For previous years' lists and commentaries, often incomplete, click 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009; 2008;
2007; 2006; 2005; 2004; 2003; 2002; 2001. I seem to have
lost the file for 2000.
Some of my friends also keep, or have kept, online year-lists. Tim
living in the Monts du Lyonnais, publishes his list HERE
and Matthew Rowlings, who lives not far from me in Vevey, Switzerland,
has his HERE.
friend, Robin Fox, in Italy, keeps a regularly updated sightings diary HERE.
SCROLL DOWN for the 2020 CHECKLIST or use the menu below to jump to the
COMMENTARY for each month.
NOTE TO MY REGULAR READERS:
Following the death of my mother on 15th March 2018 I have moved to
England to keep my father company. My 2021, 2020 and 2019 diaries are therefore very
different from all my previous ones. No longer do I have alpine
species on my doorstep and purple emperor caterpillars in my local
woods. No more midwinter visits to Queen of Spain fritillaries in the
Rhône Valley or spring trips to nettle tree habitat in Italy! Thank you
to everyone who has followed the Swiss butterfly years with me. I will
try to keep some interest in these pages and hope to get some holidays
abroad, but in the short term my diary will record mostly the creatures
in and around Woodbridge, Suffolk. I will try to include at least one
photo, of nature or scenery, every day.
FOR THE YEAR 2020
Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) - 20th February - Suffolk, UK
Comma (Polygonia c-album) - 28th February - Suffolk, UK
Peacock (Aglais io) - 9th March - Suffolk, UK
Small white (Pieris rapae) - 29th March - Suffolk, UK
Orange tip (Anthocharis cardamines) - 10th April - Suffolk, UK
Speckled wood (Pararge aegeria) - 19th April - Suffolk, UK
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) - 20th April - Suffolk, UK
Green-veined white (Pieris napi) - 22nd April - Suffolk, UK
Small tortoiseshell (Agalis urticae) - 23rd April - Suffolk, UK
Holly blue (Celastrina argiolus) - 24th April - Suffolk, UK
Small copper (Lycaena phlaeas) - 7th May - Suffolk, UK
Painted lady (Vanessa cardui) - 11th May - Suffolk, UK
Green hairstreak (Callophrys rubi) - 16th May - Suffolk, UK
Small heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) - 16th May - Suffolk, UK
Little blue (Cupido minimus) - 29th May - Suffolk, UK
Common blue (Polyommatus icarus) - 29th May - Suffolk, UK
Large white (Pieris brassicae) - 7th June - Suffolk, UK
Brown argus (Aricia agestis) - 9th June - Suffolk, UK
Commentary (Links in the
commentary are to pictures of the particular butterflies referred to)
January 1st: HAPPY NEW YEAR nature-lovers everywhere! 2021 began cold but warmed up to about 3°C by the afternoon. The world and his dog
were out walking but everyone was very good about passing at more than
2m distant. The few runners out in the afternoon had their faces
covered. Here is part of our resident winter flock of Brent geese and here a female wigeon
perched on the mud. The tide was quite high and most of the godwits
were roosting on islands of vegetation in the river, their legs
concealed beneath them (so I couldn't see any rings).
2nd: By the afternoon, a much nicer day than yesterday (and here). This male teal looked splendid in the sunlight. The Brent geese were all in the grass on the far side of the river, with godwits, lapwings and shelduck. The local ruff was feeding in the water meadows among godwits.
3rd: After a beautiful start, the day turned grey and miserable (and here), turning to rain by evening.
4th: Afternoon walk on a muddy track between showers.
5th: Another grey day!
6th: Heavy and grey over the river. Turnstones were gathering on jetties and boats. Here's a turnstone in close-up.
7th: Finally, a brighter day. Waders and ducks gathered on the mud. Here are an avocet and a dunlin and here a grey plover. It was beautifully clear in the evening so I took some 360° shots in the garden and the local meadow. Here
is a link to a photo taken in the meadow (best viewed at full screen.
The orange thing in the meadow is Minnie, in her glowy collar) and here
a 'little planet' perspective from the garden.
8th: Very cold. There was still frost on the ground in late morning, when I took this photo.
9th: Another cold morning. Here is a robin along the muddy track by the river and here some avocets on the far bank.
10th: Cloudy all day.
