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
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
Comma (Polygonia c-album)
- 21st March - Suffolk, UK
Nettle tree butterfly (Libythea
celtis) - 23rd March - North Italy
Peacock (Aglais io) -
25th March - Valais
Eastern Bath white (Pontia edusa)
- 25th March - Valais
Small white (Pieris rapae)
- 25th March - Valais
Orange tip (Anthocharis
cardamines) - 31st March - Valais
Wood white (Leptidea sinapis)
- 19th April - Vaud
Green-veined white (Pieris napi)
- 19th April - Vaud
Dingy skipper (Erynnis tages)
- 20th April - Valais
Holly blue (Celastrina argiolus)
- 20th April - Valais
Small heath (Coenonympha
pamphilus) - 20th April - Valais
Violet fritillary (Boloria dia)
- 20th April - Valais
Berger's clouded yellow (Colias
alfacariensis) - 20th April - Valais
Green hairstreak (Callophrys
rubi) - 20th April - Valais
Chapman's blue (Polyommatus
thersites) - 20th April - Valais
Southern grizzled skipper (Pyrgus
malvoides) - 20th April - Valais
Scarce swallowtail (Iphiclides
podalirius) - 20th April - Valais
Speckled wood (Pararge aegeria)
- 20th April - Valais
Baton blue (Scolitantides baton)
- 20th April - Valais
Camberwell beauty (Nymphalis
antiopa) - 20th April - Valais
Swallowtail (Papilio machaon)
- 20th April - Valais
De Prunner's ringlet (Erebia triaria) - 21st April - Valais
Grizzled skipper (Pyrgus malvae) - 22nd April - Vaud
Pearl-bordered fritillary (Boloria euphrosyne) - 25th April - Vaud
Provençal short-tailed blue (Cupido alcetas) - 27th April - Valais
Duke of Burgundy (Hamearis lucina) - 27th April - Valais
Nickerl's fritillary (Melitaea aurelia) - 27th April - Valais
Rosy grizzled skipper (Pyrgus onopordi) - 27th April - Valais
Glanville fritillary (Melitaea cinxia) - 27th April - Valais
Green-underside blue (Glaucopsyche alexis) - 27th April - Valais
Common blue (Polyommatus icarus) - 27th April - Valais
Mallow skipper (Carcharodus alceae) - 27th April - Valais
Wall (Lasiommata megera) - 28th April - Vaud
Adonis blue (Polyommatus bellargus) - 28th April - Vaud
Sooty copper (Lycaena tityrus) - 28th April - Vaud
Red-underwing skipper (Spialia sertorius) - 28th April - Valais
Chequered blue (Scolitantides orion) - 28th April - Valais
Southern small white (Pieris mannii) - 28th April - Valais
Short-tailed blue (Cupido argiades) - 4th May - Vaud
Osiris blue (Cupido osiris) - 5th May - Valais
Little blue (Cupido minimus) - 5th May - Valais
Safflower skipper (Pyrgus carthami) - 5th May - Valais
Iolas blue Iolana iolas) - 5th May - Valais
Meadow fritillary (Melitaea parthenoides) - 9th May - Vaud
Turquoise blue (Polyommatus dorylas) - 11th May - Valais
Spotted fritillary (Melitaea didyma) - 11th May - Valais
Mountain dappled white (Euchloe simplonia) - 18th May - Valais
Cardinal (Argynnis pandora) - 18th May - Valais
Brown argus (Aricia agestis) - 18th May - Valais
Chequered skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon) - 22nd May - Vaud
Black-veined white (Aporia crataegi) - 25th May - Geneva
Black hairstreak (Satyrium pruni) - 25th May - Geneva
Heath fritillary (Melitaea athalia/nevadensis) - 25th May - Geneva
Knapweed fritillary (Melitaea phoebe) - 25th May - Geneva
Reverdin's blue (Plebejus argyrognomon) - 25th May - Geneva
Large copper (Lycaena dispar) - 25th May - Geneva
Meadow brown (Maniola jurtina) - 25th May - Geneva
Pearly heath (Coenonympha arcania) - 26th May - Vaud
Southern white admiral (Limenitis reducta) - 28th May - Valais
Marbled white (Melanargia galathea) - 28th May - Valais
Northern brown argus (Aricia artaxerxes) - 28th May - Valais
Mazarine blue (Cyaniris semiargus) - 28th May - Valais
Geranium argus (Aricia eumedon) - 29th May - Vaud
Large wall (Lasiommata maera) - 30th May - Vaud*
Violet copper (Lycaena helle) - 1st June - Vaud
Northern wall (Lasiommata petropolitana) - 1st June - Vaud
White admiral (Limenitis camilla) - 2nd June - Geneva
Woodland brown (Lopinga achine) - 2nd June - Geneva
Painted lady (Vanessa cardui) - 2nd June - Geneva
Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus) - 7th June - Vaud
Provençal fritillary (Melitaea deione berisalii) - 8th June - Valais
Marbled fritillary (Brenthis daphne) - 8th June - Valais
Small skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) - 8th June - Valais
Large skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus) - 8th June - Valais
Marbled skipper (Carcharodus lavatherae) - 8th June - Valais
Great sooty satyr (Satyrus ferula) - 8th June - Valais
Swiss Zephy blue (Plebejus trappi) - 8th June - Valais
Purple emperor (Apatura iris) - 10th June - Geneva
Lesser purple emperor (Apatura ilia) - 10th June - Geneva
Dark green fritillary (Argynnis aglaja) - 11th June - Vaud
Marsh fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia) - 15th June - Vaud
False heath fritillary (Melitaea diamina) - 15th June - Vaud
Lesser marbled fritillary (Brenthis ion) - 15th June - Vaud
Woodland ringlet (Erebia medusa) - 15th June - Vaud
Niobe fritillary (Argynnis niobe) - 16th June - Vaud
Great banded grayling (Brintesia circe) - 17th June - Vaud
Sloe hairstreak (Satyrium acaciae) - 17th June - Vaud
High brown fritillary (Argynnis adippe) - 18th June - Vaud
Alpine heath (Coenonympha gardetta) - 22nd June - Valais
Large ringlet (Erebia euryale) - 22nd June - Valais
Blind ringlet (Erebia pharte) - 22nd June - Valais
Asian fritillary (Euphydryas intermedia) - 22nd June - Valais
Mountain green-veined white (Pieris bryoniae) - 22nd June - Valais
Alpine grizzled skipper (Pyrgus andromedae) - 22nd June - Valais
Alpine grayling (Oeneis glacialis) - 22nd June - Valais
Scarce copper (Lycaena virgaureae) - 22nd June - Valais
Escher's blue (Polyommatus escheri) - 22nd June - Valais
Moorland clouded yellow (Colias palaeno) - 22nd June - Valais
Silver-washed fritillary (Argynnis paphia) - 23rd June - Vaud
Ilex hairstreak (Satyrium ilicis) - 25th June - Valais
Grayling (Hipparchia semele) - 25th June - Valais
Rock grayling (Hipparchia alcyone) - 25th June - Valais
Dusky meadow brown (Hyponephele lycaon) - 25th June - Valais
Clouded Apollo (Parnassius mnemosyne) - 26th June - Vaud
