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YEAR LIST, 2021


For previous years' lists and commentaries, often incomplete, click 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 20102009; 2008; 2007; 2006; 2005; 2004; 2003; 2002; 2001. I seem to have lost the file for 2000.
Some of my friends also keep, or have kept, online year-lists. Tim Cowles, living in the Monts du Lyonnais, publishes his list HERE and Matthew Rowlings, who lives not far from me in Vevey, Switzerland, has his HERE. Another 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.

CHECKLIST FOR THE YEAR 2021

  1. Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) - 20th February -  Suffolk, UK
  2. Comma (Polygonia c-album) - 28th February - Suffolk, UK
  3. Peacock (Aglais io) - 9th March - Suffolk, UK
  4. Small white (Pieris rapae) - 29th March - Suffolk, UK
  5. Orange tip (Anthocharis cardamines) - 10th April - Suffolk, UK
  6. Speckled wood (Pararge aegeria) - 19th April - Suffolk, UK
  7. Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) - 20th April - Suffolk, UK
  8. Green-veined white (Pieris napi) - 22nd April - Suffolk, UK
  9. Small tortoiseshell (Agalis urticae) - 23rd April - Suffolk, UK
  10. Holly blue (Celastrina argiolus) - 24th April - Suffolk, UK
  11. Small copper (Lycaena phlaeas) - 7th May - Suffolk, UK
  12. Painted lady (Vanessa cardui) - 11th May - Suffolk, UK
  13. Green hairstreak (Callophrys rubi) - 16th May - Suffolk, UK
  14. Small heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) - 16th May - Suffolk, UK
  15. Little blue (Cupido minimus) - 29th May - Suffolk, UK
  16. Common blue (Polyommatus icarus) - 29th May - Suffolk, UK
  17. Large white (Pieris brassicae) - 7th June - Suffolk, UK
  18. Brown argus (Aricia agestis) - 9th June - Suffolk, UK
  19. Meadow brown (Maniola jurtina) - 25th June - Suffolk, UK
  20. Silver-studded blue (Plebejus argus) - 2nd July - Suffolk, UK
  21. Grayling (Hipparchia semele) - 2nd July - Suffolk, UK
  22. Small skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) - 2nd July - Suffolk, UK
  23. Large skipper (Ochlodes faunus) - 2nd July - Suffolk, UK
  24. Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus) - 4th July - Suffolk, UK
  25. White-letter hairstreak (Satyrium w-album) - 9th July - Suffolk, UK
  26. White-admiral (Limenitis camilla) - 11th July - Suffolk, UK
  27. Essex skipper (Thymelicus lineola) - 11th July - Suffolk, UK
  28. Purple hairstreak (Favonius quercus) - 14th July - Suffolk, UK
  29. Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus) - 15th July - Suffolk, UK
  30. Lang's short-tailed blue (Leptotes pirithous) - 17th July - Málaga, Spain
  31. Desert orange tip (Colotis evagore) - 17th July - Málaga, Spain
  32. Monarch (Danaus plexippus) - 17th July - Málaga, Spain
  33. Clouded yellow (Colias crocea) - 17th July - Málaga, Spain
  34. Geranium bronze (Cacyreus marshalli) - 17th July - Málaga, Spain
  35. False mallow skipper (Carcharodus tripolinus) - 17th July - Málaga, Spain
  36. Sage skipper (Muschampia proto) - 17th July - Málaga, Spain
  37. Austaut's blue (Polyommatus celina) - 17th July - Málaga, Spain
  38. Southern brown argus (Aricia cramera) - 17th July - Málaga, Spain
  39. African grass blue (Zizeeria knysna) - 17th July - Málaga, Spain
  40. Wall (Lasiommata megera) - 17th July - Málaga, Spain
  41. Swallowtail (Papilio machaon) - 18th July - Málaga, Spain
  42. Iberian scarce swallowtail (Iphiclides feisthamelii) - 18th July - Málaga, Spain
  43. Southern marbled skipper (Carcharodus baeticus) - 18th July - Málaga, Spain
  44. Bath white (Pontia daplidice) - 18th July - Málaga, Spain
  45. Cleopatra (Gonepteryx cleopatra) - 18th July - Málaga, Spain
  46. Blue-spot hairstreak (Satyrium spini) - 18th July - Málaga, Spain
  47. Dusky heath (Coenonympha dorus) - 18th July - Málaga, Spain
  48. Striped grayling (Hipparchia fidia) - 18th July - Málaga, Spain
  49. Southern gatekeeper (Pyronia cecilia) - 18th July - Málaga, Spain
  50. Two-tailed pasha (Charaxes jasius) - 19th July - Málaga, Spain
  51. Long-tailed blue (Lampides boeticus) - 19th July - Málaga, Spain
  52. Adonis blue (Polyommatus bellargus) - 20th July - Málaga, Spain
  53. Rosy grizzled skipper (Pyrgus onopordi) - 20th July - Málaga, Spain
  54. Tree grayling (Hipparchia statilinus) - 20th July - Málaga, Spain
  55. Spanish chalkhill blue (Polyommatus albicans) - 20th July - Málaga, Spain
  56. Silver-washed fritillary (Argynnis paphia) - 29th July - Suffolk, UK
  57. Brown hairstreak (Thecla betulae) - 25th August - Suffolk, UK
  58. Berger's clouded yellow (Colias alfacariensis) - 16th October - Huémoz, Switzerland
  59. Queen of Spain fritillary (Issoria lathonia) - 17th October - Martigny, Switzerland
  60. Chalkhill blue (Polyommatus coridon) - 17th October - Martigny, Switzerland
  61. Cardinal (Argynnis pandora) - 17th October - Martigny, Switzerland
  62. Southern small white (Pieris mannii) - 17th October - Martigny, Switzerland
  63. Northern brown argus (Aricia artaxerxes) - 18th October - Leuk, Switzerland
  64. Turquoise blue (Polyommatus dorylas) - 18th October - Visp, Switzerland
  65. Niobe fritillary (Argynnis niobe) - 18th October - Visp, Switzerland

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.

February
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.

March
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 spherical projection)!
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.

May
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.

June
1st: 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.
TO END OF JUNE: For various reasons, I had very little time between 15th June and the end of the month, either to go looking for butterflies or to write up this diary. In general, butterflies have been very few and far between, with the first meadow browns of the year on 25th being the only notable event. A fair few red admirals have been flying and a smaller number of painted ladies but very, very little else.

