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YEAR LIST, 2008


For previous years' lists and commentaries, often incomplete, click: 2007; 2006; 2005; 2004; 2003; 2002; 2001. I seem to have lost the file for 2000.
Two of my friends also keep 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.
CHECKLIST FOR THE YEAR 2008
(All place names refer to localities near Villars-sur-Ollon, Switzerland, unless otherwise specified or obvious)

1 - Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) - 24th January - Gryon
2 - Queen of Spain fritillary (Issoria lathonia) - 27th January - Valais
3 - Small white (Artogeia rapae) - 2nd March - Valais
4 - Large tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros) - 2nd March - Valais
5 - Grizzled skipper (Pyrgus malvae) - 2nd March - Valais
6 - Green-veined white (Artogeia napi) - 2nd March - Valais
7 - Peacock (Inachis io) - 2nd March - Valais
8 - Comma (Polygonia c-album) - 2nd March - Valais
9 - Violet fritillary (Clossiana dia) - 29th March - Valais
10 - Mallow skipper (Carcharodus alceae) - 29th March - Valais
11 - Clouded yellow (Colias crocea) - 29th March - Valais
12 - Orange tip (Anthocharis cardamines) - 29th March - Valais
13 - Large white (Pieris brassicae) - 29th March - Valais
14 - Provençal short-tailed blue (Everes alcetas) - 4th April - Valais
15 - Scarce swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius) - 4th April - Valais
16 - Berger's pale clouded yellow (Colias alfacariensis) - 4th April - Valais
17 - Wood white (Leptidea sinapis) - 4th April - Valais
18 - Chequered blue (Scolitandites orion) - 13th April - Valais
19 - Wall brown (Lasiommata megera) - 13th April - Valais
20 - Southern small white (Artogeia mannii) - 13th April - Valais
21 - Dingy skipper (Erynnis tages) - 13th April - Valais
22 - Green hairstreak (Calophrys rubi) - 13th April - Valais
23 - De Prunner's ringlet (Erebia triaria) - 13th April - Valais
24 - Speckled wood (Pararge aegeria) - 19th April - Gryon
25 - Camberwell beauty (Nymphalis antiopa) - 20th April - Valais
26 - Holly blue (Celastrina argiolus) - 20th April - Valais
27 - Common blue (Polyommatus icarus) - 26th April - Valais
28 - Small heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) - 26th April - Valais
29 - Baton blue (Pseudophilotes baton) - 26th April - Valais
30 - Adonis blue (Lysandra bellargus) - 26th April - Valais
31 - Rosy grizzled skipper (Pyrgus onopordi) - 26th April - Valais
32 - Chapman's blue (Agrodiaetus thersites) - 26th April - Valais
33 - Swallowtail (Papilio machaon) - 26th April - Valais
34 - Heath fritillary (Mellicta athalia) - 26th April - Valais
35 - Green-underside blue (Glaucopsyche alexis) - 27th April - Valais
36 - Osiris blue (Cupido osiris) - 27th April - Valais
37 - Small copper (Lycaena phlaeas) - 27th April - Valais
38 - Glanville fritillary (Melitaea cinxia) - 27th April - Valais
39 - Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) - 27th April - Valais
40 - Red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) - 5th May - Gryon
41 - Northern wall brown (Lasiommata petropolitana) - 5th May - La Barboleuse
42 - Meadow fritillary (Mellicta parthenoides) - 8th may - Gryon
43 - Sooty copper (Heodes tityrus) - 8th may - Gryon
44 - Duke of Burgundy (Mamearis lucina) - 8th may - Gryon
45 - Safflower skipper (Pyrgus carthami) - 11th May - Valais
46 - Apollo (Parnassius apollo) - 11th May - Valais
47 - Little blue (Cupido minimus) - 11th May - Valais
48 - Red-underwing skipper (Spialia sertorius) - 11th May - Valais
49 - Woodland ringlet (Erebia medusa) - 22nd May - Gryon
50 - Pearl-bordered fritillary (Clossiana euphrosyne) - 23rd May - Gryon
51 - Iolas blue (Iolana iolas) - 24th May - Valais
52 - Large skipper (Ochlodes venatus) - 24th May - Valais
53 - Northern brown argus (Aricia artaxerxes) - 24th May - Valais
54 - Turquoise blue (Plebicula dorylas) - 24th May - Valais
55 - Chequered skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon) - 28th May - Barboleuse
56 - Geranium argus (Eumedonia eumedon) - 28th May - Barboleuse
57 - Painted lady (Vanessa cardui) - 2nd June - Barboleuse
58 - Large wall brown (Lasiommata maera) - 8th June - Gryon
59 - False heath fritillary (Melitaea diamina) - 13th June - Gryon
60 - Marbled white (Melanargia galathea) - 13th June - Gryon
61 - Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus) - 13th June - Gryon
62 - Large grizzled skipper (Pyrgus alveus) - 13th June - Gryon
63 - Scarce heath (Coenonympha hero) - 14th June - France
64 - Small pearl-bordered fritillary (Clossiana selene) - 14th June - France
65 - Reverdin's blue (Plebeius argyrognomon) - 14th June - Canton de Genève
66 - Meadow brown (Maniola jurtina) - 14th June - Canton de Genève
67 - Woodland brown (Lopinga achine) - 14th June - Canton de Genève
68 - Black-veined white (Aporia crataegi) - 14th June - Canton de Genève
69 - Pearly heath (Coenonympha arcania) - 14th June - Canton de Genève
70 - Knapweed fritillary (Melitaea phoebe) - 14th June - Canton de Genève
71 - Tufted marbled skipper (Carcharodus flocciferus) - 18th June - Gryon
72 - Large blue (Maculinea arion) - 18th June - Gryon
73 - Mazarine blue (Cyaniris semiargus) - 18th June - Gryon
74 - Pale clouded yellow (Colias hyale) - 18th June - Gryon
75 - Brown argus (Aricia agestis) - 18th June - Gryon
76 - Dark green fritillary (Mesoacidalia aglaja) - 19th June - Vaud
77 - Purple-edged copper (Palaeochrysophanus hippothoe) - 20th June - Vaud
78 - Zephyr blue (Plebeius pylaon trappi) - 22nd June - Valais
79 - Marbled fritillary (Brenthis daphne) - 22nd June - Valais
80 - Rock grayling/Lesser woodland grayling (Hipparchia genava) - 22nd June - Valais
81 - Ilex hairstreak (Satyrium ilicis) - 22nd June - Valais
82 - Marbled skipper (Carcharodus lavatherae) - 22nd June - Valais
83 - Provençal fritillary (Mellicta deione trappi) - 22nd June - Valais
84 - Olive skipper (Pyrgus serratulae) - 22nd June - Valais
85 - Silver-washed fritillary (Argynnis paphia) - 22nd June - Valais
86 - Silver-studded blue (Plebeius argus) - 23rd June - Vaud
87 - Mountain alcon blue (Maculinea rebeli) - 28th June - Vaud
88 - Alpine heath (Coenonympha gardetta) - 28th June - Vaud
89 - Large heath (Coenonympha tullia) - 29th June - French Jura
90 - Chestnut heath (Coenonympha glycerion) - 29th June - French Jura
91 - Violet copper (Lycaena helle) - 29th June - French Jura
92 - Lesser marbled fritillary (Brenthis ino) - 29th June - French Jura
93 - Marsh fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia) - 29th June - French Jura
94 - White admiral (Liminitis camilla) - 29th June - Vaud
95 - Dewy ringlet (Erebia pandrose) - 30th June - Vaud
96 - Titania's fritillary (Clossiana titania) - 30th June - Vaud
97 - Lesser mountain ringlet (Erebia melampus) - 1st July - Vaud
98 - Bright-eyed ringlet (Erebia oeme) - 2nd July - Vaud
99 - Mountain green-veined white (Artogeia bryoniae) - 2nd July - Vaud
100 - Arran brown (Erebia ligea) - 3rd July - Vaud
101 - Lesser purple emperor (Apatura ilia) - 4th July - Vaud
102 - Alpine argus (Albulina orbitula) - 5th July - Vaud
103 - Mountain clouded yellow (Colias phicomone) - 5th July - Vaud
104 - Poplar admiral (Liminitis populi) - 5th July - Vaud
105 - Great banded grayling (Brintesia circe) - 8th July - Gryon
106 - High brown fritillary (Fabriciana adippe) - 8th July - Gryon
107 - Almond-eyed ringlet (Erebia alberganus) - 9th July - Valais
108 - Marbled ringlet (Erebia montana) - 9th July - Valais
109 - Darwin's heath (Coenonympha darwiniana) - 9th July - Valais
110 - Idas blue (Plebeius idas) - 9th July - Valais
111 - Alpine grayling (Oeneis glacialis) - 9th July - Valais
112 - Essex skipper (Thymelicus lineola) - 9th July - Valais
113 - Scarce copper (Heodes virgaureae) - 9th July - Valais
114 - Chalkhill blue (Lysandra bellargus) - 9th July - Valais
115 - Large ringlet (Erebia euryale) - 9th July - Valais
116 - Lulworth skipper (Thymelicus acteon) - 9th July - Valais
117 - Swiss brassy ringlet (Erebia tyndarus) - 9th July - Valais
118 - Bath white (Pontia daplidice) - 14th July - Val d'Aran
119 - Sloe hairstreak (Satyrium acaciae) - 14th July - Val d'Aran
120 - Long-tailed blue (Lampides boeticus) - 14th July - Val d'Aran
