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YEAR LIST, 2011


For previous years' lists and commentaries, often incomplete, click: 20102009; 2008; 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.
SCROLL DOWN for the 2011 CHECKLIST or use the menu below to jump to the COMMENTARY for each month.
CHECKLIST FOR THE YEAR 2011

1    Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) - 17th January - Valais
2    Queen of Spain fritillary (Issoria lathonia) - 12th February - Valais
3    Red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) - 13th February - Vaud
4    Large tortoiseshelll (Nymphalis polychloros) - 19th February - Valais
5    Green-veined white (Artogeia napi) - 5th March - Valais
6    Comma (Polygonia c-album) - 11th March - Vaud
7    Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) - 15th March - Vaud
8    Small white (Artogeia rapae) - 20th March - Valais
9    Grizzled skipper (Pyrgus malvae) - 20th March - Valais
10    Peacock (Inachis io) - 20th March - Valais
11    Camberwell beauty (Nymphalis antiopa) - 20th March - Valais
12    Orange tip (Anthocharis cardamines) - 20th March - Valais
13    Bath white (Pontia edusa) - 20th March - Valais
14    Painted lady (Vanessa cardui) - 23rd March - Málaga
15    Black-eyed blue (Glaucopsyche melanops) - 24th March - Málaga
16    Green hairstreak (Calophrys rubi) - 24th March - Málaga
17    Clouded yellow (Colias crocea) - 24th March - Málaga
18    Wall (Lasiommata megera) - 24th March - Málaga
19    Long-tailed blue (Lampides boeticus) - 24th March - Málaga
20    Lang's short-tailed blue (Syntarucus pirithous) - 24th March - Málaga
21    Swallowtail (Papilio machaon) - 24th March - Málaga
22    Green-striped white (Euchloe belemia) - 24th March - Málaga
23    Provence orange tip (Anthocharis euphenoides) - 24th March - Málaga
24    Spanish festoon (Zerynthia rumina) - 24th March - Málaga
25    Small copper (Lycaena phlaeas) - 24th March - Málaga
26    Provence hairstreak (Tomares ballus) - 24th March - Málaga
27    Small heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) - 24th March - Málaga
28    Cleopatra (Gonepteryx cleopatra) - 24th March - Málaga
29    Scarce swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius feisthameli) - 24th March - Málaga
30    Western dappled white (Euchloe crameri) - 24th March - Málaga
31    Large white (Pieris brassicae) - 25th March - Málaga
32    African grass blue (Zizeeria knysna) - 25th March - Málaga
33    Common blue (Polyommatus icarus) - 25th March - Málaga
34    Speckled wood (Pararge aegeria) - 2nd April - Valais
35    Dingy skipper (Erynnis tages) - 2nd April - Valais
36    Berger's pale clouded yellow (Colias alfacariensis) - 2nd April - Valais
37    Wood white (Leptidea sinapis) - 2nd April - Valais
38    Violet fritillary (Clossiana dia) - 2nd April - Valais
39    Chapman's blue (Agrodiaetus thersites) - 2nd April - Valais
40    Holly blue (Celastrina argiolus) - 2nd April - Valais
41    Mallow skipper (Carcharodus alceae) - 2nd April - Valais
42    Green underside blue (Glaucopsyche alexis) - 9th April - Valais
43    Glanville fritillary (Melitaea cinxia) - 9th April - Valais
44    Baton blue (Pseudophilotes baton) - 9th April - Valais
45    Rosy grizzled skipper (Pyrgus onopordi) - 9th April - Valais
46    Chequered blue (Scolitantides orion) - 9th April - Valais
47    Provençal short-tailed blue (Everes alcetas) - 9th April - Valais
48    Southern small white (Artogeia mannii) - 9th April - Valais
49    Adonis blue (Lysandra bellargus) - 16th April - Valais
50    Turquoise blue (Plebicula dorylas) - 16th April - Valais
51    Pearl-bordered fritillary (Clossiana euphrosyne) - 18th April - Vaud
52    Apollo (Parnassius apollo) - 22nd April - Valais
53    Osiris blue (Cupido osiris) - 22nd April - Valais
54    Little blue (Cupido minimus) - 22nd April - Valais
55    Olive skipper (Pyrgus serratulae) - 22nd April - Valais
56    Safflower skipper (Pyrgus carthami) - 22nd April - Valais
57    Réal's wood white* (Leptideo reali) - 22nd April - Valais
58    Sooty copper (Heodes tityrus) - 23rd April - Vaud
59    Short-tailed blue (Everes argiades) - 24th April - Vaud
60    Red underwing skipper (Spialia sertorius) - 24th April - Valais
61    Duke of Burgundy (Hamearis lucina) - 25th April - Vaud
62    Meadow fritillary (Mellicta parthenoides) - 25th April - Vaud
63    False heath fritillary (Melitaea diamina) - 25th April - Vaud
64    Chequered skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon) - 26th April - Vaud
65    Violet copper (Lycaena helle) - 27th April - Vaud
66    Large wall (Lasiommata maera) - 30th April - Valais
67    Mountain dappled white (Euchloe simplonia) - 30th April - Valais
68    Spotted fritillary (Melitaea didyma) - 30th April - Valais
69    Northern brown argus (Aricia artaxerxes) - 7th May - Valais
70    Black-veined white (Aporia crataegi) - 7th May - Valais
71    Oberthür's grizzled skipper (Pyrgus armoricanus) - 7th May - Valais
72    Nickerl's fritillary (Mellicta aurelia) - 7th May - Valais
73    Geranium argus (Eumedonia eumedon) - 7th May - Valais
74    Knapweed fritillary (Melitaea phoebe) - 8th May - Valais
75    Marbled skipper (Carcharodus lavatherae) - 8th May - Valais
76    Woodland ringlet (Erebia medusa) - 8th May - Vaud
77    Titania's fritillary (Clossiana titania) - 10th May - Vaud
78    Marsh fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia) - 12th May - Vaud
79    Iolas blue (Iolana iolas) - 18th May - Valais
80    Heath fritillary (Mellicta athalia) - 21st May - Canton de Genève
81    Meadow brown (Maniola jurtina) - 21st May - Canton de Genève
82    Marbled white (Melanargia galathea) - 21st May - Canton de Genève
83    Mazarine blue (Cyaniris semiargus) - 21st May - Canton de Genève
84    Black hairstreak (Satyrium pruni) - 21st May - Canton de Genève
85    Marbled fritillary (Brenthis daphne) - 21st May - Canton de Genève
86    Poplar admiral (Limenitis populi) - 21st May - Canton de Genève
87    Pearly heath (Coenonympha arcania) - 21st May - Canton de Genève
88    Reverdin's blue (Plebejus argyrognomon) - 21st May - Canton de Genève
89    Silver-studded blue (Plebejus argus)    - 21st May - Canton de Genève
90    Amanda's blue (Agrodiaetus amandus) - 22nd May - Valais
91    Alpine heath (Coenonympha gardetta) - 25th May - Vaud
92    Alpine argus (Albulina orbitula) - 25th May - Vaud
93    Dewy ringlet (Erebia pandrose) - 25th May - Vaud
94    Clouded Apollo (Parnassius mnemosyne) - 25th May - Vaud
95    Mountain green-veined white (Artogeia bryoniae) - 25th May - Vaud
96    Northern wall (Lasiommata petropolitana) - 25th May - Vaud
97    Southern white admiral (Limenitis reducta) - 28th May - Valais
98    Ilex hairstreak (Satyrium ilicis) - 28th May - Valais
99    Small skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) - 28th May - Valais
100    Purple-shot copper (Heodes alciphron gordius) - 28th May - Valais
101    Provençal fritillary (Mellicta deione berisalii) - 28th May - Valais
102    Swiss Zephyr blue (Plebejus trappi) - 28th May - Valais
103    Large skipper (Ochlodes venatus) - 28th May - Valais
104    Brown argus (Aricia agestis) - 28th May - Valais
105    Dark green fritillary (Mesoacidalia aglaja) - 28th May - Valais
106    Peak white (Pontia callidice) - 28th May - Valais
107    Sooty ringlet (Erebia pluto) - 28th May - Valais
108    High brown fritillary (Fabriciana adippe) - 29th May - Vaud
109    Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus) - 29th May - Vaud
110    Grayling (Hipparchia semele) - 4th June - Valais
111    Mountain alcon blue (Maculinea rebeli) - 4th June - Valais
112    Scarce copper (Heodes virgaureae) - 4th June - Valais
113    Great banded grayling (Brintesia circe) - 10th June - Vaud
114    Lesser marbled fritillary (Brenthis ino) - 10th June - Vaud
115    Alpine grizzled skipper (Pyrgus andromedae) - 12th June - Valais
116    Cranberry blue (Vacciniina optilete) - 12th June - Valais
117    Asian fritillary (Hypodryas intermedia wolfensbergeri) - 12th June - Valais
118    Alpine grayling (Oeneis glacialis) - 12th June - Valais
119    Large blue (Maculinea arion) - 12th June - Valais
120    Essex skipper (Thymelicus lineola) - 12th June - Valais
121    Scarce large blue (Phengaris (Maculinea) telejus) - 15th June - Vaud
122    Purple-edged copper (Lycaena hippothoe) - 15th June - Vaud
123    Bright-eyed ringlet (Erebia oeme) - 15th June - Vaud
124    Cranberry fritillary (Boloria aquilonaris) - 15th June - Vaud
125    Moorland clouded yellow (Colias palaeno) - 15th June - Vaud
126    Woodland brown (Lopinga achine) - 17th June - Vaud
127    White admiral (Limenitis camilla) - 17th June - Vaud
128    Arran brown (Erebia ligea) - 17th June - Vaud
129    Silver-washed fritillary (Argynnis paphia) - 21st June - Vaud
130    White letter hairstreak (Satyrium w-album) - 21st June - Vaud
131    Purple emperor (Apatura iris) - 21st June - Vaud
132    Almond-eyed ringlet (Erebia alberganus) - 25th June - Valais
133    Darwin's heath (Coenonympha darwiniana) - 25th June - Valais
134    Chalkhill blue (Lysandra coridon) - 25th June - Valais
135    Escher's blue (Agrodiaetus escheri) - 25th June - Valais
136    Lesser mountain ringlet (Erebia melampus) - 25th June - Valais
137    Marbled ringlet (Erebia montana) - 25th June - Valais
138    Swiss brassy ringlet (Erebia tyndarus) - 25th June - Valais
139    Piedmont ringlet (Erebia meolans) - 25th June - Valais
140    Great sooty satyr (Satyrus ferula) - 26th June - Valais
141    Large grizzled skipper (Pyrgus alveus) - 26th June - Valais
142    Meleager's blue (Meleageria daphnis) - 26th June - Valais
143    Lesser purple emperor (Apatura ilia) - 26th June - Valais
144    Blind ringlet (Erebia pharte) - 26th June - Valais
145    Silvery argus (Pseudaricia nicias) - 26th June - Valais
146    Lesser woodland grayling (Hipparchia genava) - 27th June - Valais
147    Damon blue (Agrodiaetus damon) - 27th June - Valais
148    Mountain clouded yellow (Colias phicomone) - 27th June - Valais
149    Grisons fritillary (Mellicta varia) - 27th June - Valais
150    Shepherd's fritillary (Boloria pales) - 27th June - Valais
151    Small mountain ringlet (Erebia epiphron) - 27th June - Valais
152    Glandon blue (Agriades glandon) - 27th June - Valais
153    Cynthia's fritillary (Hypodryas cynthia) - 28th June - Valais
154    Mnestra ringlet (Erebia mnestra) - 27th June - Valais
155    Niobe fritillary (Fabriciana niobe) - 27th June - Valais
156    Dusky grizzled skipper (Pyrgus cacaliae) - 27th June - Valais
157    Silky ringlet (Erebia gorge) - 28th June - Valais
158    Eros blue (Polyommatus eros) - 28th June - Valais
159    Dusky large blue Maculinea nausithous ) - 1st July - Vaud
160    Large ringlet (Erebia euryale) - 1st July - Vaud
161    Carline skipper (Pyrgus carlinae) - 5th July - Vaud
162    Tufted marbled skipper (Carcharodus flocciferus) - 5th July - Vaud
163    Scotch argus (Erebia aethiops) - 7th July - Vaud
164    Manto ringlet (Erebia manto) - 10th July - Bern
165    Mountain fritillary (Boloria napaea) - 11th July - Valais
166    Silver-spotted skipper (Hesperia comma) - 12th July - Valais
167    Dryad (Minois dryas) - 15th July - Valais
168    Foulquier's grizzled skipper (Pyrgus foulquieri) - 20th July - Pyrenees
169    Map (Araschnia levana) - 20th July - Pyrenees
170    Sloe hairstreak (Satyrium acaciae) - 20th July - Pyrenees
171    Lulworth skipper (Thymelicus acteon) - 20th July - Pyrenees
172    Spanish brassy ringlet (Erebia hispania [rondui]) - 20th July - Pyrenees
173    Gavarnie ringlet (Erebia gorgone) - 20th July - Pyrenees
174    Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus) - 21st July - Pyrenees
175    Southern gatekeeper (Pyronia cecilia) - 24th July - North Spain
176    Furry blue (Agrodiaetus dolus cecilia) - 24th July - North Spain
177    Spanish gatekeeper (Pyronia bathseba) - 24th July - North Spain
178    Ripart's anomalous blue (Agrodiaetus ripartii) - 24th July - North Spain
179    Spanish chalkhill blue (Lysandra albicans) - 24th July - North Spain
180    Western Bath White (Pontia daplidice) - 24th July - North Spain
181    Woodland grayling (Hipparchia fagi) - 24th July - North Spain
182    Agenjo's anomalous blue (Agrodiaetus agenjoi) - 24th July - North Spain
183    Rock grayling (Hipparchia alcyone) - 26th July - North Spain
184    Striped grayling (Pseudoptergumia fidia) - 26th July - North Spain
185    False grayling (Arethusana arethusa) - 26th July - North Spain
186    Dusky heath (Coenonympha dorus) - 26th July - North Spain
187    Small pearl-bordered fritillary - 28th July - Pyrenees
188    Brown hairstreak - 1st October - Valais