July
1st: The southern marsh orchids in the local meadow are just past their peak but still abundant in places.
2nd: A sunny day. I visited local heathland to see if silver-studded blues were flying yet. I did see a single male, at some distance in an inaccessible, fenced-off area, so they are clearly on the wing. But that was the only one. I also saw a single holly blue. Amazingly, I saw just two small heaths and two small coppers, as well as a single meadow brown and my first small and large skippers of the year. A few red admirals were flying in the woody part of the site and a couple of painted ladies cruised by. I also saw my first grayling of the year, which disappeared over a bramble bush after settling briefly in dense vegetation, where it couldn't be photographed. The only other species was a single small white (probably), seen at distance. I have never known such an appalling year for butterflies. I think I have seen just three common blues all year, and a single brown argus.
4th: The first ringlets flying in the garden. Meadow browns are now becoming common. This female was in the local meadow. I didn't see any white-letter hairstreaks at the top of their elm tree but the weather was quite iffy. Here is a pair of common blue damselflies by the river.
7th: I saw the first hutchinsoni comma in the garden a few days ago but it was gone when I came back out with my camera. Here is one in a meadow by the river today. This speckled wood was in the meadow, There are usually a few flying around the trees there.
8th: I went back to the local heath to look for silver-studded blues. I saw three in total, all males. Here and here are two of them. The weather was off and on - mostly off - and little else was flying apart from a few meadow browns, a couple of small coppers, a red admiral or two, a small white and a very tatty holly blue. I didn't see any purple hairstreaks though I regularly checked the tops of the oaks.
9th: The day began warm and partially sunny but descended into torrential rain by the afternoon. When I took Minnie for her morning walk, a few white-letter hairstreaks were just occasionally visible at the very top of their master elm tree. I would see one or two spiral up, sometimes sparring, then they would settle down again, almost always out of sight. I took about a dozen shots into the canopy on x65 zoom, hoping a hairstreak would appear in one or two of them and struck sort of lucky in two. This is an uncropped piccie with a hairstreak just visible as a dark mark on the left. On blowing up and lightening the photo, it is clearly discernible as a white-letter hairstreak. This one was right in the centre of the shot but head-on, so no wing details were visible. I am happy that they are there, having watched the eggs and caterpillars all year. There will be another brood! Other than this, just meadow browns, ringlets and the odd white were on the wing.
11th: On a half-cloudy, half-sunny afternoon I visited local woods hoping for silver-washed fritillary and white admiral. Almost as soon as I arrived, I saw the latter - a single individual bouncing off into a glade and away. But I saw no more. Nor did I see any silver-washed fritillaries (this is the site where I saw them for the first time in Suffolk last year). In a meadow adjoining the woods I saw lots of small heaths and small skippers, and meadow browns were common everywhere, in the rides and the meadow. As I rejoined my bike to cycle home, I found some Essex skippers. Other species flying were green-veined white, large white, small white, red admiral, painted lady, speckled wood and some hutchinsoni commas. At lunchtime I walked three dogs so found photography difficult, but spotted several white-letter hairstreaks at the top of their tree in the local meadow.
12: Again today, white-letter hairstreaks were flying at the top of their tree - none came down. This was the most convincing shot I got. Here, here, here and here are others. All were taken by pointing the camera, at 65 x zoom, at a place where I saw a butterfly settle. When we got back from our evening walk, this lovely elephant hawk moth was in the porch. I photographed it and then released it into the garden.
13th: Despite it being mostly a lovely, sunny afternoon, rather few butterflies were flying on our woodland walk this afternoon. Meadow browns were definitely the commonest, with a few ringlets thrown in. Large, small and green-veined whites were all flying too, and several red admirals. In the usual places, hutchinsoni commas were defending their territories and there were small heaths and small skippers in the meadow. Near where I left my bike, as on 11th, I found several Essex skippers (that one photographed through grass florets - wood millet, I think). But no white admirals or silver-washed fritillaries, nor, surprisingly, any purple hairstreaks, which fly commonly here as a rule. Here is Minnie during one of the cloudier patches. In the morning, several white-letter hairstreaks were flying at the top of the elm and I photographed this small white in the meadow.
14th: Mostly overcast. On our afternoon walk along the river, I spotted several hairstreaks flying around the top of a tall ash where in the past I have seen both purple and white-letter. I pointed the camera on 65 x zoom and clicked every time I saw one land, and there was a purple hairstreak in almost every picture (and here). A little further on, I saw what must have been a female white-letter hairstreak fly into a wych elm (where I found caterpillars earlier in the year) and disappear among the leaves. There is no logic in a purple hairstreak doing that.
15th: First gatekeepers seen around Woodbridge.
17th: My plane landed in Málaga at 11h09. I dropped my big backpack at the hostal then headed off to some local favourite spots before checking in properly and setting off again. Top of my target list was desert orange tip and I was not disappointed. I first saw a male and got a lousy shot. It flew off but I waited in case it came back. About ten minutes later a female (and here, on the foodplant) appeared, then another - I saw a maximum of three at once, including a female rejecting a male, but probably more in total, over a period of maybe 40 minutes. This is a male. The females spent most of their time drifting around the foodplant laying eggs. Each egg was laid very quickly - it was more of a brief lingering on the leaf than a stop. This is one of the laid eggs. Lang's short-tailed blues and small whites were also around but it was a hot afternoon and little was flying. Even along the river I saw little but I paused under a bridge to watch monarchs (mostly resting in the shade, but flying around between rests - this is the site, with the arrow showing where that one was resting), as well as clouded yellows, a holly blue, a geranium bronze and another, single Lang’s short-tailed blue. Down by the water, often resting in the shade too, were lots of white featherlegs, Platycnemis latipes (and here). I then climbed a very little into the hills by what I call the back route, seeing plenty of false mallow skippers (and here), a few sage skippers and several Austaut's blues. Up here, away from the water, I also saw a few violet dropwings, Trithemis annulata. Walking back, found southern brown argus and African grass blue, the latter in its usual place by the river. Other species seen today were wall and meadow brown.
18th: Out early and caught the train along the coast a little, past the airport towards Fuengirola. At my first, grassy stop little was flying - mostly southern brown argus, Austaut's blue (and here, and here for a female) and false mallow skippers but also a single Lang's short-tailed blue. I was looking for southern marbled skippers but there were in fact very few Carcharodus flying at all at that hour. On the way, I paused at a flowery bush where I often see interesting things and quickly spotted a very tatty, male blue-spot hairstreak. I then headed towards a nearby site for Mediterranean skipper and was amazed to see a huge Morpho peleides flying around near a foot-tunnel entrance. It never settled but I caught this photo of it as it flew close. That was not something I expected to see! It must be an escape from the butterfly house at Benalmádena, not far away. No Mediterranean skippers were flying at their site. Next, I climbed the hill, taking a different route from last year, leading me to a hilltopping site I haven't visited before. On the way I saw my first speckled wood of the trip as well as lots of striped graylings (this one, deep in the shade, offered occasional views of its upperside), dusky heaths, walls and southern gatekeepers. At the top, just swallowtails and Iberian scarce swallowtails were hilltopping. Returning  to the Carcharodus site, I was very happy to get my first confirmed southern marbled skippers. Here is the upperside of a very tatty individual - I suspect I am between broods - and here and here the underside of a different (but equally tatty) individual. This female looks like false mallow skipper from above and is oviposturing on what seems to be some species of mallow, but it is interesting that her underside, from this view, looks veined in white. I have her down as false mallow. This individual (underside of same butterfly here) I have yet to confirm. I think it is a female southern marbled skipper but the forewing upperside markings are much less broad than those of males. There were also several Cleopatras and some meadow browns. Finally, I walked back to the station via the Mediterranean skipper site, where now, in the heat of the afternoon, there were plenty of southern brown argus, Austaut's blue, geranium bronze and an African grass blue.