121 - Escher's blue (Agrodiaetus escheri) - 14th July - Val d'Aran
122 - Amanda's blue (Agrodiaetus amandus) - 14th July - Val d'Aran
123 - Purple emperor (Apatura iris) - 14th July - Val d'Aran
124 - Spotted fritillary (Melitaea didyma) - 14th July - Val d'Aran
125 - Great sooty satyr (Satyrus ferula) - 14th July - Val d'Aran
126 - Piedmont ringlet (Erebia meolans) - 14th July - Val d'Aran
127 - Oberthür's grizzled skipper (Pyrgus armoricanus) - 14th July - Val d'Aran
128 - Provence orange tip (Anthocharis euphenoides) - 15th July - Val d'Aran
129 - Purple hairstreak (Quercusia quercus) - 15th July - Val d'Aran
130 - Niobe fritillary (Fabriciana niobe) - 15th July - Val d'Aran
131 - Manto ringlet (Erebia manto) - 15th July - Val d'Aran
132 - Mountain ringlet (Erebia epiphron) - 16th July - Val d'Aran
133 - Spanish brassy ringlet (Erebia hispania rondui) - 16th July - Val d'Aran
134 - Map - (Araschnia levana) - 17th July - Val d'Aran
135 - Woodland grayling - (Hipparchia fagi) - 17th July - Val d'Aran
136 - Lefebvre's ringlet - (Erebia lefebvrei) - 18th July - Val d'Aran
137 - False dewy ringlet - (Erebia sthennyo) - 16th July - Val d'Aran
138 - Common brassy ringlet (Erebia cassioides) - 25th July - Vaud
139 - Cranberry blue (Vacciniina optilete) - 25th July - Vaud
140 - Blind ringlet (Erebia pharte) - 25th July - Vaud
141 - Eros blue (Polyommatus eros) - 26th July - Vaud
142 - Damon blue (Agrodiaetus damon) - 28th July - Gryon
143 - Dryad (Minois dryas) - 30th July - Valais
144 - Scotch argus (Erebia aethiops) - 30th July - Valais
145 - Silver-spotted skipper (Hesperia comma) - 2nd August - La Barboleuse
146 - Moorland clouded yellow (Colias palaeno) - 5th August - Valais
147 - Mountain fritillary (Boloria napaea) - 5th August - Valais
148 - Grisons fritillary (Mellicta varia) - 5th August - Valais
149 - Cynthia's fritillary (Euphydryas cynthia) - 5th August - Valais
150 - Mnestra's ringlet (Erebia mnestra) - 5th August - Valais
151 - Short-tailed blue (Everes argiades) - 14th August - Valais
152 - White-letter hairstreak (Satyrium w-album) - 14th August - Valais
153 - Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus) - 18th August - France
154 - False grayling (Arethusana arethusa) - 19th August - France
155 - Tree grayling (Neohipparchia statilinus) - 19th August - France
156 - Provence chalkhill blue (Lysandra hispana) - 19th August - France
157 - Southern white admiral (Liminitis reducta) - 20th August - France
158 - Large copper (Lycaena dispar) - 21st August - France
159 - Geranium bronze (Cacyreus marshalli) - 21st August - France
160 - Grayling (Hipparchia semele) - 25th August - Valais
161 - Brown hairstreak (Thecla betulae) - 2nd September - Valais


Commentary
(Links in the commentary are to pictures of the particular butterflies referred to)

January
24th: Two small tortoiseshells flying in Gryon, the first at 12.30pm, the second at about 1.00pm. Both were active and restless, not stopping, but the second flew close enough to me to secure identity.
25th: Single small tortoiseshell in Gryon at 3.50pm. Already the day was getting cooler by then - I imagine more were flying earlier when I couldn't get out for a proper walk.
27th: Single Queen of Spain fritillary flying near Martigny at 11.50am. The morning was bright, with a little haze, but cold - puddles were still frozen over. I got this long shot of it but before I could move in closer it flew off. The day then got colder and the sun was hidden by cloud by 1.00pm. No more butterflies seen.
28th: A small tortoiseshell passed through my garden at lunchtime.
29th: A single small tortoiseshell flying in La Barboleuse at about 2.00pm

February
7th: The month began cold, with some snow, but today at 11.45 a small tortoiseshell passed through my garden. It was a very sunny day (with a slight north wind) but I couldn't get out as much as I would have liked - I suspect that was not the only butterfly on the wing.
9th: Bright sun in the mountains. Three small tortoiseshells flew past in half an hour while I sat outside a friend's house drinking tea, 12.30-1.00pm.
10th: Bright sun but a slight Bise (our cold wind). During a walk in the valley I counted 33 small tortoiseshells. Here and here are two more of them. No other butterflies were flying.
13th: Still sunny but Bise still blowing. Saw a single small tortoiseshell in Gryon at about 12.30.
14th: A warm day in the Rhne Valley, though tempered by a cool and sometimes chilly breeze. I counted 45 small tortoiseshells, of which a small number might have been recounts - but it is fair to say the species was common today. They were particularly fond of basking on open rock in sun hotspots, like this one. Apart from these I saw just one Queen of Spain fritillary and probably a single comma, though that was a brief and distant glimpse and with all the small tortoiseshells around I am loathe to count it.
15th: Warm and sunny - a pair of small tortoiseshells flirting in my garden.
17th: Several small tortoiseshells in the Gryon region during the heat of the day.
22nd: Two small tortoiseshells in Gryon in the morning. I left for the Jura at midday and saw no butterflies there for 3 days.
25th: Several small tortoiseshells flying around Gryon.

March
2nd: A warm, sunny day after a few days of cold and wet. At a site in Valais I saw 8 species of butterfly, of which the star was definitely grizzled skipper. There were several individuals on the wing at two discrete colonies, buzzing each other, taking nectar from Potentilla flowers and sunbathing. Here and here are two more individuals. The other species were Queen of Spain fritillary (very numerous), Small tortoiseshell (very numerous), large tortoiseshell (I probably saw about 15 individuals - perhaps more - they seemed ubiquitous), small white (several), green-veined white (at least one - I didn't separate out all the small and green.veined whites in flight), peacock (just one individual) and comma (just one individual). Snow is forecast down to valley level in the next couple of days...
14th: After almost two weeks of cold, including snow, it was warm again today. Small tortoiseshells were nectaring on my sallow, often flying in pairs and flirting on the catkins. I also saw a single peacock flying over the railway tracks as I cycled into school after lunch.
15th: I had bronchitis and couldn't get up until about midday. When I did, I sat outside with my two best friends and watched my sallow tree. Small tortoiseshells were constantly around it, and settling on the ground, and a single large tortoiseshell was too, just occasionally coming to ground. Here he is on the sallow, and here on the grass. A peacock was also about the place, settling sometimes on a sunny wall but never long enough to get a picture. In the afternoon, despite being ill, I had to go down to Bex, where peacocks and commas were flying along the banks of the Rhône. By the evening it turned cloudy.
16th-27th: It started snowing on 18th March and is still snowing today, 27th March. Here is a shot from 24th, taken on the Col de la Croix road. This is an unusually protracted spell of snow for the time of year and not surprisingly nothing has been on the wing at my altitude. It snowed or rained in the valley too during this time and there were few opportunities for anything to fly there either, though I suspect advantage was taken of whatever breaks there were.
28th: Sun in morning, though chilly. A couple of small tortoiseshells were flying in Gryon.
29th: Sunny all day in Valais, though never really hot because of a strong breeze. I found thirteen species of butterfly on the wing. New for the year were mallow skipper, violet fritillary, clouded yellow, orange tip and large white - of all of which I saw just one individual. Other species were Queen of Spain (still common), small and green-veined whites, large tortoiseshell (common) and small tortoiseshell, comma (just one), peacock (several) and grizzled skippers. No blues flying yet. A few small tortoiseshells still flying in Gryon on my return, at about 4.30pm.
30th: The Föhn blew most of the day, weakening an often hazy sun. A few small tortoiseshells were on the wing around Gryon and in my garden but it was not really a butterfly day.