11th: For the first time this year, I took Minnie on a bike trip out to the woods.
12th: A lovely day. Here is a proud grey plover strutting along through the mud, and here its cousin, a ringed plover. To complete the trio of plovers, here's a lapwing.
In the evening, I took a spherical picture of the stars from Fen
Meadow, and then made a copy annotated with the constellations. The
Andromeda Galaxy and Uranus are faint objects that show up clearly.
Both pictures can be seen and explored here.
13th: Back to rain and cloud!
16th: First real snow of the year!
17th: A highish tide when we went to the river this afternoon. A ruff was feeding with the godwits in the water meadows (and here). This curlew was running out of mud. Here is a reed bunting in a tree on the edge of the water meadows.
19th: Cold and cloudy. A trip to the heath in the afternoon.
21st: Another cloudy day. Here's a grey plover in the mud (with a redshank) and here some dunlin.
22nd: The day was beautifully clear and we took a trip to Martlesham
Heath in the afternoon, to look for purple hairstreak eggs - without
finding any. In the evening it clouded over. This Little Planet shot was taken after dark in the meadow, with the moon passing behind the clouds. The exposure was 60 seconds.
28th: An avocet on a grey day by the river.
29th: This afternoon, in the woods, I found myself surrounded by goldcrests and siskins. I caught a quick shot of a siskin but the goldcrests were moving too fast - and then people arrived! Here is Minnie on nearby heath.
5th: For the first time in what seems like forever it was a really lovely day today. Here is a VR shot
of the wooded heathland where we walked. We briefly saw what I first
took to be a barn owl (looking directly into the sun) but might have
been a short-eared owl. The wings looked long when I saw it for a
moment a second time. I'll go back to see if I can get photos another
day. Here's a shot along the Deben from Wilford Bridge, taken on the way back.
7th: Snow fell all day. Here is the garden in the afternoon, and here Fen Meadow.
8th: Fen Meadow under snow (and here).
9th: Skiing in the garden. No butterflies ...
11th: Skiing on Fen Meadow (and here). You can just see Minnie catching up in that second video!
13th: Snow in the water meadows. A godwit feeds in icy water while a dunlin paddles around in the mud (and here).
14th: A fully functional igloo built by children on Kingston Field.
16th: Snow and mist on the melting meadow.
17th: The elm flower buds are beginning to open. Here and here
are two white-letter hairstreak eggs, laid against the terminal, leaf
buds. They will probably hatch soon if the weather continues to warm up.
20th: The white-letter hairstreak eggs are still unhatched. Flower buds
are opening all around them and I am sure the caterpillars will soon
emerge. In the morning, my first butterfly of the year - a male
brimstone - flew through the garden. He checked out all the ivy and
flew up and down the garden a few times but never settled. I caught
this fleeting shot of him in flight. In the afternoon I visited woods where small tortoiseshells and peacocks fly early in the year. This track between the woods and the field is one of their favourite spots, but nothing was on the wing today. It won't be long now ... Minnie enjoyed getting out to the smells of the woods again.
21st: After a grey start, the morning brightened up and at least two
male brimstones were roding the garden by lunchtime - I saw them
sparring together. Again, neither stopped, even a moment, but I got
another quick flight shot of one as a record. Here is a bee in the garden and here a 7-spot ladybird in town. The harlequins and 7-spots have begun flying. The white-letter hairstreak eggs (and here) have not hatched yet. There are crocuses on the lawn. This is a jackdaw on a chimney stack.
22nd: A grey, butterfly-free day.
23rd: Sunny most of the day, but windy. I briefly saw what I am 95%
sure was a small tortoiseshell in the garden, flipping over the hedge,
but with the wind and the view into the sun I can't be sure it wasn't a
peacock, so no formal record. Here is one of the Pierid pupae I followed from eggs last year. I have seven of them and all look healthy. A few of the black-headed gulls on the river are now sporting summer plumage. Others are getting there, but most are still in winter livery.
24th: This white-letter hairstreak egg is better placed for photographs than the last two I showed. No more butterflies today, despite continuing mild weather.
25th: The first white-letter hairstreak egg has hatched. I couldn't find the caterpillar in the nearest elm flower - doubtless it had buried in deep. Here is a little egret fishing (very successfully, it appeared) on the edge of the Deben. It was very mild but overcast all day today.
