Each year I select one (maybe two) of my favourites shots for each species that I see; here's this years selection.
What is normally the easiest of choices this year became really difficult. Many of the selections I made could have easily passed themselves off as my Overall Favourite. However when it came down to it and working through all my usual criteria it came eventually came down to two. In a way the extra effort was worth it as by the end of the process I’d made a great many of the selections for the individual threads! My first choice came from early in the season – at the same time as my favourite Wall shot in fact. The Duke that I encountered prior to the Wall was a delicately coloured Duke – with cream coloured almost white markings instead of the usual orange. I wondered if it was just tired and worn but it was the first that I’d encountered in the season and the fringes were all perfect and intact. The ground colour too was lighter and greyer as well and not the deep chocolate brown that I was used to seeing. In short it was a stunning individual…so stunning in fact that I included my second Favourite shot of it in the actual Favourite Duke post. This one was my Favourite hence it’s selection here.
The second came much later at the tail end of the season. It had been a good season for Cloudies and come mid-September the progeny (or a fresh influx?) were starting to emerge. I’d seen some stunning shots from Southbourne and I was tempted to head down but for some reason I still found myself veering towards Martin Down. I was really glad that I went as I was treated to three different individuals throughout the course of the morning and then to put the 100’s and 1000’s on top of an already nicely iced and cherry bedecked cake I spotted a ghostly, sun bleached looking Cloudy. It turned out to be my first ever Helice hence its inclusion in the Overall Favourite spot. Absolutely mesmerising it was!
My Favourite shot for this species came from Alners Gorse during the ‘July Bake’. I’d completed a tour of the site including the Banks and the day list had some great stuff on it – White Admirals, Silver-washed by the bucket load including a brace of Valesina, a few silvery Purple Hairstreaks flittering up high and a fly-by of an Emperor. I still felt a little early for the Brostreaks here and so I sought some shade and waited in the little field in the corner. While I was there I scanned about and walked up and down the wall of Bramble looking for a little grey shark fin that would hopefully become a Whitter.
I’d had a few fly-bys which I was fairly sure were Whitters but they were all at the back and top of the hedge so in need of hydration I retired to the shade and poured a coffee. While I waited a few other people passed by and one couple asked what I watching out for. “A White-letter Hairstreak” I said and almost on queue I spotted on flutter down and land on the head of a Creeping Thistle in the middle of the field. It was almost bombproof and another reason I chose it was that it did a little wing rolling revealing a hint of the topside.
Picture the scene…it’s early July, a lovely sunny and warm morning at the Switchback in Bentley Wood. There are a collection of heads almost perpendicular to their navels with the eyes held within levelled at the top of a large Oak where His Nibbs is sitting imperiously, aloof to the avid watchers below willing Him to come down. He takes to the air and after a few powerful wing flaps glides down and round tantalising and teasing. But then he disappears back to another lofty perch grinning maliciously no doubt. In the meantime at ground level a smaller, thinner winged version slices its way through the air and pauses to refuel on some Bramble. With a ‘Stuff you Mr Emperor’ I sidle in with a few other photographers and there is a cracking White Admiral – much closer and amenable than its boss. This is my favourite shot of this species; not just because it had been a while since I’d got decent shots of this species but because it came as a raspberry or finger led gesture to His Nibbs!
Once again I had trouble deciding between two images for my Favourite and so I went with both. The first came from the first Brood on a visit to Fovant Badges. I’d spent the first half of the morning at Bentley Wood with Pearls and Philzoid and then we split up to cover more ground; he went to Sidbury for Greenstreaks and Walls and I made my way to the other side of the county for Dukes. Once there I hopped over the stile and strode across the bottom of the green bowl of the disused quarry spotting a Duke on the way. After watching it for some time I then happened to look up and on one of the tiny terraces on the near vertical side of the quarry I spotted something much larger. I climbed up and shimmied along one terrace so that I could come round to it. As I did so the sun came out from behind the clouds and the Wall opened up becoming a glorious female. The second came from one of my baking hot visits to Shipton Bellinger in early August. I’d spent what felt like an age wandering the dusty trackways seeking out Brostreaks and a Wall had accompanied me all the way down one of the tracks. When I paused in the slightest of shade in a vain attempt to cool down it stopped as well, perching on a discarded piece of hardcore. As I look back on it now it seems to be giving me a look of “you and me both”.