April
1st: A bright start to the day brough a few small tortoiseshells out and also my first altitude orange tip of the year, remarkably, a perfect bilateral gynandromorph. It was off and over the hedge into the next garden before I could get any more shots.
4th: An unexpectedly bright, warm day, so I changed my plans and zoomed off to the Rhône Valley to see what was on the wing. Four species were new for the year and of each of these I saw just one or two, suggesting this was the very beginning of the flight period. They were, Provençal short-tailed blue (one male), scarce swallowtail (two, in flight), Berger's pale clouded yellow (one male) and wood white (one - in flight). Apart from these, twelve other species were flying. Small tortoiseshells and large tortoiseshells were both present but in greatly reduced numbers to a month ago and generally looking very tatty. Large, small and green-veined whites were all about, with green-veined being the commonest. I didn't find and southern small whites. Orange tips are now quite common. Grizzled skippers are now cropping up pretty well wherever the habitat is suitable but I only found just one or two mallow skippers (a close-up of the same insect). A single female clouded yellow represented that species. I saw several commas during the day. Queens of Spain were still the commonest fritillary (some looking tatty but some fresh too) but violet fritillaries were locally quite visible. This species is characteristically restless and hard to get good close-up shots of! By the time I left the site it was very windy and butterflies were difficult to watch settled. I'm pretty sure I saw two wall browns at this time but they whooshed past me in the breeze like leaves and I don't feel I can officially count them.
5th: Sunny morning and early afternoon. From a train journey to Bex I saw large tortoiseshells and a comma, and in Bex whites and orange tips were flying. But the weather clouded over and snow fell overnight at my altitude.
6th - 8th: Snow, cold, frost, ice (both black and white), no butterflies. Here is Asha on her morning walk, taken with the mobile phone on 8th.
13th: After more days of mixed snow, rain and cloud, with the occasional thunderstorm, finally a bright, warm day! I took the opportunity to zoom down to the valley and see what was moving. In general, there was little on the wing, with most of the hibernators apparently wiped out now by the terrible weather. Things that had recently emerged, like Provençal short-tailed blue (last Friday), were also very thin on the ground, as though a week of awful weather had put paid to their hopes. But it was an interesting day all the same. New for the year were: chequered blue (got just this record shot of one of two individuals - just a day later than last year's record date of 12th April), wall brown (one female and one male), dingy skipper (a few around), green hairstreak (just one, in flight), southern small white (frequent - distinctly commoner than small white), and de Prunner's ringlet (just one). The ringlet never came close to me but when it settled at about 10m I pointed my camera in its general direction and got this record shot. The white pupils on the forewing look all wrong because of a combination of handshake and distortion when the picture was cropped, compressed and sharpened. There is no doubt about the identity, however. Other species seen were: small white (a very few), green-veined white (several), orange tip (males and females, but not numerous), clouded yellow (reasonably common), Queen of Spain fritillary (common, as ever), violet fritillary (a few), grizzled skipper (quite numerous, spread out in little patches over the whole area), scarce swallowtail (one), small tortoiseshell (three), large tortoiseshell (just one), Provençal short-tailed blue (one female). I saw no wood whites, despite getting a single of this species last week.
19th: Gloomy morning but brightened up for the afternoon. I had to go down to to Bex in the morning, where despite the sun eventually showing through almost nothing was flying - just a few small whites. In the afternoon I took a walk in some of my local wooded meadows, where I found my first speckled wood of the year. Nothing was flying in the meadows themselves except a few violet fritillaries. Here is a different individual. I saw my first altitude wood white while walking home through Gryon village. Nothing is yet flying in my garden. Here is a tiger beetle (Cicindela hybrida) I found on a nearby slope.
20th: Set off early on a mission to see Camberwell beauties along the Rhône Valley. The mission was successful, though cut short by wind and cloud - even a few spots of rain - by midday. I saw three different individuals in total. Here is another shot of the same individual as above, and here a long shot of one of the others. The first was sunning and taking minerals at about 10.30am. There is a video of him here. The others were seen a little later and were far less amenable. I saw 10 other species before the clouds moved in. In the order I saw them, they were, orange tip (quite common), small white (quite a few), the ubiquitous Queen of Spain fritillary, wood white (now reasonably common), violet fritillary (just one seen), scarce swallowtail (a few), grizzled skipper (quite scarce), comma, holly blue (just one, hiding from the wind - my first of the year) and speckled wood (a few).
26th: A glorious day in the Rhône Valley. It started out very hazy, but cleared up to a hot afternoon, filled with butterflies. I saw a total of 26 species: small white and green-veined white (common enough, but not abundant), orange tip (common), Small tortoiseshell (present, with some very old and tatty individuals!), holly blue (a few), speckled wood (quite common), common blue (quite common in places), small heath (suddenly very common - my first of the year), dingy skipper (vigourously defending territories in many places), Provençal short-tailed blue (quite common), baton blue (frequent), Adonis blue (common and wwidespread throughout my walk - frequently to be seen in pairs, and here), peacock (surprisingly common, accompanying me for much of the time), wood white (frequent, dithering around as usual), green hairstreak (very common around scrubby areas), grizzled skipper (several around, many in the same places as the rosy grizzled skippers and sometimes not easy to separate from them), rosy grizzled skipper (this southern butterfly, with its northern limit in the Rhône Valley, was reasonably common at one site and rather easier to see at a mud puddle several hundred metres away from this. Here is an underside, and here a close-up, showing the characteristic anvil-shaped spot with dark lining), violet fritillary (quite common in certain places) clouded yellow (frequent), Berger's pale clouded yellow (common - I'm not sure if I saw any pale clouded yellows - here is one of the doubtfuls), de Prunner's ringlet (3 individuals in total), Chapman's blue (congregating at mud at one place), Scarce swallowtail (common), swallowtail (two or three), heath fritillary (a single male was patrolling a patch of path without stopping more than a couple of seconds for about 20 mins. In principle, he could have been a rare Provençal fritillary, because they fly in the general region where I was today, but my overall impression was that he wasn't). I quite proably saw a couple of little blues but they were zooming around and I can't say they weren't both female Provençal short-tailed blues. Here is Asha cooling off during all the excitement!
27th: Another glorious day! Visited the same site as yesterday, this time with Matt Rowlings. We saw much the same species as yesterday, with five new additions to my species list for the year. These were green underside blue (that was the first - we then saw another: here is the underside and here a glimpse of the upperside - we saw several more, but not many, after that), small copper (here is a rather sparsely marked male), glanville fritillary (just the one), osiris blue (two males at one spot) and brimstone (a single male at one site). I got a more convincing picture of rosy grizzled skipper underside and indeed we saw a lot of these - it was the only grizzled skipper seen at one place. 'Normal' grizzled skippers were flying elsewhere. We saw a Camberwell beauty at another site and also had good views of Provençal short-tailed blue (here is an upperside), which was quite common now in several places. Otherwise, the species were pretty much the same as yesterday, though at most places butterflies were not really numerous. Cloud and cooler winds moved in later in the day.
May
1st: Bright sun brought out a few butterflies but an inspection of my local meadows revealed no Duke of Burgundies yet. They are still covered in cowslips and low vegetation - none of the taller plants that Dukes love sitting on. Only violet fritillaries, small heaths and a few whites and orange tips were on the wing. In my garden I saw my first altitude grizzled skipper.
2nd: Mostly sunny but also a work day. A single grizzled skipper in my garden again, and a few whites and orange tips.
3rd: Working in morning, but it was so sunny when I took Asha for her walkies in the afternoon I decided to cycle down to the valley and check out the state of play with the iolas blues. The bladder senna plants were in full leaf and I saw two flowers in total, but the butterflies don't emerge until there are plenty of flowers. I did see plenty of Provençal short-tailed blue, common blue, Adonis blue, wall browns, Glanville fritillaries, grizzled skippers, dingy skippers, Berger's clouded yellows, southern small whites and some other species, but had no time for more than a rapid walk around my favourite spots before getting back up the hill for the dog!
4th: Sunny, but had to be at home most of day. Got my first 2008 photograph of a garden grizzly.
5th: My lunchtime walk produced a surprise red admiral - my first of the year - which cruised past me on a mission, never stopping. A little later I came across this northern wall brown (and here), again my first of the year. I think this is my earliest record of this species. Otherwise, things were generally calm, with very little indeed on the wing despite lovely weather. A pair of grizzled skippers was buzzing around itself in my garden.
6th: Lunchtime walk around the Gryon meadows. Still lovely, sunny weather. I was thrilled to see the first Dukes of Burgundy on the wing (and here, and an underside), as well as a single female sooty copper. Other species flying were grizzled skipper, dingy skipper, Chapman's blue (and here) green hairstreak, orange tip, Berger's clouded yellow, violet fritillary, meadow fritillary (my first of the year), wood whites and small heaths. I had a probable large wall brown and an equally probable painted lady - but both under conditions that meant I couldn't confirm them.