*    reali  - identified from the hindwing markings, and therefore not with 100% reliability.


Commentary
(Links in the commentary are to pictures of the particular butterflies referred to)
January
1st: Bright, sunny but very cold day. This is the scene at Martigny, and here are the bushes where I was going to search for brown hairstreak eggs. I didn't want to disturb the beautiful frost, so I left it, just spotting this single egg on a locally bare patch (and here). Here is a purple hairstreak egg in the morning, and here three more in the afternoon (and here). This is the only parasitised egg I found. There were flies warming up on the rocks, but no butterflies!
8th: Very warm, with clear skies until sunset. I went to the valley to see if anything would fly at this time of year in such warm weather. The main target was Queen of Spain, which has been flying by the end of January in two recent years. Its foodplant was visible in small carpets in the vineyards but the butterfly was not to be seen. As testament to the warmth, there were lizards, flying ants, wasps and firebugs out in some numbers; nevertheless, no butterflies were on the wing. Here is a brown hairstreak egg and here a purple hairstreak.
15th: Another gloriously sunny Saturday, and very warm too. Again, I went to the valley to see if anything would fly, and again nothing did. There were plenty of lizards (and here) and all sorts of insects - bees, wasps, ichneumons, flies, ants, firebugs &c. but the butterflies were well-behaved and undeceived by the aseasonal warmth. A great variety of flowers were out, including speedwells, wild pansies, storksbills, Potentilla sp., and buttercups.
16th: Still warm. I stayed around Huémoz, where no butterflies flew. Here is (amazingly) part of Diocletian, one of last year's purple emperor pupae, still attached to his leaf, which is still attached to the tree. It is attached by silk, apparently, having broken off the branch at the leaf base.
17th: Finished teaching at lunchtime and as it was still sunny I zoomed to the valley on my bike, confident that something would be flying. I arrived at the vineyards at 2.00pm, when it was already beginning to cool down, and saw no Queens of Spain. But a single small tortoiseshell flew past me, my first butterfly of the year, and then about half an hour later I found a small group of three small tortoiseshells, sunning and sparring on a bank of aggregate. Here is one of them. Here and here are a couple of photos of the vineyards. By 3.00pm it was feeling distinctly cooler and by 3.30pm a chilly breeze had struck up.
28th: It has been very cold since the last entry, often with clear nights and sunny but bitter days. Very little snow has fallen. Here are the moon and Venus this morning, as another cold, sunny day opens.
29th: Yet another sunny Saturday. I went down to the valley, where at least 4 and probably 5 small tortoiseshells crossed my path. This one (and here) is recognisably the same individual I photographed on 17th January, 12 days ago. Rather than find a better place to hibernate he or she has remained ready to fly on appropriate days. Here is a different individual. No Queens of Spain flew, probably because it wasn't really very warm - maximum 4° C, with an often chilly breeze. Plenty of lizards were running around. The same flowers were out as on recent trips, but these Bulbocodium are now conspicuous in places.
30th: Here are the moon and Venus over the Grand Muvéran first thing this morning (and here). The day rapidly descended into thick cloud after this auspicious start.

February
5th: The month began bright and has been sunny for the last couple of days. In the valley today there was a slightly chill wind but I counted 7 small tortoiseshells in total during my walk. Bees, flies and other insects were well in evidence and there are now some young lizards scampering about on the walls as well as the old ones that have been there all January.
6th: More sun. I joined Matt Rowlings for an ilex hairstreak egg hunt in the Rhône Valley. The site was a place we see ilex hairstreak commonly in the summer and I was armed with a book detailing exactly how to find the eggs (look low on the trunks of young oak bushes with plenty of low growth). It took a while to get our eye in and it wasn't until just before we left that Matt found a couple of eggs. Both had been either parasitised or eaten from without, but there was no doubt about the identity. Here is one, as it looked on the trunk, and here is the same egg from closer up. Here is the second egg on the trunk. Purple hairstreak eggs were easier to find. Here and here are two shots of the same egg. I had to be back relatively early - otherwise we could have spent longer hunting for more eggs on this lovely, warm day. While my head was buried inside an oak bush, Matt saw a couple of small tortoiseshells.
7th: Up in the mountains it was really warm today and small tortoiseshells were flying freely. In the afternoon I took a short walk and saw about 15, in the meadows and in the woods; then, sitting on my balcony, I saw more disporting in the meadow and even chasing each other over my balcony as late as 4.30pm. The world still looks wintry but it feels summery. Possibly it was cooler in the valley as there is still some thermal inversion and there was a low haze over the valley today.
8th: Still sunny. Small tortoiseshells out in force, as yesterday. Here is one in the woods at about midday, among the dead leaves. In permanent shade the woods are still snowy (and here) - suggesting the ambient temperature is low. But in the sun it is T-shirt weather.
11th: I had a chance to nip home at lunchtime, when small tortoiseshells were enjoying the sun in Huémoz.
12th: Another sunny Saturday. In the Rhône Valley the first Queen of Spain fritillaries were enjoying the sun, even though the mercury barely reached 9°C. About half a dozen were defending hotspots around the vineyards. Here is another, and here the only brief underside glimpse I got. Apart from them, small tortoiseshells were ubiquitous - I saw at least 40 but stopped counting after the first half dozen or so. Here is another shot and here one feeding avidly on a Bulbocodium flower. The same flower had played host to a hummingbird hawk moth shortly before. At one point on my walk I found myself surrounded by lots of orange underwings. Here is one and here another. But despite all this insect action it is very much winter still - and all could be buried under snow at any moment.
13th: In my local woods nothing flew this morning, despite the sun. It was too cold. The hazel catkins are in flower. A little lower down the hill, small tortoiseshells were out and about by midday. I was looking for peacocks, but none flew. The hepatica is now out in these woods. On a whim I decided to cycle up to the last place in 2010 I saw red admirals. At first, only small tortoiseshells put in an appearance, and I wasn't surprised, but as I left I did find a single red admiral (and here, and here) defending a sunny corner of the site. It was a great pleasure to watch it, as it did its circuit, occasionally zooming off after small tortoiseshells.
14th: Still sunny  in the morning and until after lunch; dense cloud arrived during the afternoon. I revisted yesterday's red admiral site to find out if there were any more flying. There were. This is the same individual as yesterday (and here). This is a far more intact individual, defending a territory not far off and this is a third individual (and here). In fact, all three were quite close together, periodically challenging each other before coming to an agreement about who should have which sun spot.
17th: After cold weather and cloud on 15th and 16th today was hazily bright. In the afternoon I cycled to the red admiral site and although the temperature was barely 5°C this brave creature was heroically holding the fort (and here). He or she was fully active, chasing after passing insects and occasionally flying off on circuits, though did seem very tame and I was able to approach closely. It is the same butterfly as the most intact of those I saw on 14th.
18th: STILL sunny. I decided to head further east along the Rhône Valley to see if things were the same there. They were. I saw a lot of small tortoiseshells (I think something got at this small tortoiseshell while it was in hibernation, but it was happily defending a spot in the sun), a handful of Queens of Spain and a single red admiral darting up into the trees at one point. No peacocks or clouded yellows, and (I'm glad to say) no premature Camberwell beauties. The first green tiger beetles were on the wing and orange underwing moths were very common.
19th: Against all expectations it was sunny again this morning, with high temperatures forecast for the Rhône Valley. I couldn't resist the temptation to nip down and see what was flying. Small tortoiseshells are now very common and I must have seen well over 50 in the two hours I spent down there. At times there were up to 5 in the air together, especially in the Bulbocodium meadows, which are now at their peak. Queen of Spain fritillaries were out in more modest numbers but were present throughout my walk, sunning, nectaring or chasing small tortoiseshells. Right at the end, as the sun disappeared for ever behind high but dense cloud, I spotted a large tortoiseshell circling the base of a chestnut tree. It flew up into the tree and presumably settled on the bark out of my line of sight. But that was the end of the butterfly day and I didn't see it again. When the sun goes in it all suddenly seems cold and wintry. During my walk I found a large oak branch that had broken off a tree. I quickly located this purple hairstreak egg on it and took the egg home to rear when the oak buds break. It is currently in my fridge. This lizard (and here) struck me as being different from those I normally see. I  need a reptile book.
27th: The snow has returned. This is the view from my balcony.

