Posted by: Ross Gardner | June 6, 2012

A Butterfly Day

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta). Copyright 2011 Ross Gardner

Today was a butterfly day.  Not, I have to say, that the corner of Essex where I work was awash with them on this occasion.  Our wet spring has so far not been a vintage one for butterflies, but today the bright spells between the cloud cover were met with cameo appearances of a compelling cross-section of the species that inhabit the grassy places, gardens and shade-dappled young woodland at Meadowfield.  There was also to be one surprise.

First a male Common Blue caught my eye, as he flashed among the clover and buttercups while I scoured the hay meadow for bumblebees (as part of my ongoing survey).  It settled to sup from a buttercup and made me smile.  A short while later another ‘blue’ fluttered across the tops of the Sweet Vernal Grass to take from the same flower as its cousin did earlier.  It was a Brown Argus, the first of the year and a female showing not a hint of blue (as neither do the males), but clear orange lunules along the edges of her wings.

The Speckled Wood have been flying for quite a few weeks now, but their company is never unwelcome.  One swept past me, circling round, before settling to make the best of the intermitent sunshine.  The warm tones of its creamy-yellow marked, brown wings matched the sensation of the June sun.  Later, a Large White loped through the gardens, where a dark shape speeding about just overhead soon revealed itself to be a pristine Red Admiral.

The surprise was a small but beautiful little butterfly, that interupted my mowing of the grass paths that run throughout the site.  A solitary flowerhead of Hogweed barely drew may gaze as I chugged past, but an anomaly among the usual hoverflies and others stopped me in my tracks.  It was a single Green Hairstreak, nectaring on the copious white flowers.  They are scarce insects in Essex and, to the best of my knowledge, don’t occur within 10km of Meadowfield.  Its presence was indeed a surprise and unsurprisingly a new record for the site.

Butterfly days have been few and far between this year.  This one, albiet somewhat low-key in terms of number, was most gratefully received.

Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi). Copyright 2011 Ross Gardner

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