10th: A trip to my local violet copper colony, where they flew on 28th April last year, produced almost nothing - it was clearly far too early up there this year. But it was alarmingly apparent that the area had been disturbed by earth-moving machinery and it remains to be seen how much damage has been done. I photographed this grizzled skipper, ab. intermedia, and apart from that saw only small tortoiseshells and a single peacock. Back home, a berger's clouded yellow flew through my garden and there were also a few grizzlies, dingy skippers and small heaths. The prolonged, late snow has held back the season up here.
11th: A sunny and very hot day in the Rhône Valley until the afternoon, when clouds and, later, rain brewed up. A single saflower skipper kicked off for me but I didn't pursue it for photos, thinking there would be many more. There weren't! Other species new for the year were Apollo (probably five individuals in total, wandering up and down the vineyards, sometimes buzzing me but never stopping more than a second), little blue (a single individual) and red-underwing skipper. I got this rather awful photo of one of the red-underwing skippers apparently laying. Also seen were small white, southern small white, green-veined white (all these three rather common), Glanville fritillary (very common - and here), small tortoiseshell, chequered blue (very common - and here and here), clouded yellow, Berger's pale clouded yellow, orange tip, grizzled skipper, Queen of Spain fritillary, heath fritillary (two or three, never stopping quartering a path near trees - there is a possibility of Provençal fritillary because I was in an appropriate region), Adonis blue (common - here is a female), common blue, scarce swallowtail (just one or two), wall (very common), Provençal short-tailed blue (very common - here is an underside), baton blue (a few), green-underside blue (a couple), wood white (occasional - not really common), green hairstreak (a few) and de Prunner's ringlet (just one). I was surprised to see these apples already in fruit (!) and pleased to find lots of man orchids. Here is Asha posing by her water bowl in the heat of the day.
12th - 21st: It has been quiet up my mountain recently, and generally eilther cool or overcast and cloudy (some rain), and I haven't been able to get down to the valley on any sunny days. Things have flown up here when it was possible and the number of grizzled skippers and orange tips in my garden has been steadily inreasing - nevertheless, not much action!
22nd: sunny, though not really warm. The first woodland ringlets were flying in local meadows and meadow fritillaries are now common. A few violet fritillaries are still on the wing in the meadows, as well as Duke of Burgundies, small heaths, Berger's clouded yellows, grizzled skippers, Chapman's blues and now a few little blues. Wall browns are around but large walls are apparently not flying yet. In my garden, red-underwing skippers are now common and both Adonis and common blues are around.
23rd: Sunny, so I checked again for violet coppers and found they are still not flying. In fact, almost nothing at all was flying at their site - I saw only one small heath, one small tortoiseshell (or possibly several - it just seemed to be always the same individual) and two grizzled skippers! The season at altitude is not at all early. I found my first pearl-bordered fritillary for the season near my garden in the afternoon.
24th: Overcast, with bright spells and some rain, but warm. A trip to the Rhône Valley with Matt Rowlings and a friend from England proved surprisingly successful. At our first site, iolas blues males were on the wing, attempting to sun in sometimes rather grim conditions. Here is an underside. Provençal short-tailed blues, adonis blues, holly blues and common blues were also present. Berger's clouded yellows passed through and a single scarce swallowtail made an appearance. Red underwing skippers and a few Queen of Spain fritillaries were also trying to enjoy the warmth. By the time we reached our next site it was colder and windier but a few blues were on the wing there too - notably Provençal short-tailed blues - and a single de Prunner's ringlet flew through. My first large skipper of the year was lurking in the undergrowth but did not venture onto the wing. This marbled fritillary caterpillar was munching away happily and there were several grizzled skippers around. Finally a third site produced my first turquoise blue of the year, a couple of northern brown arguses (also my first of the year), plenty of safflower skippers and rosy grizzled skippers as well as normal grizzled skippers, a tantalisingly possible olive skipper, several commas, a swallowtail, Adonis blues, Osiris blues, Glanville and Queen of Spain fritillaries, a small tortoiseshell, several Berger's clouded yellows and (like the other sites) plenty of wood whites (but this species is certainly not abundant this year). I forgot to mention that we saw wall browns in all three sites. All in all, a remarkably good day despite the weather!
25th-28th: Mostly humid weather, with some rain and some bright patches - generally hot, with the Föhn blowing. More butterflies are flying at altitude now, with woodland ringlets quite common, pearl-bordered fritillary present but not yet common, blues (common and Adonis, as well as Chapman's and a very few little blues) around, meadow fritillaries abundant in the meadows and whites and yellows daily encounters all over the place. On 28th the first chequered skippers flew in my garden, where a woodland ringlet was also cruising back and forth without ever stopping! The wood cranesbill plants have been in flower for about a week and are at absolute peak now, so it wasn't a surprise to find the first geranium arguses flying in the garden. Sooty coppers were quite common there too. This wood white is feeding on wood cranesbill, though it is not in my garden.
June
2nd: May fizzled out and June began damp. Today I set off for my early morning walk without a camera because it seemed there was a risk of rain. But it was actually warm and a painted lady was flapping around idly in the grass. It would have posed for wonderful pictures!
8th: Rain and cold for another week. Nevertheless, in the occasional patches of hazy sun a handful of butterflies flew today, including my first large wall brown of the year. 9th: A red admiral in the garden on my return from the lunchtime dog walk - my second red admiral of the year. 10th: A painted lady in the garden. Large walls were flying around Gryon and a few orange tips too. The early morning was sunny and then there were adonis blues on the ski piste and a grizzled skipper in the garden. But it didn't last. This is a very, very cold, wet summer.
13th: Some sun, so I took an afternoon walk round the local meadows. The first false heath fritillaries were flying, and also a couple of heath fritillaries and many meadow fritillaries. Marbled whites were reasonably numerous at one place and I saw my first ringlet too - so the June butterflies are beginning to emerge! When I photographed this skipper (which didn't hang around) I assumed it was large grizzled skipper - but on examining the photos I'm now thrown into doubt as to whether it is carline. I didn't see the underside. I will have to go back and study some more skippers from the area. Common, Adonis and Chapman's blues were all flying but little blues seem to be having an awful year - I didn't see a single one. A couple of painted ladies put in an appearance and there were some whites around, including large whites, but on the whole there were few butterflies. On the way home I photographed this lovely female large wall and in my garden a single geranium argus was flitting around the thousands of geranium flowers, which are at their peak at the moment.
14th: Set off early to look for scarce heaths and other things in France with Matt Rowlings. The weather was overcast and cold and by midday we had seen not a single butterfly of any species! However, the afternoon did warm up and to my delight scarce heaths flew in their wet meadow. The dull morning only served to increase the thrill of seeing this rare species, which bobbed about its business obvlivious to Matt's and my excitement. Here is another individual. Remarkably little else was flying at this site, but we did see small pearl-bordered fritillaries (probably two or three), woodland ringlets, a wood white, a grizzled skipper and one or two other species. At one of the morning sites, while the clouds ruled, we saw several species of dragon/damselfly, including four-spot libellula, variable damselfly and black-tailed skimmer. Broad-bodied chasers and more Coenagrion species were zooming around while we were more engrossed in the butterflies later. Heading back into Switzerland we found a single woodland brown flying in the gloom near a road through woodland, and a black-veined white and small tortoiseshell nearby. Another site in Switzerland produced good numbers of Reverdin's blues - a life-tick for me and a cause of much excitement. I was amazed at how unlike other related blues this species looks. Here is a female upperside, a male upperside and a male underside. No short-tailed blues were flying, despite Matt having seen them here before, and they weren't flying at our final site either, so we presumed this species is currently between broods, the end of the first brood perhaps having been hastened by the awful weather recently. A couple of Adonis blues were flying and a few meadow browns, but little else. Our final site blossomed with the most butterflies but nevertheless numbers do seem to be drastically down this year. There were plenty of black-veined whites, heath fritillaries, common blues and marbled whites, as well as this rather tatty knapweed fritillary - my first of the year. A single golden skipper taunted us and although I am pretty sure it was Essex I couldn't get close enough to confirm this. I saw a single pearly heath at this site. All in all, a fantastic day - but remarkably few butterflies nonetheless...