March
3rd: February finished very cold and March began cold. But today the sun lifted temperatures and plenty of butterflies were on the wing in the valley. Commonest were Queen of Spain fritillaries, of which I saw at least 100 different individuals and possibly many more. They were densest between the vines in the vineyards. There was much variation visible in the spotting and depth of colour. Here and here are two individuals with confluent dark spots in s.1 of the forewing, and here a more typical one but with a conspicuous dark patch on the costa of the hindwing (this patch is more typically grey, separating two black spots). This individual is worn and faded and might represent a hibernated adult. Small tortoiseshells were still common, but past their peak, and three large tortoiseshells were flying in the afternoon at three different locations. They were very mobile, but this one stopped just long enough for me to get a distant proof shot. Nearby, a green-veined white drifted past, stopping briefly to nectar on speedwell. There were no grizzled skippers flying, but their patches of Potentilla are now well out and the skippers cannot be far behind. Pasque-flowers are in bloom. Here are some bees collecting Pasque-flower nectar.
6th: I visited my red admiral site, where they flew on several successive days in February. None were flying today. Perhaps it was just a little too chilly, or more likely, they didn't survive the cold weather after their early emergence.
8th: Nettles are appearing in Huémoz, a month after the first small tortoiseshells flew here.
11th: A comma flew in my local woods at lunchtime. I was surprised not to see more - peacocks or brimstones, for example. The only other butterflies there were one or two small tortoiseshells. It has been a lovely day, following several days of sunshine. As I cycled home I spotted a Queen of Spain fritillary, my first for the mountain for the year. It was very mobile and hardly ever stopped but I did get a couple of record shots, here and here.
12th: The Föhn is blowing hard. In the valley it was windy and warm, but overcast by late morning. Nothing flew apart from the now ubiquitous Queen of Spain fritillaries and a few small tortoiseshells. But I did see a new species for the year, if only as a caterpillar. This Glanville fritillary caterpillar (and here) was wandering alone on a bare part of a meadow. Here is a heavily laden bee taking a short pause from its labours.
15th: Suffering from a heavy cold, so just a short walk at lunchtime in my local woods. Brimstones are now on the wing - there were three males parading territories in different parts of the woods. Apart from them I saw a single comma, a single red admiral nectaring on the now open sallow blossom and several red admirals. It is truly spring in the woods, with lungwort, all three Primulas, White butterbur and many other flowers now opening all over the place.
20th: Still recovering from my cold, but sun was promised in Valais so I headed down there. 11 species were flying: Queen of Spain (now in almost plague proportions, with at least 50 visible in one field of vision at one point on my walk); small tortoiseshell (less common now, and some looking very tatty indeed!); small white (new on the wing - not common yet, but easy to find); green-veined white (not common either, but easy to find); orange tip (several males patrolling woodland edges - here is another); Bath white (a single male flew ahead of me just before I headed home. I gave chase and got a couple of record shots (and here) before he made off up the hill. This is my earliest Bath white record); comma (a single individual); large tortoiseshell (probably 4 individuals - here is an underside); grizzled skipper (small numbers in scattered groups on rough, sunny banks. Here is another, and here one feeding at the host plant, Potentilla recta); peacock (two individuals); Camberwell beauty (I put up one individual before I saw it - it circled a couple of times then flew off). Conclusion: this is an early season! In principle, March could still carry a serious sting in its tail, and winter could return, but Nature seems to think otherwise!
21st: Sunny but cold, with the Bise blowing. In the local woods a brimstone was braving the chill but apart from that only a few small tortoiseshells. I visited my February red admiral site, where a single red admiral (never stopped), a single small white and a few small tortoiseshells were flying. By the road I saw a peacock.
22nd: Arrived Málaga. Weather cold - raining even - but better forecast for next few days.
23rd: Still wall to wall cloud today, and just two individual butterflies seen on a 25km walk in the hills. The first was a painted lady, my first of the year, and the second a female small white, drifting around in central Malaga looking for somewhere to lay her eggs. But I had a great walk and found lots of orchids, including three species of bee orchid. Better weather is forecast for tomorrow...
24th: Left the hostal in Málaga at 8.15 or so, under 100% cloud cover again, and occasional rain. But shortly after I reached the top of my climb into the local hills, at about 10.15, the sun came out and stayed out all day. The first butterfly I saw, seconds after the sun appeared, was a male black-eyed blue, lurking, ready to fly. This was a species I was to see regularly throughout the day. Males were active whenever it was sunny, occasionally nectaring, more often flying some distance before resting, wings folded. Some females were all brown, while others showed considerable blue. Here is another male, showing they were not fresh on the wing, and here another male underside. Back to 10.15... The next butterfly to appear was a green hairstreak. I checked it was not Chapman's green hairstreak, but I had not found any strawberry tree yesterday so was not hopeful. Again, this was the first of many. Here is a green hairstreak from later in the walk. Continuing along the ridge above Málaga, the first local high point was a hive of activity, with wall browns, swallowtails, long-tailed blues, Lang's short-tailed blues, clouded yellows and green-striped whites all hilltopping. Their proximity was such that they constantly put eachother up and nothing stayed still for more than a few seconds. Beyond this I found my first Provence orange tip drifting along, permitting some photos at one point. A nearby hill, with more grass between the bushes, was home to many black-eyed blues and also Spanish festoons. Clouded yellows and green-striped whites flew with them. I saw my first of two helice clouded yellows there. A little lower down, on lusher grass near the concrete of some disused edifice, a small copper appeared, followed by my first Provence hairstreak. There was a thriving colony of this latter species there and I was able to observe many adults. The males in particular had extremely hairy legs, bodies and wings. Here is a female showing a little of the upperside coloration through the hindwing. I found a further colony of this species not far away a litte later. Provence hairstreak seems to be a highly combative species, flying up after anything passing - frequently after black-eyed blues. Small heaths flew in small numbers at both Provence hairstreak sites. A single Cleopatra, one of only two seen during this holiday, drifted past. On the way back I found a rather worn scarce swallowtail at my first hilltopping site. Painted ladies and red admirals were occasional sightings throughout the day. Lower down the ridge, near town, western dappled white and Lang's short-tailed blue posed for some photos. Finally, I returned to the hostal via some rough ground in central Málaga, hoping to see African grass blues but by this time (5.30pm) it was already too cool and nothing except a single small white was flying.
25th: Intended to explore the limestone massif El Torcal just south of Antequera. Caught an early bus to Antequera and walked south onto the massif, but before I reached the top of the northern walls the weather had already convinced me to turn back - heavy cloud, rain and a gale blowing. No chance of any butterflies flying. But the worst weather was over the high ground and I headed back to Málaga in the hope of  African grass blues, seeing a couple of large whites already on the wing on the edge of Antequera. On rough ground in Málaga the African grass blues did indeed fly. Here is another shot of that male, and here his upperside. This is a female (and underside). Also there was this striking female common blue and a male common blue, as well as painted ladies, red admirals and a green-striped white.
26th: Last day of my short trip to Spain. Visited Ronda and struck out for the hilly land south of the town. It turned out to be very rocky and covered in thorn scrub, so I didn't find the species I was hoping for, but saw a lot of butterflies nonetheless. New for the trip was large tortoiseshell - very strange to see this gliding around olive groves! Other species seen were: small heath, green-striped white, western dappled white, cleopatra, large white, small white, clouded yellow (here is a helice female), wall, Spanish festoon, Provence hairstreak (two discrete colonies), swallowtail, common blue, long-tailed blue, painted lady and red admiral.
28th: Brimstone flying in my garden in Woodbridge, Suffolk - the only butterfly I saw all day.
29th: In my local woods (Suffolk) very little was flying: two peacocks and a comma. It was a bright and warm day, so it seems the year is not especially advanced on the East coast of Suffolk.
31st: A small white in my garden in Suffolk.