26th: Another brilliantly sunny day, but cold, and no butterflies, either in the garden or on our woodland walk.
27th: No adult butterflies today, but on our evening walk I found another of the white-letter hairstreaks appeared to have hatched.
I couldn't find the caterpillar, and I wasn't even sure if the
caterpillar had emerged, as the hole seemed too small. But despite the full moon it was night time and close examination was difficult.
28th: Shortly before lunch, looking through the window, I spotted the
first comma of the year in the garden. I ran to get my camera but it
had gone by the time I got out. In the afternoon I photographed the
white-letter hairstreak egg I had photographed last night. The hole
looked bigger in the light of day - but I didn't notice at the time
that this was because the caterpillar had just hatched! Only when I
processed the pictures did I see it, clear as day, near the egg (and here).
Those are my first and only photos of a first instar white-letter
hairstreak caterpillar, and I only have them by accident! On a
different elm, I photographed this moth egg, with an early instar caterpillar of something (a moth) nearby.
1st: Return of cloud, and today quite bitter temperatures. No
butterflies. The third white-letter hairstreak egg remains unhatched.
2nd: A beautiful day but quite cold, with no butterflies flying.
3rd: A third white-letter hairstreak egg is showing a slight perforation in the top, as if the caterpillar is beginning to make its way out (and here). It had made no further progress by my evening walk. It was sunny but cold today.
4th: Return of cloud all day, with some rain. The white-letter hairstreak egg has still not hatched.
5th: Cold, and mostly cloudy, though occasional sun. The third
white-letter hairstreak egg has still not hatched, though the
caterpillar has enlarged the opening. This is a blown-up part of that same picture, showing (very badly!) the caterpillar visible inside.
The elm flowers on that twig are not yet upon. I wonder if the hold
enables the caterpillar to smell the air and tell when the flowers
open. Here is a redwing in the water meadows and here the usual ruff on the Deben.
8th: The egg had still not hatched by my evening walk.
9th: Sunny most of the day, and up to about 11°C by the afternoon. In the garden, a couple of male brimstones were roding much of the morning, and a single comma (and here) was out by lunchtime. In the afternoon, this peacock was flying in local woods. I got just that one, quick shot before it flew off.
11th: A beautiful evening. Here is a spherical image of the sky tonight, and here the same image with the constellation lines added.
I added the lines in a flattened version of the picture, so it gets
very warped near the zenith (and I couldn't locate all the stars of
Ursa Major in that projection, though they are easy to pick out in
13th: An even clearer evening than 11th. Here are the stars again. Minnie appears as the dotted orange line, as I didn't make her sit still for the 60 sec. exposure.
19th: No butterflies recently, and mostly grim weather, so Minnie and I
haven't been out much. But the sun shone today and we did get out to
the woods. Still no butterflies, though it felt warm enough, but the buzzards were courting in the sky. In the evening the waxing moon was brilliant in the sky, the craters clearly visible along the shadow.
22nd: Sunny but windy and cool today. A brimstone or two was roding in the garden without stopping and at least two peacocks put in an occasional appearance. These few butterflies seemed restless and ill at ease.
24th: A sunny but windy day. In the morning at least two brimstones
were roding incessantly in the garden and I saw at least one peacock
and one comma
too. Commas have been thin on the ground this spring. This is only the
third I have seen and it already looks a little the worse for wear.
25th: Mostly sunny again today, though cold and sometimes windy. A
couple of brimstones were circulating in the garden this morning, and
at least three peacocks (a different individual here). I also saw a single comma zooming through. 26th: Windy and mostly overcast, but a peacock came flapping at my window in the morning. 27th: Again quite windy and cool. A couple of peacocks seen in the garden in the morning. 29th::
For the first time this year, a really warm, sunjny day. In the
morning, brimstones (I still haven't seen a female), peacocks and commas
were disporting in the garden. In the afternoon, Minnie and I set off
in search of small tortoiseshells. Although we didn't find any in what
we thought were guaranteed sites, we did see our first small white of the year, nectaring feverishly on rape near the edge of a field. There were peacocks everywhere. They were flying near and across the road as I cycled to the site, resting on the ground and on the trees there, and still about in good numbers in the garden when I got back. This one was sunning itself on a netted footway in Bromeswell - until Minnie went across ... In the evening I found this four spotted ladybird, Nephus quadrimaculatus,
on the garden bench, near one of our big ivy bushes. This is a tiny
ladybird - less than two millimetres long - and generally very local.