19th: Climbed up to the hills overlooking Málaga, arriving at the crest at about 11h00. As usual, I saw very little on the way up, but as soon as I reached the crest immediately encountered southern gatekeepers, striped graylings, dusky heaths and a two-tailed pasha. Moving along the ridge to my favourite hilltopping site I found less hilltopping than usual, but a very amenable two-tailed pasha (and here) and a few swallowtails and Iberian scarce swallowtails (and here). Several large spiders had spread webs across the site and as I arrived I saw a southern gatekeeper fly into one, when it was immediately pounced on and wrapped up by the spider. I continued to more of my favourite sites, including a ruin where oranges, figs, almonds and olives all grow. These are oranges - they are ripe in March/April when I visit for spring butterflies. Butterflies seen on the walk to the ruins included clouded yellow, one helice female clouded yellow, Bath white, southern brown argus, a single painted lady, lots and lots of striped graylings, plenty of southern gatekeepers, plenty of walls, a few Austaut's blues, sage skippers (and here), locally a few false mallow skippers and at least one Lang's short-tailed blue. At the ruins themselves, false mallow skippers, southern brown arguses and striped graylings were flying but very little else. The stream running through the site was completely dried up but there was (stagnant) water in the troughs and I was able to refill my purifying bottles. Hoopoes, serins, flycatchers and other birds were constantly flitting around the trees. I tried a fig but it was completely dry, unlike last year, when they were delicious. Next I headed to a lyllus (the southern Spanish form of small heath) site, where I duly saw a few lyllus, but it was the heat of the afternoon and they were all sheltering in the shade. A couple of long-tailed blues were hilltopping on the crest just before I came down. I returned to Málaga by a slightly different route but came out at the same place, seeing monarchs in their usual spots (and here). Back in Málaga, I went to the bus station to get the timetable for Antequera for later in the week.
20th: I intended to spend the day locally, focusing on things like desert orange tip, African grass blue and monarch. I got to the desert orange tip site quite early, before butterflies were really up, and saw no adults - but I did find another egg. I also saw all stages of the shieldbug Eurydema ventralis. These are the eggs and these the nymphs. I then went to buy provisions before heading back for a lunchtime session, when I noticed my iPhone was missing. I had been pick-pocketed. Just in case I had dropped it by mistake, I ran back to the hostal and used 'Find my iPhone' on the iPad to locate it. It was offline - so clearly stolen and turned off. Fortunately, I was travelling with a spare phone and a Swiss sim card, so I activated those and then did all the necessary cancelling of accounts, erasing the iPhone &c. It was a real pain but not fatal to the trip. Finally, after much delay and quite late in the day, I did head back to the desert orange tips and found them flying. Here is a male and here the underside of that or a different male. This is the underside of a different individual. Increasingly, as the day drew on, they spent more time seeking shade and either roosting or resting temporarily.
21st: Caught the early bus (07h45) to Antequera, walking from there to El Torcal. I went by the quickest, road route, rather than across the wild area, so I could start climbing early. That meant I saw little on the way. But as soon as I got off the road I started seeing first Satyrids then other butterflies. Meadow browns and southern gatekeepers were soon followed by my first Adonis blue of the holiday. I saw a few more of these - not many - then picked up a Pyrgus skipper I quickly identified as rosy grizzled skipper (as confirmed by this underside). Locally, plenty of these were flying (here is another individual) but they stopped quickly as I climbed higher up the hill. As I continued, both Austaut's blues and southern brown argus were very common - these two have been almost ubiquitous this holiday. Austaut's blues in particular were everywhere. At one point on the climb there were tree graylings, while dusky heaths, meadow browns and southern gatekeepers were with me all the way up. A few walls. When I reached the flowery meadows, I suddenly came across Spanish chalkhill blue (and here, and here, and here). These turned out to be very common, though in the heat they were rarely showing any upperside. In flight, they appeared entirely white and when settled even the underside seemed pure, chalky white. This is a very different subspecies from the 
arragonensis I see in North Spain. Other species seen here were sage skipper, false mallow skipper, small white (common) and Bath white. As ever, Carcharodus were difficult. Many individuals were worn and it was difficult to see upperside and underside of the same individual. This one, for example, is clearly not tripolinus, with the large, hyaline areas on the wings. But this glimpse of the underside appears to rule out baeticus too, so I am inclined to think it is lavatherae. Here are the upperside and underside of another individual. That also looks more like lavatherae than baeticus. Here is a 360° view over the flat of El Torcal. Walking back down the hill I saw more of the same species, in reverse order, as well as a single long-tailed blue. I returned to Antequera by the wilder route, seeing Iberian scarce swallowtails on the way. Birds seen today included hoopoe (and here), woodchat shrike (and here), great grey shrike (from a great, grey distance!), black-eared wheatear (and here?), stonechat, thekla lark and black redstart.
22nd: Decided to try going up into the hills just north-east of Málaga, rather than just north-west as usual. I intended to climb until I reached a suitable hilltopping site. The walk up was by forest rides, shady, broad and not steep, so not nearly so strenuous. Equally, though, there were very few butterflies. I photographed this African grass blue in the river bed before the climb, then saw just a few of the usual Satyrids (this is a meadow brown), as well as sage skipper, Austaut's blue and southern brown argus, in the odd sunny spot on the way up. It was a long climb, and higher than my usual one, and so I was glad to see a bar when I reached the road near the top! After a few beers, I continued along a narrow track to the real top - the local high point (and here). I placed the 360° camera on that trig point and took this photo. From here it was possible to see across and slightly down to my usual hilltopping crest. As expected, butterflies were indeed hilltopping here. Two-tailed pashas were zooming around and occasionally stopping in the trees to survey the area (and here, from much closer). Iberian scarce swallowtails (and here) were also avid hilltoppers here, as were swallowtails (and here). A very few long-tailed blues were up there too. This one was so small I wondered if it was something else at first. Other things at the top included dusky heath and the odd cleopatra. After an enjoyable time with the hilltoppers I headed down again, photographing this female Cleopatra and a flowery spot and this sage skipper. This southern gatekeeper suddenly closed its wings when I was about to get that perfect shot! As I neared the bottom of the forest path I noticed what I thought was an insect crawling around the rim of my cap, just in my field of vision. I took my hat off and discovered it was the largest tick I've ever seen! I believe it is a tropical tick of the genus Hyalomma.
23rd: I went back to my skipper spots today, hoping for more southern marbled. As usual, I arrived too early, and little was flying. The early sun did give me a chance to photograph this striped grayling warming up, though. This is a southern brown argus opening its wings in the shade. While the day warmed up, I climbed a little higher, following a path I walked last year. In damp, shady places, speckled woods clustered - largely absent elsewhere. This dusky heath was tatty but flying without any problems. Other species on the climb were wall, sage skipper, Lang's short-tailed blue, Austaut's blue and southern brown argus. I didn't climb high but returned to the skipper site, where little was flying still (though this sage skipper posed nicely). On the way down I came across this single grayling. Hoping more would be on the wing later, I went back to wait at another favourite spot closer to town, where I found geranium bronzes, African grass blues, southern brown arguses and Austaut's blues, as well as spending time watching this little family of spotted flycatchers (here's the adult and here the youngster). Another youngster was ranging more widely in the tree, keeping mostly hidden. This is a keeled skimmer from the same site. Finally, I went back to the skipper site, where I found at least two southern marbled skippers (and here, for the underside of the same individual) and a few Mediterranean skippers. That male posed for plenty of photos. Here is another shot of him.
24th: For my final day in Spain I climbed back into the local hills to revisit my favourite spots. These two-tailed pashas were at my first hilltopping site. I also extended the walk to an area I haven't been before, where I found a new hilltopping site. There, the usual species were doing their thing, including several two-tailed pashas, a few swallowtails (note the bee-eater above the swallowtail) and Iberian scarce swallowtails and the odd long-tailed blue. This two-tailed pasha appears to be a gravid female, I hope implying there are strawberry trees not far away (though I didn't see them). I saw nothing new for the trip on the walk, though all my old friends came to see me and it was a very good day. Bee-eaters were almost constant in the sky. This, I think, is a short-toed eagle and this is a woodchat. I returned home via the desert orange tips (and here), where one or two were still flying though it was late in the day. Tomorrow I have to pack and head of back to the UK ...