April
2nd: A very hot day in Switzerland. Visited a favourite site in Valais with Matt Rowlings, hoping to see Camberwell beauties. We were not disappointed. Next to a stream where I regularly see them, a couple of males were pacing out their territories in two separate 200m sections, occasionally meeting and sparring but more often fighting off butterflies of other species. Here is one Camberwell beauty, from the 'western territory' and here the other, from the 'eastern territory'! Both would regularly fly directly at Matt and me, sometimes as if checking us out, sometimes as if actually attacking us. Plenty of other species were flying, including small white (here with a brimstone), green-veined white, Bath white (aplenty), brimstone, wood white, orange tip, green hairstreak (suddenly very common), large tortoiseshell, speckled wood, small heath, dingy skipper, mallow skipper, grizzled skipper, Queen of Spain, violet fritillary, Chapman's blue, holly blue, swallowtail, scarce swallowtail, peacock, comma and Berger's pale clouded yellow. In the morning, dandelions provided most of the nectaring but later, as these began closing in the heat of the day, the butterflies turned their attention to the many other flowering plants - crucifers, labiates, violets - that are now sprouting up everywhere. Small tortoiseshells were very much on their last legs but were still active. Here is a female laying eggs, and here the eggs she laid. In the afternoon we moved on to another site, where rather less was flying, though more peacocks and commas in the woody parts. We had a tantalising glimpse of a couple of Pyrgus skippers in flight that looked too large and yellow to be malvae but were unable to follow them to rest. A great day.
3rd: In the Huémoz woods little was moving today, despite the warm sun. I saw small tortoiseshell, comma, brimstone, small white, orange tip and green hairstreak. Nearer home, in the meadows, the first grizzled skippers and wood whites (he has been at the dandelions!) were flying. I also saw about half a dozen violet fritillaries zooming around, never stopping. Here are two brown hairstreak eggs, waiting to hatch.
8th: It's been sunny for the last three days and very warm with it today. I took a quick cycle ride at lunchtime to meadows near Gryon to see how they were progressing. A Duke of Burgundy site there looked two or three weeks off yet and there were no grizzled skippers. The only grass feeder present was small heath. But violet fritillaries were common, with gravid females actively oviposturing (not actually laying). Also present were large white, Queen of Spain and wood white. On the way back a single small tortoiseshell crossed my path.
9th: A glorious, sunny, hot day in the Rhône Valley. The season is progressing at a great rate, with many species on the wing earlier than I have ever seen them before. Whites were very much in evidence, with large whites, small whites, green-veined whites, Bath whites and wood whites all common. At one site, which I visited towards the end of the day, a few southern small whites were flying. Brimstones were present throughout the day, as were Berger's clouded yellows. It was the blues and skippers which put on the most impressive display today, though. New on the wing were chequered blue (and here), of which I saw at least 8 in total, despite arriving quite late at the site, baton blue, common locally, green-underside blue and Provençal short-tailed blue. Chapman's blue was locally common and common blue equally so, at a different site, where tight fists of them were tumbling in the air over lucerne. Holly blues were present all day - it seems to be a good spring for them. Dingy skippers (and here) were well established in their usual hot spots and mallow skippers are now easy to find. Grizzled skippers were very common at one site and I found 6 rosy grizzled skippers at another, extended over quite some area. Here is another upperside, and another, and here the best I could get of an underside. Speckled woods and small heaths were the main satyrids, but De Prunner's ringlet is now on the wing too, and indeed is quite numerous already. Here is one that has obviously been on the wing a while! Glanville fritillaries have joined the Queens of Spain and violet fritillaries in the meadows. Several commas were still flying today and peacocks were common. Small tortoiseshells were less so, but I saw a few adults and occasional larval nests. Both the swallowtails were flying. Oh - and I shouldn't forget green hairstreaks (and here), which were out in great numbers! Spring is not only here, but well under way and threatening to turn into summer.
10th: Quick trip at lunchtime to see if short-tailed blues were on the wing yet at a local site. It seems not - and in fact very little was flying there. Just as I was about to leave I saw a first blue - a Provençal short-tailed blue that had me thinking it was a short-tailed blue because it had quite long tails, some orange on the anal spots and was fixated on birdsfoot trefoil. But I am confident it was Provençal. Here is another shot. This swallowtail was defending a territory from dried stems.
15th: Cold weather recently and even some snow. Today was mostly sunny but too cold for butterflies. I nipped to my local blackthorn after school to see if the brown hairstreak eggs had hatched. They had! Here and here are the same pair of eggs. The bush was covered in blossom and it was difficult to search for caterpillars (I didn't want to disturb knock off the petals) but I did find one quite quickly. It was barely a millimetre long and I think had emerged today. Here and here are photos of it.
16th: Warmer, and also sunny. In the valley the first Adonis blues flew (and here). I saw but didn't photograph one female. Another new blue on the wing was turquoise blue. Here is an underside of that butterfly. This is, I think, very early indeed for this species and I just saw the one.. Other blues flying were baton blue, holly blue, green-underside blue, common blue, Chapman's blue and Provençal short-tailed blue. I saw a couple of small coppers tussling in the air at one point and lots of green hairstreaks. Queen of Spain fritillaries were still flying, together with violet and Glanville - no other fritillaries yet. Other Nymphalids were comma, which is quite common this season, peacock, small tortoiseshell, Camberwell beauty (at least three at one site - here is another) and large tortoiseshell. For the whites and yellows there were large white, small white, green-veined white, wood white, Bath white, orange tip, brimstone and Berger's pale clouded yellow. Plenty of scarce swallowtails about and a few swallowtails. Rosy grizzled skippers were out in good numbers - here and here are the upperside and underside of one, and here and here the same for another. Dingy skippers were everywhere, grizzled were common and a few mallow were locally defending territories and nectaring. Walls were very numerous, as were speckled woods, and small heaths are now common too. The season continues to be amazing!
18th: I had an hour in the afternoon to check up on my local pearl-bordered fritillaries. The first males were roding an inclined path with dandelions and bugle, looking for females. They didn't nectar, despite the flowers, but did occasionally stop on the ground to rest. Here is one.
22nd: Hot and sunny, with the Föhn blowing increasingly as the day went by. In the late afternoon clouds built up and covered the sun. At two sites, one in the hills and one in the valley, I saw a total of 40 species. At the hill site, the heat brought blues and skippers to mud. Here is a shot of some of them gathering. Individually, I saw Osiris blues (quite numerous), little blues, green-underside blues, Adonis blues, baton blues, Provençal short-tailed blues, common blues and Chapman's blues, though these last two were not at the mud. At my second site, in the valley, turquoise and holly blues were flying, so it was an excellent blues day!! Back to the hills, my first olive skipper of the year was on the wing. I then saw another in the valley (and here). Safflower skippers became evident at both sites in the afternoon, though I saw none earlier in the day.Other skippers were grizzled, dingy, rosy and mallow. My first Swiss small coppers were flying in the hills and green hairstreaks were common everywhere, as usual this year. It was nice to see my first Apollos on a rocky slope at altitude. I saw two in total but couldn't get any closer than that one, distant shot. All the whites I've seen this year were flying. Here is a Bath white and here a large white. I watched this orange tip egg being laid. I added Réal's wood white to my year list on the strength of an individual with a beautifully curved hindwing line, parallel to the wing edge. Just as I was about to click the shutter it was mobbed by a common blue and I lost the shot... Berger's pale clouded yellow was flying but I saw no brimstones. Four fritillaries were flying: pearl-bordered, Queen of Spain, Glanville and violet. Peacocks were still on the wing and a very few small tortoiseshells, as well as commas and Camberwell beauties. For the browns, small heath, speckled wood and wall were all common - I didn't see any De Prunner's ringlets, curiously. Swallowtails and scarce swallowtails drifted through both sites. All in all, a fantastic day.
23rd: Mostly cloud. I got out for about half an hour at one point, when I quickly found this male sooty copper, followed by this female. She was deep in the undergrowth, laying these eggs. Here is a slightly large picture of one of the eggs.
24th: Easter morning was cloudy. In the afternoon it cleared up and I cycled to a local site to look for short-tailed blue. I found just one male (here is an underside). He was defending a territory near one held by a Chapman's blue and they interacted often. This being species 59 for the year I decided to try and find a 60th, just so I could say I'd seen 60 by Easter! So I nipped into Valais and as I expected found that the red underwing skippers were on the wing, my first of the year. It was getting late, but before the sun disappeared behind the mountain I saw probably half a dozen red underwings, as well as several other species, including green-underside blue, common blue, Berger's pale clouded yellow, Queen of Spain and pearl-bordered fritillary, to mention just a few. Happy Easter!
25th: A sunny morning. I visited some local meadows hoping to find Duke of Burgundies. Success! Several males (here, here and here) were defending territories and occasionally sparring. The meadows were really coming to life, with sooty coppers, violet fritillaries and meadow fritillaries, grizzled skippers and red underwing skippers, plenty of blues, including little blues and whites, swallowtails and yellows. No woodland ringlets yet. As I cycled home I found this false heath fritillary at the edge of the road.
26th: The first chequered skippers are on the wing! I photographed this male on my way into school this afternoon.
27th: I had some free time in the morning and so visited a local violet copper colony (at about 1700m) to see if it was active yet. As I arrived, a huge cloud brewed up in front of the sun, but it was clear the vegetation was right for violet coppers so I hung around for an hour. During that time green hairstreaks occasionally put in an appearance and at the beginning, before the sun went in, I saw two little blues. Eventually, I had to leave, but just after that the sun came out and I raced back, to find a single female violet copper. That's the only shot I took - a record shot - before she bounced off and the clouds came over again.
30th: I cycled to a mountain dappled white site, hoping to spend a morning watching and photographing the species. When I arrived, cloud covered the sun and no butterflies flew at all, though some were waiting in the wings, ready to fly. This Apollo was one such (and here). It remained there motionless for at least an hour. I did find a hatched Pierid egg on the mountain dappled white foodplant but no fresh eggs. At about midday the sun reached a nearby meadow and a few butterflies flew there, including common blue, Osiris blue (and here - these were my first for the site) and Glanville fritillary. In the past that has been a Duke site, but they were not there today. By the afternoon intermittent sun allowed the mountain dappled whites to fly. Here is another shot of the same male, taken an hour after the first. Up to four were visible at once, but as soon as the sun went in, which it did regularly, they would always get up and go, usually flying up or down a gully, rather than wait for the sun to return. Here is a male resting on dogwood after being brushed by a car. A couple of large wall browns flew - my first for the year. There was also a Camberwell beatuy about and plenty of other butterflies, including Adonis blue, Berger's pale clouded yellow, small white, wood white and others. Cloud returned and I cycled back down the mountain. The valley was sunny, and while looking for (and failing to find) Iolas blues I saw my first spotted fritillary of the year. Here is a red-underwing skipper at the same site. Only one bladder senna bush was in full flower, and one other had a few flowers. The rest were just leaf. Iolas blue doesn't usually fly until there are plenty of flowers.

