Wednesday 8th May 2013

Spring has finally sprung!

After the long and seemingly endless cold spell we had until recently, Spring has finally arrived, and with it an incredible rush of plant growth, as if everything is working overtime to make up for the lost weeks of icy winds and grey skies. With this sudden spurt of plant activity, the butterflies have not been far behind, and my list shot up from 6 to 17 species for the year so far.

The first surge came on 30th April, when a walk in northern France produced Comma, Polygonia c-album, Map, Araschnia levana, Speckled Wood, Parage aegeria and many Orange-tips, Anthocharis cardamines.

Comma, Polygonia c-album

Comma, Polygonia c-album

The second rush came 5th and 6th May, first again in northern France, where I visited one of my favourite forests and some chalk grassland nearby, adding Green-veined White, Pieris napi, Wood White, Leptidea sinapis, Green Hairstreak, Callophrys rubi, Grizzled Skipper, Pyrgus malvae, and then in southern Belgium, where I concentrated on the calcareous grasslands in the Viroinval, again one of my regular butterfly haunts. Here I was treated to the spectacle of a magnificent, newly-emerged Swallowtail, Papilio machaon, which would not sit down for me to photograph, and a trio of Berger’s Clouded Yellows, Colias alfacariensis, which were equally flighty. After much pursuing, a did finally manage to snap a shot of a Violet (or Weaver’s) Fritillary, Boloria (I prefer the old generic name Clossiana) dia, of which I must have seen at least 15 patrolling low over the sun-baked slopes. I also approached what I am almost certain was a Red-underwing Skipper, Spialia sertorius, but it flew off before I could clinch its identity.

Wood White, Leptidea sinapis

Green Hairstreak, Callophrys rubi

Grizzled Skipper, Pyrgus malvae

Orange-tip, Anthocharis cardamines. Female

Weaver’s Fritillary, Boloria (Clossiana) dia

Extraordinary limestone rock formations, sculpted by the rain

Butterfly list as of 6th May: 17 species

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Thursday 25th April 2013

First butterflies that do not hibernate as adults

Yesterday I saw the first butterfly of the year that does not pass the winter as an adult: Holly Blue, Celastrina argiolus. Following the long cold spell we have been enduring throughout the month of March and the first half of April, the temperature has suddenly risen dramatically, and butterflies are making up for lost time. The Holly Blue of yesterday was rapidly followed by another today, fluttering around and settling photogenically with its wings open. I tried to photograph it using my mobile phone, but whenever it perched, a pedestrian, a cyclist or a dog-walker would come along and disturb it.

Later I also observed a Small White, Pieris rapae, flying around and settling in a front garden close to the university in Nijmegen. It is unusual to see Small White before Green-veined White, but this individual left me in no doubt as to its identity.

Butterfly list as of 25th April: 6 species

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Monday 15th April 2013

The Spring has sprung – finally

Osnabrück, N Germany

After many weeks of exceptionally cold weather, yesterday the temperature finally climbed above 15 degrees Centigrade, and immediately, almost as if they could wait no longer, butterflies began to appear. The first was a male Brimstone, Gonepteryx rhamni, which flew through the garden even before the sun had properly come out. I went to see at least five Brimstones, both in Osnabrück and at the Dümmersee, a reed-fringed lake to the North-east of the city. Several Small Tortoiseshells, Aglais urticae, were also enjoying the late afternoon sunshine here.

Having returned to the Netherlands late yesterday evening, today I did my usual round through the polders of Flevoland, enjoying the arrival of many summer birds, and was able to observe around five Small Tortoiseshells, Aglais urticae, and one Peacock, Inachis io.

Butterfly list as of 15th April: 4 species