I thought that I’d already chosen my Favourite Specklie back in April and so it turned out. Despite various others vying for my attention I kept coming back to this particular shot. There was something about the way that it was clinging to the bark of the tree at about head height that reminded me of various Graylings in Portugal. Plus the underside was immaculate and so subtly beautiful compared to the flashy topside.
Most years we visit my Outlaws in August and I’m able to tramp the Lane looking for Hedgies. The hedges along the Lane also produce other butterflies as well of course and this Small White was one of them. I chose it as I liked the arrow like way it was holding its wings. I also noticed that the black wing tip extended slightly further down the termen than usual.
I had a really good year with Small Torts witnessing plenty of action; courtship, scrapping, egg laying, numerous vibrant and fresh individuals crawling all over Buddleia in North Wales and finishing up the year with a two or three hibernating at Mottisfont. Of all of these however one photo and one individual sticks out in my memory. It came from one of my lunchtime walks early in the year. As I set off down the narrow track oft’ frequented by Small Torts I wasn’t surprised to see a brace of them involved in a bit of argy bargy. After a bit more chasing around they came down to the deck and it was only then that I saw that one was much paler than the other. It looked like it had been bleached by the sun and the overall ground colour was almost the same as the gaps between the dark markings on the leading edge of the fore wing. At first I thought it might be showing signs of wear however the margins were all intact and the change was all over not just in isolated spots as it might be in the case of water damage or rubbing/abrading. All of this of course I thought about later at the time I just enjoyed the splendour of the variation.
Three of the Golden Skippers can be found in the environs of my workplace and so I can often spend a lunchtime just enjoying them buzzing and bustling about. I chose this one from the many that I saw at work as I liked the ‘typical butterfly’ pose it was throwing which show of the delicate underside and the very fuzzy thorax and abdomen.
Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary
With the Small Pearls effectively gone from Bentley Wood (I still live in hope that they’ll crop up one years having been hiding away in a clearing elsewhere in the wood) I had to actually travel to see them this year and so I found myself venturing to Priddy Pools. The trip proved to be very worthwhile as there were several flying around a small hill which appeared to be the local hot spot and so I was in a the brilliant position of struggling to choose my Favourite shot which made a very welcome change. In the end I couldn’t decide between two so I chose them both… The first was in celebration of the trip and the fact that there were Small Pearls in number as it had two in one frame – it’s been years (if ever) since I’ve seen this at Bentley Wood! The second – well as most people know I do like a stained glass shot and a close up and this shot has both.
Both of my Favourite Shots for this species (I couldn’t decide between the two) came from Shipton Bellinger during Brostreak hunts. The first was early in August when the heat was really on! It was broiling and the path were bone dry, dusty and in places baked solid –it was like walking over fired pottery! In previous years when the temperatures have been on the warm side I’ve noticed that Small Heath will occasionally flick their wings open as they feed and I managed to find another example. Whether they’re trying to remove dust particles that are caught between their wings, wafting a breeze over their thorax to cool themselves or for some other as yet undiscovered reason it’s definitely something to look out for. Unfortunately this one was a little too far away and flicking a little too quickly for my Autofocus and Sports mode but it’s one of the better shots of this type that I’ve gotten hence its inclusion. The second came a few weeks later from along the main hedge. I’ve always had an eye for spotting variation in spotting in general. Over the years I’ve seen almost the whole spectrum from blind to eyes all over the place but this one was the first that I’ve seen with only ‘pupil’s staring out like little studs from the hind wings.
This shot came from our family holiday to Llangollen in late August and was taken on our second visit to Chirk Castle. The first time round we’d looked around the Castle itself and only briefly ventured into the gardens but on this visit we were aiming to walk round the parts of the garden that we’d missed so I was hoping to catch up with a few more butterflies than on visit one. My expectations were easily met and this I managed to get this shot whilst we were having our lunch. I chose it partly because it serves as a reminder to myself to always have my camera ready, even when eating but also because I really love how the golden petals make the butterfly stand out even more.