May
4th: My local brown hairstreak larvae are about 4mm long now. Here is a closer picture. Because I went to see them at about 7.30, when the light was fading, I couldn't get better pictures.
7th: The season is accelerating. Today I visited just two sites with Matt Rowlings and we found 47 species of butterfly flying. New for the year for me were Oberthür's grizzled skipper, which was locally common (and here, here and here), northern brown argus (and here), Nickerl's fritillary (that was a female upperside - here is another shot of her, and here a male upperside and underside), black-veined white and geranium argus. The other species flying were: Small white, green-veined white, large white, wood white, Bath white, orange tip, Berger's pale clouded yellow, Apollo, swallowtail, scarce swallowtail, little blue, Osiris blue (very few - perhaps just one), short-tailed blue (a single female), Provençal short-tailed blue, green-underside blue, holly blue, Chapman's blue, common blue, Adonis blue, turquoise blue, baton blue, small copper, green hairstreak, Duke of Burgundy, Glanville fritillary, false heath fritillary, Queen of Spain fritillary, spotted fritillary, pearl-bordered fritillary, peacock, red admiral, comma, small tortoiseshell, wall, speckled wood, small heath, dingy skipper, mallow skipper, grizzled skipper, rosy grizzled skipper, olive skipper and safflower skipper. As well as our two butterfly sites we went to look for lady's slipper orchids growing in woody glades. Here is Matt photographing them, and here and here a couple of shots of the flowers. Wonderful!
8th: A cloudy but warm day, with breaks of hot sun. In the Rhône Valley I found my first knapweed fritillary of the year and at a different site my first marbled skipper. She was a real beauty - so much so that she was pursued by a male mallow skipper for at least ten minutes, until eventually he got the message. I was fascinated to watch this emerald moth caterpillar walking across a track (and here, after I touched him and he rolled into a ball). His adornments of leaves and twigs encumbered him considerably and I actually thought they might be some fungal or viral outgrowth, but I am told it is normal behaviour for emerald moths to stick bits of stuff to themselves as camouflage. Other species seen between clouds in the Valley were: little blue, Provençal short-tailed blue, green-underside blue, holly blue, common blue, Chapman's blue, Adonis blue, Glanville fritillary, Queen of Spain fritillary, small white, green-veined white, wood white, Berger's pale clouded yellow, probably pale clouded yellow (its upperside was very pale, though it was completely fresh, and the hindwing spot was muted, not bright orange), scarce swallowtail, olive skipper, safflower skipper, dingy skipper, wall, speckled wood, small heath and doubtless others I've forgotten. Nearer to home, as rain threatened (and struck), I found my first woodland ringlets of the year (actually, quite numerous), in meadows where false heath fritillaries, meadow fritillaries and violet fritillaries (on their last legs now) were flying, as well as Duke of Burgundy (here is one taking nutrients off dogwood), chequered skipper (and here), red-underwing skipper and assorted blues.
10th: In the woods at lunchtime I saw what looked like a huge pearl-bordered fritillary. I considered marbled fritillary, but it clearly wasn't that, and when it settled I took a picture assuming it was a large female pearl-bordered, though it looked all wrong. Only later did it occur to me that it was my first Titania's fritillary of the year!! Suddenly all becomes clear! A spanking fresh brood of small tortoiseshells is on the wing now, too.
12th: I spent a little time in the morning with my violet coppers. Here, here, here, here and here are some males. This is a female. Although the day was mixed cloud and sun, turning to heavy rain and storms by the evening, it was not difficult to find the butterflies in late morning. I also saw my first marsh fritillaries of the year. Several were cruising around the boggy area where the coppers were flying. There were plenty of green hairstreaks and little blues too, but butterflies were not the only things there. Here is a video of some moth caterpillars at the same site.
13th: I tried to look for brown hairstreak caterpillars in the evening but this search-mate didn't really help!! So instead I went to the woods, where I encounted this slow-worm. Here is a video of him.
18th: In my local woods, in late morning, little was flying. A few pearl-bordered fritillaries were drifting about, a single chequered skipper, a few whites and orange tips, a speckled wood or two and this large wall. Later in the day I had a chance to go and look for Iolas blues. Unfortunately, the weather was turning by then and cloud and wind dominated. I wanted to see how they were doing on my favourite site, which is becoming very overgrown. In the event, I saw just one female and one male during sunny moments. The male never stopped but the female did, briefly and inaccessibly, so I was able to take this long-distance proof shot. At the same site green-underside blues were common, and I also saw common blues, Chapman's blues, Adonis blues, little blues, Provençal short-tailed blues and turquoise blues. I am certain I saw a chalkhill blue, but it was in flight at some distance and so I am not recording it officially. The colony of red-underwing skippers there was thriving, but all the individuals were now pale and faded in comparison with how they looked when first on the wing, a couple of weeks back... Lots of fresh, new small tortoiseshells were about, and two very old large tortoiseshells. Here is an underside shot. It was nice to see this species still on the wing - the individuals must have been ten months old, assuming they emerged somewhere around mid-July last year.
21st: A remarkable day in the Canton de Genève with Matt Rowlings. The target species was black hairstreak, which has been seen very early this year in France. It is on the wing in Switzerland too, with good numbers at two sites, including egg-bound females. Here and here are two more pictures. At one site it remained mostly high in trees, settling only for remote photos, but at the other the females in particular were down low, often disappearing into blackthorn looking for good egg-laying sites. Another first for the year today was Reverdin's blue, which was flying at two different sites (here and here are males, and here and here are another female, which was very interested in a different plant from its usual foodplant of crown vetch). At one site a female silver-studded blue was flying too. Here is the other side of the same butterfly. Other firsts were marbled white, which was out in very low numbers, meadow brown (frequent), heath fritillary (common), mazarine blue (a few individuals), marbled fritillary (just a couple of individuals) and pearly heath (a single individual). But that is to leave out the best butterfly of the day, a magnificent poplar admiral which appeared out of nowhere and settled on the path ahead of us. It was being chased by a dingy skipper, which actually landed and settled on it at one point, but I only got this picture after the pair had made up. Here, here and here are further photos of him, and here and here are a couple of videos. The admiral spent some time cruising up and down a shady ride, and out beyond, over meadows, but he was clearly bent upon getting some good excrement in his tummy and when he found what he was looking for was very tame indeed. Other species flying today  in Geneva were: small white, green-veined white, large white, wood white, brimstone (a spring male, not a summer brood), grizzled skipper, knapweed fritillary, violet fritillary, Queen of Spain fritillary, small tortoiseshell, speckled wood, small heath, swallowtail, green hairstreak, common blue, Adonis blue, little blue and Provençal short-tailed blue. I'm sure I've forgotten things - I'll add them later!
22nd: Got out early to visit a site in Valais where black hairstreak was seen and photographed last year. It is at some altitude, so I didn't expect success but despite generally overcast skies I did see one Satyrium hairstreak, which had to be black hairstreak. It is doubtless the very beginning of the season and I will go back again as soon as possible to spend longer (I had to leave the site before 1.00pm today). Other species flying there included my first Amanda's blue of the season (here is an upperside and here another underside), which was active even when it was overcast, plenty of Adonis blues, heath fritillaries, Glanville fritillaries, safflower skippers, Apollos, a pale clouded yellow, probably, but I didn't get the confirmation I needed so I can't be sure it wasn't Berger's, chequered blue and, not far away, geranium argus and olive skipper. An enjoyable and productive morning.
24th: After school I had a wander in the local woods. Little was flying, but it was good to see several commas still on the wing and enjoying the evening sun (and here).
25th: In a long gap between lessons I nipped up to 2000m to see what was flying. The answer: lots. Alpine heaths are already on the wing, and even more surprisingly Alpine argus is flying! I saw two males and though I couldn't get close for a good photograph that one, distant shot is enough to confirm the identity! This species normally emerges at the beginning of July. I saw a single male clouded Apollo, scouting apparently endlessly for a female, without stopping to nectar - but he passed me close so many times that there is no doubt about the identity. Dewy ringlets were drifting sideways across the hillsides (and here), my earliest records of this species by some margin! A single female mountain green-veined white was my first of that species for the year, as was this northern wall. Little blues were common, as were Adonis and common blues, and locally there were a few geranium arguses. The commonest butterfly was probably marsh fritillary, though small tortoiseshells came a close second. Because I was pushed for time I couldn't explore the Pyrgus species as much as I wanted, but I saw several olive skippers and at least one other species - most likely large grizzled skipper. A few Colias butterflies flew, including several Berger's pale clouded yellows but probably also an early mountain clouded yellow (and possibly moorland, which also flies there). None stopped and most were sightings at some distance. Pearl-bordered fritillaries were common, and also Queen of Spain fritillaries. I might have had a flight view of an early shepherd's fritillary, but with the pearl-bordereds flying in such numbers I am not going to count it. I had a similarly inconclusive view of a large blue in flight, which I won't count either, though for myself I'm confident that's what it was. Here is a swallowtail  hilltopping. After lesssons in the afternoon I went down to the valley to try for Iolas blues again. This time the weather was with me and I saw several males and a female, confirming that my favourite site is still active despite becoming rather overgrown. Here is a close-up of that same male.
28th: I began the day in the valley, where the season was really blossoming into full summer. Southern white admirals are defending territories (this one already looks a little war-damaged), Provençal fritillaries are flying, Swiss Zephyr blues are out (and here, and here, and here) and ilex hairstreaks are dotted over all the nectar plants (and here). I saw my first small skippers and large skippers of the year, as well as my first brown argus, dark green fritillary and purple-shot coppers (and here). Amazingly, at least two freshly emerged large tortoiseshells cruised past me at different points in my walk. Here is an Apollo with an ilex hairstreak behind. Other species flying in the valley were small white, green-veined white, southern small white, Berger's pale clouded yellow, marbled skipper, dingy skipper, safflower skipper, comma (hibernated), knapweed fritillary, marbled fritillary, scarce swallowtail, large wall, little blue, Adonis blue and more... I didn't have much time to enjoy myself in the valley because my mission for the day was to go up high and see what was happening at altitude. I caught a bus part way, then cycled from 1650m to 2200m, finally walking up to 2500m. Spring is happening up there! There weren't many butterflies flying, but I saw little blues as high as 2462m and a single peak white up there too. This sooty ringlet (Erebia pluto, f. oreas) had got caught out by the rapidly descending chill and cold wind at the end of the afternoon but I warmed him up in a plastic box and he was then able to fly properly, off to look for a roost. Here is a mountain green-veined white and here a mountain dappled white. Orange tips were still flying in the higher regions. As well as butterflies, a few mammals caught my eye today! Here is an ibex, who was remarkably tame (though this is taken with a zoom - I didn't attempt to approach him too closely). Marmots were quite common at in higher, stony regions..
29th: Stayed at home today, though it was a glorious day! Around lunchtime I wandered down to the woods, where little was flying. I did see my first high brown fritillary of the year and also several large walls, speckled woods, pearl-bordered fritillaries and this chequered skipper, but on the whole it was quiet. Here is a first instar comma larva on a wych elm leaf - and here he is a little closer up. Coming back from the woods I saw my first ringlet of the year. Marbled whites are now plural in Huémoz and the first local meadow browns were flying. Black-veined whites are on the wing up here and so are false heath fritillaries. I looked for lesser marbled fritillaries but they were't flying - nor were there foodplants, meadowsweet, in evidence.

