One Cabbage White, two Cabbage White, three …

This weekend I’ve been counting butterflies in the garden. It’s for this year’s Big Butterfly Count (15th July – 31 August run by the Butterfly Conservation Organisation). For 15 minutes on each day I’ve wandered past the buddleia bushes on the driveway, the cabbage plants in the vegetable plot, the teasel/knapweed in the meadow patch and generally round and about the bramble infested boundaries to see which species are about.

butt2

The amazing art displayed on the underside of a Red Admiral butterfly

Happily, there’s been some sunshine and I’ve been able to record a few of the most common butterflies, so this year is not the total butterfly washout that I feared a month ago.  One of the bases of the survey is that butterfly numbers react quickly to changes in the environment, making them a useful biodiversity indicator.

butt1

Those distinctive and beautiful eyespots on a Peacock butterfly

Our pale purple buddleia is being regularly visited by a number of red admirals and peacock butterflies, as might be expected, but the dark purple bush is strangely butterfly free. It is the same every year, until the flowers on the pale bush fade and the dark one takes over.

The vegetable plot is unfortunately proving to be a magnet for the large and small white butterflies that seem to drift through the garden in waves. They have been by far the most numerous butterflies that I’ve recorded for the survey so far. 😦

butt4

The Silver Y moth (funnily enough Autographa gamma) is one of the tussock moths about now

At the ‘less seen’ end of the spectrum, I’ve spotted several Silver Y moths in the last couple of weeks (which is one of the species highlighted on the downloadable chart) and in the hedgerow, near the flowering brambles there have been several gatekeepers tumbling in the air together.

butt6

A Gatekeeper with an apparent Mallen streak

Gatekeepers are tricky to photograph, because they don’t settle for long anywhere. In fact, the brown butterflies in the meadow are hardest to count and identify reliably, because they never stop moving. They seem to slip between the blades of grass like X-wing fighters on a trench run to the Death Star.

butt3

Large Skipper

Yesterday I found a skipper butterfly on the knapweed that I was a puzzle. The markings weren’t right for a large skipper, so I looked it up and it turns out that the Skipper family is much larger than I knew. Subtle differences mean that you really have to see tops and undersides of wings etc for a proper ID. I didn’t, so my best guess (with a photo of the undersides) is that it was a small skipper. I included it in the submission, but should I have?

butt5

Small skipper???

This year’s butterfly survey is a very accessible affair, because a free smartphone app is available to record the sightings. Participation is incredibly easy, wherever you are (the app knows if you let it!), so long as you can get outside and spare 15 minutes. You record the maximum number of each species that you see at any one time, over that period. Then submit the results. The app also provides species information, so it is easy to check if there is any uncertainty over an ID or confusion about particular markings etc. The website has a page for Results so far … which is a fun thing to monitor. You can check what people around you are spotting or discover local hot spots of interesting species.

So if you have a small amount of time to spare, why not use it to count butterflies?

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About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
This entry was posted in Nature, The home garden, Wildlife and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to One Cabbage White, two Cabbage White, three …

  1. pbmgarden says:

    What a great idea to count butterflies. Identifying them is very hard I think, especially those skippers. Your Peacock butterfly is so lovely.

  2. Tina says:

    Just. Wow. The photos are beautiful. What a fun task–to count butterflies and enjoy their beauty!!

    • Thanks. You are definitely right that it was fun counting and photographing them, although I must have walked round the meadow bit a hundred times waiting for the gatekeeper to land !

  3. Great photos.
    We are having a reasonable year for Large Skippers, Red Admirals and Whites. Small Tortoiseshells are down and Peacocks have hardly shown. Usually have plenty of Mint Moths but apart from a few earlier on in the year we’ve hardly seen any.

    Agree with you about Skippers – I think I saw some Small Skippers in a field last night but without a photo I don’t trust my ability to tell them apart.

  4. Fabulous photographs. What a wonderful description of the flighty brown meadow butterflies, made me laugh. As you say, heartening to see so many butteflies out in force with the change of weather.

  5. Chloris says:

    Great shots. I have mostly cabbage whites, I have seen only a few peacocks here and not much else.

  6. inesephoto says:

    Cabbage worm is such a plague!
    The silver Y moth is so cute 🙂

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