Bright-eyed ringlet (Erebia oeme) - 26th June - Vaud
Arran brown (Erebia triaria) - 27th June - Vaud
Chalkhill blue (Polyommatus coridon) - 1st July - Valais
Purple-shot copper (Lycaena alciphron) - 1st July - Valais
Purple-edged copper (Lycaena hippothoe) - 4th July - Bern
Dusky large blue (Phengaris nausithous) - 4th July - Bern
Scarce large blue (Phengaris telejus) - 4th July - Bern
Darwin's heath (Coenonympha [gardetta] darwiniana) - 7th July - Valais
Almond-eyed ringlet (Erebia alberganus) - 7th July - Valais
Lesser mountain ringlet (Erebia melampus) - 7th July - Valais
Blind ringlet (Erebia pharte) - 7th July - Valais
Silver-studded blue (Plebejus argus) - 7th July - Valais
White-letter hairstreak (Satyrium w-album) - 8th July - Vaud
Marbled ringlet (Erebia montana) - 9th July - Valais
Mountain clouded yellow (Colias phicomone) - 9th July - Valais
Swiss brassy ringlet (Erebia tyndarus) - 9th July - Valais
Rätzer's ringlet (Erebia christi) - 9th July - Valais
Blue-spot hairstrea (Satyrium spini) - 9th July - Valais
Glandon blue (Plebejus glandon) - 11th July 2018 - Valais
Idas blue (Plebejus idas) - 11th July 2018 - Valais
Mnestra ringlet (Erebia mnestra) - 11th July 2018 - Valais
Cranberry blue (Plebejus optilete) - 11th July 2018 - Valais
Large heath (Coenonympha tullia) - 14th July - Bern
Pale clouded yellow (Colias hyale) - 17th July - Vaud
* This was not the first large wall I saw this year but I didn't record first and can't recall which day it was 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
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
which I put in the fridge to keep safe until the spring. Here
are shots of the first of those eggs taken through the microscope (with
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!
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
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.
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
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,
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
- perhaps a consequence of Storm Eleanor earlier in the year. Here is a
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
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.
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
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
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,
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
21st: Vernal equinox. For family reasons, I have been in Suffolk for a
week. Although there has been some sun, it has usually been cold and
until today I saw no butterflies. Today, a single small tortoiseshell
flew while I was on a walk before lunch and later a comma appeared in
the back garden.
23rd: Having arrived back from the UK last night, I picked up Minnie
from kennels in the morning then headed east along the Rhône Valley to
take her for a walk. At some stage, I decided I would carry on into
Italy to look for nettle tree butterflies and any early emergers. It
was later in the day than my usual trips to Italy. I arrived at
Domodossola at about midday and reached my first hill station for
nettle trees (a fairly arduous cycle ride) at about a quarter to one.
Everything was still very wintry. I saw a few brimstones and a couple
of small tortoiseshells on the cycle ride but no whites or orange tips.
At the site I soon saw a single nettle tree butterfly flitting around
high in a nettle tree. Large tortoiseshells were the commonest
butterfly but during the walk I saw probably a dozen nettle tree
butterflies - maybe a little more - almost all high in the trees,
directly into the sun. This
one stopped long enough for a quick shot. The sun is a finger or
two below the bottom of the picture! This
taken through a gap in the bramble, is the only one I saw anywhere near
the ground. A few brimstones were roding and I saw a very few more
small tortoiseshells, but basically it was large tortoiseshells and
nettle trees. No green hairstreaks, small coppers, grizzled skippers or
any whites - all of which I had expected to see. I called in at two
further sites, seeing nothing more. Here is a large
tortoiseshell nearer to the valley floor. That and brimstone were
the only species I saw after I had left the main nettle tree site.
24th: I stayed local today. In the forest, male brimstones were roding
widely and a few red admirals were actively defending sunspots. There
were good numbers of large
tortoiseshells around and small tortoiseshells too. I saw just two commas.
None of the non-hibernators are on the wing yet. Here is a white
admiral caterpillar, still in his sleeping bag for the winter. The wych
elm flower buds are not open yet but are growing visibly.
25th: A beautiful, sunny day was forecast so Minnie
and I headed east along the Rhône Valley again, to see what was flying
- in Switzerland, not Italy, this time. Because of the clock change, it
was still very cold and actually overcast when we cycled down the hill
at 09h20. We reached our first site some time before 11h00 but it was
still cold then. A couple of large
greeted us, soon followed by a small tortoiseshell and some brimstones.
The day did hot up, as promised, and although the forecast temperature
was only about 5 degrees it felt warmer than that. Nevertheless, we saw
only hibernators until the early afternoon. This
sallow was host to small
tortoiseshell and peacock.
Here are a small
tortoiseshell and brimstone
on one of the few flowering dandelions. Unusually, there were no
commas. I did see a possible comma in the distance, flying along the
track, but couldn’t confirm it. Until about 12h45, these were the only
butterflies I saw. Then, on the way back to the train (as I had to be
home early), I was pleased to see a couple of Bath
of which one stopped briefly to nectar on speedwell. I continued
through grizzled skipper country without seeing any of this species.
Finally, with minutes to spare for the train, I found some more
dandelions and other flowers where Bath and small
whites were both very occasionally stopping to nectar.