18th: Overcast and grey in the morning but turned bright while I was out on my dog walk at about midday. So I took a detour via some of my favourite meadows. Not a lot was flying but three things new for the year were on the wing, and one new tick for the year that has probably been flying for months! This tufted marbled skipper was nice to see, but I didn't chase it for good pictures because the hay meadow looked so pristine! My first large blue of the year looked as though it had already been on the wing for a while - but I don't know when because it has rained here for ages. Finally, here is my first mazarine blue - again, I didn't chase it for good pictures. The tick that has been flying for months was pale clouded yellow. I found a classic, unambiguous female, well away from the typical chalk meadows of Berger's, and would have had a great picture of it if a car hadn't backfired at just the wrong moment, causing my dog to leap out of her skin and the pale clouded yellow to zoom off elsewhere. Apart from that, large walls were common, heath and false heath fritillaries too, marbled whites and ringlets present, the odd meadow brown, a single large skipper, woodland ringlets in the garden and a handful of adonis blues, Chapman's blues and common blues. No osiris or silver-studs yet on my local patch. * * * Later on in the garden I saw a brown argus, my first of the year. The day got warmer and several geranium arguses began flying as I sat in the garden marking students' exam papers. This female laid an egg right next to the carpels of a geranium flower. Here is another photo of the egg.
19th: I tried to do a poplar admiral hunt but the woods were closed for shooting. Instead, I found my first dark green fritillaries of the year. Other than that, the meadows of Gryon were rather calm, with no woodland browns flying yet and fewer blues and other fritillaries than recently.
20th: It was sunny and actually very hot, so I went to my nearest local violet copper site at lunch time. Almost nothing at all was flying. There were no marsh fritillaries, so common last year at the same place, no lesser marbled fritillaries - in fact, no fritillaries at all. I saw a single chequered skipper, an osiris blue, a single small tortoiseshell, a few woodland ringlets and my first purple-edged copper of the year, this female. No violet coppers were flying at all and I searched thoroughly, meaning I have not seen this species fly there this year. A little later in the afternoon/evening I went down to my nearest iolas blue colony in the Rhône Valley, which I have only visited once this year since they have been flying. There I saw at least one male and one female, and probably two of each, but incredibly little else. A single Queen of Spain fritillary was my first of this species for June (keeping my record this year of having seen the species every month) and walls were common in the vineyards as I cycled back.
21st: Still remarkably little about. The local silver-studded blues are entirely absent so far - normally emerging at the beginning of June. I saw a tufted marbled skipper in the garden and was pleased to see this large grizzled skipper there too.
22nd: A very hot day. I left early for the Rhône Valley and had an excellent morning there, though I had to catch an early train home to be in time to play the piano for church. One of those days when your really don't want to go home... By 9.30am I had seen my first zephyr blue of the year. Here is another picture, and here, from later in the morning. As the day hotted up, more and more came onto the wing. A rough summary of everything I saw follows: Marbled white (common), Green-veined, large and small whites (all common), southern small white (a few - much more locally), marbled fritillary (common), knapweed fritillary (very common in places), heath fritillary (quite a few), Provençal fritillary (locally common, but well outnumbered by knapweed fritillaries, which flew in the same sites), Queen of Spain fritillary (just a very few), large skipper (common), small skipper (common), safflower skipper (common), olive skipper (2 individuals), dingy skipper (several), mallow skipper (one or two), marbled skipper (quite common), Apollo (common), ilex hairstreak (abundant in places), comma (just one), rock grayling (common - I think this is the species genava, which is distinct from alcyone morphologically but not accepted by all. To my mind the Swiss 'rock graylings' are all similar, having bright white spots in the outer postdiscal area of the hindwing, and this matches pictures I have seen of genava - here and here are two more from today), adonis blue (quite frequent, but rather tatty in general!), wall brown (common), wood white (quite frequent but not really common), orange tip (several), brown argus (one or two), red admiral (one), small tortoiseshell (a few), speckled wood (several in the shady regions), clouded yellow (just one), painted lady (just one). The walking and heat tired out poor old Asha. Here she is ferociously defending my stuff while I wander off hunting butterflies. On my return to La Barboleuse I found a Berger's clouded yellow cruising around near my house.
23rd: My local silver-studded blue/Osiris blue site still has neither of these species flying. This is most unusual. I did find three or four large blues there today - usually a slightly later species.
24th: My first silver-studded blues of the year were flying near Villars. Incredibly little else was on the wing.
28th: The weather has been very good recently but I haven't been able to get out much for butterflies. Today I guided my parents on a local walk and couldn't really stop to investigate thoroughly. Nevertheless, the first male mountain alcon blues were flying - and here. They were in a field with silver-studded blues. Turquoise and adonis blues were flying further along our walk. My first alpine heaths of the year were flying higher up - here is just a record shot. We took a picnic lunch pretty well in the middle of a colony of purple-edged coppers, which was rather nice! Other species were orange tip, swallowtail, clouded yellow, Berger's pale clouded yellow, pearl-bordered fritillary, large wall, dingy skippers, little blues and small heaths.
29th: A fantastic morning in the French Jura with Matt Rowlings, Tim Cowles and Philippe Bricaire. I saw my first ever large heaths (and here and here) and also my first ever chestnut heaths (and here and here). These were flying almost incessantly over the wetlands, stopping occasionally and briefly on bistort and other nectar plants, as well as on grass stems (which often obscured the view). Also at the same site were many lesser marbled fritillaries and violet coppers (rather local), several small pearl-bordered fritillaries (and here), a few marsh fritillaries, loads of ringlets and meadow browns, a few small heaths, black-veined whites, large skippers, purple-edged coppers and little else. But the small number of species was more than made up for by the quality! From the train on my way back to Gryon I saw a white admiral, my first of the year. Shortly after getting home and having a bath a very violent storm set in, becoming a hail storm by the evening! A lovely day.
30th: It was warm (again!) but with clouds and storms forecast. I went with my parents to a local high point, expecting to see a lot of species, but the clouds got there first and very little flew. I did see my first dewy ringlets and bright-eyed ringlets of the year and there were a few little blues. A small tortoiseshell was patrolling, but no swallowtails hilltopping and no other blues except a few silver-studded blues. One of my favourite flowery banks, on the way down from the mountain, provided nothing except a handful of alpine heaths.
July
1st: We took a long walk in the local hills. As often recently, surprisingly little was on the wing at any altitude, though it was nice to find this tufted marbled skipper in my garden as I set off. On the walk the only significant butterfly was silver-studded blue, which is now very common in many places. We also saw a painted lady and a clouded yellow, as well as assorted whites. But in most places absolutely nothing was on the wing! Near my home on the way back I had a couple of year ticks - first a Titania's fritillary, then a lesser mountain ringlet. Both will soon become common (I hope!) at the places I saw them and so I didn't trouble to photograph them but rather let them enjoy their evening. I did photograph this ringlet because it seemed to want to be photographed!
2nd: Another altitude walk with my parents. Again, little flying, but it was nice to see my first mountain green-veined white of the year. At one place reasonable numbers of bright-eyed ringlets were flying and there were quite a lot of marsh fritillaries, subspecies/form debilis. No chalkhil blues yet.
3rd: Heavy cloud and occasional rain today. Nevertheless, my Mum did spot this Arran brown lurking in an Alpine meadow! I didn't see any other butterflies all day!!
4th: My parents left today and I joined them in the car as far as Lac Léman. There, in a car park, I was delighted to see my first ever Swiss lesser purple emperor. I saw it from the window as we parked the car and it flew off before I got out, so no photo. In woods bordering the lake were plenty of speckled woods, large, small and green-veined whites (these now all in their summer plumage), meadow browns, holly blues and Provençal short-tailed blues. I also saw a few brimstones, large skippers, ringlets, a comma, some red admirals and a few other things.
5th: Reached the top of my local mountain by about 11.30am. It was a glorious day but still rather little flew. For part of my walk bright-eyed ringlets were the common Erebia species and for another part dewy ringlets filled the same niche. In fact, the dewy ringlets were locally very common and at one place there were always several in my field of vision, drifting about aimlessly. A few mountain clouded yellows cruised past and I saw a swallowtail hilltopping. There were quite a lot of little blues (but this species is well down on normal years), a few silver-studded blues and three or four alpine arguses (and here). Marsh fritillary, form debilis, was locally common and there were some Pyrgus skippers at one point that I couldn't identify because I couldn't get a glimpse of the undersides. In the absence of proof, large grizzled skipper is the most probable. Most exciting, though, was the single poplar admiral (at 2100m!!) that rose out of the Vacciniinum, glided to a spruce tree where it rested a moment, then lifted up again and zoomed away out of sight. I waited a while but poplar admirals never come back to the same spot. I saw it well enough to identify it as a dark-form male, with very little white at all on the upperside. On the way down the mountain I crossed bistort marsh, where purple-edged coppers (but not violet coppers) were flying. Lesser marbled fritillaries were buzzing the meadowsweet in the same marshes and, more surprisingly, this green hairstreak was clinging on to life. By the time I got home, cloud had settled in for the afternoon/evening.
