Working on my inner lepidopterist

Having happened upon a small alfalfa field, just 2 kilometres from the house, I made a couple of return visits, to have a better look at the bee activity and see if I could find my inner lepidopterist.

Bfly_cabbage_white_under_alfalfa_1

Large White or Cabbage White
(Pieris brassicae)

On both occasions, there was plenty going on, but it was breezy, making photography tricky.

I thought about estimating the relative presence of various creatures – without recoursing to a butterfly net, walking of transects, traps or even a clip board. Let’s call it semi-empirical, quasi-quantitative Observation.

Clouded Yellow Butterfly (Colias croceus)

Clouded Yellow Butterfly
(Colias croceus)

Here are the results of my in-depth study :

Creature

Quantity

Honey Bee Countless
Bumble Bee One
Ladybird One
Cricket Many, at the edges of the field
Cabbage White Butterfly Plentiful
Clouded Yellow Butterfly A handful
Peacock Butterfly One
Common Blue Butterfly Quite alot
Queen of Spain Fritillary One
Heath (?) Fritillary Two – with more on their way

and some pictorial proof…

bee_alfalfa_10

Honey Bee
(Apis mellifera)

White Tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum)

White Tailed Bumblebee
(Bombus lucorum)

I have invested in a reference book – Papillons (Larousse), as it has become apparent that my little guide is inadequate and too UK focussed. The new book is by no means exhaustive, but it is certainly handy to have something more oriented towards the butterflies of France.

It has only recently dawned on me how different the butterfly populations can be from one region to another.

Common Blue Butterfy (female)
(Polyommatis icarus)

I agree, she isn’t particularly blue – but the male below does have a violet nuance.

Common Blue Butterfy (male) (Polyommatus icarus)

Common Blue Butterfy (male)
(Polyommatus icarus)

Bfly_alfalfa_7_mating

Get a Room!
pair of Fritillaries – could be Heath, Meadow or Provencal?

Another lesson learned is that it really helps to have a view of both the upper and the underside of these butterflies.

And that even with a book, and the internet, identification is something of a challenge. Its not all black and white.

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Another Purple Patch : wild mint

One of the dogs’ favourite walks is direct from the house, round the woods, coming back along a rarely used farm track, which we refer to as Blog’s Gallop. It’s serious rabbit country.

Blog's Gallop oak woodland on left, stream (hidden) on right

Blog’s Gallop
oak woodland on left, stream (hidden) on right

There’s a goodly selection of wildflowers down there at the moment, of various colours, but predominantely different shades of purple – particularly a band of wild mint running alongside the stream, which is proving popular with our wee flying friends.

Bfly_mint_2

Queen of Spain Fritillary (Issoria lathonia)
on wild mint flower (Mentha arvensis)

This Fritillary is considered as a rare migrant species in Britain – but is more widespread in Europe. It is similar to the High Brown Fritillary (the UK’s most endangered butterfly), and is distinguishable from it by having larger white / silvery blobs on the underside of its hind wings.

The ‘Queen of Spain’ name was given to the butterfly in 1775 by Moses Harris in The Aurelian’s Pocket Companion, but there is no explanation as to why he did so.

With the naked eye, I thought I might have happened upon a new creature – an intensely yellow honey bee (Apis aurum?). Upon closer inspection however, it seems that this little lady has been frollicking in the sunflowers and was covered in golden pollen beads from head to tail…

we know where you've been!

we know where you’ve been!
attention – incoming hoverfly

She’s collected more pollen about her person than in the baskets. I wouldn’t be surprised if Little Miss Messy here is one of mine.

And this is how its supposed to be done…

bee_mint_2

As usual, there were plenty of butterflies, and quite a variety – ones I hadn’t come across before. There’s a danger that this is turning into a butterfly blog, which was never my intention, but I do feel that they are worthy of a mention.