I had a lot to do in the morning but found time to attach the
white-letter hairstreak eggs I had rescued after the storms to the
freshly budding wych elms. Of five rescued, just one seems to be truly
viable. This is it, fastened
with fine cotton right next to a bud. I hope it will survive. There
were no butterflies flying in the woods - it was too cold and overcast.
are a couple of local brown hairstreak eggs. In the afternoon I cycled
down to the valley to give Minnie
her last walk before the Easter holidays. I expected it to be mostly
cloudy but in the event there was some sun
- though also a very strong wind - and I did see a few butterflies. New
for the year was this orange
tip - the only one I saw.
Large tortoiseshells were common, many looking well worn. This has
been a strong year for them so far. Also flying were male and female brimstones
(here is a couple
in flight), small
a few peacocks, a Bath white, a small white and a single comma. I
cycled back through grizzled skipper and green hairstreak country but
to my surprise saw neither. Admittedly, the sun had gone in by then but
it was still warm. April
4th: I've been back in Suffolk for a few days. Today, for the first
time since arriving and despite the wind, a couple of butterflies were
on the wing in the garden between clouds: a peacock
and a comma.
5th: At least two commas were flying in the back garden. This
is the same one I photographed yesterday.
6th: Same butterflies in garden.
A cloudier day, ending in torrential rain. Took a cycle ride in the
early afternoon, seeing just a few peacocks in local woodland. Comma
still defending his favourite flowers in the garden.
Cloudy weather since my last record, until today. My sister reported a
brimstone in the garden in the morning and I saw many peacocks on an
afternoon walk and later on a run through the villages.
Mostly sunny in the early morning, though clouds building up. I took a
cycle ride to local woods and heaths before lunch (local = near
Woodbridge, Suffolk), seeing commas (actually, they were in the garden,
before and after), brimstone (in the woods and the garden), peacocks
and a couple of small tortoiseshells. No non-hibernators yet.
17th: My mother's funeral.
18th: Flew back to Switzerland.
19th: Day of Beau Soleil maths competition. Walked Minnie into school
in morning - sunny but no butterflies. In afternoon, a few small
tortoiseshells around in Villars. First wood white of the year seen as
I walked home after the competition, at about 16h30. Then a walk in the
woods, where several more wood whites, as well as small tortoiseshells,
brimstones, my first green-veined white of the year and a couple of
commas. Found these brimstone
20th: Hot and sunny all day - and my day off, apart from a single
lesson in the evening. I got up relatively late and headed off to the
Rhône Valley, arriving at my first site shortly before 11h00. Some
spring species are now common to abundant - orange tip, small and
green-veined whites, wood whites, Bath whites and holly blues. Others
are in much shorter supply or not yet on the wing. So I saw just two southern
grizzled skippers (this one is form intermedia), a handful of dingy
skippers, no green-underside blues, no walls and no de Prunner’s
ringlets. I visited two sites - one in the morning and one in the
afternoon. My full species list was: swallowtail (a single individual),
swallowtail (three or four), small white (common), green-veined
white (common), wood white (common), eastern Bath white (common),
orange tip (very common), brimstone (common), Berger’s clouded yellow
(quite common), Chapman’s
blue (a single male), baton
blue (a single male - and here),
holly blue (common), green
hairstreak (quite common - and here),
small tortoiseshell (a few), large
tortoiseshell (three, I think), Camberwell
beauty (at least half a dozen at a single site), comma (several),
peacock (a few), violet fritillary (locally common), Queen of Spain
fritillary (quite a few), small
heath (locally quite a few), speckled wood (a few), southern
grizzled skipper (two), dingy skipper (a handful).
21st: I began at quite a high site in the Val d’Hérens, arriving at about 11h00. Very little was on the wing, despite the heat. Wood whites and orange tips were common. Other than that, I saw a few southern grizzled skippers,
lots of scarce swallowtails, several peacocks, commas, large
tortoiseshells and small tortoiseshells, the odd brimstone, a few small
whites and green-veined whites, a handful of speckled woods, a small
heath and a holly blue. Queens of Spain
were reasonably common and I saw a few violet fritillaries - but no
pearl-bordered yet. I expected to see Camberwell beauties zooming up
and down the river but there were none. This is a site where Oberthür’s
grizzled skipper and olive skipper fly but neither was in evidence
today. In the afternoon I headed back down to the valley and along to
the site I began at yesterday. There, I saw two de Prunner’s ringlets -
my first for the year - and a probable rosy grizzled skipper. Other
than that, nothing new: scarce swallowtail, small white, green-veined
white, orange tip, wood white, brimstone, Berger’s clouded yellow,
eastern Bath white, holly blue,
Chapman’s blue, Queen of Spain, violet fritillary, comma, large
tortoiseshell, small tortoiseshell, peacock, small heath, speckled
wood, grizzled skipper. No green hairstreaks were flying. At the same
site in the morning yesterday there were lots.
22nd: My first grizzled skipper of the year (malvae, rather than malvoides)
in my local woods. At least one of the white-letter hairstreak eggs I
rescued after the January storms and reattached to the wild elms has
hatched successfully. I found the larva (and here and here) near the attached twig. This is the attached twig on 30th March. This is the same view, with the empty egg, on 19th April (I didn't find the larva that day, not having enough time to look properly). Here is a white admiral caterpillar near its hibernaculum. This one has not come out of its hibernaculum yet.
24th: The first violet fritillaries are on the wing up here in the mountains.
25th: I've found my first purple emperor caterpillars of the year: Willow and Faith. Both are fourth instar. I was beginning to fear I wouldn't find any ... Here is my first pearl-bordered fritillary of the year.
27th: I began, rather late in the morning, at a site in the Val
d’Hérens. Last Saturday there was little flying there. Today, it was
still relatively tardy but more was on the wing. I saw my first Provençal short-tailed blue of the year, followed by at least two Dukes of Burgundy
defending a sunny bank beneath a cowslip meadow. No Oberthür’s grizzled
skippers were flying but there were several grizzlies and a few dingy skippers too. Other species on the wing were scarce swallowtail, wood white, small and green-veined whites, orange tip,
brimstone, holly blue, small tortoiseshell, peacock, comma, Queen of
Spain, violet fritillary, small heath and speckled wood. This is a
Nickerl’s fritillary site. I saw none while I was there, but after I
had cycled back up to the main road (stopping to photograph this baton blue),
just before beginning the descent to the valley, spotted a single
Nickerl’s flying in the verge. I continued down to the valley, caught
the train eastwards, and visited a second site in the afternoon. There,
I soon saw my first rosy grizzled skippers of the year, as well as my first Glanville fritillaries, common blues, green-underside blues and mallow skippers. Other species flying were Chapman's blue, scarce swallowtail, violet fritillary, Queen of Spain, all the usual whites and orange tip, brimstone, Berger’s clouded yellow, a single green hairstreak, Camberwell beauty, small heath, de Prunner's ringlet and speckled wood. So far I have seen no walls!
