Needless to say, when I go butterfly hunting it is with a camera, not a net and it is quite a challenging sport. Having said that there is the lazy way, which is to find a thistle flower, some lavender flowers or a buddleia bush and just wait. If it's not too windy and there are butterflies about they will come to you. I've had great success with this method but mostly with the big common garden butterflies such as tortoiseshells, red admirals, peacocks and brimstones. The rarer butterflies tend to be a bit more picky about where to live and which plants to visit.
Along a shaded path there might be dappled sunlight. Each golden-green sunny glade is a stage for a street- performing woodland butterfly who will breakdance himself dizzy to attract a mate. He will defend his pitch against other butterflies and even other insects such as bees and hover-flies.
This week I was the old man in shorts who was wading through the long grasses of our Great Meadow. I had gone there with pupils from Spring Common Academy to read the meter on our water pump but was soon distracted by the thousands of butterflies we saw there. Not for the first time, I was frustrated in my attempts to get a sharp photograph of a butterfly because there was always a blade of grass in the way, or the insect moved. I soon realised that, every time a meadow brown or a ringlet landed, it got bumped off its perch by another butterfly.
It seemed to me that the small blues and skippers were not so competitive, but there were fewer of these and more flowers to go around.
The butterflies I was chasing were mostly engaged in mating and territorial behaviour so they didn't stay still for long. Later they would move on to laying eggs on the food plants that their caterpillars need, just a few eggs here and there, not stopping for long at all.
|Marbled white with hitch-hiking fly.|
My star find this week was a single marbled white butterfly, which did eventually settle. When I photographed it, I found that it had a fly sitting on it. I guess photo-bombing is another reason not to hang about.
You can listen to a podcast about butterflies at Paxton Pits at www.whatcomesnaturally.podbean.com