June
4th: A hot, sultry, sometimes raining but sometimes sunny day. I looked for black hairstreaks in Valais but didn't find any. Instead, I did see my first grayling of the year (and here)! This is my earliest date for this species by some margin! Equally surprising for me was the presence of several mountain alcon blues - here is the underside of that one. Some individuals were already quite old and must have emerged in May (here is the underside of that one). I didn't find any females, nor any foodplant. My other first for the year today was scarce copper - just that one, brilliant male. Other species on the wing were heath fritillary, Glanville fritillary, spotted fritillary (here are some spotted fritillary caterpillars), black-veined white, Apollo, small skipper, safflower skipper, Adonis blue, common blue Amanda's blue (here and here are a much older male and here and here a female) and small heath. Scarce swallowtails were drifting around the Prunus bushes and little blues - ubiquitous this year - were common in the dense vegetation of vetches and other flowers. This pair of dung beetles were rolling their ball up a steep hillside, with numerous setbacks...
10th: It has been generally cold and often wet recently. After school I went down to my local woods, where things are still rather quiet. There were no white admirals yet, though a single great banded grayling, my first of the year, contributed the same colour scheme! Other than that, marbled fritillaries were nectaring keenly on the bramble, a single dark green fritillary passed through and there were plenty of satyrids about - large walls, speckled woods, ringlets and meadow browns. On the way home I checked the meadow where lesser marbled fritillaries usually fly first. True to form they were on the wing. Here are a couple of males and here is a female. Here's a cluster of males getting excited about a female! Dark green fritillaries were there too, and second brood violet fritillaries.
12th: A surprisingly successful (given the forecast) day in Valais, at about 1800m. I set off to photograph alpine grizzled skippers and found them aplenty. Here, here and here are some more uppersides, and here is an underside. The only other grizzled skipper present was the ordinary grizzled skipper, Pyrgus malvae. Dingy skippers and chequered skippers were common, though. Also flying at the same site, much earlier than in previous years, were Asian fritillaries. Here is an underside. I only saw a few, but some showed signs of having been around a few days at least (like this one, which flew off before I could get close). To my surprise, cranberry blues were already on the wing. Here is another shot of that female, and here the underside of a different one.  Alpine graylings were present, in low numbers. Other species seen up there were mountain green-veined white (common), orange tip (plenty of males about!), small tortoiseshells, northern walls (here and here are males, and here is a mating pair), false heath fritillary, pearl-bordered fritillary, little blue, mazarine blue, large blue (my first of the year), geranium argus and alpine heath. It is a strong site for large ringlets, and these usually coincide with the Asian fritillaries, but I saw no Erebia species today. I enjoyed watching this ageing female green hairstreak laying her egg on what appears to be a willowherb. Here is the egg. This is another green hairstreak taking minerals on the path. Cycling back down the mountain (and around, and a bit up too!!), I found a single Asian fritillary by the road several kilometers away, and much lower down, as well as this lovely male scarce copper (and here). I called in at the site where I saw grayling and mountain alcon blue last week, and again saw both. I also found my first Essex skipper of the year and several other species basking in the late sun, including northern brown argus and Adonis blue. This is a small skipper, this a safflower skipper and this a knapweed fritillary. I've left out mention of many species seen today, but nothing crucial, I hope!
15th: I arranged exam invigilation and marking so I could take today off and go hunting for scarce large blues. These I found by their dozens at a site in Vaud (stopping on the way at a dusky large blue site but seeing none there). Here is the same female, laying on the flower-heads of greater burnet, and here is a different one, with a male. This is a typical Swiss male - with unspotted forewings but spots on the hindwings. Here is an older male and here another female. I took many more photos! At the same site purple-edged coppers were flying in abundance (and here), as well as several other species of blue, including Chapman's, mazarine and Adonis. I was so intent on the scarce large blues I almost didn't notice that my first bright-eyed ringlets of the year were floating around. That is form lugens, showing very little of the bright-eyedness! Here is a lesser marbled fritillary feeding on bistort flowers (the foodplant of the purple-edged coppers). I left those meadows in the early afternoon and headed off to a cranberry bog to see if cranberry fritillaries were flying yet. I saw just two males (here is one), so the season is right at the beginning for that species. Not far away, moorland clouded yellows were flying and very occasionally stopping. Here is a closer shot of those two and here another lovely, fresh purple-edged copper. Marsh fritillaries were common, as were false heath fritillaries. Ringlets, meadow browns, large walls and marbled whites are all in high season now. Finally, after cycling back down to valley level (much more fun than going back up and down over the mountains) and heading for the tram, I found this dead lesser purple emperor in the verge. Sadly, it must have been hit by a car or train. Apart from that slight sadness, a great day!
17th: A quick trip to the woods after school produced three new species for the year. Woodland browns are now out in numbers - I saw probably a dozen. White admirals have emerged too, though I only saw two. Finally, a single Arran brown (and here) was my first of that species in 2011.
20th: Another quick evening trip to the local woods. I almost certainly saw two white-letter hairstreaks high in their master tree, but the sighting wasn't such that I could confirm them. More white admirals are flying now, and this lovely male high brown fritillary posed nicely (and here). Other butterflies flying were comma, meadow brown, ringlet, small white, large white, large wall, woodland brown and red admiral.
21st: Three new species now flying in the woods, none of which I was able to photograph. One was white-letter hairstreak, which I can now confirm, having probably seen them yesterday. Today several were twisting and twizzling high in their master tree (a maple). The second was silver-washed fritillary - a single male was zooming up and down the woodland ride, very rarely touching down and never more than a second or two. He was interacting with the high brown fritillaries, which were surprisingly numerous - almost as numerous as the marbled fritillaries. Finally, a single male purple emperor put in a brief appearance, cruising along the ride, buzzing me and then checking out my backpack on the ground, but never stopping. White admirals and woodland browns are now common. Here is a pastoral scene from the cycle ride home (up the hill), showing two marbled whites in the foreground.
24th: A short, local trip in the afternoon. In the woods I managed to spot a silver-washed fritillary at rest for a moment! He has slightly crumpled wings but this did not at all hamper him in flight. Down in the valley this individual was far fresher and in better condition. Here is a close-up of his androconial stripes. Also in the woods, this female holly blue was oviposturing on bramble. Other fresh individuals, marking the start of the summer season, where this peacock, this second brood southern small white, this male Chapman's blue and this female common blue. Here is a painted lady - one of only a few of this species I have seen this year.
25th - 28th: An intense few days, with no time to write up this journal. Here are the essentials...
25th: A trip beyond the Simplon Pass to see if I could find Rätzer's ringlet. I failed! But I did see a lot, including several new species for the year. First was almond-eyed ringlet, a species that flies in abundance in that part of the world. Here is one sadly caught in a spider's embrace. Next, Darwin's heath was a year tick too. Beyond the Simplon, this species occus in pure form, untainted with any genes from alpin heath. Chalkhill blues were flying commonly, though I only saw males, and Escher's blue were on the wing too - here is a female. Instead of finding Rätzer's ringlet I saw plenty of lesser mountain ringlets, Swiss brassy ringlets and the much large marbled ringlets (and here) - as well as a single Piedmont ringlet, this one looking well past its best. Orange tips were still flying and large blues were locally very numerous, if a little worn now. Here is an apollo caterpillar - something which must be all over these mountains but I rarely find. Here is a mazarine blue, another common species there. The purple-edged coppers in this region are subspecies eurydame, which has narrower borders than the nominate subspecies and no purple hints. Here is a glimpse of the underside.
26th: I spent the day at a some sites in Valais, at middle altitudes, with a couple of friends from England who have come to film Alpine butterflies. Again, there were several new species for the year. The first was large grizzled skipper. I'm not quite sure how many I saw, because there were some individuals flying that seemed to be Oberthür's rather than large, and all were of the same, rather average, size. But at least some, like the individual I've just shown, were definitely large grizzled. At the same site Meleager's blue was flying, and a few lesser purple emperor. In fact, none of these stopped, but one that flew very close identified itself in passing and it is a known site for the species. On a different part of the same site two female purple emperors were striking into a sallow tree - here is one of them. Here is an Apollo carrying a stowaway... Not a new species for the year, but it was a pleasure to find Nickerl's fritillary still flying. Higher up the mountain Asian fritillaries were still flying too, though the day was so hot there was little out in the open and we saw relatively little. This alpine argus was very docile and sat around very patiently while we all photographed him. There were no northern walls, for example, though just a week ago they were the commonest butterfly there. We did see a few blind ringlets, my first of the year, and this lovely, fresh silvery argus. Here is another shot. In fact, the commonest butterfly at this site was probably chequered skipper, which seem to be a constant companion throughout the walk.
27th: Today we went higher. On the way we picked up some lesser woodland ringlets and saw this lovely, fresh Zephyr blue female at the same site. There were several Escher's blues around too. At altitude we found mountain clouded yellows commonly (here is one freshly emerged, with wings still soft), as well as moorland clouded yellows. Sharing the Vacciniinum with the moorland clouded yellows were plenty of cranberry blues. Glandon blues were newly on the wing too (and here) - here is one together with a cranberry blue. Probably the most striking find of the day was this aberrant mazarine blue - quite a remarkable butterfly. I have found mazarine blues with no spots before, but never one with these deep black brands. It was the same on both sides. Idas blues were common. A few small mountain ringlets (Erebia epiphron) were flying and I found my first dusky grizzled skippers of the year. Here is a mating pair of Darwin's heaths. It is notable that the one on the left shows many of the characters of alpine heath - less marked rings, particularly towards the inside of the white band, and more charcoal grey, for example. Several peak whites motored around the mountainside but none stopped! There were relatively few Boloria butterflies, and those I saw well enough were all pales - shepherd's fritillary. Grisons fritillary was more numerous. Two female Cynthia's fritillaries were seen, both in the same area but different individuals. There were far more marsh fritillaries (debilis). I looked for Mnestra's ringlet and didn't find it there (at a site where I see it regularly later in the year) but at a different site, in the afternoon, I found a single fresh male. Here he is in the identifying box (from which he was immediately released!). At that second site I found my first Niobe fritillary of the year and photographed this pure-bred Darwin's heath on one of my friends' hands.
28th: We began the day in the valley and ended in the mountain tops. In the valley, both graylings and lesser woodland graylings were common, along with a whole host of blues, including several fresh male Meleager's blues. This is presumably a false heath fritillary, but the upperside shows the hindwing is not dark. I'm happy to be corrected. Knapweed fritillaries were common, and heath fritillaries, but although it was a strong Provençal fritillary site (where I have seen them earlier this year) there were none of this species flying today. Purple hairstreaks were out in considerable numbers and I had a rather galling glimpse of a black hairstreak but couldn't get either a photograph or a close view. Ilex hairstreaks were abundant, many looking well past their best. At the top of the mountain, Swiss brassy ringlets were flying and I found a single silky ringlet, which zoomed off before I got a photo. Dusky grizzled skippers were common and there was another, small, Pyrgus species that I wasn't able to get close to. It was windy and very hot. Little was flying, but what was flying was mostly very mobile. Shepherd's fritillaries were reasonably common, dewy ringlets were about but not in great numbers, a very few peak whites were present and my first eros blues of the year were flying amidst many little blues, idas blues, alpine arguses and cranberry blues. The target of the walk was Cynthia's fritillary. We found at least four males hilltopping. They were very active, zooming off after any passing insect as they held their territories. This is a truly special butterfly, well worth the long climb up the mountain! Here and here are a couple more pictures. We saw far more than I have been able to mention here, but I hope this write-up gives a flavour of what the mountains are like at the moment.

July
I got very behind in writing up this diary during July, so just a few highlights will follow, to enable me to catch up!
1st: A day in the Bernese Oberland. The primary targets were dusky and scarce large blues, of which we saw plenty. Here are a pair of dusky large blues in Vaud, on the way, and here a pair of scarce large blues, also in Vaud. There were to be lots more of both species in the Oberland - dusky, dusky, scarce, scarce. Here is a rare moment when a dusky large blue opened its wings! There was also a single large blue. On the way we called in for cranberry fritillaries, which are now flying in good numbers. Here is an underside. At the same site large ringlets were flying, and a host of other butterflies, including lesser marbled fritillary, Titania's fritillary and chequered skipper.
3rd: Climbed a local peak with my parents. The weather was cool, though beautifully sunny, and we didn't go very far into the hills. Nevertheless, several butterflies were on the wing, including a lovely hilltopping swallowtail.
4th: Another walk with my parents to a local high point. I was able to photograph this olive skipper egg, having seen the female lay it. There were also plenty of large grizzled skippers around, sometimes basking on the path or taking minerals. This southern small white was flying in Barboleuse.
5th: Another walk with my parents produced some interesting butterflies. Here is a little group with Damon blue, Eros blue, geranium argus and carline skipper. Damon blues were particularly common - here is one with an Eros blue. Here is a flower of cross gentian with a single mountain alcon blue egg beside it. This tatty butterfly, photographed from a distance, is a tufted marbled skipper. Here is a Piedmont ringlet and here a great yellow gentian.
6th: A few pictures from today: large grizzled skipper, large ringlet (and here), Titania's fritillary, my parents (and here).
7th: It was supposed to be poor weather, but there were some lovely spells in the morning. Here is a great banded grayling.
10th: Back to the Bernese Oberland with a new group of butterfly afficionados! The weather was poorer than last time, and descended into storm by the end, but there were still many butterflies flying. Manto ringlets were common - here is a male and here a female. Niobe fritillaries were also common - far more so than last time. Here is another, rather darker, individual. All the usual dusky and scarce large blues were on the wing, to order!
11th: A high mountain trip with the same group. Grisons fritillary was new for the year - here is the underside of that female - and there were some lovely Mnestra ringlets flying. Both shepherd's and mountain fritillaries were flying (here is the underside of a mountain fritillary), but we saw only males of the latter. Here is a mating pair of shepherd's fritillary. Dusky grizzled skippers were flying quite commonly. Here are two of my friends photographing a peak white (and here). One of the targets for the day was Cynthia's fritillary, which duly put in an appearance, though this male does not look nearly as smart as the fresh butterflies of a couple of weeks ago.
12th: Another high trip with the same group, but to a different site. Swiss brassy ringlet was very common, as was small mountain ringlet. Here is a beautifully fresh Mnestra ringlet. This marbled ringlet had me thinking, because it was very small and its underside was so pale and uniform, but I am certain that  is what it is. Silver-spotted skipper was common, and large grizzled skippers were locally common too. This is a Darwin's heath. Here, here and here are three rather different female mountain fritillaries. One of the group spotted this mazarine blue egg on a clover flower. Mountain clouded yellows were common and moorland too, but more locally. Here is a pair of mountain clouded yellows and here and here a northern brown argus (and here). Marsh fritillaries, form debilis, were very common and there were plenty of Grisons fritillaries too. By the end of the day the weather was looking ominous...
13th - 14th ... and two days of rain and cloud followed.
15th: A trip to the valley with the same group. Great sooty satyrs were flying in good numbers and dryads were among them. Here are a spotted fritillary, a silver-washed fritillary and a large skipper. Grizzled skippers are now on the wing again. In the afternoon the target was female Meleager's blue, which some of the group wanted to photograph. We found several, and some posed very nicely. Here is a female underside and here a male. On the way home we popped into my local woods, to see if woodland browns were still flying. They were, but only I saw one, sadly! White-letter hairstreaks were nectaring and silver-washed fritillaries were flying, with white admirals, Arran browns, large walls, Provençal short-tailed blues and small and large skippers, but the day was old and things were going to bed. The last butterflies we saw for the day were comma and red admiral.
16th: The group left in the morning and I had to prepare for my own imminent trip to Spain, but I called into my woods briefly to see if the woodland browns really are nearly over. I found three in total, all looking rather tatty. I also saw three purple emperors, including this female. White-letter hairstreaks were out in good numbers - here is another. And here is a short video of a female silver-washed fritillary (being harassed by a male).