Suffolk is one of its traditional strongholds. When I took Minnie on
her late-night walk, the first bats of the year were flying in the
meadow, near the street light: pipistrelles, soprano pipistrelles,
serotines and probably a noctule (all identified by the bat detector -
I didn't see any at all). Here is the moon. 30th:
An even hotter and sunnier day. Again, peacocks were seemingly
everywhere, in town and in the garden. I didn't have the opportunity to
go on a long walk. A brimstone flew through the garden early, but there
were no more, strangely. This comma
was defending the usual patch at about lunchtime. It is extremely
similar in markings to the one I photographed in the same place
yesterday, but I think not the same individual. April
1st: During a sunny spell I saw a single small white flying in the
garden. So I moved the Pierid cage, containing the 7 pupae, out of the
shade into a warmer spot. It is OK for them to know it is spring now. 4th: After a cool, cloudy spell, it was cool and sunny today. Peacocks were flying in the garden and a single comma
was defending a territory in the usual place. I wonder if they know the
big cold is coming. While I was filling the pond and clearing out some
of the duck weed, I found this strange creature (and here, and here). I don't know what it is. It is 4-5 cm long. 5th: Very cold and windy, with blustery snow at times and occasional sun. On the river in the afternoon, the godwits were in full summer plumage. 8th: Still very cold, with snow overnight, still melting in the morning sun. 10th:
Bitterly cold, with rain and cloud all day. In the briefest of sunny
intervals at the end of the afternoon, I was amazed to see a female orange tip come to roost in the ivy near our porch! The temperature was then about 6°C. 11th: When I got up this morning, the female orange tip was still roosting in the ivy (and here). As the sun came round and the day warmed up (a little - it never got warm) she dropped to the flower bed, where she settled on a leaf and at about 11h15 began tentatively opening her wings.
At 11h30 she flew off and enjoyed investigating the garden flowers. The
sun didn't last, and in the afternoon it snowed briefly. But she will
have been able to find somewhere safe to roost, I'm sure. 15th: Bright but cold (and here). 16th:
I saw my first male orange tip of the year today, roding through the
garden and very occasionally stopping a moment. A few male brimstones flew too, and several peacocks, but no
commas in the garden. In the afternoon Minnie (and here) and I went to
an area of wooded heath, where there were more peacocks, and this comma
in a woody part. It is getting warmer but there is still very little on
the wing. 17th: Warmer still today. In the garden were peacocks,
brimstones and several male orange tips, though I didn't have a chance
for any photography. We went to Martlesham Heath in the afternoon,
seeing very little, though there were several peacocks around and two
commas. Cycling home, I saw a single small white near the old A12. 18th:
Every day, I check the 7 pupae in my whites cage. These are from the
eggs I collected on wild rocket last summer and kept as they grew up.
At the time, I believed they were all green-veined whites, because I
had seen a female green-veined white laying on the rocket. But the
later caterpillars and pupae looked like small whites. Anyway, today,
as usual, there were no signs of colouring up. One of the pupae looks
translucent to the light and I believe it is dead. However, also in the
cage was a freshly emerged small white - evidently from a pupa I didn't
even know was there! All 7 are intact! This was late in the day and I
didn't know how long she had been there - perhaps days, I thought, as I
had only checked the pupae, not the corners of the cage for
butterflies. So I didn't photograph her in the cage but took her to a dandelion in case she needed to feed. She basked a moment then folded her wings, obviously intending to roost. So at that stage I put her on the mahonia, where she would be safer. She was still there this evening, though she had moved to a better position. 19th: My small white was still on the mahonia
this morning and stayed put while the mist cleared and the day warmed