[17th - 25th July - I'm in Spain for a week. I will write the trip up here on my return, a day at a time, but please see HERE for a preview, including new shots of desert orange tips and a new species for me, southern marbled skipper. It's much easier typing into a website on my iPad than coding in html!]

27th: Lots of white-letter hairstreaks sparring at the top of the usual elm in the meadow. This comma was setting up his territory in the back garden.
29th: Very quick afternoon trip to the woods where I saw silver-washed fritillary last year. The weather was windy and mostly overcast, with a little sun. A female silver-washed fritillary came batting down the ride, then turned and flew into the deep forest, where I lost her. On my return, some 2 minutes later, I saw her or another female again, not far away, doing the same thing. Other species flying were ringlet, meadow brown, gatekeeper, red admiral, peacock, comma, small white, green-veined white, small copper and a Lycaenid I took to be purple hairstreak but which didn't stop.
31st: Large whites have exploded in our garden. I can't remember a year when I have seen so many. Females are conspicuous almost all day long, looking for places to lay, feeding on the buddleia (that picture taken on 26th) or resting in the sun. Recently, I have noticed the females taking a great interest in what I think are garlic mustard leaves - very large leaves without flowering stems, growing on recently dug soil. This female was obviously looking for a place to lay and eventually disappeared beneath a leaf. I moved away and round to find a vantage point where I could photograph her without disturbing her. For some ten minutes I then watched her laying. She would rest beneath the leaf with her abdomen straight, presumably pushing eggs to the bomb-bay, then quickly and rather suddenly push the abdomen up to the leaf and lay an egg. Later, while I was preparing supper, I went out to look at the results of her labours. There were several patches of eggs under that leaf, including one in which most were hatched. The yellow on my thumb in the first photo is turmeric from cooking, not crushed eggs!