Southern White Admiral Butterfly (Limenitis reducta)

Southern White Admiral (Limenitis reducta)

Skipper Butterfly my, what big eyes you've got

Skipper Butterfly
my, what big eyes you’ve got

underside of Peacock Butterfly (inachis io) on wild mint

underside of Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io) on wild mint

Large Tortoishell Butterfly (Nymphalis polychloros)

Large Tortoishell Butterfly
(Nymphalis polychloros)

Large White or Cabbage White Butterfly (Pieris brassicae)

Large White or Cabbage White Butterfly
(Pieris brassicae)

And now for something completely different. Here is Blog enjoying a gallop at one of his other favourite walks…

Blog_lake_3

Blog the Dog at the lake

Many thanks to Amelia (afrenchgarden) for her input in correctly identifying the butterflies.

Bentley Pinfold Wildflower Garden : a good news story

A very good friend of mine, Adam, has just sent me an article, concerning a Restoration Project in a South Yorkshire village.

Its a heart-warming story, with social, environmental and historical threads,  and tells of the preservation of an ancient structure, the creation of a wildflower garden, all achieved by the community working together.

The tale unfolds in Bentley, a small village near Doncaster and tells of a dilapidated, unloved Pinfold. A Pinfold? Its a saxon term for a walled, lockable enclosure, used to impound stray livestock.

Bentley Pinfold what lies beyond the gate?

Bentley Pinfold
what lies beyond the gate?

By the 16th century most English villages and townships would have had such a pound. The animals owners could only reclaim their wayward beasts after paying a fee, to the Pinder or tallyman.

Bentley Pinfold is Grade II listed, dates from 1832 and over recent years has been used as a dumping ground, becoming overgrown with ugly weeds.

pinfold_2

pinfold in a state of decay

In 2011, various community groups came together to discuss ways of improving the area. Enthusiastic local volunteers from “Growing a Greater Bentley” offered to spearhead the development of a wildflower garden, for the enjoyment of locals and wildlife alike.

Work began to clear the area in 2012, with the Community Payback team clearing 10 tonnes of undergrowth and rubbish.

pinfold_4

clean and tidy

Cash funding was secured from the local “Community First” scheme, and donations of plants, bark chippings and other materials were made by the Borough Council and by local people.

In Spring 2013, the development of the garden began. Wildflower seeds were sourced from Green Estate, and volunteers came to prepare the earth.

The walls of the pinfold were professionally restored and a path laid of the bark chippings.

pinfold_5

Children came from a local primary school to help sow the seeds, and nurture the seedlings.

pinfold_8

And now, in July 2013, the first flowers are appearing…

pinfold_6

an amazing transformation
bees and butterflies welcome

In my humble opinion, a Huge Success!

For the full story, written by Adam (a director of GGB), with proper accreditations, 4 pages in all, click here.

Butterfly Photography Made Easy

Butterflies are excellent subjects for a photograph, with their gorgeous colours and markings, and often taken in conjunction with some pretty flower or foliage. They do however tend to flit about, rarely staying in one place for more than a second or two (the same can be said for the bees), flying off just as the shot is composed and in focus.

Say Cheese!Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io) in stealth mode

Say Cheese!
Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io) in stealth mode

This perfect specimen below however was much easier to work with, on account of the fact that it is sadly dead. I found it lying on the path, in a remarkable state of preservation – and thought I should honour its memory by taking an image.

Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius)

Lights, Camera, No Action
Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius)

Despite the name ‘scarce’, this swallowtail butterfly is quite common (although not in the UK). It’s habitat is blackthorn or sloe bushes, which abound in the hedgerows surrounding the house. I would really have preferred to try to capture an image whilst it was still alive, and am now on the lookout for other members of the family – but it did make an excellent, well-behaved model.

Below are a couple of beauties, who managed to stay still long enough to get a shot…

Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui)

Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui)

Marbled White Butterfly (Melanargia galathea) on clover

Marbled White Butterfly (Melanargia galathea) on clover

Scramble in the Bramble

Not too far from the hive, I discovered a patch of bramble which is ALIVE with bees, bugs and butterflies. The bramble flowers are just opening, and there’s a sort of creeper there too, just blooming. The best time to go is mid morning – I think there’s plenty to go round, but I did witness a couple of altercations.

~ a Marbled White Butterfly takes on a bee ~
the butterfly won

~ Large Skipper butterfly ~
has a large furry body and striped antennae

another butterfly v bee altercation
the butterfly is a Cabbage White

~ Small Copper butterfly (Lycaena phlaes) ~
sitting on Travellers Joy flower (Clematis vitalba)