REPORT FROM SPAIN - Pictures to follow on my return.
19th: Arrived in the Val d'Aran, in the Pyrenees, at about lunch time, and set up my tent in drizzle. In the afternoon, took a walk into town for provisions, when despite the poor weather marbled whites, meadow browns, small whites and wall browns were flying.
20th: A sunny morning. I set off early, beginning to see butterflies as soon as the sun reached the track I was walking. I headed high, and only lost the weather at about 4.00pm, after a fantastic day. The species seen, mostly in chronological order, thus in order of ascending altitude, were: marbled white, meadow brown, large skipper, large white, marbled fritillary, dark green fritillary, small white, green-veined white, spotted fritillary, knapweed fritillary, pearly heath, silver-washed fritillary, sliver-studded blue (a single female), red admiral, piedmont ringlet (increasingly common with altitude), Apollo, false heath fritillary (form vernetensis), comma, small tortoiseshell (surprisingly common), chalkhill blue, great sooty satyr, Amanda's blue (a single female), northern brown argus, scarce copper, mazarine blue, southern small white, wood white, small skipper, Essex skipper, ilex hairstreak (just one, very worn, specimen, a testament to the earliness of the season in Spain too), great banded grayling, mallow skipper, map butterfly, Foulquier's grizzled skipper (a first for me for the Val, and to be confirmed on return, but I am convinced for the moment. The sightings included two males, both with great white twin bushes on the ends of their abdomens. The markings of both males and the female were perfect, and the female in particular differed from the females of large grizzled skipper, centralhispaniae, I have seen there), red-underwing skipper, long-tailed blue, small copper, baton blue (a single, huge, female, laying), swallowtail, ringlet, small heath, large blue, sloe hairstreak (just three individuals, all very worn), violet fritillary, Queen of Spain, clouded yellow, Escher's blue, common blue, Lulworth skipper, brown argus, black-veined white, Provence orange tip (two different males seen, at different parts of the walk), large tortoiseshell, brimstone, olive skipper, Spanish brassy ringlet, Eros blue, silver-spotted skipper, Gavarnie ringlet (this was actually my target for the day so I was pleased to find a colony), bright-eyed ringlet, small mountain ringlet. I took a few photographs of male Gavarnie ringlets before the clouds moved over and stayed over. The poor weather after that prevented me going back to the two Foulquieri sites, which I had wanted to do.
21st: The day began bright but clouded over by 10 am and remained cold and cloudy all day. I saw very few butterflies, the only new species for the trip (and year) being gatekeeper.
22nd: Cloudy and cold.
23rd: Cloudy and cold.
24th: After three days of cold, clammy cloud, and in prospect of the same today, I headed out of the Pyrenees on the first bus this morning (5.30am!). This proved a good idea, as the sun was blazing all day where I got off the bus and the butterflies were fantastic. Best for me were two life ticks - Ripart's anomalous blue and Agenjo's anomalous blue. Ripart's is noticeably larger, with a whitish sheen to the underside in the male and a strong white streak. Agenjo's is smaller, without the white sheen and with little or no white streak. Flying at one site with them was furry blue (in good numbers). I didn't have a book with me and was uncertain at the time which were female furry blues and which potential anomalous blues, but back at my tent I think I can sort out all my photos! Another great species at the furry blue site was Spanish chalkhill blue. I was able to photograph males and females. At a different site, Spanish chalkhill, chalkhill and Adonis were all flying, and I think I photographed a hybrid of the first two. There were also some incredibly brilliant, but deeply brilliant, blues, of a colour I've never seen in Europe. I netted one and it had cell spot but was too worn to see much else of detail. I put it down as variety of Adonis. Other exciting species were all three gatekeepers - Spanish, southern and the normal variety, all flying at the same site in one instance. The single Spanish gatekeeper I saw and photographed was very worn. Pearly heaths were flying and at one site what I now believe to be very dark woodland graylings (I had some down as rock at the time, but have changed my mind on those). There were many marbled whites, these being the Iberian form, lachesis, which now ranks as a full species. Other species seen were: wall, great banded grayling, common blue, Chapman's blue, Escher's blue, brown argus, small copper, spotted fritillary (I will go back and check for lesser spotted - I was concentrating on the anomalous blues today), silver-washed fritillary, swallowtail, scarce swallowtail (feisthameli), Berger's pale clouded yellow, clouded yellow, western Bath white, small white, large white, wood white, grizzled skipper, red-underwing skipper, mallow skipper, long-tailed blue and Lang's short-tailed blue. I've probably missed something out - but all in all, a great day!
25th: Cold all day and sometimes very wet.
26th: Caught the early bus south again to try and get better pictures of anomalous blues, as well as exploring a little further afield. Arriving at the first blue site, I quickly found Chapman's blue, Spanish chalkhill blue and others, many just climbing up grass stems ready for warming up. I moved on quickly to the Agenjo's site, where I was able to photograph males and so move on to new places. During my walk I found all three gatekeepers, the scarcest being Spanish gatekeeper, though I found this at three sites. Several graylings put in an appearance, including tree grayling, false grayling, rock grayling (I am satisfied with the ID of many of these now, despite the fact I think there are also woodland graylings in the region. At one point, a great banded grayling sat very close to a rock grayling, allowing direct comparison of sizes. The rock grayling was very much smaller) and striped grayling. I will have to do some work with the books and the published maps to discover whether I have both Forster's furry blue and furry blue or just one or the other of these species. At one site I found an anomalous blue with no spots at all on the underside - an anomalous anomalous blue! Dusky heaths were locally common and pearly heaths almost everywhere. Other species seen were silver-washed and high brown fritillaries, comma, meadow brown, wall, mallow skipper, dingy skipper, grizzled skipper, clouded yellows and Berger's clouded yellows, assorted Lysandra, that might represent all of Provence chalkhill blue, chalkhill blue, Adonis blue and Spanish chalkhill blue - again, I will have to do some study to be sure. Certainly, Spanish chalkhill blue, subspecies aragonensis, was present. A few southern white admirals glided past, and there were a few red admirals. Other species were the same as I saw on Sunday.
27th: The weather was very iffy in the Pyrenees but I decided to try again for manto ringlets, subspecies constans. As I climbed up, a few satyrids were flying, including great sooty satyrs and Piedmont ringlets, but the clouds came down and on the site itself it seemed nothing would be able to get off the ground. It was not difficult to find butterflies roosting, though - I found a female Apollo so drenched I think she must have been there in the rain for the last week. Then, after an hour, at the first glimpse of weak sun, a manto ringlet flew, followed by another. Next a turquoise blue got up, looking as if it, too, had spent the last week sitting in the rain, and little by little others came onto the wing. These included dark green fritillaries, common blues, Apollos and small skippers. It never got really sunny, but the trip was definitely worthwhile.
28th: My last day, so I gambled on sun and went up a high mountain for Gavarnie ringlets. The gamble paid off wonderfully and I had a very good day. At mid-altitudes I found a woodland grayling (at a site where I've never seen them before) - this was good news as I am again uncertain about whether I saw any woodland graylings at my site in North Spain a few days ago. The sloe hairstreaks had completely disappeared, not surprisingly, after so much rain since the last time I saw them, a week ago, but one or two interesting Pyrgus skippers were around, further confusing the question of whether I am seeing Foulquier's grizzled skippers here. As I climbed higher, a few Provence orange tips appeared and when the woodland opened out onto open chalk meadowland there were plenty of blues (turquoise, Eros, chalkhill) and silver-spotted skippers. But I had come for the Erebia species, and these were out in force. Commonest were Piedmont ringlets, as always, but Pyrenean brassy ringlets were a close second. A few bright-eyed ringlets flew among them and also a few Gavarnie ringlets, my target. I photographed another male and also a female, easily distinguished by her much more marbled hindwing with white veins. Small mountain ringlets were quite common. I found one caught, completely motionless, in a disused spider's web, and assumed it was dead. But on being touched it burst into life and I released it, to fly away unharmed. These ringlets were all on a high patch with low, coarse grass. In a meadow nearby, a little lower down the mountain, manto ringlets form constans were flying - a new species for that site. Two fritillaries were of particular interest. Firstly, there were several small pearl-bordered fritillaries flying up with the Gavarnie ringlets. These were my first for the year, as they are scarce in Switzerland, and it was surprising to find them in such a remote location. The other interest fritillary was shepherd's fritillary. The form in the Pyrenees is larger and much paler on the underside than that in the Alps, in some ways more resembling mountain fritillary. Pictures of this, and of most of the species in this account, will follow shortly!