28th: Visited a local site to look for short-tailed blue. When I
arrived, there were no blues at all, of any species though it was
beautiful weather. Eventually I saw a single Adonis blue - my first of the year. I also saw my first wall browns and sooty coppers (and here)
of the year. Apart from that, little was flying - a few whites and
orange tips and small heaths and a comma. I moved on to the Rhône
Valley to see how advanced the bladder sennas were (for iolas blues). A
few had flowers but mostly they are still all leaf. At that site I saw
common blue, red underwing skipper (my first of the year), Provençal short-tailed blue, swallowtail and the usual whites. Moving on to another site not far away I found my first chequered blues (and here and here) and southern small whites (and here) of the year. Here, there were more walls and lots of orange tips. The skies were increasingly overcast and I headed home by early afternoon.
29th: A new purple emperor caterpillar: Drusilla. Faith is laid up for her next skin change.
3rd: I found a new purple emperor caterpillar today - Xander.
Interestingly, he has just shed his skin, which is lying on the leaf by
his head, and he is just over 1 cm long. That means he has just
graduated into 3rd instar - implying in turn that he spent the winter
as a second instar. This picture shows the discarded tail skin slightly better. Elsewhere in the woods, Willow is now laid up for ecdysis, I think into 5th instar! She is just over an inch long. Her neighbour, Faith, who is also over an inch long, looks as if she will lay up for ecdysis very soon.
4th: Willow has indeed laid up for her next skin change. She is over an inch long
(note: she is strongly curved in that picture). Faith has not completed
her transformation yet. After checking the purple emperor caterpillars
I headed up the mountain to see how the habitats there were
progressing. This picture of Minnie
says it all ... There is no spring vegetation growth apart from
crocuses, coltsfoot and marsh marigolds. Despite that, a few green
hairstreaks were around. This one was very active but only ever landed on the snow (and here, and here). This one
kept to bushes by the side of the track. In the afternoon we visited a
local site for short-tailed blues. There was remarkably little flying
but in the end we saw two - this female (and here) and this male. Also flying were common blues and Chapman's blues.
5th: I began at the same site in the Val d'Hérens I visited on 27th
April. It was a warm, sunny day and I hoped to see Osiris blues. I did
- two in total - but didn't get any good photos as they were very
active. This is the best I got. Other new species for the year at this site were safflower skipper and little blue.
The full list here was: Dingy skipper, southern grizzled skipper,
safflower skipper, swallowtail, scarce swallowtail, small white,
green-veined white, orange tip, wood white, clouded yellow, Berger’s
clouded yellow, brimstone, little blue, Osiris blue, Provençal
short-tailed blue (here with a little blue as a blur!!), green-underside blue, common blue, baton blue, green hairstreak, Duke of Burgundy (here is a Duchess), violet fritillary, pearl-bordered fritillary, Glanville fritillary,
Queen of Spain fritillary, small tortoiseshell, large tortoiseshell,
peacock, comma, small heath, speckled wood, wall, large wall. After
this I moved off to a different site in the Rhône Valley, where
cardinals and Iolas blues fly. Some years, cardinals are already on the
wing by this time but I saw none today - unsurprisingly. I did see a
single Iolas blue, which danced through the site without stopping. This
kept me company for about an hour as I sat in the shade watching the
world go by. Then suddenly it was joined by another - I am not certain
which one was male and which one female. They immediately hit it off (and here and here) and disappeared to mate somewhere. I never saw either again!
6th: Pearl-bordered fritillaries flying in my local woods. I am now
following six purple emperor caterpillars, of which I photographed five
today. The sixth, Drusilla, has moved off her high leaf island, which
she had destroyed by eating, and presumably found another. The other
five are: Willow, Faith, Xander (and here), Principal Snyder (and here) and Cordelia.
8th: I still can't find Drusilla but am now following 8 purple emperor
caterpillars. I photographed them all today - mostly in the evening, so
the photos are rather bad - and put them into this composite.
9th: The first meadow fritillaries are flying in the local meadows.
When I went for my lunctime walk they were flying but didn't stop for a
photo. While I was cycling into school, this one (and here) did stop by the side of the road and I was able to photograph it on my iPhone.
11th: Morning trip to the valley to see if cardinals were flying yet. They weren't. I did see at least one male iolas blue (and here, and here) and perhaps two. I also saw my first turquoise blue (and here) and spotted fritillaries of the year. Here is an Adonis blue.
I saw a Camberwell beauty at a site where I've not seen them before.
This species seems to be doing particularly well at the moment.
Unfortunately, I had to be home by lunchtime, so couldn't explore
12th: I am currently following 10 purple emperor caterpillars, having
now abandoned any hope of relocating a further two, Drusilla and
Cordelia. Of these, three - Faith, Willow and Principal Snyder
are currently in 5th instar. Principal Flutie, who I thought had
recently turned 5th, because he seemed to be trampling on his dead
skin, is laid up for ecdysis.
16th: The weather has been very cold for the last few days, with no
possibility of butterflies flying. As of this monring, Principal Flutie
was still laid up for his next moult. Principal Snyder has been zooming all over his tree and has been difficult to find, but he seems to have settled down now. Xander is laid up for graduation into 4th instar and Mayor Wilkins is now 3rd instar. That photo was taken on 13th but he was still there this morning. Faith
is probably a week away from wandering off to pupate now. Willow has
disappeared - presumed eaten but not necessarily. The caterpillars are
too spread out in the forest for me to check on them all every day,
especially on school days.
17th: Little blue seen up in Huémoz.
