen of Spain, spotted (male and female) and violet. There were plenty of walls about, a few speckled woods, a single meadow brown (there with a tree grayling) and a couple of graylings; but the dominant Satyrid was, as last week, tree grayling.
I didn’t spend long at this site because I wanted to travel back west
and see if any cardinals were still on the wing. At about 14h45, before
I had even embarked on the real climb up to their site, I saw this
rather tatty female on Buddleia on the outskirts of the nearest village. At the site itself I saw at least three more females (here, here and here)
- it was difficult to be sure how many there were because these huge
butterflies can cross the entire site on a wingbeat. A few whites,
yellows and blues were joining them on the Buddleia, as well as a
number of Queen of Spain fritillaries. As I walked back to the bike at
about 15h30 I encountered this grayling on the road. Later, cycling back to the station through the orchards, I found what I think is a convolvulus hawk moth caterpillar.
It was heading off to pupate but had chosen to walk along the middle of
a road were orchard traffic was trundling around. So I moved it gently
to a clear path where it could continue safely
7th: First trip to the valley for two weeks. My first stop was the
cardinal site, where there were still several females flying two weeks
ago. Today none - nor any buddleia in flower. On a total of several
hundred bushes there were just a handful of florets (single florets,
not flower heads) still purple. Very little was flying here: Queen of
Spain, southern small white, common blue, wall and red admiral. I moved
further east along the valley for the afternoon, finding many more
butterflies. Commonest was tree grayling, followed (a distant second) by Queen of Spain. There were still some graylings (semele - and here
- this individual being happy to rest with its wings open) flying among
the tree graylings. The only other fritillary on the wing was spotted, of which I saw a couple of males. Four species of blue were flying: Adonis, common, Chapman’s and turquoise (and here).
It is possible I saw a couple of female chalkhills but I couldn’t be
certain, given their condition and the fact Adonis flies here. Clouded
yellow and Berger’s clouded yellow were both common, with small white
and southern small white too. Other species here were southern grizzled skipper (I didn't see the underside of that one so cannot be sure it's not rosy), rosy grizzled skipper, red admiral, small heath, wall and speckled wood.
13th: Warm and sunny today. Red admirals are flying everywhere,
doubtless agitating for migration. There are still clouded yellows
locally, as well as commas and the very occasioal common blue. I have
been looking for white-letter hairstreak caterpillars over the last
week. Here, here, here, here and here are some examples found in my local woods.
14th: Hot yesterday and today. Today I went east along the Rhône
Valley, without stopping off at the cardinal site first. The cardinals
are now over, sadly. Tree graylings are still by far the commonest butterfly around, flying pretty much everywhere I went today from the valley floor up in to the hills. I also saw two or three graylings (semele). Plenty of blues are still around. Commonest are Adonis, followed by Chapman’s and common. Here is a pair of common blues
of which the male is an aberrant. I saw him first before they mated and
wasn’t initially sure what species he was. Then he was actively wooed
by a female and succumbed in a matter of seconds! I saw a single, male
chalkhill blue, as well as several Aricia arguses. At least some were
definitely artaxerxes. Some had so much orange and were so rounded I can’t say they weren’t agestis. Other butterflies on the wing included clouded yellows (common still), Berger’s clouded yellows (also common), small and green-veined whites, a single brimstone, Queen of Spain fritillaries (common), spotted fritillary (I saw just that one female), red admiral, wall and speckled wood. I saw no skippers today.
15th: Still a few clouded yellows flying up here in the mountains.
21st: Another trip to the Rhône Valley. Although they weren't flying last week, rosy grizzled skippers were on the wing today. No other skippers were flying. For the blues, I saw only Adonis (and here) and common before the clouds came and stopped play. Clouded yellows and Berger's clouded yellows were flying, as well as graylings and tree graylings, a few walls, a couple of whites, Queen of Spain fritillaries and the odd red admiral.
25th: Yet another trip to the same site (it's half term). Interestingly, I bumped into the same aberrant male common blue I saw mating on 14th. I'm not completely sure whether this male blue (and here) is Chapman's or form icarinus of common blue. Adonis blues are still flying, though I saw no chalkhills. Walls and tree graylings (no graylings) are on the wing and there were both clouded yellows and Berger's clouded yellows.
26th: Trip to the site where I saw sloe hairstreaks back in June, to
look for eggs. In over three hours' searching I found none. In fact,
the only egg I turned up at all was this brown hairstreak ovum.
Butterflies seen, in small numbers, were small white, Berger's (or
pale) clouded yellow, common blue, Adonis blue, red admiral, wall and small copper.