August

1st: Visited the white-letter hairstreak site near the river to see if any would be nectaring on the bramble. The weather wasn't good and no hairstreaks flew - not even purple. The only Lycaenid seen was a single holly blue drifting around the high trees and the bramble. Commas and red admirals were on the bramble and meadow browns and gatekeepers in the grass. Here is a green-veined white on nearby thistles and another on the bramble. This red admiral was posing on a wall in town.
2nd: Revisited the silver-washed fritillary woods but without seeing any. The weather had been cloudy and though it was intermittently sunny it was not really a good butterfly day. Ringlets, gatekeepers, meadow browns, whites, red admirals, a single purple hairstreak, small coppers and this single painted lady managed to fly all the same.
3rd: A beautiful, sunny day, most of which I had to spend at home. I got out for a short walk in the woods in later afternoon. Gatekeepers were the most obvious butterfly, clustering in numbers on ragwort in particular. Other butterflies were large white, small white, green-veined white, ringlet, grayling, small copper and painted lady. As well as migrant hawkers and common darters there were a few brown hawkers zooming around and several black-tailed skimmers. In the morning I saw a single hairstreak fly out of the top of the elm towards other trees - perhaps a female. There was a lot of bird activity in the woods, with Phylloscopus warblers flitting around in good numbers and this much larger bird (and here - note that it is ringed), which was making an unmelodious, loud churr. I can only think it is a garden warbler. Here is a yellowhammer, singing from near the top of his tree.
4th: A warm, sunny day, with surprising numbers of butterflies around. In the garden, a comma kept guard over his territory pretty well all day, and other species seen here were peacock, red admiral, brimstone (a single male), holly blue (a single male), large white, green-veined white and small white. In the woods in the afternoon, gatekeepers were again abundant, with ringlets, meadow browns and the odd grayling keeping them company. I tried a track round the wood I hadn't taken before, because it was towards this area I saw the female silver-washed fritillary fly a few days ago. The track began in an area of thistle, ragwort and bramble, where I would expect that species to nectar, and continued with lots of brambles in the sun - covered with red admirals today (and here)  as well as peacocks and painted ladies. Also seen on the walk were a couple of purple hairstreaks, a few holly blues, a single white admiral and several small coppers. I saw one golden skipper in flight on the walk and this female small skipper when I got back to the bike. I didn't see any silver-washed fritillaries today but will make a point of searching those nectar sites earlier in the year next year.
5th: White-letter hairstreak seen in the morning, flying from the top of an elm into other trees - possibly a female setting off to look for somewhere to lay. Visited the forest again in the afternoon. Here is a grayling from the bramble track and a comma from a ride in the forest. There were quite a few speckled woods about in the shadier parts, as well as all the usual gatekeepers, meadow browns and ringlets. This is an Essex skipper. I was unlucky with the weather - cloudy most of the time I was there, but sunny as I arrived and left.
6th: White-letter hairstreak seen at top of one of the smaller elms - not the master tree - and diving into the leaves. The day alternated between sunshine and very heavy rain, with little flying.
9th: There has been intermittent rain and sunshine over the last few days, with sometimes very heavy rain. This was the view across the water meadows this afternoon and this the view towards Woodbridge! In the sunny periods, all three whites were on the wing, as well as gatekeepers, meadow browns, ringlets, red admirals, commas and speckled woods. Holly blues have emerged in numbers over the last few days. Here is a fresh male inside the water meadows.
10th: Afternoon trip to the forest. Along the sandy, heathy tracks, graylings, peacocks, red admirals, gatekeepers, meadow browns, ringlets, whites and the odd small copper were flying. Then I reached a ride with abundant buddleia on either side and literally clouds of butterflies on them - peacocks, red admirals, graylings, commas and painted ladies in particular. I knew that if there were any silver-washed fritillaries still flying, this is where they would be: and I was not wrong. Before long I had spotted one, zooming around, interacting with all the other butterflies. He rarely landed, and when he did it was always in the shade (by this time it was mostly overcast anyway), where he moved restlessly before zooming off again. Then another one joined him and in total I saw at least three individuals, all very worn. Here, here and here are shots of two of them. The pictures are very poor because of the lack of sun and the fact they were constantly moving.
11th: A warm and sunny day. I couldn't get out in the morning but in the afternoon visited Martlesham Heath. There, purple hairstreaks were in the oaks - I think mostly females, as they dived deep into the leaves high up, presumably to lay. Red admirals and the odd painted lady were about, as well as the usual meadow browns, gatekeepers and ringlets. I saw no small heaths and just a couple of small coppers. At several different points along the walk brown arguses were in evidence, but singly, and there were a few graylings too. All in all, rather few butterflies.
12th: The day began well, with sunshine and warmth. This small copper posed nicely for me in the meadow. By the afternoon it was overcast but it remained warm and speckled woods, meadow browns, ringlets and gatekeepers were all up and about in the gloom. I looked for white-letter hairstreaks at a site along the river and saw none nectaring or in the trees. But as I passed an elm on the river bank itself I saw what I took to be a female fly into the canopy and settle, presumably to lay eggs (I found caterpillars on that tree in late spring). I took several pot-shots on varying zooms and by chance caught a glimpse of her (or another one) in this one. She wasn't in any of the higher zoom shots. But at least this confirms that the species is still on the wing there. It flies later on the river than in my local meadow.
13th: Friday 13th  proved neither lucky nor unlucky (except perhaps in that cloudy skies prevented any meteor sightings). It was warm, sometimes sunny in the morning and mostly overcast in the afternoon. Here is a young goldfinch sitting near the top of a tree (and here) and here a peacock pretending the sun is shining.