I initially chose a different photo for my Favourite of this species. The original shot came from the first brood in mid-May from Sidbury Hill/Duke Site. I’d arranged to show Dave around the site and it hadn’t disappointed with Marshies, Dukes, Walls as well as a good selection of Blues and the Small Blues had put on a great display of mud puddling. The shot helped me remember the day; the warmth of the coming of summer, the great butterflies and the brilliant company. In fact it was so good at prompting my memory that suddenly I had a flash recollection. One of the Small Blues had taken a shine to Dave (he probably whispered to it) and had taken up residence on his shoulder like a miniascule lepidopteran version of the Pirates parrot! So I felt that I needed to include both images…
Three times I’ve tried Alners Gorse for Valesina and three times I’ve been successful! I was pootling around the particular corner of the hedge at the part of the site beyond the main diamond of the reserve (I think it’s known as The Banks) and there were plenty of Silver-washed bombingabout and bustling into each other. A White Admiral sliced its way through the sky making its way deeper into the reserve and a few silvery Purps played in the sun atop the surrounding trees. All of a sudden I spotted a skulking grey looking thing hiding towards the back of the hedge. Luckily it came a little closer and there was my Greenish Silver-washed, a cracking looking Valezina. In the past they’ve sat in such a way as to show off the blueish tinge sometimes in a way to look almost blue/black but this one looked almost black and white – lush! Hopefully the ‘streak’
Slop Bog was going great guns again this year. I had been a bit apprehensive on the drive over as I was continuing on from an unsuccessful DGF hunt at Martin Down and I was worried that perhaps it was too early for the Silver Studs too. However I needn’t have worried as there were little blue puffs erupting from the heather as far as the eye could see. From the many, many photos that I took this was my overall favourite as it a little of everything about it – open wing and underwing visible, very fetching fresh livery, almost right up in its grill and to cap it all I was back on home turf enjoying the scratching sound of heather against my jeans!
Silver Spotted Skipper
For the last couple of years I’ve been visiting Perham Down for my Silver Spots. It’s normally meant a lung bursting and vertiginous climb up the side of the Down followed by an ankle breaking descent on the return OR yomping across seemingly unsuitable habitat before still having to make a climb to get to the Hotspot. However this year I found them at the very foot of the Down practically on the flat and within a 2 minute amble from where the car was parked! To make me slap my forehead and exclaim “Doh!” even more loudly they were all over the place; in the best numbers I’ve ever encountered here! Mind you this made selecting my favourite quite tricky but in the end there was actually only one choice – a lovely heavily marked individual whose spots looked more like silver blocks confluent. A very striking individual to be sure and this was the reason for its selection.
Another species which proved difficult to choose one Favourite for. I did manage however to narrow it down to two from the same site and the same visit and they were actually only about 60cm away from each other so I don’t feel quite so bad for not choosing a single shot. They both came from Bentley Wood during Emperor Season and I’d wandered up from the crossroads to the memorial at the top of the wood. In between wandering staring upwards and cricking my neck and looking forlornly at the diseased Wytch Elms trying to spot a Whitter I occasionally found myself looking down at the low laying vegetation. In the bushes on the corner of the mini cross roads I spotted a pair of Ringlets in cop. I managed a few shots but a roving lothario fancied his chances and put the pair up. Still locked together they settled on the track and when I lay down to get level I saw that one was blessed with a magnificent set of eyes. My second chose came from roughly the same spot the paring couple had started from but about 20 minutes later. I’d gotten back from walking the path past the memorial itself and staring up I’d watched the small, dark, square cut shape of a Whitter flying across the gap in the canopy when I spotted this one. It stood out immediately as there were several small spots around the final larger one on the hind wing. Then when I looked closer the ‘normal’ spots were ever so slightly tear drop shaped. I love any spotty variation hence my including this individual.
The Carter Clan went on a family holiday to North Wales in mid-August in 2022. I took my camera and delighted myself in enjoying the more common butterflies and seeing what dropped in unexpectedly. I’d often take my camera and have a quick look around the fields and grounds and fields of the property we were staying in and the trip actually through up quite a few of my Faves for the year and this one was one of them. The girls (my wife included) would often play Pool in the games shack after breakfast and before we headed out for the day. On this particular morning the sun was shining and as I started my rounds a Red Admiral dropped down to feed on the sparse Buddleia that grew on the corner of the Games Shack. Whilst the chuckles and laughs rang out from within the shack the sun warmed my back without and refracted pleasingly off the chocolate black of the butterfly giving it a glistening inky appearance gloriously. I remember giving a hugely contented sigh and I took a few shots capturing the moment forever both on the memory card and also in my memory. Hence its selection as my fave for this species.