up. I left the house at about 11h30, when she was still there, but she
was gone on my return home at 12h15. The temperature had risen from
about 11° to 13° in that time. The rest of the day was warm and sunny. Male small whites were flying in the garden, as well as orange tips, brimstones and peacocks, and by the afternoon, a comma. I had a short walk in the countryside (and here) in the afternoon, near Martlesham, in the hope of seeing small tortoiseshells. I saw none but did see my first speckled wood of the year as well as more peacocks, orange tips and small whites. A nightingale was revving up in the bushes and the first swallows of spring were flying around the barns. 20th: I visited the same site as yesterday in the afternoon, seeing rather less despite nice weather (but a little cloudy)
- and no small tortoiseshells. Small whites, orange tips, peacocks and
commas were all on the wing. The nightingale heard yesterday was in
full throttle today. Here is a kestrel on the ground. In the morning, my first red admiral of the year zoomed through the garden without stopping. 22nd:
I had another go for small tortoiseshells today, this time at a site
where I saw them aplenty last year. Still none. There were plenty of peacocks (some motoring on broken wings, looking small and rather like small tortoiseshells), commas, orange tips and small whites, as well as a fair few green-veined whites, my first of the year. Here is Minnie strolling through the rape fields. 23rd: Sunny all day but still chilly. In the afternoon I heard at least 3 nightingales singing, one of them from these bushes
and the others from similar stands of sloe. Cycling to the site, I
disturbed a single small tortoiseshell, which flew across the field
never to be seen again. This is my first and only small tortoiseshell
of the year so far. Other species flying included small white, orange
tip, peacock, speckled wood
(two or three flying in a woody part of the walk) and comma. There was
a brimstone in the garden. Here is a swallow from the walk. I have still seen no holly blues this year. 24th: Another sunny but chilly day.
In late morning, a single holly blue appeared in the garden, flying
around the ivy but not settling. In the afternoon we took a walk near
Gt Bealings, seeing the usual spring complement of orange tip, peacock,
a single comma and small whites. There might have been some
green-veined whites among them. Plenty of nightingales were singing.
One of my seven pupae now has whitish wing panels, though they don't show the patterns of an adult's wings yet. 25th:
Quite cool and cloudy most of the day. In the afternoon I checked on
the pupae and found a beautiful male small white flying about in the
cage. It was a rare sunny moment so rather than try to get photos I
just let him fly off. On first sight it seemed none of the pupae had
opened but then I spotted some meconium and saw the whitened pupa from yesterday was indeed neatly unzipped at the top (with more meconium on the plastic beside it). Another pupa is whitened up and I expect it will hatch tomorrow. 26th: Full moon. 27th:
Today was warmer than recently and a number of peacocks, orange tips
and small whites were on the wing. There are still really very few
butterflies around, though. Here is a mating pair of orange tips, beautifully camouflaged as a flowerhead of cow parsley (as shown even better in this view). Buzzards were soaring and tumbling in the sky: here
(I think) is a food pass, or some similar romantic gesture.
Nightingales were in full voice, competing with the songs of thrushes
and warblers. This is a lesser whitethroat.
5th: A third small white (and here)
hatched today, over two weeks after the first. When I found her it was
cold and overcast but a little later the sun came out so I let her fly
into the garden. She settled on some comfrey and was gone the next time
I came out. Counting the remaining pupae, I saw one was missing. It
must have become detached in the recent storms, even though I
transferred the cage to a more sheltered spot for the worst of them. I
searched carefully and found the missing chrysalis safe in one of the plant pots! It appeared quite undamaged, so I left it there, lying on the soil. In the meadow at lunchtime I found a 3rd instar white-letter hairstreak caterpillar.