14th: A sunny morning. I photographed this brown argus with my iPhone in the garden as I was going out to mow the lawn. In the afternoon I revisited the silver-washed fritillary track I found on 10th. As that picture indicates, there were silver-washed fritillaries there again today - at least half a dozen, among dozens of red admirals (that one a female on the foodplant, though there were dozens on the buddleia), painted ladies, commas, graylings (and here, on a dead head), browns and whites. One male brimstone was nectaring on the buddleia too. Many of the silver-washed fritillaries were very tatty (and here, with a red admiral) but others were fresher. This one, photographed using flash against the grey sky, was typical. I also saw a single male flying along the roadside some distance before I reached the site. The species is clearly well established here now.
15th: Half-sunny again today, so I went back to the fritillary site in the afternoon, to enjoy again (while stocks last!) these butterflies that never flew here in my childhood. I arrived a little earlier - about 14h45 - and found just two on the wing then. Both of these were showing their age. As usual, they were incessantly moving and this was the only properly focused shot I got of either of them. The other had
significantly more torn wings. By 15h15 a considerably fresher male had joined the game and was parading up and down the length of the buddleia ride. All followed the same pattern, flying vigorously and diving at anything that moved, then briefly and frenetically feeding, constantly moving from one flowerhead to the next (often in the shade), before getting up and flying again. The difference was that the freshest individual flew greater distances to do this. I think I saw 4 different individuals in total. Also on and around the buddleia were hordes of red admirals and peacocks, lots of painted ladies, dozens of graylings (here is one with very little white in the hindwing pd band, resting in bracken), a few gatekeepers (and here), a single brimstone and the odd speckled wood, though these showed no interest in nectaring and spent most of the time on tree leaves. When I returned from my evening walk with Minnie, I found this straw underwing moth in the porch.
17th: A busy couple of days, and quite poor weather too. Here is a whitethroat - female or juvenile - from our walk around the river today.
18th: A female azure damselfly by the river this afternoon. Until she settled and I got the photo I thought she was a scarce blue-tailed damselfly but she is very beautiful anyway. Equally beautiful to me, but not to everyone, are these large white caterpillars that have decimated our curly kale! Some are fully grown and ready to wander off (and here) while others are still small - and there are fresh eggs too. These are the skins of an earlier instar. There are still some fresh leaves I can cut for supper (perhaps moving a caterpillar or two off ...) and the plants will survive and produce more anyway. I am very happy to share.
19th: Mixed weather again, but generally warm if not always sunny. In the afternoon, on a walk inside the water meadows, small and green-veined whites, speckled woods, holly blues, meadow browns and gatekeepers were all flying, as well as lots of southern hawkers and a few common darters. These young swallows (and here) were waiting for Mum to come back with insects for them. Before very long, Mum will have left for Africa and not so long after that they will set off on their own. What an incredible journey awaits them. On the way back, in the meadow, this purple hairstreak came very briefly to ground before picking up again and flying into the trees.
20th: A very busy day, with time only for short walks to the meadow. On my first, in the morning, I was shown this chrysalis on the bark of an oak tree (and here). It was obviously a moth but I didn't know which one, so posted the pictures on UK Butterflies and learnt it was a black arches moth.
22nd: Cloud, sun and rain today. This is the meadow in the morning and this the river in the afternoon. The large white caterpillars on the garlic mustard are mostly fully grown (and here) and evidently some have gone off to pupate. This one, still very much twitching, was on the wall of the house, near the garlic mustard. The tail is twisted to the right in these pictures but it was flicking it right to left - it is not deformed in any way. Here is a small copper in the meadow. Even in the cloudy periods, red admirals were flying, but there were few Satyrids on the wing today.
24th: Sunny with some clouds most of the day. This southern hawker posed nicely in the meadow in the morning. In the afternoon I visited my silver-washed fritillary track to see if they were still flying. They were - though the rare shots I managed to get all turned out to be of the same individual (and here, and here), so I'm not sure how many there were. Graylings were very common, and in amorous mood (and here). This is a different couple, who had actually got together. The biggest surprise was the dozens of small tortoiseshells flying - one or two on every buddleia. Before today I had only seen about two of this species all year. Red admirals were abundant and peacocks common, though not in such numbers. I saw a couple of purple hairstreaks, and another flying around oak as I cycled to the site. Other species along the track were speckled wood, small white, green-veined white, comma and gatekeeper.
25th: I set off relatively early for Ipswich, to look for brown hairstreaks. The weather forecast was not too promising, but while I was at my first site, in a park in Ipswich, the sun made a reasonable showing and I saw at least two, perhaps three brown hairstreaks. The first was dashing into the trees and I wouldn't have counted the sighting if I hadn't seen a female settle shortly afterwards (and here), a little further along my walk. She was near, but never on, blackthorn, dividing her time between rowan and sycamore. I think she was taking sugars - honeydew from the sycamore leaves and sap from the rowan. In this poor picture she is clearly licking sap from a stem of rowan. I then moved on to the second site, about a kilometre further south, where I had 4 sightings of brown hairstreak in total, without any pictures. There was masses of blackthorn and all the sightings were in flight, over the blackthorn. Sadly, the sun was now rarer. All the sightings were a minute or two into sunny spells, when the butterflies seemed to get up and move. At least one dived down into the blackthorn, presumably to lay. Other species flying at the sites were small heath, small copper, common blue (a female here), meadow brown, gatekeeper, speckled wood, ringlet, red admiral and small and green-veined whites.
27th: A mixture of sun and cloud. This large red underwing was on the front wall of the house when I came back from Minnie's early morning walk but it disappeared later. In the garden, holly blues and small whites were around during the day and this comma (and here) was sunning on the porch in the late afternoon.
31st: The month closed with a grey day - all day. A few whites flew in the morning and I found this orange swift moth in the porch at lunch time.