8th: After rain yesterday it was bright but chilly this morning. A rapid walk around Gryon at about 9.30 am produced my first great banded graylings of the year (this one seemed either deformed or still drying its wings in the middle of the road, so I moved it out of the way) and my first high brown fritillaries of the year. These latter were flying with dark green fritillaries - large fritillaries are now common in the meadows. Heath fritillaries now common too, and loads of summer satyrids - marbled whites, ringlets, meadow browns and so on. Here is a woodland brown, which is now flying at my altitude. Plenty of silver-studded blues around now in my garden and elsewhere. Still no chalkhill blues.
9th: Took a train trip to a site where I hoped to find Rätzer's ringlet. I didn't find it, but there was plenty else to be seen: Apollo (quite common), swallowtail (a few), large white, small white, green-veined white (all three whites present, but not especially common), black-veined white (common), idas blue (locally frequent), turquoise blue (a few), chalkhill blue (a few), adonis blue (a couple), little blue (locally common), large blue (locally very common, with clusters of five or six together competing for light and females), geranium argus (locally a few, very worn), scarce copper (locally a few), red admiral, painted lady, small tortoiseshell (the three vanessids just occasionals today), pearl-bordered fritillary (several), heath fritillary (many - and I took many photographs of individuals hoping to find something else among them, but in the end I conclude all were heath fritillary. Some of them were extremely dark and had the underside marginal line yellow, not white), false heath fritillary (locally common), silver-washed fritillary (a couple), Darwin's heath (ubiquitous), marbled ringlet (just one individual, at the same place I saw many last year - obviously early for them), almond-eyed ringlet (abundant everywhere), large ringlet (pretty much anywhere, but particularly common in the woody/shady parts of the walk), Swiss brassy ringlet (a few - their numbers were gathering as I was leaving, at about 3.30pm), large wall (a few), northern wall (common), meadow brown (some), ringlet (some), large skipper (common), small skipper (at least one), Essex skipper (at least one - but of Essex and small combined I saw dozens), Lulworth skipper (two, chasing each other as I was leaving), red-underwing skipper (quite common).
11th: Mixed weather. A local walk in the morning showed teh summer species were increasingly common, with Arran browns now frequent, for example. In the afternoon I visited a local mountain alcon blue site with Matt Rowlings and his father. The blues were apparently now well past their peak, with mostly females around, though few of either sex, and eggs scattered all over all the gentians. The weather has been hot for some while and I think this has shortened the flight period by allowing the butterflies to be active every day. Silver-studded and osiris blues were also present.
12th: Left on bus for week in the Val D'Aran.
13th-20th: Val d'Aran. The season appears to be late in the Pyrenees, as it is now in Switzerland (after an early start). They have had late snow and plenty of rain and cool since. I have never seen so much persistent snow at altitude. Butterflies were generally less numerous than usual but I still clocked up over 90 species (I haven't really counted yet) and had an excellent week. In roughly systematic order, and rather tediously (!), this is what I saw:
Swallowtail (frequent but not common); scarce swallowtail (just one, amazingly!); Apollo (unusually scarce, but I saw it on most days); black-veined white (common everywhere from valley to hghest altitude); large white (quite common); small white (quite common); green-veined white (common); Bath white (commoner than I have ever found it in the Val); orange tip (common, confirming that this is a late year!); Provence orange tip (locally quite common, males and females); mountain clouded yellow (very few and only at one site); clouded yellow (common); Berger's clouded yellow (common); pale clouded yellow (I actually have no idea - I didn't firmly identify any!); brimstone (common); wood white (common, even at quite some altitude); purple hairstreak (not very visible, but there were quite a few high in the trees near the valley floor and one or two in the campsite in the mornings); sloe hairstreak (remarkably common in many places. They seem to spend the mornings in sloe bushes, doing useful things, then the afternoons taking nectar on yarrow); ilex hairstreak (locally very common); small copper (occasional in meadows); sooty copper (very few); scarce copper (quite common on flowery tracks); purple-shot copper (common in flowery regions and along tracks); purple-edged copper (quite a few at middle altitudes, in meadows); long-tailed blue (very common); holly blue (quite common); little blue (at lots of places, but never really numerous); large blue (pretty well ubiquitous except at high altitude. Here is a mating pair); idas blue (just this one, looking rather old - here is an underside); silver-studded blue (always very fresh. Not common - apparently only just on the wing, as in Switzerland); geranium argus (locally present but not common); northern brown argus (a few around); mazarine blue (quite common); Escher's blue (locally common); Amanda's blue (locally common); turquoise blue (locally common); chalkhill blue (not really common, but present in many places); common blue (occasional); purple emperor (I saw 5 in total during the week); lesser purple emperor (a single male in the campsite on my arrival!); white admiral (many, but not as common as usual); peacock (several); small tortoiseshell (common, especially at altitude); large tortoiseshell (amazingly, just the one); red admiral (common); map (again, just the one - it seems to be too early for it because it has been very numerous in the past, a little later in July); painted lady (occasional - frequent occasions, that is); queen of Spain fritillary (locally very common); comma (locally common); silver-washed fritillary (locally common, especially around buddleia); dark green fritillary (common); high brown fritillary (frequent); Niobe fritillary (very occasional - normally much more common); marbled fritillary (very common at low altitudes); lesser marbled fritillary (very common near meadowsweet meadows); shepherd's fritillary (occasional at altitude); pearl-bordered fritillary (occasional, in many different environments); violet fritillary (one or two); knapweed fritillary (very common in flowery meadows at middle altitudes); spotted fritillary (very frequent - but not abundant as in previous years. I saw no females); false heath fritillary (common. At lower altitudes the normal form flew but at higher altitudes was always form vernetensis); heath fritillary (only occasional); meadow fritillary (occasional - here is a mating pair, with the female visible); marsh fritillary (just one or two); marbled white (abundant almost everywhere); woodland grayling (common along one woody road); great sooty satyr (common); great banded grayling (just a very few, and all at one site - it is usually much commoner); large ringlet (locally common, always where trees bordered paths - here is a female underside); manto ringlet (form constans - just one individual at a site where I normally see dozens); mountain ringlet (occasional, at altitude); de Prunner's ringlet (occasional, always looking very tatty, at altitude); Spanish (Pyrenees) brassy ringlet (a very few, at one site, at altitude); Lefebvre's ringlet (about 5 fresh males at one site - here is an underside); bright-eyed ringlet (locally common at middle-high altitudes); Piedmont ringlet (very common at all altitudes); false dewy ringlet (very common at one extended site at high altitude); meadow brown (quite common); ringlet (common); small heath (common at altitude); pearly heath (very common at low-middle altitudes, especially along flowery, woody paths); speckled wood (common in all woody regions); wall brown (in several places at lower altitude); large wall brown (common along flowery, woody tracks with rocky borders); grizzled skipper (a couple of individuals, at altitude); large grizzled skipper (local, but reasonably visible); Oberthür's grizzled skipper (very common locally); olive skipper (this is possibly one - here is the underside - but there is still doubt in my mind); cinqfoil skipper (many individuals fitted the pattern perfectly but I am still not sure they are not Oberthür's); red underwing skipper (locally common in flowery areas); mallow skipper (a few, rather locally); marbled skipper (plenty, at various altitudes); tufted marbled skipper (amazingly common in grassland and along tracks, again suggesting a late year); dingy skipper (occasional); Lulworth skipper (a few but never common); small skipper (common); Essex skipper (common); large skipper (very common, particularly where shady flowers and lefy plants bordered tracks).
24th: Back in Switzerland the Erebia have really come out in force. Lesser mountain ringlet is very common near me, and also Arran brown, with large ringlet more locally common.
25th: I went up a local mountain to look for cranberry blues and found just one - this male. I went up the same mountain on 5th July and saw none, so I think I have missed the main flight season! On that previous trip dewy ringlets were the common Erebia. Today there were no dewy ringlets around - they were replaced by common brassy and blind ringlets, as well as a few manto ringlets. I had limited time this morning and so couldn't search deeply, but was pleased to find several idas blues flying where I had thought only silver-studded blues flew. I think this is the first time I have found the two species together at the same place. There were lots of Alpine heaths around, a few shepherd's fritillaries, several mountain clouded yellow, and other species. I did see a some Pyrgus skippers but they take time and patience and I just didn't have the time, sadly.
26th: Another fairly quick, local morning trip, this time to look for Eriphyle ringlet at a site where I found them last year. On the way I found my first Eros blues of the year and at the site another local idas blue. I also saw my first local almond-eyed ringlet - this is the only one I photographed but there were quite a lot of ringlets around and very few stopping, as well as blind ringlets, manto ringlets, lesser mountain ringlets, Arran browns and large ringlets. But I didn't confirm any Eriphyle. Interestingly, not only was the 'normal' form of manto ringlet flying, but also the small, dark form Pyrrhula. After about half an hour storm clouds started brewing and I went home.
28th: Another warm day. I didn't go out specifically butterflying but was pleased to see this fresh male damon blue on my return from walking the dog. The summer browns are out in force at the moment, with meadow browns building up to a great abundance, as usual. Here is a female marbled white.
