Monday, 27 April 2015

The Duke Of Burgundy And The Pearl Bordered Fritillary

It's that time of year when my husband is glad that I've got a Butterfly Buddy. It's not that M isn't interested, he is a Country Boy and he loves walking through the land, but he's not  obsessed with the minutiae, and the thought of spending three or four hours looking for and photographing (in his words) 'blades of grass' leaves him a Little Bit Cold.

Luckily, I have my pal Dave to go Butterfly Hunting with. We spent many happy hours together last summer visiting various sites staring at the ground or up in the trees or squatting down with cameras in our hands trying to get the perfect shot of these beautiful insects. We had a bit of a competition going to see who could get pictures of what first. He beat me in the end by a Silver Spotted Skipper and a Clouded Yellow, but I think I trumped him ultimately with my Purple Empress and my Clifden Non Pareill :o)

This morning, we met up to go looking for Something Very Special that doesn't exist outside of The Chalk and The Limestone any more. It is a species that is declining so rapidly that if we aren't very careful it'll soon be gone for good. It's an early Spring flutter that lives in small colonies and it is tiny so it's very easy to overlook.

I've never seen one before. Those of you who've been reading my ramblings for a while will understand therefore that excitement levels were just a tiny bit high this morning at the prospect that I might actually, finally, get to see this amazing little insect.

Thanks to The Butterfly Wizard (I think I'm going to call him that from now on), who knows the alchemy necessary to find one of these marvellous creatures, I was finally introduced to the diminutive Duke of Burgundy......

 
He is the sole representative in the UK of the sub-family known as 'metalmarks' because his South-American cousins have a metallic appearance (well, this one isn't the sole representative obviously, otherwise there would be none left at all after him, I meant the UK species is, obviously).


They are tiny-wee, with a wingspan of only 29-34mm and the boys only have four legs to the female's six, so they are unusual insects in that regard. This one is a boy. The underneath of the hind wing has this beautiful white chequered pattern.


Unfortunately, because they are so rare, they are a target for Butterfly Hunters. Grrrr. I am Cross About This. They need protecting, not exploiting. There really is NO EXCUSE to kill adult butterflies and keep them as specimens when we have digital photography to provide us with clear and detailed records.

Anyway, you will imagine that I was grinning from ear to ear and you'd be right. The Butterfly Wizard was pretty chuffed too, and he's seen them before. We were just congratulating one another when something small and orange flashed past us. We glanced at each other in puzzlement and Set Off In Hot Pursuit, only to nearly fall over one other in astonishment when we realised it had landed and was another rarity who is also highly threatened and has experienced rapid population declines in recent decades.

Allow me to introduce you to the Pearl Bordered Fritillary...





There were actually two of them squabbling over territory and one of them was so distracted by the argument he flew right past my nose. I've never had a Pearl Bordered Fritillary brush my nose before. It is something to be proud of, I suspect :o)

We decided we couldn't sustain any more excitement at that level, so we took ourselves off for a walk over the Downs to Calm Down. 


There were White Throats and Willow Warblers singing, and the cows were Curious, as cows always are....


Friends have been reporting seeing Grizzled Skippers and Green Hairstreaks for the last few days. Despite keeping my eyes peeled, they had somehow both eluded me, so I was hoping we might find them on the Down. Sure enough, it wasn't long before The Butterfly Wizard spotted something small and grey in the grass at his feet....It was the first of six Grizzled Skippers that we would encounter.



A little further on and a flash of orange caught my eye...This was the first of five Small Coppers...


There were lots of other flutters, the Usual Suspects of Brimstone, Peacock, Green Veined White, Small White, Large White and Orange Tips, both male and female. This poor chap has come off worse after a fight with a bird, judging from the rip in his hind wing. Amazingly, butterflies still have viable flight with large sections of their wings missing.


We walked back through the Juniper, keeping an eye out for Juniper Shield Bugs (didn't see any) and then, just as we were about to head back to the cars, a flash of light on tiny bright green wings caught my attention and there he/she was: my first Green Hairstreak of the year, perched on a bramble leaf (see how tiny they are?).

 
He/she sat obligingly still on his/ her leaf for ages while I faffed about with the bloomin camera, trying to persuade it to focus on the flutter when all it seemed to want to do was focus on everything else.

There's something about Green Hairstreaks. I love them. They are friendly souls who will tolerate a person shoving a camera in their face at a distance of 1cm and (as much as a butterfly can) they manage to convey an impression of complete self-control and calm assurance in their own existence.

Aren't they glorious? Easy to overlook when the wings are open as they're a dull grey/ brown colour, but once they close them- wow!


I am now off for a lie down, because it isn't possible for one person to sustain the level of excitement I have had all morning and not be worn out by tea time :o)

Hope you're all well, my friends?

CT :o)
 

35 comments:

  1. Gosh things are extremely early down your way as regards the butterflies, though saying that I believe Green Hairstreaks are already up and about on the moors, though I myself haven't seen one yet. Love the Duke of Burgundy, as you say they are extremely rare and I am hoping to see them at a secret location somewhere deep in the National Park in May. I am very excited by the prospect.