September
2nd: A hoverfly, Volucella zonaria (video) polishing the brass in the ivy!
3rd: Warm, though often cloudy. In the morning, a few meadow browns, red admirals and holly blues were evident in the garden. In the afternoon I cycled to the silver-washed fritillary lane to see if any were still on the wing. As always, the buddleia were covered in red admirals (and here and here and here), and with them were plenty of peacocks and graylings, a few commas, small tortoiseshells and small and large whites and a single silver-washed fritillary. I have seen silver-washed here every time I have visited since I first discovered the track on 10th August. Other species still around, though not on the buddleia, were gatekeeper, meadow brown (both species very worn by now) and speckled wood. This grayling was staunchly policing a dog sled area, and though he kept zooming off after intruders he always returned to his patch, either on the white or the wooden post. Back at home, I noticed the large white pupa had whitened over the wing panels, so to the naked eye these looked a distinctly different colour. This is him on 29th August and this him today.
4th: Warm and increasingly sunny during the day. Here is a red admiral and here a speckled wood on our short afternoon walk. The large white pupa coloured up noticeably during the day. In the morning, the dark, apical marks were just visible as pale grey. By late afternoon, they were black and it looked as if there were a miniature but perfectly formed large white forewing just beneath the surface.
5th: This morning (c. 09h30) the large white pupa was starkly black and white (and here, from the other side, and here, in context). I knew he was going to emerge but I had to leave, to sing in church in Great Bealings. By the time I returned, at about 12h20, he was out and sitting beside his pupal case. Here is the empty pupa. I waited a little, then moved him to a safe place among sedums in the garden, where he remained until I left for my afternoon walk with Minnie. When I returned from that, he was gone. Here is a greenshank watching on in admiration as a little egret catches and washes a fish.
7th: There are now small white eggs (and here) on the wild rocket in the garden, just like last year.
8th: A hot day, and my 'day off', so I went back to the brown hairstreak sites in Ipswich, arriving at the first by about 11h00. Despite the weather, and thorough searching, I saw just one hairstreak, in flight, in over two hours at the first site. In fact, there was very little flying at all - a few small coppers, red admirals, whites, speckled woods and painted ladies, with a small tortoiseshell seen too. Moving to the second site, I had a glimpse of two Lycaenids sparring over blackthorn, but I was looking directly into the sun and cannot swear they were not holly blues. Again, little was flying at this site, with speckled woods being the commonest species and red admirals a close second. Here is Minnie taking a break under the blackthorn, and here a migrant hawker.
12th: A comma in the garden. Interestingly, the present non-breeding commas are still all hanging around the usual territorial spots as if they were breeding.
13th: A comma in the garden. In the afternoon I took a short walk to local wooded heathland. A few small coppers were about (and here) - in better numbers now than during the first brood, when they were very scarce. There are still plenty of graylings flying too, and the odd small heath. On our evening walk, I spotted this brimstone moth lurking in a hedge.
15th: Cloud and sun in equal measure today. In the afternoon I took Minnie to the river. There are still a few red admirals and commas around, but generally little on the wing. This turnstone (and here) trusted so much to its camouflage it was wandering around just metres in front of Minnie - and yes, she saw it! In one of the mini-creeks on the mud, a ruff was feeding. Here (and here) is a black-tailed godwit, not in its full winter plumage, without a hint of the summer gold.
16th: A female red admiral in the meadow, pausing between egg-lays. I learnt today that the great grey shrikes of Spain are a different species (the Iberian grey shrike, Lanius merdionalis) from the ones we occasionally see in Suffolk, so this photo I took in July near Málaga actually represented a life tick!
17th: Sometimes cloudy, sometimes sunny, mostly warm. In the early afternoon an absolutely huge small copper appeared in the garden, first in the front, then in the back - or possibly there two huge small coppers. I couldn't get a photo, but even if I had, its size wouldn't have been apparent. It was as big as a largish gatekeeper. For our afternoon walk, I took Minnie to our silver-washed fritillary site - not expecting to see any fritillaries but just to see what it was like now. It turned out nearly all the buddleia was now over - just a few flowers left - and the earlier swarms of butterflies had all dispersed or died. A few red admirals and commas persisted, with some speckled woods among them, but there was really very little there. There were lots of dragonflies, though. Mostly, these were common darters (here's a male and here a female) but I also found this female willow emerald damselfly (and here). Not far away, on the heath, I found a solitary grayling, a small heath and a small copper.
18th: A lovely, warm day. In the afternoon, Minnie and I took a trip to the sandlings to see what was still flying. Although the buddleias are mostly over in their main ride, there are still some in flower along the heathland tracks and plenty of butterflies were to be found there. These included at least a dozen graylings (here are a couple playing love games), several painted ladies, lots of small coppers and a few speckled woods. Large, small and green-veined whites were all flying, and in the woodier parts there were commas and red admirals too. This fresh, female comma had a distended abdomen and what looked like meconium coming out of it (and here). I had initially thought she was gravid but on examining the photos wonder if she was simply still full of meconium, even though on the wing. If she had really been a gravid, breeding individual, she would have to be hutchinsoni, and indeed, she was very bright above. But she was dark beneath, so I think not.
20th: A female small copper in the garden.
21st: The same small copper was in the garden this morning, too, nectaring on Sedum. In the afternoon we went to the heath again, where graylings were still very much in evidence (and here). Small coppers were also common. Here (and here) are two getting intimate - though a gust of wind separated them before copulation. I expect he found her before very long. This female meadow brown was a bit of a surprise as I thought they were over. Other species flying were comma, red admiral and large, small and green-veined whites. Here is a male common darter.
22nd: I visited two sites in South Ipswich today, to see if brown hairstreaks were still flying. I saw a single one in flight at the first site, then waited for two hours at the second before finally spotting this lovely female (and here) crawling around in the blackthorn. While I watched her she explored quite a bit but never laid an egg, frequently stopping to sun herself some more. Then she flew off. I spotted another fly into an elm tree (near a tall ash) when I got back to the bike, but I had already put my camera away by then and couldn't get it out in time. Also flying were red admirals, all the whites (this is a very fresh small white), commas, small coppers and the odd meadow brown.
23rd: Another hot, sunny day. Small copper, comma, whites and red admirals in the garden. Here is a brown hawker by the river (though it was actually cloudy when I took that picture), and here and here common darters.
24th: There are still graylings flying on the heath (and here), and small coppers too. This male was hot in pursuit of a female but she gave him the buzz in the end. Here is a freshly emerged small white. Apart from the odd red admiral and comma, nothing else was on the wing.
25th: Took a walk by the Deben in the afternoon, inside the water meadows. Speckled woods, whites and red admirals were flying. This willow emerald damselfly (and here) is the first I've seen along these meadows. Here and here are a female and male common darter, and here is a cheeky squirrel.
26th: Light mist under cloudy skies on the meadow in the morning.
27th: A speckled wood and a red admiral in the meadow in the morning.
28th: I visited heath again in the afternoon but it began raining shortly after I arrived so I cut the visit short (to cycle Minnie home before it became torrential). In the end, it was just a passing shower, but I wouldn't like to have cycled during the torrents that fell later in the evening. On the heath, a few small coppers were braving the weather, as well as one or two red admirals. There is very little buddleia still in flower. In the garden, I have a few small white caterpillars rescued and in the cage. This one is a male, with the testes already showing, though he is still far from full grown.
29th: A beautiful morning, after a very wet, stormy night. It was cold, though, and by the afternoon was alternating cloud, rain and sun. I took Minnie along the river instead of risking a cycle ride to the heath. Here is a little egret (and here), and here a group of godwits, teal and egrets. A grey plover has snuck into this picture. Here and here are pictures of the now-familiar ruff that has been a regular winter guest in this part of the Deben since I returned from Switzerland.