By this time last year, all the catepillars had graduated into 4th
instar and disappeared. Everything is behind this year. In the evening,
I found another 3rd instar white-letter hairstreak caterpillar, by UV. This photo was taken with flash. 6th:
Following advice from UK Butterflies members, I attached yesterday's
fallen small white pupa to a stick so it could emerge more naturally. I
also detached one that was dangling by a thread from the roof of the
cage and stuck it to a stick. Otherwise, it might have dropped to the
ground on emergence without being able to get a grip on anything. Here and here are the first pupa, and here and here the second. In the evening I found yesterday's two white-letter hairstreak caterpillars (this is one of them) and located a third (and here), on a different tree. 7th:
No more butterflies hatched from their pupae today. It was mixed cloud
and sunshine and in the morning, in the garden, I saw what is only my
second holly blue of the year. Other species flying were small white (I like to think the female in this photo
is the female that hatched on 5th May: I saw that couple meet; they
remained in cop for about an hour), peacock and orange tip, all in very
small numbers. In the afternoon I went to look for green hairstreaks at
my best local site. There, I found the broom
still not in flower, weeks after it flowered last year. The hawthorn,
where the hairstreaks spend most of their time, was also not out. So no
green hairstreaks. I did see my first (and so far only) small copper of
the year and snatched a shot before it buzzed off. Here is Minnie. In the evening I went looking for white-letter hairstreak caterpillars. I relocated the three 3rd instar caterpillars I had already found and added this tiny 2nd instar caterpillar too, hidden in the unfurling leaves at the end of a branch. It is half pink and half green -
its camouflage for hiding in elm flowers. It should be fully green when
it moults into its 3rd instar, though some retain some pink
initially. 9th: Three of my small white pupae hatched today. First was one of the two I fixed to sticks on 6th May. I found him fully emerged when I went out in the morning, though his wings were still soft and I left him another hour before taking him out to see the garden and finally placing him on comfrey flowers. A second small white was by his pupa at the top of the cage, and when his wings had dried I took him out too. The second pupa attached to a stick looked ready to open and did so in mid-morning. Here, here, here, here, here, here and here
are successive pictures of the emergence. Other species seen during the
day were a few peacocks, a few orange tips and a female brimstone in
the Tesco car park. In the evening I photographed this white-letter hairstreak caterpilllar
in the local meadow. It is the same one I called 2nd instar the other
day. I'm now not sure if it is 2nd or 3rd instar - but it is very small
- probably about 5mm long. 10th:
In the morning, I found the last of my small white pupae (yes - all
small white - no green-veined whites, as I had thought at first) had hatched (and here). This is a different small white,
also in the garden - perhaps one of the earlier hatchings. In the
afternoon I took Minnie for a walk round the river and through the
woods, where we saw this female speckled wood
(as well as a territorial male). Finally, in the evening, I went
hunting white-letter hairstreak caterpillars, finding at least 10. Here
are two together, high up a tree, and here a 3rd instar with just a hint of colouring left, lower down. 11th:
A beautiful day. In the morning, I photographed this holly blue taking
minerals in the local meadow. I hoped to find green hairstreaks in the
afternoon on local heathland but failed. Instead, 4 painted ladies
zoomed through, this one pausing briefly to nectar. I saw a single small copper
at the site. Another white-letter hairstreak hunt in the evening
produced at least 10 caterpillars, distributed on 3 different trees. This is the same one photographed as 2nd instar on 7th May and as 3rd on 9th. Many of the caterpillars, like this one, were high up in the trees, but some were low down. This one was very easy to photograph. 12th: Another sunny day, though a little windy. The highlight was not a butterfly but a bird: this nightingale, singing out in the open on Martlesham Heath. I have posted a video of it on YouTube. Very few butterflies were around - and no green hairstreaks. In the evening I photographed white-letter hairstreak caterpillars (and here, and here, and here). 13th: Here is a white-letter hairstreak caterpillar photographed in the daytime (unlike most of my photos of them). 14th: The rare sound of a turtle dove purring (some distance away, so quiet). 15th:
I found fewer white-letter hairstreak larvae than usual on my evening
walk. I think they are distributing up the tree as they mature. Here is
a fully grown 4th instar caterpillar and here a 3rd instar. 16th:
Alternate rain and sun throughout the day. In the garden, in the
morning, a few orange tips flew, but nothing else. In the afternoon I
took Minnie to one of our green hairstreak spots and saw three, all at
a great distance, flitting up momently from hawthorn bushes and landing
out of sight. None came closer, to settle on the gorse. I also saw my
first small heath of the year - just one - as well as several peaocks, a single painted lady and good numbers of speckled woods. 18th: The orange tips eggs have begun hatching. Here and here
are two of the caterpillars. In the evening I looked for white-letter
hairstreak caterpillars, finding plenty this time, after a couple of
nights of less good pickings. Here, here, here, here and here are five different individuals, all feeding up healthily on the undersides of Siberian elm leaves. This one
