At the risk of being corny, I’m amazed at how time flies. Two weekends ago (it seems a lot longer somehow) I spent a perfect summer afternoon investigating a small bramble hedge in the middle of Hampshire. Who knows how long I spent there; I was utterly absorbed, but I do know that I could barely see past the butterflies. There were clouds of them! I was astonished at how intently they foraged, as many fiercely territorial species sat calmly together and drank deeply from the bramble flowers. Perhaps it was the heat, perhaps it was the end of the breeding season; maybe it was just that they were getting drunk on good nectar, but I’ve never had so many butterflies sit so patiently for me.
First up was Polygonia c-album, or the Comma, a lovely amber coloured creature with attractively raggedy wings. Wondering how it got that name? Look at the bright marking on the underwing in the picture below – you should be able to tell!
At first I thought this Argynnis paphia, or Silver Washed Fritillary was a Comma too, but its larger size and calligraphic markings gave it away. Although this particular individual is very much past its best you can still see what an impressive and beautiful creature it is.
Let’s take a closer look at its wonderful green and orange furred body and spotted eyes
A little further along I found a Pyronia tithonus, or Gatekeeper – these sprightly butterflies were very active and though I saw many in the hedgerow this was the only one that would sit for me. I think it’s a female.
Time passed, and I realised that most butterflies had drunk their fill and moved on. I stalked the perimeter of the field and found nothing else that would sit still for me. Time to try the garden (we were staying at R’s parents house) which has many plants beloved of butterflies. Sure enough, there was an Aglais urticae, or Small Tortoiseshell on the lavender.
And the Gonepteryx rhamni, or Brimstone butterfly looked well on this striking blue flowered shrub. They particularly liked this plant, which seemed quite poetic given how the fizzy yellow of the butterfly looked against the improbably blue flower.
I had been anxiously hoping to find some Inachis io, or Peacock butterflies, having seen a colony of their caterpillars on nettles much earlier in the summer. They couldn’t all have been killed, surely? It seemed wrong that I hadn’t found an adult yet. Then, on a trespassing bramble I saw this…
What a showstopper! It was worth a bit of mild anxiety just to see this glorious insect – a male, fresh and glossy and presumably just emerged from its pupa. I intend to write a little more about peacock butterflies, but I’ll leave that till another time.