October

3rd: A little milder, after some very cold and wet days. Here is a speckled wood in the meadow and here a common darter taking a ride on Minnie. I saw a holly blue flying around the trees on my lunchtime walk but it never settled. This small white caterpillar should pupate very soon.
4th: I was thrilled to find this female clouded yellow (and here, and here) in the garden at coffee time - only the second clouded yellow I've ever seen in the garden. Here is a red admiral in the meadow in the morning, and another at Rendlesham in the afternoon - red admirals are still quite common. There were no graylings left on the heath but still a few small coppers. The small white caterpillar did indeed pupate - here is the first pupa of the autumn. There are at least 12 more caterpillars in the cage - I have to keep potting more wall rocket plants for them!
5th: Red admirals flying around in the garden, and this small copper was enjoying the ivy too. In the small white caterpillar cage, more and more caterpillars are now wandering around looking to pupate. Normally, I zip the cage right up to the top right corner, but as a precaution I had zipped it to the middle yesterday. This was so that if a caterpillar pupated across the zip, I would still be able to open the cage and manage the plants, by unzipping either up or down. As it happened, one caterpillar has indeed decided to pupate across the zip - near to the top right corner! I hope they don't make a habit of this.
16th: Flew to Switzerland, arriving in Villars at 15h00 on a beautiful day. Immediately, I set off to what were my local woods to search for white admiral and purple emperor caterpillars. I didn't hold out much hope for the latter, as they are very difficult to find at this time of year - nor did I find any - but I found white admiral caterpillars and plenty of other evidence of where they had been. This is an abandoned, failed or predated hibernaculum. Here are some shaggy inkcaps growing in the woods. These used to be regular breakfasts for me in October, back when I lived in Switzerland ...
17th: A beautiful day, though just 1°C when I got up, and my first day butterfly-hunting in the Rhône Valley since 2019! I headed straight for the vineyards, with Queen of Spain in my mind. Within a minute of arriving, the first wall presented itself, then a Queen. This was a good start! The temperature was still only about 6°C but the slopes were warming up fast in the sun. Here is my favourite trompe l'œil, that I have shown so many times in this diary over the years. I made my way to my winter wall - the place I see Queens even in the coldest months - and found chalkhill and Adonis blues there as well as the Queens and walls. Not all were that fresh. Here and here are more worn individuals. There were common blues too and a few southern small whites. Also common were tree graylings and clouded yellows. I did see Berger's clouded yellows, but none stopped for a photo. Next, I continued to one of my cardinal sites. I wasn't expecting to see cardinals - my previous latest sightings were on 30th September - but it's an interesting site anyway. To my amazement, a cardinal did fly past as I arrived. I followed where it flew, into a region thick with buddleias, and was then even more amazed to see they were numerous. At least three (I saw three in the air at the same time) and possibly 6 in total. Here, here and here are some pictures. At the same site, a few blues were flying - chalkhill and Adonis - but I spent most of my time enjoying the cardinals. Finally, I made my way back to Villars, where I was playing the piano for the evening church service. A very good day.
18th: I headed further east along the valley today, hoping to see more blues and the third generation of rosy grizzled skippers. Again, plenty of tree graylings and walls accompanied me, now with a few normal graylings thrown in. At my first site, Berger's clouded yellows were common. Here is a female (and here). As expected there were plenty of rosy grizzled skippers. Here are a male and female in the same shot, and here a closer picture of the female. As well as Adonis and chalkhill blues there were now a few Chapman's blues (and a female here). I expected northern brown argus at this site but saw none [EDIT: Vincent Baudraz has kindly pointed out that the female Chapman's blue, above, is in fact a northern brown argus! I don't know how I missed it!]. I left the site quite early, hoping to find more things further still along the valley, in a tributary of the Rhône where the shadow falls at about 16h00. As I returned to the train, this adder crossed my path. Reaching the second site, it seemed at first I would see little, as it was cool and as predicted, the shadows were beginning to lengthen over the site. I contented myself with watching dippers (and here, and here, and here, and here). My first new species for the trip - but not the year - was brown argus
(no northern brown argus here either [EDIT: Vincent has also pointed out that at this site only northern brown argus flies, therefore despite the orange on the wings that is what this butterfly must be!]). Then suddenly I spotted a turquoise blue - not perfectly fresh but still brilliant to see. Because the ambient temperature was low it never closed its wings for an underside shot but just twisted about, gleaming in the sun. Next came a Niobe fritillary - this a genuine surprise. Again, it kept its wings open flat but I did manage a sneak at the underside. A very successful end to a lovely day.
19th: Today I had planned to visit Bretaye in the morning, then go down and up the other side to Leysin in the afternoon. Bretaye was to spend time with my mother, whose ashes are scattered there, and Leysin to see the school where I have been working remotely. The day began very cloudy. This spherical shot is taken from the table where my mother and father used to sit and have their packed lunch. I took an upside-down shot from the same place as the water was so clear that the reflected world looked just like the real world. Then I climbed up to the Grand Chamossaire, where my mother rests with the choughs. Here and here are two more shots of alpine choughs. In the afternoon I took shots of the Grand Chamossaire from the other side of the valley (and here). This is Leysin American School. I met one of the teachers, then wound my way back to Villars for my final evening in Switzerland (for now).
20th: Up early, to pack and catch the train along the lake to Geneva, then the plane back to Heathrow.
21st: Minnie and a friend greeting me at the kennels!

LOTS OF GAPS IN THE RECORD HERE. TIME HAS BEEN SHORT. I HOPE TO UPLOAD PICTURES LITTLE BY LITTLE ...

November
1st: A single red admiral seen in the garden.
3rd. A single red admiral seen.
14th: A single red admiral in the garden.
22nd: A gravid, female red admiral was in the flower bed this morning, near nettle. I kept my distance but she flew out and over the fence before I saw any eggs laid. In the afternoon I took Minnie for a walk along the Deben. It was a cold, wintry day. Here is a long-tailed tit and here a little egret in a tree.
23rd: Yesterday's female red admiral did indeed lay eggs (and here), clustered in the freshest, youngest leaves of the nettles.
24th: Cold and cloudy but not wet. In the late morning I cycled Minnie to Shingle Street, on the coast, where dozens of golden plovers were to be seen in the fields. On the ponds near Bawdsey, this single, male goldeneye was swiming and diving. Here is a stonechat, and here and here egrets in the brackish water by the sea. This female kestrel was at the Shingle Street end of the walk and this one at the Bawdsey end - or was I being followed?
29th: Despite a very heavy frost and ambient temperatures of just 3°C by midday, this red admiral (and here, and here) was taking advantage of the sun in our garden this morning. This is the same female I saw on 23rd November, but now with a much less full load of eggs in her abdomen!
30th: By the river, the usual ruff was feeding on his own. This sparrowhawk (and here, through the trees) was hunting over the railway line.

December
4th: A black-headed gull keeping his legs clean and a redshank with equally spotless shanks.
8th: I collected some curly kale for supper and was amazed (after I had brought the kale in) to find several large white caterpillars still active and feeding on the leaves. There are two in this picture - individually here and here. This one, making a bid for freedom across the chopping board, was only about 5 mm long. I returned them all carefully to fresh kale in the garden.
12th: The large white caterpillars are still thriving on the kale (and here), though they don't seem to be eating much. The red admiral eggs laid in late November are still looking fresh. Some have disappeared but there are no obvious signs of hatching.