18th: In the morning I headed up to a mountain dappled white population
not far from Martigny. The foodplant was in full flower and I saw
probably 4 individuals but apart from one, none of them stopped even a
moment. This is the one that stopped (and here) to nectar on the foodplant. Other species seen on the same walk (along a hot, rather wild road, up to a cool, rather tame but beautiful meadow)
included: swallowtail, scarce swallowtail, Berger's clouded yellow,
small white, green-veined white, wood white, probably Bath white (but
might possibly have been a large mountain dappled white), Adonis blue,
Chapman's blue, common blue, Duke of Burgundy,
speckled wood, Glanville fritillary, probably heath fritillary (but it
didn't stop), Queen of Spain fritillary, red admiral and small
tortoiseshell. I spent much of the time in rather barren territory
looking just for the dappled whites. Cycling back down to the valley I
saw two Apollos - my first for the year. We then zoomed along to my
cardinal site to see if these were on the wing yet. They are. Here, here and here are some females and here and here two males. I saw four individuals within seconds of arriving at the site. Here and here are shots of a male Iolas blue who deigned to show me his upperside! I saw my first brown argus of the year at this same site.
19th: After getting up rather late, I set off for a low-altitude site
in Valais to see if Provençal fritillary was on the wing yet. When I
arrived, shortly after 11h00, the sun went in and for a long while I
saw no butterflies at all. At some stage, the insects sensed the sun
was about to reappear. This Adonis blue opened its wings, even though the sky was overcast, and these Ascalaphids
were waiting, primed ... Then, for about 45 minutes, there was
intermittent hazy sun and cloud, during which time several species
flew: scarce swallowtail, wall, speckled wood, small heath, common blue, Adonis blue, wood white, small white, southern small white, green-veined white, Camberwell beauty
and Queen of Spain. But then the cloud set in again and I decided to
head higher to a different site - also one where Provençal fritillaries
fly. There, despite rain on my arrival, the skies largely cleared and
plenty flew. I saw several Apollos but only this one
stopped, albeit briefly. Blues flying included common, Adonis and
chequered. Walls were very common - definitely the commonest butterfly
- and wood whites were the commonest white. Here is that same individual with Minnie in the picture ... I saw several Melitaea but all those that stopped were Glanville fritillaries
and I suspect Provençal is not on the wing yet. It was a beautiful,
warm and mostly sunny walk but the true summer species are saving
themselves for later.
22nd: First chequered skipper of the year seen on my local patch.
25th: Thanks to traffic lights in Ollon I missed the train I hoped to
catch and reached my first site near Geneva (that is, an hour’s cycle
ride outside Geneva!) later than intended. Within a couple of minutes I
had seen half a dozen black hairstreaks - presumably all males - none
of which stopped anywhere within camerashot. Over the next hour I saw
plenty more, of which just one stopped even a moment - and head-on! Other new species for the year at that site were black-veined white (very common), small copper, knapweed fritillary, heath fritillary
and Oberthür’s grizzled skipper. It was an amazing day, with absolutely
nothing stopping long enough for a picture! Also flying were
pearl-bordered fritillary, Glanville fritillary, Adonis blue, common blue, brown argus, small heath, speckled wood, chequered skipper
and (southern) grizzled skipper. No pearly heaths or marbled whites
were on the wing yet - species I usually see on my black hairstreak
trip. Nor were there any large coppers, another species I occasionally
see there. Large coppers were, however, flying at my next site. I
didn’t see any males but at least two different females were wandering
over the meadow, occasionally stopping. This one settled next to my boot! Here, here and here
are more pictures of the same female. I also saw at least two probable
Reverdin’s blues. Both were males, and were engaged like male and
female, as if looking to mate, but clearly this wasn’t going to
happen.The one visible in this photo is a definite Reverdin's blue. The one that stopped afterwards
was not obviously differentiable from idas blue (he actually looked
more like idas) but I am counting him as Reverdin’s because I saw
definite Reverdin’s later and from what I could see of the underside of
the other, that one was also Reverdin’s. Also at that site were heath
fritillaries, Glanville fritillaries, knapweed fritillaries and
Provençal short-tailed blues. Moving on to a third site, I saw my first
meadow browns of the year (here
is one, glimpsed through foliage), soon followed by definite Reverdin’s
blues. Often, my black hairstreak trip is just too late for these but
today there were plenty about, including several in good condition. The
only problem was, it is a nature reserve and dogs are banned. Thus,
Minnie was in her backpack and my other backpack was on my front.
Taking pictures was very difficult! Here is a male and here
a female (I believe - though the dirty fringe suggests idas). This is
also often a large copper site but I saw none today. I did see a very
tatty sooty copper.
26th: Trip to a site in Vaud where black hairstreaks fly. As I arrived
the skies clouded over but by extreme good luck I located this single black hairstreak
enjoying the privet. My camera doesn't do well in poor light conditions
and that was the best shot I got but it was very much better than
yesterday's! New species for the year was pearly heath.
This was not flying at one of its strongholds in Geneva yesterday but
was very common today. The privet was also not in flower yesterday but
strongly in flower today. So I think this site is more advanced than
the Geneva sites. Other species seen included black-veined white, Adonis blue,
common blue, sooty copper and small heath. The weather never really
looked up, despite a very brief sunny spell. It rained a bit and
remained largely overcast so after a relatively short time I headed
home. Thunderstorms broke in Huémoz this evening.
28th: After a morning inside, working, I took a short trip to Valais in
the afternoon. Several new species for the year were flying, including
southern white admiral, marbled white, northern brown argus and mazarine blue. It was warm but often overcast and the southern white admirals were not posing. This is the only record shot I got, taken on full zoom. This marbled white, similarly, kept out of the camera's way! Safflower skippers are now very common here. I saw no rosy grizzlies, suggesting their first brood is over.
29th: First geranium argus (and here) seen today, on my local patch in Huémoz. This white admiral caterpillar gives an indication of the weather ...
30th: First large wall of the year photographed. I saw one recently but failed to record the day, so this counts as the year tick! Here is a mazarine blue in a local meadow, and here the same white admiral caterpillar
as yesterday, photographed this evening. All but one of my 5th instar
purple emperor caterpillars have now wandered off to pupate somewhere -
and I haven't been able to locate them yet. I had hopes for finding the
pupa of at least one of these three in the same tree
(photographed a few days ago) because I thought they would stay in the
tree, but all have left it. The one remaining caterpillar is Principal Flutie (that photograph was this evening). He will pupate within a week. I must keep my fingers crossed that he stays in his tree ...