30th: It was hot in the morning, so in the afternoon I decided to cycle down to the valley and look for Meleager's blues. Unfortunately a thunderstorm struck as I reached the site and I sat around in the rain in vain. Between showers I did see a few species - chalkhill blue, Provençal short-tailed blue, Chapman's blue, Adonis blue, as well as a few skippers and spotted fritillaries. Then I cycled to another site and there the sun shone rather more, though still only intermittently. New for the year were dryads (here is a female) and this single Scotch argus, which I didn't get a good picture of! There were also dingy skippers, Provençal short-tailed blues, this rather striking spotted fritillary female, chalkhill blues, Adonis blues, great sooty satyrs, scarce swallowtails, southern small whites and Berger's clouded yellows.
August
2nd: I saw my first silver-spotted skipper of the year in La Barboleuse.
5th: A trip to one of the great passes off the Rhône Valley. It was cloudy in the morning so I didn't leave early and got to the pass at about 11.00am. Clouds predominated and only one species was flying at that time - large ringlet. Form adyte flies at this location, with white pupils in the black spots. Here is another. The second species to appear, still while it was cloudy, was cranberry blue. Here is a female. I only saw a small handful of this species but it was a surprise as they are over at my local site. The day grew warmer and slowly more sunny, though clouds remained all day. I proceeded to see lesser mountain ringlets (very common), Swiss brassy ringlets (again, very common), Alpine heath/Darwin's heath (I saw pure bred of both species but also hybrids, like this one), idas blue (here is a female lurking in the harebells), moorland clouded yellow (not numerous), mountain clouded yellow (this female had sadly lost her right wings, exposing the upperside of the left wings), mountain fritillary (here is a female), shepherd's fritillary (both of these locally common, but mountain definitely the predominant species), Grisons fritillary (here is a female), Cynthia's fritillary (I was very lucky to spot that male as it flew through, briefly pausing, and then this more amenable female, an hour later, at the same place), large grizzled skipper (very local), carline skipper (I just saw one), Northern brown argus (I think - they were at well over 2500m but very well marked and not with the typical wing shape), Mnestra's ringlet (I saw several bright males and failed dismally to photograph them until this one decided to play the game), marsh fritillary (form glaciengenita - all the specimens I saw were very old and worn), silver-spotted skipper (just a few males - this is not common yet). In addition to the species I photographed I saw a single blind ringlet and a small tortoiseshell. Asha and I had a great day.
10th: Female purple emperor cruising around near a friend's house in Gryon. It could have been a poplar admiral, as I only saw it in flight and from a distance, but it is a little late for this species.
14th: Trip to the Rhône Valley. The target species was brown hairstreak but although I had a probable, flight sighting of one it wasn't conclusive enough for a year tick. However, I was delighted to see my first ever Swiss short-tailed blue along a vineyard track. Here is the upperside of the same butterfly. I thought myself lucky to see that one - clearly a migrant, as they do not breed anywhere near this site - but then saw at least another 5 males - here is the underside of that one - and one female. They were flying in the company of Provençal short-tailed blues and zooming around, so it wasn't always easy to count how many there were! That was the scoop of the day, but I was also pleased to find this white-letter hairstreak nearby - a species I have seen in Switzerland before but not at that site. Other species for the day were: Queen of Spain fritillary (not many, but the half-dozen I saw kept me on course for my target of seeing this species every month this year), silver-washed fritillary (males and females quite common), spotted fritillary (locally common), violet fritillary (a handful at one site), dryad (very common now, or locally abundant), great sooty satyr (still plenty around, but no fresh males), common blue (common), Adonis blue (frequent), chalkhill blue (locally common), baton blue (just two, which might have been the same one), southern small white (locally abundant, unusually! Here is a patch of males and here is Asha wandering through a cloud of them, quite oblivious). No tree graylings were on the wing yet. Several huge swallowtails were about, and a single scarce swallowtail. Also plenty of clouded yellows and Berger's clouded yellows, wood whites, red-underwing skipper... As usual the list of everything seen in a day in the Rhône Valley would go on and on!
18th: Visited Tim Cowles in France, arriving in the evening. It was just too late to find his local geranium bronzes, but I did see my first gatekeepers of the year.
19th: The weather forecast was awful but we had a fantastic day. It began with my first ever false graylings and finished with my first ever Provence chalkhill blues, at around 4.00pm as rain and storms moved in. We saw false graylings at three different sites, where they were locally common - but nowhere else. The Provence chalkhill blues (that was a female) were actually abundant at their site, which was even more local, being about 100m by 60m in total! The day was tending to storm by then and most of the insects were preparing to roost and only showing the undersides. But a handful of males and females allowed good upperside views. The males in these pictures look unnaturally bright blue because of overcompensation by the camera for the gloom. Other species seen today were: swallowtail (occasional), small white and green-veined white, Berger's clouded yellow and at least one pale clouded yellow, clouded yellow (common), wood white (frequent), a single purple hairstreak, looking rather the worse for wear, small coppers (quite common), sooty copper (locally common), short-tailed blue (a single female laying), Provençal short-tailed blue (common - including this one with quite prominent orange markings), large blue (a single, probably female), Reverdin's blue (very common at one site where crown vetch grew thick among the grass, but nowhere else), Adonis blue (not common - rather local), common blue (common), two tantalising sightings of probable lesser purple emperor - both only in flight but certainly of emperors or admirals of some sort, painted lady (a fez), comma (a few), silver-washed fritillary (common - locally very common), Queen of Spain fritillary (locally common), Glanville fritillary (a single), meadow, heath, violet and spotted fritillary all reasonably common), tree grayling (Tim saw two, I just one, at one site; here is a very long shot, through grass!!), meadow brown (common everywhere), gatekeeper (common everywhere), small heath (common), speckled wood (locally common in shady regions), wall brown (just one at one site), Oberthür's grizzled skipper (quite frequent, individually, at two sites), dingy skipper (a couple), large skipper (a handful at two sites - the one in this picture has eggs sticking to her abdomen - she is not laying here).
20th: The day's first mission was to follow a tenuous lead to a possible autumn ringlet site! The weather (cool, overcast, with occasional sunny spells) didn't help us and we didn't find any ringlets at all; but it was an interesting exploration nevertheless. Butterfly of the day for me was small pearl-bordered fritillary - something I see rarely in Switzerland. Here is another. We were on heathy land and gatekeepers, small heaths, meadow browns and small coppers abounded. There were occasional brown arguses and several common blues and mazarine blues but the most interesting blue was a single idas blue. Later, but not on the true heathland, we found provençal short-tailed blue. This moth, Isturgia limbaria, was common on the heathland and made interesting company. We had a few views of a golden eagle (better views than this photo!) and also saw plenty of kestrels and a hobby. Other species at that site included several silver-spotted skippers - interesting because they are normally thought of as chalkland butterflies - great banded grayling, mallow skipper and sooty copper. Moving on to another site for possible large coppers we had similar lack of success with our main target!! But I did get a flight view of my first southern white admiral of the year and we also saw Glanville fritillary, violet fritillary, heath fritillary, meadow fritillary, small copper, small heath, Oberthür's grizzled skipper and several whites. On the way home we stopped at a garden where red admirals, peacocks and commas were flying over the Buddleia despite the lowering skies.
21st: Unbroken fine weather today! The morning mission was again large copper and this time we triumphed (thanks to Tim's inside knowledge!). Here is another male and here a female. We saw probably 6 individuals in total in a wet meadow with an overgrown channel running through it. The meadow was rich with various flowers and herbs, including rampant hemp agrimony, but the coppers only ever nectared on yellow daisy-like flowers. Other species for the morning (mostly in order of seeing) were: short-tailed blue (abundant at the copper site!), Queen of Spain fritillary (common), meadow brown, large skipper (very common), clouded yellow, speckled wood, violet fritillary, green-veined white and small white, map butterfly (amassing in great numbers in late morning on the ash from a fire), silver-washed fritillary (common but mostly rather worn), peacock (common), heath fritillary (common), gatekeeper (very common), comma, southern white admiral (just one), mazarine blue (a few), wood white, grizzled skipper (Tim thinks this second brood individual is malvoides - not a butterfly I really have much experience of), lesser purple emperor (two males guarding territory and eating unspeakable things in the grass), common blue, small heath, wall brown. In the afternoon we moved on to another site near the river Rhône, first walking the bank and then moving on into lightly wooded scrub and meadow. On this walk we found: Clouded yellow, common blue, peacock, gatekeeper, Adonis blue (never common but always present), Provençal short-tailed blue and short-tailed blue - generally more of the latter but many more at some places (what an incredible year for this butterfly!) - large copper (a single male cruising along the river bank), a single baton blue female, Queen of Spain fritillary, violet fritillary, small copper, map (fewer than at the last site - just a handful), pale clouded yellow/Berger's clouded yellow (I think we probably saw both), Reverdin's blue (locally common, in the open wooded areas), dryad (a few very worn individuals, male and female), false grayling (just this one, I think), Glanville fritillary (two individuals), knapweed fritillary (just one individual) silver-spotted skipper (probably two or three individuals), red-underwing skipper (just a few), Provence chalkhill blue (another thriving colony!! Males and females at high density in a very localised area), painted lady (a few), lesser purple emperor (a single form clytie, followed later by a single 'normal' individual - probably female), great banded grayling. On the way home we stopped in the centre of a village because we saw geranium bronzes flitting around flowers. Two of these geranium bronzes were improbably small - quite the smallest butterflies I have ever seen! Here is one next to my baby finger. My finger is roughly 1cm across!! All in all, a tremendous three days in France - many thanks to Tim.