is being attended by an ant. The 7th abdominal segment of the
caterpillar contains a nectar organ that attracts ants. In turn, they
offer some protection to their source of drugs! 19th: Some of our curly kale has gone to see and an orange tip has laid an egg on it. Here is a caterpillar feeding on its more usual foodplant, garlic mustard. 20th: A fully grown, 4th instar white-letter hairstreak caterpillar in the evening. 22nd: The same caterpillar as on 20th, seemingly bursting at the seams now! I easily found half a dozen more in a short search. 23rd: In the afternoon, I searched for the fully grown caterpillar to see what he did in the day. Here he is (and here),
beautifully camouflaged in a small leaf. It seems they feed at night
and rest up in the day. I located him again in the evening, feeding. It
was raining and very windy so I didn't spend long out, but I was very
pleased to see an ant milking a caterpillar again - the same
caterpillar as on 18th May. Here, here and here are some photos. It may well be the same ant, who has become obsessed with this caterpillar! 24th: A male orange tip
in the morning, with Minnie in the background. Apart from a very few
holly blues and the odd small white, orange tips have been the only
butterflies in the garden. In the evening I relocated the white-letter
hairstreak caterpillar with the attendant ant, as well as finding
plenty more caterpillars (here, here, here and here). 25th: More caterpillar fun in the evening. This one was very small still - 7-8 mm - and might be freshly moulted 4th instar. The ant was still milking its caterpillar. I attempted to film it, using the light from my iPhone and have posted the rather poor results here. 26th:
In the evening I cycled Minnie further away to look for hairstreak
caterpillars at another site in Woodbridge, by the river, where there
are different species of elm. On one species with small leaves, I
quickly found this caterpillar
and one more The leaves are only just now unfurling and many twigs
still have none. On another, not far away - I think a wych elm - I
found several more. On this tree, the flowers were still out - and
huge. This shot shows a tiny caterpillar high up the tree, hiding in a bract and almost invisible. I could just see the faint outline of his jagged back under UV. This is a detail from that shot, though as it was so high (and it was night) there is not actually much detail there. Here and here are two more caterpillars on the same tree, both also high up. Many leaves had other species of caterpillar. Here are two mystery moth or sawfly caterpillars. I also found a rather fine millipede (and here). There's something else hiding in that last picture but I don't know what it is. 27th: Back in the local meadow, the hairstreak caterpillar that had been attended by an ant was all alone, sitting on the upperside of an entire leaf. I hope now he can go back to feeding. An ant was fussing around another caterpillar (and here) without really milking it. I found plenty of other caterpillars, including this one and this one. 28th:
A mostly sunny day. In the afternoon I went to the forest to look for
green hairstreaks. Finally, the hawthorn is in flower and the
hairstreaks are flying, though I only saw one come down, and that only briefly. Most were flitting over chestnut leaves, often in the company of large numbers of Adela reaumurella. Here is another shot of the moths,
this time without a green hairstreak in the picture. Amazingly, I saw
no small coppers - just a single peacock, a single red admiral and a
few orange tips. 29th: A gloriously sunny day. In late morning I
cycled to Ipswich to see if the little blues were flying at the site
where they were introduced. Only about a quarter of the kidney vetch
was in flower - perhaps less - but nevertheless I saw about half a
dozen little blues, probably mostly males, all very active. This one (I think a male, but I'm not sure) stopped briefly and this one
landed for a moment near my feet some time later - no chances for good
photos of either. I saw two common blues flying at speed over the park,
as well as a couple of small coppers, plenty of orange tips, a peacock,
a few small whites and a single small tortoiseshell,
just after I had got on the bike to leave. In the afternoon I spotted a
green hairstreak near Tesco when I went for provisions. In the garden
were orange tips, small whites and several holly blues - but really not
very many. Here is an orange tip caterpillar on curly kale, and here another on garlic mustard. 30th:
Another summer day. In the afternoon I went to the forest to see how
things were looking for white admirals and silver-washed fritillaries
in a month or two. Things were still quite backward, and forestry work
had ploughed up a lot of ride edges, but equally, it looked as if the
summer growth was beginning. Plants can really spring up quickly at
this time of year. I saw two green hairstreaks along one ride - a place
I've never seen them before - and later found a single female oviposturing on gorse (and here). I also saw my first dragonfly of the year - a hairy dragonfly, Brachytron pratense. In the evening I checked on the white-letter hairstreak caterpillars. They are still easy to find, though I did sadly find a dead one - perhaps killed by a spider or a forest bug. 31st:
May ended on another hot, sunny day. Amazingly, there were almost no
butterfly flying in the forest. I saw a little cluster of three green
hairstreaks spiralling and sparring above an oak, and then flying up
and away, and a single green-veined white, but nothing else. In the
garden, holly blues are now reasonably common, though nothing at all
like last year. Here is my first broad-bodied chaser of the year (Libellula depressa), in the forest.