Up the mountain to look for violet coppers. It was mostly overcast but
warm, and I found the species reasonably commonly, spread over a large
area. Here is a male and here a female. Some males were already looking worn and others showed very little violet (and here). Here and here are two more shots of that first male and here and here
another female. Little else was flying - no marsh fritillaries and no
Titania's fritillaries. All I the violet copper site, apart from violet
coppers, was little blue,
green hairstreak, dingy skipper and a single chequered skipper. I saw a
single northern wall as I cycled back along the track and a grizzled
skipper at a nearby site.
Trip to a poplar admiral site in the Canton of Geneva. On 6th June 2015
I saw at least a dozen male poplar admirals here and thought it must be
the world centre for the species. Despite several visits in 2016 and
2017 I haven’t seen a single poplar admiral since! I had my first try
of 2018 today - and again failed to see any. In over four hours at the
site, I saw a total of perhaps 20 white admirals (and here).
On good days in the past I have seen literally thousands here - maybe
tens of thousands - so it is possible (I hope) I am just a little too
early this year. Other species included red admiral, comma and painted
lady - my first of this latter species for the year, small white,
green-veined white, black-veined white,
wood white, brimstone, Adonis blue, Provençal short-tailed blue (I
didn’t check for short-tailed because it flew off too soon), holly
blue, black hairstreak (and here - a different individual) - my first for this site - large copper - also my first for this site - speckled wood, woodland brown
(first for the year - locally half a dozen or so), meadow brown, small
heath and grizzled skipper. This site is some thirty kilometres from my
usual large copper sites. The species has become well established over
a large region of the Canton de Genève.
7th: First local (Huémoz) meadow browns and gatekeepers, as well as my first ringlet of the year.
8th: The main target species for today was Provençal fritillary,
which wasn’t flying the last time I set off to look for it. Today,
despite 100% cloud cover almost the whole time, it was on the wing in
good numbers, together with heath fritillary, knapweed fritillary, the first marbled fritillaries of the year, Queen of Spain and pearl-bordered fritillary. Here is another male Provençal fritillary and here a female,
heavily egg-bound. I couldn’t get any undersides because of the weather
- they only ever settled with their wings out - but the upperside of
the Swiss subspecies is sufficient for identifying it. Also new for the
year at this site were small skipper, large skipper, marbled skipper and great sooty satyr. Blues flying included Adonis, common, baton and northern brown argus. By far the commonest species were Apollo and black-veined white. Here is a male Apollo trying his luck with a female. It was doomed - she was already sporting a sphragis (close-up of the sphragis).
Other species taking to the wing despite the weather were wall,
speckled wood, meadow brown, ringlet, marbled white, comma, small
tortoiseshell, painted lady, grizzled skipper and safflower skipper.
I left that site in mid-afternoon and cycled down the hill to another
site in the valley where Provençal fritillary usually fly, hoping to
find Swiss Zephyr blue too. Surprisingly, there were no Provençal
fritillaries there, though I saw several marbled fritillaries and one large fritillary - almost certainly Niobe, but it never stopped. I saw two Swiss Zephyr blues, both males. Southern white admirals were conspicuous here and I saw at least two living Camberwell beauties. In addition, I found the remains of another (and here), which must have been flying earlier in the day as all four wings were still close together. Nearby lay the wing of a scarce swallowtail.
It is clear a bird had been picking off butterflies as they came down
for minerals - I saw several pied wagtails along the path. A female
Bath white was laying eggs by the track. Here is one of them.
Full species list for the day: Scarce swallowtail, Apollo, Small white,
green-veined white, wood white, Bath white, black-veined white,
Berger’s clouded yellow, common blue, Adonis blue, baton blue, northern
brown argus, small tortoiseshell, painted lady, comma, Queen of Spain,
marbled fritillary, pearl-bordered fritillary, heath fritillary,
knapweed fritillary, Provençal fritillary, (Niobe fritillary),
Camberwell beauty, southern white admiral, meadow brown, ringlet, wall,
large wall, speckled wood, great sooty satyr, grizzled skipper,
safflower skipper, small skipper, large skipper, marbled skipper, dingy
10th: A mostly cloudy day with some sunny intervals. Heavy and
oppressive. Near Geneva, no poplar admirals flew but plenty else was on
the wing. Purple emperor (and here, with white admiral) was flying, as well as lesser purple (and here). I saw two purple and three lesser purple. White admirals are now abundant (and here, and here). Summer-brood large tortoiseshells out - seen here with white admirals (and here). Woodland browns
are also very common now. I was mostly looking for admirals and
emperors, but also noticed marbled fritillaries, at least one larger
fritillary - probably dark green - heath fritillaries, meadow browns, speckled woods, ringlets and assorted whites, including lots of black-veined.
11th: Dark green fritillary seen in Huémoz. This is not the first large
fritillary I have seen this year but it is the first to stop long
enough to be identified.
15th: A trip to a site in the Jura Vaudois. New species for year were
marsh fritillary, false heath fritillary, lesser marbled fritillary,
woodland ringlet and almost certainly small pearl-bordered fritillary.
Before visiting the main site I stopped in some woods where Duke of
Burgundies fly. Virtually nothing was on the wing - perhaps a meadow
brown - and the sun did not come out. Moving on to the main, wetland
site, I found that rather small marsh fritillaries were locally common. Violet coppers were also about in reasonable numbers, some very worn but some quite fresh still
(none posing for decent photos though!). There were a few sooty coppers
but no other coppers. For the blues, I really only noticed Adonis and
mazarine, but blues mostly appeared while I was in pursuit of other
stuff. False heath fritillaries were common. I saw just one, distant lesser marbled fritillary,
in a dense stand of meadowsweet. Other Nymphalids were comma, small
tortoiseshell and red admiral. Apart from the woodland ringlets, which
were quite common (here is a male, here a female and here an egg, which I saw being laid), Satyrids included small heath,
meadow brown and ringlet. I only saw one skipper - a large skipper. A
single brimstone represented the yellows and a few green-veined whites
the whites. I’m quite confident there was at least one small
pearl-bordered fritillary in the nature reserve but it only stopped
once in the whole time I saw it, and it was facing directly towards me.
I need to analyse the picture. This is a hooktail dragonfly, Onychogomphus forcipatus. No butterflies seen on the return journey to the train station.
16th: Niobe fritillary seen in Huémoz.