    Great stuff as always and kindest regards to all :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have you seen Dukes before? All the very best when you go- M has just got back from work and I think I am driving him mad with my incessant chatter about it! :o)

      Delete
  2. What a fabulous post, one amazing butterfly after another. A really wonderful trip. I can well understand your excitement. And your photos are glorious as ever. I don't even try to photograph butterflies any more, can't get within ten feet of them. As well as the first two (brilliant!) I love the fluffy blue of the grizzled skipper and that brilliant green of the green hairstreak. All fantastic. What a good day. CJ xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, CJ :o) They far exceeded my expectations- we really weren't expecting to see so many and it was the icing on the cake to get the Duke, the Frit and the Hairstreak all in the space of one morning! xx

      Delete
  3. i'm grinning like an eejit because i can very well relate to the fan-girl glee that goes along with such things! how utterly, utterly, brilliant to catch of glimpse of such treasures....and such rare treasures at that.

    and it's super-brilliant that you've got a Butterfly friend because there's nothing more of a buzz-kill than someone who doesn't quite *get* the high levels of excitement in such adventures....even if they're quietly supportive and happy for you, it's just not quite the same. as you know. ;)

    this was lovely. thank you. i needed some joy today. :)

    xoxo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah Mel, I thought you'd understand the high level of grinning that's been going on today :o) For me, there is nothing better than being outside seeing the amazing things nature has to offer- you really can't beat it.

      Hope your little lad is doing OK?

      CT x

      Delete
  4. His Grace the Duke and a PB Fritillary, plus the rest, I should think you did need a lie down CT. Absolutely brilliant, well done, great images as well.
    I live in hope.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I shall be grinning about it for days Roy! :o)

      Delete
  5. Well I am probably not going to go camera butterfly hunting anytime soon, but that doesn't mean that I am not also wildly excited to read your posts!!!! I know how excited you are about seeing all of the different species and I am excited for you! Lovely to see some more new butterflies. What chance of me remembering them!! xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You might surprise yourself Amy- I suspect you know more than you realise :o) xx

      Delete
  6. What a great post, I suppose you really do have to spend the day searching for these butterfly's. How lovely for you to have someone to share it with. I did get stupidly excited last week after spotting my first orange tip of the year. I also knew it was a male after reading your posts x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you know where to look it isn't too bad, but it can still be very hit and miss depending on the weather. So pleased you were able to id the male orange tip - that's brilliant! x

      Delete
  7. I agree with Mel, that post was full of joy! I just love the names of those beauty's. Looking forward to your next adventure already.xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks my dear :o)

      I am also looking forward to some more flutter hunting :o) x

      Delete
  8. Nottinghamshire is a fritallary free county...the nearest lookalikes we have are these lovely small moths that look like them...can't remember the name off hand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do you not get the Dark Green? I am surprised. You'll have to come South to the Chalk Hill of Hampshire- we are quietly awash with some of them at the right time of year :o)

      Delete
    2. I think the moth you refer to is probably the Latticed Heath?

      Delete
  9. Those results are fantastic...I'm not surprised you needed a lie down!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a smashing outing, you would have loved it :o)

      Delete
  10. Your photos have opened up a whole new world to me (especially the moths) Thank you for sharing, now calm down or it will all end in tears as my mother used to say when I got overexcited :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Chickpea- so glad you've seen new things. Feeling calmer now! :o)

      Delete
  11. Wow, very exciting! Congratulations on seeing the Duke of Burgundy, and the PB Fritillary! Very envious here. :-) xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks my dear :o) All good stuff....

      Sorry I haven't had time to catch up with your news yet- very busy here at the mo but it's on my list! xx

      Delete
  12. What a wonderful day and how exciting, great photos to... I stopped breathing when I saw my first Bee-fly and rushed the photos because I was so excited (need to get out more ) so your photos have turned out very well. Still think we are living in a different world to you... we had spring and summer last week now we are back to winter , snow ,hale, frost and very cold winds!! not good Butterfly weather.
    Amanda xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amazing the difference between the north and south of the UK this week, although we have got the cold north wind here today. Moth numbers are down as a result.

      I know what you mean about breathless excitement at seeing things- bee flies are some of my all time favourite insects :o) xx

      Delete
  13. Some great sightings and photos CT :) You are so lucky to live in a County with so many butterflies. Was just commenting to Amanda that there's a lot of species we don't get here. So its great to see your pictures. Its gone very cold here recently - not many bees or flutters about at the moment!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was looking at the species distribution maps for Frits after reading Simon's comment and they are (more or less) all in the South. Presumably it's the warmer weather that tips the balance in our favour.

      Delete
  14. Hey CT,
    Just catching up, and am still in shock and awe at hose glorious butterflies, and the wonderful photos. I am as green as the hairstreak! I saw my first orange tip the other day, so was pleased with that. And some lovely red tailed bumbles, which obliged my camera. They may make it onto my blog this week.
    Leanne xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Lovely Girl. There is so much to see as the weather warms up- I love this time of the year. What I'm really hoping to see next is a Marsh Fritillary- incredibly rare but extremely beautiful. The Butterfly Wizard and I are planning a trip to our nearest colony...
      Will look forward to seeing your photos in due course. I love red-tailed bumbles xx

      Delete
  15. I need to lie down just reading your post CT! What a great day you had and thanks for sharing such fantastic photos. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a super day- one I will remember for as long as my memory lasts... :o)

      Delete
  16. We went to a Butterfly talk a few weeks ago and we were told about the Duke of Burgundy so I was so excited to see it here! Sarah x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are smashing little butterflies. I wonder whether it was Butterfly Conservation who gave your talk? x

      Delete

Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x