Another trip to the forest on a hot, sunny afternoon, and incredibly,
almost no butterflies at alll. For the entire walk, until I got back to
the bike, I saw just one green-veined white. Back at the bike, I saw an
orange tip and a peacock. That was it. It was incomprehensible. I also
saw my first southern hawker of the year in the forest itself. 2nd:
I took Minnie on a day-trip to Cambridge, to revisit old haunts from
nearly 40 years ago ... First, we went to my old college, but as dogs
weren't allowed in I could only show Minnie the view from the Porters' Lodge. Then we walked out along the Cam (and here)
to Granchester, hoping for a beer. It was a lovely walk but the one pub
that was open was fully booked until 10.00pm, so no beer (except the
emergency supplies I had brought with me). We stopped in the shade by the river on the way back so Minnie could take a break and I could look for dragonflies. I didn't see a lot, but there were plenty of banded demoiselles (female here) and azure damselflies,
as well as a couple of large red damselflies. The only butterflies I
saw on the entire walk, amazingly, was a single red admiral at
Granchester and a female orange tip in the little nature reserver near
Granchester Meadows. Back in Cambridge, we did manage to get a pint at the Granta, though it was very busy, before walking through town (here's some punting) and out to Midsummer Common and my old boathouse (and here).
By the time we got back to the station, Minnie was exhausted, but it
was probably less than she used to do in the mountains ... 3rd: The southern marsh orchids are now flowering in the meadow. The dotty white-letter hairstreak caterpillar that had been attended by ant has started feeding again. 4th: The largest orange tip caterpillar in the garden is now well advanced, though not quite full size yet. The caterpillar on curly kale is still doing fine but his plant isn't - it has been almost completely demolished by this snail. So I moved the caterpillar to some garlic mustard,
in the hope he would take to the new food. In the evening, I found very
few white-letter hairstreak caterpillars, and all small. There were
lots of newly laid batches of sawfly eggs, glowing very brightly under UV. 5th: The orange tip caterpillar I moved from curly kale to garlic mustard is eating like mad! He has had no problem adjusting to a new foodplant. 6th: A mostly sultry day. Here is the same orange tip cat as on 5th, still guzzling on his new foodplant. And here is a squirrel, watching prodeedings. 8th:
A trip to the forest in the afternoon. Very, very little flying - and
not even a single green hairstreak. I did see my first large white of the year, as well as a couple of speckled woods, a single painted lady
and a small heath. Amazingly, there were no small coppers, at a site
where these are usually very common. I have never known such a
disastrous spring for butterflies. 9th: On heathland in the
afternoon, I initially thought there were no green hairstreaks. Then I
spotted one zooming down from an oak, and later saw about half a dozen
in total, all spinning and sparring above oaks and coming to rest right at the tops of the trees.
I saw a possible silver-studded blue in flight - very early, but from
its appearance and flight good for silver-stud - as well as a small
heath, my first brown argus of the year (a female) and a couple of small coppers. This is the transferred orange tip caterpillar. Nearby, this one is now fully grown. 10th: A partial solar eclipse in the morning. Although it clouded over just before the maximum, this picture shows almost the maximum. This picture
shows a 'mini-eclipse' near the bottom, where the sun got through a
tiny gap in my cardboard shield and cast a pin-hole image of itself on
the paper. This is the set-up I used, with a pair of binoculars fastened to the tripod with garden twine. Minnie was not interested in it all. In the afternoon I spotted a painted lady
on the flowers on the other side of the road and saw two red admirals
in the meadow. In the evening I tried, rather unsuccessfully, to get
photos of a serotine bat (and here). 13th:
Again, very few butterflies in the forest rides (where silver-washed
fritillaries and white admirals will fly in July). Instead, I made do
with dragonflies - my first four-spotted chasers (and here) and broad-bodied chasers of the year. In the evening, a few rather tatty holly blues were flying around our holly, including at least one female. 14th: On local heathland a single green hairstreak, two common blues, a couple of small heaths and this broad-bodied bee hawk moth, nectaring in a woody part of the walk where honeysuckle grows. Here is a whitethroat.