17th: Visited a site in the foothills of the Jura for sloe hairstreak,
hoping to see females laying. On arrival, I saw my first great banded
graylings of the year. Other common grassland species included meadow
brown, large skipper, marbled white
and pearly heath. Surprisingly, there were no blues at all. Once I
reached the blackthorn areas, sloe hairstreaks were very common. Males
were nectaring or just hanging around. Females were intent on laying - all over the place! I watched this female
spend a very long time laying and expected to see an egg when she
finally moved off. I did - but it was almost invisible to the naked
eye, being covered covered in black-and-white hairs (and here).
These are in fact hair-like scales, and although they apparently come
off quite soon, they provide excellent camouflage for the newly laid
egg. The tip of the female abdomen is black and white. Here, here and here
are more photographs of females laying. I saw no blue-spot nor ilex
hairstreaks. In May, I saw black hairstreaks here but there were none
today. Other species flying included small heath, violet fritillary and
18th: First high brown fritillary of the year seen in Huémoz.
22nd: Trip along the Val d’Anniviers for Asian fritillary. These were around in good numbers, but I think I only saw males. Here, here and here are some more pictures. At times they were nectaring together and occasionally defended territories very close to one another, on neighbouring raspberry bushes or rhododendrons. From 11am until the time I left their site, after 15h30, they were constant companions. Other fritillaries flying were heath, false heath and pearl-bordered. Here is a very dark individual
that I first took to be Titania’s but felt uncomfortable with this ID
and decided it was a female pearl-bordered. The few, fleeting glimpses
of its underside were not at all like Titania’s. As always at that
site, the commonest butterfly was northern wall. Alpine heath was also very common and the commonest blue was little, closely followed by mazarine. Near stands of geraniums, geranium argus was easy to find. One or two male orange tips were roding - I didn’t see any females. I saw a couple of large blues, though only that one paused even a moment. Unexpectedly, a single green-underside blue
was flying near where I left my bike. A little later in the year there
will be dozens and dozens of large ringlets here. Today I saw two or
three, as well as two or three blind ringlets. I saw exactly two alpine graylings (this is the other). For the skippers, dingy was the commonest, followed by chequered, followed by southern grizzled. I saw just a couple of alpine grizzled skippers. A little lower than the Asian fritillary site, a single, male scarce copper was nectaring on daisy flowers. Much lower still, when I had cycled almost to the valley, I stopped for a detour and found Adonis blues commonly, as well as Escher’s blue,
lots of large skippers, meadow brown, Berger’s clouded yellow and
moorland clouded yellow. This last didn’t stop but flew so close to me
I can be confident of its identity. Also on the cycle ride down I found
a road-kill southern white admiral. Apollos could be seen flying by the
roadside. Full list for the day: Swallowtail, Apollo, small white, mountain green-veined white,
wood white, Berger’s clouded yellow, moorland clouded yellow, orange
tip, common blue, Escher’s blue, Adonis blue, little blue, mazarine
blue, large blue, green-underside blue, geranium argus, scarce copper,
heath fritillary, false heath fritillary, marsh fritillary, Asian
fritillary, pearl-bordered fritillary, small tortoiseshell, red admiral,
peacock, alpine heath, northern wall, alpine grayling, large ringlet,
blind ringlet, meadow brown, southern grizzled skipper, alpine grizzled
skipper, red-underwing skipper (at the site on the way down), dingy
skipper, chequered skipper, large skipper.
23rd: First local silver-washed fritillaries.
25th: Set off in the afternoon to pick up ilex hairstreak (and here, and here) for the year. There were plenty on the wing - or more strictly, on the flowers. In particular, they seemed drawn to white melilot,
though they were not easy too photograph on it because they were in
constant motion, twisting and turning over the flowerheads. I had hoped
to see purple-shot copper too, but none were flying. I did see a few
small coppers. Two graylings were new for the year: grayling (semele) and rock grayling (hermione). Great sooty satyrs
were very common, though almost entirely males still, it seemed. Other
species seen were: large and small skippers, marbled skipper, scarce
swallowtail, Apollo, small white, southern small white, green-veined white,
wood white, black-veined white, brimstone, common blue, Adonis blue,
holly blue, heath fritillary, Provençal fritillary, knapweed
fritillary, Queen of Spain fritillary, marbled fritillary, comma, southern white admiral, meadow brown, dusky meadow brown, marbled white, great banded grayling.
26th: Up my local mountain in the afternoon clouded Apollos were flying. I found this female violet copper
on the wing, far from my usual site for this species, and saw my first
bright-eyed ringlets of the year. Apart from that, little was on the
wing - some small whites, a few pearl-bordered fritillaries and some
grizzled skippers. But it was quite late in the day and quite cool at
27th: Lots of dark green and high brown fritillaries on the thistles on my local walk. First Arran browns of the year now flying.
1st: In the Val d'Hérens, new species for the year were chalkhill blue
(and here) and purple-shot copper. I had hoped Lulworth skipper might
be flying but I didn't see any. Great sooty satyrs are now very common,
including females - seen here with an Apollo.
4th: Trip the Bernese Oberland for scarce and dusky large blues. Both
were flying in extraordinary numbers. Within seconds of arriving at the
site, at about 09h30, I had spotted two dusky large blues on heads of
greater burnet, and on reaching my first scarce large blue spot
immediately saw more than a dozen of these. Males and females
seemed to be in equal number, the males rather tattier though on
average. I suspect it is peak season. Even at 09h30, the scarce large
blues were reluctant to open their wings and I struggled to get any
upperside shots. But when the clouds came it was a little easier. During the
cloudy periods they sat with wings firmly shut, but for a short while
after the sun came back, and before taking off again, they would open.
Here, here, here and here are some more shots of scarce large, and here
and here some more dusky large. A few violet coppers were still on the
wing. I suspect this is the first picture ever taken of violet copper resting on dog (here is the slightly larger context)!!
Other species flying included my first purple-edged coppers of the
year, heath, false heath, Titania’s, lesser marbled, dark green and
Niobe fritillaries, Arran brown, black-veined white, clouded Apollo,
both swallowtails, ringlet, great sooty satyr and large wall. The only
other blues I saw were mazarine
- relatively common - and little.
Strange not to see others, but then I wasn’t really looking, being
focused on Phengaris (Maculinea). Cycling back afterwards, I saw
several dusky large blues far from the site, in meadows with greater
burnet along the roadside. Here is such a female, laying eggs.
