For previous years' lists and commentaries, often incomplete, click 2017, 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 2018 CHECKLIST or use the menu below to jump to the
COMMENTARY for each month.
FOR THE YEAR 2018
Red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) - 6th January - Valais
Queen of Spain fritillary (Issoria lathonia) - 6th January - Valais
Large tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros) - 13th January - Valais
Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) - 30th January - Vaud
Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) - 21st February - North Italy
Commentary (Links in the
commentary are to pictures of the particular butterflies referred to)
January 1st: Spent the New Year in Suffolk, UK, where there was no possibility of seeing any butterflies! Here are an avocet and a redshank paddling in the river Deben in the grey gloom of an overcast day.
5th: Took my first forest walk of the year. The damage caused by storm Eleanor is horrific - there are trees fallen all over the place and broken branches strewn
on the ground. I noticed some branches had come off one of the elms
where white-letter hairstreaks lay, so checked briefly for eggs on the
accessible twigs. I’ll check more thoroughly over the next few days,
but came home today with two eggs (here and here), which I put in the fridge to keep safe until the spring. Here and here are shots of the first of those eggs taken through the microscope (with my iPhone).
6th: Sun forecast for the valley, so I set off for my Queen of Spain
hotspots just in case anything would fly. With a stiff breeze blowing
when I arrived, I didn’t really expect anything, so was pleasantly
surprised when a red admiral cruised past, saluting me en passant. Finally, at about 12h30, I found at least two Queens holding fort near the top of a high bank at one of my hotspots. The first flew down and away; the second stopped a short while and allowed a distant, proof shot on full zoom. The season has begun!
13th: Sunny but very cold
in Valais, rising to a maximum of probably 1 degree. There was also a
chilly breeze, making it feel colder and preventing the build-up of any
real hotspots. I saw a single Queen of Spain fritillary
- the same individual as I photographed last week - and, much more
surprisingly a single large tortoiseshell. I accidentally put up this
last from a woody path where I wasn’t expecting to see any butterflies
and it quickly disappeared up a slope and over trees
- no chance of a photo of the butterfly. I wonder if it had been
disturbed from hibernation by storm Eleanor at the beginning of
January. It shouldn't have been flying and I hope it manages to hunker
down for another few weeks until its friends join it.
26th: No opportunities for butterflies since 13th - and generally
overcast, sometimes rainy, sometimes snowy, weather. Forest walks are
still difficult because the path is still obstructed by trees
fallen during storm Eleanor. Nevertheless, we did the full circuit
today. Here, here and here are photos of an open white admiral hibernaculum with caterpillar clearly visible within.
28th: Sun all day in the valley, and despite a chill breeze preventing
hotspots building up it felt remarkably warm. Nevertheless, no
butterflies at all on my usual walk. I returned via the bulbocodium
fields, where small tortoiseshells are usually to be found in spring
taking nectar. Plenty of bulbocodium in flower, and a few flies on some, but no tortoiseshells at all.
29th: Sunny and almost warm in Huémoz. I expected to see a small
tortoiseshell on my lunchtime walk but none were flying. It is an
30th: Finally, the first small tortoiseshell of the year, flying near Huémoz (and here).
After taking those shots, I turned to monitor Minnie as the post van
went past, and when I turned back to the butterfly it was gone.
February 4th: No chances to go butterflying recently, by time or weather. Here is a brown hairstreak egg from my local patch, and here a close-up of it.
6th: Cold but sunny. At least 4 small tortoiseshells (and here) seen in Huémoz, three of them over this bank.
14th: Still cold. Plenty of snow fell a few days ago but is now melting again. Two or three small tortoiseshells were flying around Huémoz at lunchtime, in temperatures of 2°C and a chill breeze. Here is one in the context of the snow.
19th: Sunny but quite cold in the valley: 2°C when I arrived at the site, 7°C when I left at 13h30. Small tortoiseshells have now woken up properly (and here, and here, and here).
They were flying throughout my walk, including in the orchards near
Martigny as I returned to the station. I saw about 20 in total. A
number were in very poor condition (here and here) - perhaps a consequence of Storm Eleanor earlier in the year. Here is a plump female,
ready to lay eggs soon. In addition, I saw a single Queen of Spain. It
was messing around at the top of a bank and I only got literally a proof shot. Other than that, a little surprisingly, no butterflies - but I left by early and had to hurry round. Here is one of the many lizards scuttling around in the vineyards. This is my first pasque flower of the year.
21st: Day trip to North Italy
to see what, if anything, was on the wing. The answer was, not very
much, though it was a beautiful day. I first walked up into the hills,
to a site where large tortoiseshells are abundant in March. It was warm
and sunny - and a very pleasant walk - but all I saw were two small
tortoiseshells. At my next site, closer to the valley floor, I saw a
single, male brimstone roding, and finally, in Domodossola, next to the river, I saw a third small tortoiseshell. By the time I left, the temperature had risen to 10°C
and it felt warmer in the sun. But the butterflies are less impatient
than I, and were clearly waiting for real spring before emerging from
their winter slumbers. March
4th: After the big freeze, with temperatures down to as low as -18°C
over the last few days, things have returned to normal. Today was sunny
and warm. I saw a single small tortoiseshell on my local walk at
lunchtime. Here is a snowdrop in the woods.
8th: Two small tortoiseshells seen on today's lunchtime walk.
9th: Despite a reasonable forecast, it was mostly overcast this
morning. I set off late for the valley, heading for a good large
tortoiseshell site. Because the sun never came out, I initially saw
nothing at all except a handful of orange underwing moths. It was warm,
though, and eventually I did come across this single large tortoiseshell
trying to sun itself on the ground. I could see it was sunny further
east along the valley, so decided to head that way to another large
tortoiseshell site. I arrived at about 15h15, by which time the sun was
disappearing behind the mountains. I saw two more large tortoiseshells
before full shade fell (at about 15h30).
14th: A sunny day here in the mountains. Several small tortoiseshells were flying and I saw this large tortoiseshell about 100m from my house. Still little on the wing, though.
15th: A little sun in the morning but mostly cloudy, degrading to
cloud, rain and wind by the afternoon. Amazingly, a couple of small
tortoiseshells were battling against the wind and even rain on my early
afternoon walk. There was no sun at all and I lost them, so bad was the