...to be continued

August
 
September
25th: I didn't get out at all for most of September, following a bicycle accident at the beginning of the month. Today, I enjoyed a trip to the Rhône Valley for the first time since then and the pleasure of seeing butterflies again was immense! The Valley is steeped in the smell of musty grapes at the moment, as the vendange is in full swing. This always brings out the tree graylings. Already early in the day, while things were warming up, about 25 tree graylings were flying around these piles of grapes or flitting over the track and rocks nearby. The species proved to be by far the most numerous seen today - I estimate I saw at least 1000 in about four hours. Here and here are a couple of nectaring individuals, and here is a video of one that clearly enjoyed barley and hops as well as wine. Graylings (semele) were also common, though these are never anything like as numerous as tree graylings. Here is another, doing its camouflage thing, and here one feeding off overripe elderberries. Several of the tree graylings were settling briefly with their wings open but it was difficult to get pictures of this. During an exchange between a male and a female, though, I was able to get some reasonable shots of the upperside (and here). This pair stayed together a while, making friendly conversation, but I think the female was probably not that interested. Other species on the wing today were a single rosy grizzled skipper (here is an underside, and here - unfortunately she flew off before I got any decent pictures), plenty of northern brown arguses - mostly males holding territories, chalkhill blues (I think that is one - I did see several less ambiguous chalkhill blues!), Adonis blues, common blues, Chapman's blues (he's crumply but could fly perfectly well), turquoise blues (and here), small coppers, small heaths and a single mallow skipper. I also saw a single brown argus but couldn't get a photo of it because it was in a hurry. Interesting to find it flying in the same field, at the same time, as the northern brown arguses. Berger's clouded yellows were common - here is a video of a male wooing a female unsuccessfully, and here is a shot of a female. A few clouded yellows were drifting through too and twice I saw a brimstone - which might have been the same male on both occasions. A few violet fritillaries passed through and I saw probably four Queens of Spain, at least one of which was apparently ovipositing on random plants amid bare soil - or maybe on the soil itself. Walls were common in the open ground and speckled woods in the shady areas.
28th: I plucked up the courage to get back on my bike for the first time since the accident and popped down to my local woods. There I was delighted to find this 2nd instar purple emperor caterpillar, whom I have christened Aurelian. He is just 6mm or 7mm long at the moment. Here is another picture of him. I will try and follow him into hibernation if he remains on the same branch through to the winter.

October
1st: October has begun hot. I cycled to the valley in the morning and headed off to the same site as on 25th, where many of the same species were on the wing. I was pleased to see a few rosy grizzled skippers (here is a rubbish underside shot) - my first of this species for October - as well as several mallow skippers. For the blues, Adonis, chalkhill, common and Chapman's were still flying; I didn't find any turquoise blues this time. Northern brown argus was on the wing and small coppers were common - clearly a new brood is flying now. Graylings and tree graylings were still very common - here is another tree grayling. Queen of Spain was flying, as last week, but instead of violet fritillary, this week I saw a single male spotted fritillary. Other species seen at that site were walls, speckled woods, clouded yellows and Berger's pale clouded yellows. My next stop was nearer home to see if I could find a brown hairstreak. I thought it was a long-shot, as this has been an early year and it was possible they had stopped flying. But I quickly found this female, who laid this egg, and a little later disturbed another from the path in front of me as I walked. That one flew over a hedge and away. Finally, on an even longer shot, I popped up to an old quarry to see if marbled ringlet was still flying. Several species were taking minerals there, including red admirals and Queens of Spain, and a single marbled ringlet flew through. It never really stopped, but I pointed my camera at it on full zoom at one point and did get a sort of record... You can see it is Erebia - and I know it is a marbled ringlet!
2nd: Aurelian, the purple emperor caterpillar, is still on the same resting leaf, enjoying the fine weather. Little is around at my altitude - just red admirals, small whites and a few Berger's pale clouded yellows. This red admiral appeared to be interested in ovipositing on the nettles but there would be no fruitful outcome if she did.
4th: Plenty of small whites are cruising around Villars, suggesting a third brood is under way.
5th: Aurelian's resting leaf is looking more autumnal but he is still there, mimicking its shades beautifully. I continue to look in vain for any others, but there are a few signs of where they have been. This might be the tip of someone's resting leaf, with evidence of a silk resting mat.
7th: It snowed down to Villars, but not quite as low as Huémoz.
12th: I had the afternoon completely off and was free to go butterflying. First stop was Arelian (and here), who is still fattening up and growing - over 1cm long now. Then I cycled off to a red admiral hibernation site to try and get passport photos of as many as possible, so as to be able to identify them again after hibernation. I photographed 7 different individuals: Flash, Norman, Gnasher, Slasher, Jim, Dougall and Basil. Other species seen were common blue, Adonis blue (near my local woods), Berger's pale clouded yellow (also near my woods), small white and wall.
15th: A brilliantly sunny day, much of which I spent in the Rhône Valley. 16 species were on the wing there, with activity concentrated in the middle of the day and the early afternoon. They were: Queen of Spain fritillary (common), wall (very common, many showing signs of having been attacked by birds - probably the black redstarts that were hanging around the field, fattening up to fly south), red admiral (a few doing fly-bys), tree grayling (present everywhere but not particularly numerous, compared to their recent numbers, except on the piles of rotting grapes in the early afternoon - and here), grayling (just one seen - this is a proof shot only!), swallowtail (a single one flew by as I headed back for the train, at about 2.15pm), small white (quite common), green-veined white (a couple identified - maybe more seen), clouded yellow (quite a few males cruising around and nectaring), Berger's pale clouded yellow (males and females equally common), small copper (really quite common), northern brown argus (several males defending territories), common blue (and here - common), Adonis blue (and here - common), Chapman's blue (just a couple of males - both looking quite worn) and rosy grizzled skipper (and here - three females seen). A really enjoyable autumn day!
16th: A sunny day, so nipped down to check on Aurelian (my purple emperor caterpillar). He was still there, on the same leaf! On the way back, on a sunny corner, several other species were flying. This comma was enjoying dandelion nectar and also fallen apples and a red admiral was supping from the apples. Nearby a single Queen of Spain, Adonis blue and common blue were nectaring on a bank and both small white and Berger's pale clouded yellow flew through.
22nd: A bitterly cold morning but the forecast for the valley was good and so I cycled down the hill at about 10.00am. There was frost by the road and even in the valley the temperature was clearly below zero - my gloved hands were frozen. I arrived at my target site at about 11.30am, when puddles were still frozen solid and everywhere in the shade looked white. Only walls were flying - in their dozens! Here is a couple. At about 12.30 other species began to fly in, starting with this common blue. By the time I was back on the train I had seen a total of 11 species. They were: wall (common), common blue (quite common by the time I left - here is another, against the mountains), Adonis blue (the first appeared at 2.00pm but I saw several after that), Chapman's blue (just one), small copper (quite common - and some quite fresh), tree grayling (not numerous but still present - here is another), grayling (I saw just the one, but it was in good condition), Queen of Spain (quite a few around, some worn, some fresh), clouded yellow (they appeared late but became increasingly numerous as the afternoon drew on), Berger's pale clouded yellow (quite common by mid-afternoon), comma (just that one seen, enjoying fallen grapes with wasps).
26th: Nipped down to see Aurelian in the afternoon (and here). He is still on the same leaf, as it turns yellow beneath him. He will hibernate soon, either on a leaf, secured with silk, or on a branch. Nearby, this red admiral was feeding on mashed apples (windfalls squashed by passing farm vehicles). Here is another shot of her.
29th: My favourite autumn site in the Rhône Valley has been grazed since last week and there are no nectar plants left. So although I saw five species (Adonis blue, wall, grayling, tree grayling and small copper) on the way I didn't wait when I got there - without nectar plants no butterflies would stay. Instead, I moved on to another site, where I looked in vain for ilex hairstreak eggs. I did see a speckled wood there, though, and enjoyed a beer in a bar afterwards!
30th: Aurelian is subtly changing colour and form. He will hibernate very soon.

November
1st: With my autumn nectaring site so recently grazed, I visited a favourite winter site today. The warm weather felt summery and butterflies were ever-present but I only saw eight species flying. These were: Queen of Spain (and here - common throughout my walk, though concentrated in certain places; here is one feeding on strawberry tree), wall (looking very much as though its season is over), small white (and here - here is a female - this species was very common), clouded yellow (and here - numerous), Berger's pale clouded yellow (this couple obviously thought there was hope left in the season and this female was busy laying eggs - the species was common today), red admiral (quite a few zooming around the place!), common blue (I saw just one male, in flight) and finally holly blue! This male was nectaring on strawberry tree (a different bush from where the Queen of Spain was) and though he was rather old he was apparently quite content. He must belong to a partial third brood, as in this early year the second brood was over long ago. There are still leaves on the blackthorn but I did have a quick look for brown hairstreak eggs and found this one.
2nd: Aurelian went into hibernation today. He has moved about 2m from his resting leaf and is now on a different branch. At least 15 red admirals were feasting on squashed apples on the track leading out of the woods. Here and here are some of them.
4th: Here is Aurelian again, in context on his twig (he's not in the sun - I used flash for that picture). He will stay there for the next five months, through frost and thaw, snow and gale...
9th: A beautifully sunny day, and warm (until the sun went down); but no red admirals at all on the apples in Huémoz. Here is Aurelian today.
12th: Ran a 20km race along the Rhône. Early in the race a red admiral cruised past me and a little further on a brimstone crossed the path - one of my latest sightings of this species.
13th: Sunny all day but never really warm. I visited a site in the Rhône Valley and there was still ice in the puddles at 11.45, when I arrived. Despite this, I did find 7 species in total, at that and another site a little further down the Rhône. Commonest was wall, which is still out in good numbers. Here is another, rather more worn, female, and here is a male. Berger's pale clouded yellow was also quite visible, drifting around the hillsides. Here is a female and here a glimpse of a male upperside as he rested and flapped between sorties after a different female. I saw three Adonis blues (here is a different one), three small coppers (and here), a few clouded yellows, two small whites and several Queens of Spain. Here is a praying mantis giving me one of those looks...
16th: Aurelian is still fine. Nothing else is on the wing, though the weather has been consistently sunny of late.
19th: Still sunny, though not really warm. In the valley, shaded areas never lost their ground frost - this photo was taken at midday. Nevertheless, a few Queens of Spain and walls were on the wing and I saw a single Berger's pale clouded yellow fly up a hillside.
26th: A bright but rather cold day in the valley. A single wall, two Queens of Spain and two clouded yellows (here is the other one) crossed my path as I went for a walk among the vines. This is a very strange autumn. Many of the oaks in the valley are sporting spring catkins and leaves - a false spring, despite the fact we have had no winter yet.

December
4th: December began bright but snow fell above 1300m yesterday and today was overcast with some rain. I checked on Aurelian this afternoon, to see how he had survived the protracted autumn. Here he is, still looking as healthy as the day he hibernated. Only four months to go before he will be up and about again...
11th: After a week of cold weather, including snow above about1200m some days, there was a break in the cloud today. Although it was still bitterly cold in the morning (well below zero) I saw four species of butterfly in the valley between about 11.00am and 1.00pm. First was this wall, which appeared a little before 11.00am. He was soon followed by another. Here is a moustached darter dragonfly who was also enjoying the morning sunshine. My main target for the day was Queen of Spain, which I have never before seen in December. To my delight, a single, rather fresh male put in an appearance (and here). Snow is forecast for tomorrow but he will be OK, providing he finds somewhere suitable to hibernate today. A single red admiral flew past me as I wandered the vineyards and two clouded yellows were on the wing too. Here is a close-up of that first one, and here the second, which is probably my last butterfly of 2011. Lizards were active today, as were plenty of other insects, all enjoying the unseasonal nectar plants. By 1.00pm the clouds were brewing and it was feeling colder.
18th: After a week of cold, wet and occasional snow it snowed properly yesterday, settling thickly at Huémoz and only turning to sleet at the valley floor. It is still snowing today.