7th: Trip to two sites south of the Simplon Pass to look for Erebia christi. The first site - where I have seen christi on two previous occasions - is extreme and it was impossible to do anything other than just scan for the butterfly. I saw no christi.
There was actually rather little flying altogether - small numbers of
large and almond-eyed ringlets and just one lesser mountain ringlet. No
small mountain ringlets, suggesting it is too early - as I have always
seen plenty of this when I have found christi.
Other species flying included Apollo, clouded Apollo, heath fritillary,
knapweed fritillary, scarce copper, Darwin’s heath and black-veined
white. The second site, where a friend saw christi two years ago, was much more accessible, though it is likely the actual breeding sites that feed it are not. I also saw no christi here, but had very little time. Lots of large
and almond-eyed ringlets were on the wing, as well as a single blind
ringlet, and I had the impression that if I had waited long enough I
might well have seen my target. I did see my first silver-studded blue of the season. I will devote a whole day to this site soon. On Monday I will be up again checking out further christi sites with the same friend.
8th: The local woods were alive with butterflies, including plenty of white-letter hairstreaks, lots and lots of silver-washed fritillaries (and other fritillaries - mostly marbled and high brown). The first purple emperor eggs have been laid. Here is a female, who might or might not have been responible for that egg a few days ago.
9th: Today was devoted to Erebia christi.
I got up at 04h45 to be able to reach Sion at 06h54, where I met
Vincent Baudraz. We set off for the Simplon and explored as many sites
and potential sites as we could before the sun left the slopes. All
morning we drew blanks, seeing lots of Erebia - medusa, euryale, montana,melampus, tyndarus - but no christi.
Some of the sites we visited were relatively accessible, others pretty
hairy, especially with a Jack Russell attached. After an equally
fruitless lunch at a potential christi site we headed to the same site I briefly prospected on Saturday, and where Vincent had seen christi in the past. Finally, we hit the money! At 14h00, this female
cruised along the track. Vincent spotted her, I netted her and we both
photographed her. She didn’t hang around long for photos, soon heading
back to the slopes to lay eggs - the condition of her wings suggests
she has already spent time among the sheep’s fescue laying. A little
later, we caught and photographed a second female,
slightly smaller and with fewer forewing markings. If this is not
Switzerland’s rarest butterfly, it is certainly the hardest to find and
these two females were a total triumph. Vincent saw a probable male
too, out of reach of his net. At the same site were our only two epiphron of the day and a single, rather worn, triaria. The full list of non-Erebia
species for our christi sites and the walks to and from them:
swallowtail, Apollo, clouded Apollo, small white, mountain green-veined
white, Berger’s clouded yellow, mountain clouded yellow, wood white,
little blue, large blue, holly blue, silver-studded blue, sooty copper,
scarce copper, geranium argus, small tortoiseshell, red admiral,
painted lady, comma, heath fritillary, knapweed fritillary, Titania's
fritillary, false heath fritillary (abundant), Darwin’s heath,
large wall, ringlet, northern wall (a single individual), southern
grizzled skipper, dingy skipper, chequered skipper, large skipper,
small/Essex skipper (I didn’t actually check any carefully) and a Pyrgus to be confirmed. Notable was this albino false heath fritillary (and here) - something I’ve never seen before. After the christi sites we visited a small site in Italy, where purple-shot copper
was flying commonly, together with pearly heath, and a site north of
the Simplon where a few Swiss Zephyr blues were flying, as well as lots
of rock graylings, a fair number of Escher’s blue, small numbers of turquoise and chalkhill blue and two blue-spot hairstreaks. I was particularly pleased with this last, as it is something I hardly ever see, even though it is not officially rare here.
11th: I began the day at high sites in the Simplon, hoping for Boloria fritillaries and Cynthia's fritillary. It seems too early though - my usual favourite site was still snow-bound. The only Boloria flying was euphrosyne and the only Euphydryas was marsh fritillary (that one was large, and I thought at first it was a female Cynthia's fritillary). Mountain clouded yellow was on the wing in very small numbers but there were no moorland clouded yellows. Idas blue, little blue, glandon blue (here is a female) and cranberry blue (here is a female upperside)
were all flying - again in small numbers. There was a chill wind and it
was still morning, so this might have been a factor. Large ringlets, small mountain ringlets, a couple of Swiss brassy ringlets and a single mnestra ringlet represented the Erebia. In the afternoon I dropped down to Monday's best christi
site, specifically to retrieve a plastic box I had inadvertently left.
It was windy, blowing gusts, and difficult to catch the windblown
butterflies, but I saw probably 4 christi in total, photographing this female (and here, and here
for the underside). I had 99% confidence with at least one other
sighting and very reasonably confident with another two. Small mountain
ringlet was flying, though, as well as mnestra, pharte and melampus, so netted or landed insects were necessary. The commonest Erebia was euryale. Here is one perched on Minnie's water bowl. After that, alberganus
was almost as common. Swallowtails, scarce coppers, purple-edged
coppers and various blues including chalkhill were also around but as
always at such locations I stayed focused on Erebia.
12th: Scarce swallowtail nectaring on Buddleia in my local region - a first for this far up the mountain. This lovely valesina silver-washed fritillary (and here) was also in the woods. As so often with this form, she kept mostly to the shade. Thistles were covered in fritillaries - mostly silver-washed but with some high brown among them.
14th: After aborting a trip for large heath yesterday, due to a
cancelled train, I made the journey today. It was a long day on public
transport, with a long walk to the site too, but in the end it was
successful, with a single large heath
appearing briefly just before I came home - and after the sun had gone.
That is the only large heath I have seen in Switzerland! Other species
flying included lesser marbled fritillary and Titania's fritillary, purple-edged copper, Essex skipper (and here),
large skipper and lots of very faded meadow browns and ringlets.
Several large fritillaries were flying, including dark green but
probably also others - I didn't actually check.
17th: I did chores in the morning then set off in the afternoon to look
for pale clouded yellows in seasonal clover fields where Berger's
clouded yellow is not resident. The fields had been harvested in the
last day or two, but one significant expanse remained and there I found
plenty of pale clouded yellows, both males (the first picture also showed a male) and females. All were quite fresh. Here, here and here are shots of a female who had been laying eggs being pestered by a male. Clouded yellows were flying too.