25th: A trip to the Rhône Valley, hoping for brown hairstreak, grayling and perhaps a straggling Meleager's blue. In the event it rained solidly while I was near the Meleager's blue site and despite some sunny spells the brown hairstreaks never took off! However, it was generally warm and I saw a lot. Here is a grayling - the only one I saw. It looks a bit weary, but male tree graylings had newly emerged and were spanking fresh! Wall browns and speckled woods were common, with dryads still around but apparently no great sooty satyrs any more. For the blues, short-tailed was still easy to find, male and female, as was Provençal short-tailed (here is an underside). A single baton blue and a single damon blue were both nice. Adonis blues were frequent, common blues common and Chapman's locally common. Here is a brown argus. I saw a few large skippers and a single red underwing skipper. For the whites and yellows, small white, green-veined white and southern small white were all quite frequent, with clouded yellow and Berger's clouded yellow too. A couple of swallowtails swung past me. But the weather wasn't good. Here is the view looking one way along the valley, and here looking the other!! This is Asha wandering among the grapes and here's another one of her (she loves this gloomy weather). The olives were ripening - nice to see - but probably wished they were somewhere warmer today. And to complete the Mediterranean illusion, here is a fig tree!!
September
2nd: My family have been here for a week and left on the train today at lunchtime. I split from them at Bex (having seen great banded graylings, dryads, a small tortoiseshell and a pale clouded/Berger's clouded yellow from the train on the way down) and headed off to the Rhône Valley to look for brown hairstreaks. I was quite lucky to snap up this female before she scarpered and saw another probable male in flight. But despite a long walk in just the right areas I saw no more. It was hot but also clear that the season was winding to a close. Chapman's blues, common blues, Adonis blues and brown arguses were still out in some numbers but I saw just a very few short-tailed blues and no Provençal short-tailed blues. A single mallow skipper represented that group and for the fritillaries I saw just a few silver-washed and of course lots of Queens of Spain. Tree graylings were abundant but still hard to get close to! Plenty of walls around and a few large walls. Two or three swallowtails drifted past at various stages of the walk. Clouded yellows, Berger's and all the usual whites (no wood whites) were still on the wing. A very pleasant day - autumn is just about here though!
9th: The weather has been mixed recently, with some days of torrential rain and others sunnier. But on the whole it has been cool. Today I noticed a Buddleia bush in the main square at La Barboleuse. On it were several painted ladies, a small tortoiseshell and this high brown fritillary. Also still around are large and small whites, meadow browns, Adonis and common blues and, most numerous in my garden, large wall browns.
11th: A brimstone flew through La Barboleuse. It was surprisingly lovely to watch, reminding me of spring in Suffolk!! This female sooty copper was in the garden.
16th: Still cool - sometimes cold, even when bright. I saw exactly three butterflies today - a male and female damon blue and a small white.
21st: I saw no butterflies, but a friend photographed one with his mobile phone on a mountain trip today and showed it to me to identify aftwards. It was a small apollo - a species I didn't actually see myself this year! Here is the picture. This is decidedly late for this species. 26th: Two butterflies flying today!! The first was this male Berger's clouded yellow and the second a male damon blue. The weather has been persistently cold for almost the whole month.
28th: A bright, sunny day in the Rhône Valley. It had an autumnal feel to it, though, and butterflies were much less numerous than usual for the time of year. Wall browns and Queen of Spain fritillaries (and here) were still common and there were plenty of whites around - large whites, small whites, green-veined whites and southern small whites (here is a male). Red admirals were cruising around, but never stopping, and I saw a single small tortoiseshell. Here is an Adonis blue - I saw plenty of these - and here another that looks disturbingly as though it has undersides on both surfaces!! There were also plenty of common blues, a small number of Chapman's blues, a single baton blue and several of what I take to be northern brown arguses. They were certainly of the genus Aricia, and some had no orange markings at all. Here is another, this time with some limited orange. A single brown hairstreak let me catch it from a distance, then zoomed up into a tree. Tree graylings were common (this one looking a little world-weary) and both clouded yellows and Berger's pale clouded yellows were also quite common. Here is a pair of Berger's pale clouded yellows, showing the upperside. I saw a single, possible, Everes, but it didn't stop so I couldn't investigate to see if it was short-tailed or Provençal short-tailed. It might have been a diminutive common blue. Praying mantises were still around. I saw no skippers, Apollos or swallowtails of any species. On my return to my house I saw a comma flying around my sallow and then over the house.
October
1st: Bright, but very little on the wing. I saw a red admiral and this single violet fritillary in Gryon.
3rd-4th: Snow fell. This is the morning dog walk on 4th - and here.
5th-10th: Mostly cold, though slowly warming up. A few red admirals and small whites flew in the Gryon region.
11th: Very sunny and quite warm, so I took the télécabine up the local mountain and walked back down with the dog. We saw a single clouded yellow about three Adonis blues and then near the bottom a red admiral and a brimstone.
12th: Warm again. We took the tram to the valley, where we found many butterflies were still flying. For the white family, small whites were common, with a few southern small whites locally and a single large white. Clouded yellows were frequent, including this female, form helice, as were Berger's clouded yellows. The only fritillary I saw was Queen of Spain, though this was locally very common. Not all were as fresh as that last one - here is a Queen of Spain at the other end of its life. Wall browns were ubiquitous. This male is flirting with a dead female. In fact, she is not merely dead but currently in the fangs of a spider. This couple has more of a future. Tree graylings were still flying, but in reduced numbers from recently. Common blues and Adonis blues were on the wing. I saw no fresh male Adonis. Here is a female common blue. A few brown arguses (at least, they were Aricia sp.) were flying at one site and I was very lucky to find this female brown hairstreak still on the wing at another.
15th: The weather has been mild recently but only a very few butterflies are still flying at my altitude. Red admirals are the most prominent, gliding around pretty much anywhere, looking for a place to spend the winter. I also saw a small tortoiseshell today and this painted lady.
18th: Red admirals are still around at my altitude, but nothing else.
28th: Snow fell quite heavily. No butterflies for the rest of October. I moved this week to my new house in Huémoz.
November
6th: A red admiral flying around Huémoz at lunchtime.
8th: I taught in the morning but finished early so went down to the Valley to see what was still on the wing. It was bright but not really warm and five species were flying. This Queen of Spain fritillary (the only one I saw) kept me on course for my target of seeing this species every month this year. Much commoner were wall browns. Here is a female. Clouded yellows were the commonest butterfly and I also saw a few Berger's clouded yellows. Lastly, a single male small white was the only one of that group I saw. There were no blues flying - I looked thoroughly at several places where they usually fly late. By 2.30pm the day was tangibly cooling down and by 3.00pm it seemed no butterflies could fly, despite the sun still shining. However, I did see a single clouded yellow at about 3.30pm, braving the incipient evening (the sun disappears very quickly behind the mountains in the valley).
15th: Bright and warm. I took a walk from Huémoz to the woods near Panex and saw no butterflies at all. The season is apparently completely over up here at 1000m.
19th: After light snow on 18th a lovely warm sunny day today. In some hotspots the temperature was easily enough for butterflies to find enjoyable. But nothing flew at all.
December
4th: November ended with thick snow and December began white too. Although the Föhn has blown a bit it is still snowy down to the valley and nothing at all is flying up here.
12th: Still thick snow - freshly fallen most days. Here, here and here are some pictures from today.
16th: Took Asha for a walk in the Rhône Valley, for what will probably be the only time this December. Interestingly, the valley north of Martigny was shrouded in stratus so it was almost impossible to see out of the windows on the train journey through this part; the valley east of Martigny, however, was warm and sunny during the middle of the day. In local sunspots it was like a spring day and it was very strange to see no butterflies flying at all. By 2.00pm, though, the sun was so low it struggled to get through the haze above the mountains and by 2.15pm it was already freezing. Effectively, the sun only reached the valley for about two hours - so the butterflies were wise not to fly.