This was another of those species that I struggled to get decent shots this year. For some reason (too hot, too dry?) they weren’t coming down at Bentley Wood despite wandering the paths first thing in the morning and checking all the fronds of Bracken. They also weren’t putting on a good show at Alners Gorse – although I did see plenty they were all staying up high and none ventured to lower altitudes. Still whilst at Alners I managed to find a Whitter to photograph and so I headed for home happy only for this Purp to appear in one of the Oaks in the hedge next to my parked car! I watched it while my coffee cooled and grabbed a few distant shots of it when it ventured to its lowest point.
I’ve given up hoping that the ‘three year cycle’ is actually a thing as it’s been several more years than that since I’ve had a grounded Emperor, let along one all to myself. However this year His Nibbs was slightly less reticent and I managed a few distant and heavily cropped images - nothing to write home about for sure BUT at least I managed some images – which is the best result I’ve gotten for many a year! Of these mediocre images this is my favourite as it’s the closest and sharpest of them!
Pearl Bordered Fritillary
Unlike their Small cousins the Pearls are holding on and seem to be ding okay at Bentley Wood. The new regime of cutting back and opening up various new clearings seems to be paying off and the Pearls are still to be seen whizzing about along the little canyons of old Bracken or cutting a dash over the low growing Bramble. I chose this as my favourite partly because the image just stuck in my head but also because it reminds me of the day. I’d gone over first thing and had the whole of the Eastern Clearing to myself – Tree Pipits were calling, there was a slight mist rising of the Bracken as the dew evaporated and in the weak sunshine this glorious ginger beastie hove into view. Brilliant!
Like a lot of my shots from early in the season this one came from Five Rivers. I chose it because Peacocks feeding on blossom always make attractive images but this is slightly different as I managed to get below the butterfly and capture the subtle detail of the wings which with a casual glance look just a black colour when in reality the ere are bands and strips and spots – brilliant.
It was a pretty good year for Painted Lady butterflies and I managed to find them at various sites across the country, including in North Wales which is where my favourite one came from. Up until this point I thought that it was going to be really tricky to select my favourite for this species. Then when we were visiting Chirk Castle near Llangollen I spotted a Painted Lady fluttering around the flower borders. I leant in and I was really chuffed to see that it was an ab.ocellata (blue centres in the ‘antemarginal’ spots) as this was only my second or third that I’d seen and so my decision became much easier.
Five Rivers, the little path through the Glades in particular, produced the goods when it came to Orange-tips again this year so finally after plenty of years of searching it looks like I’ve found my ‘go to’ spot…fingers crossed. This was my favourite shot from 2022 as I love the pose of the butterfly, the three quarters open revealing both the cryptic under side and glorious topside. I’m counting down the days until my next encounter!
Somehow or other when it came to arranging the threads for the Favourite posts I missed this species out! This year I was on the boil and this was probably one of the first ‘Favourites” that I chose. I’ve read various things about the level of spotting on the underside of Meadow Browns over the years but this one was so well marked that it was the obvious choice for my Favourite shot of this species.
I had another good year with Marsh Frits seeing them at four different sites – one of which was an unexpected locale and something I’ll be looking out for in seasons to come. As I saw so many there was a vast array of shots I needed to look through and whittling them down to a single one was a very hard task. I got as far as four or five and then when looking though two choices became firm favourites and I couldn’t go any further. The first came from a splendid day when I acted as a guide for Dave at Sidbury Hill also known as my Duke Site. Over the course of a day we saw pretty much all of the species normally encountered on Downland in early spring. The reason this was my favourite was that it was perched delicately on a Dandelion clock and so made a welcome addition to one of my collections.
The second came from a quick trip to the Hill on my way back from Priddy Pools. In previous years I’ve chosen individuals with a huge variation in the hues and tones of their livery ranging from browns and blacks through to yellows, creams, whites, oranges and reds. However this individual stood out for the opposite reason – it was almost two tone, orange and brown and something I’ve not really seen before.
This particular shots was taken on a quick afternoon stop-off at the Devenish. The heat was starting to build across the country and the butterflies during my lunch time walks were very active or hiding away in the shade but despite the temperatures still remaining at their sweltering heights come the afternoon the butterflies tended to come out a little more. A case in point were the Marbled Whites which took great delight in covering any purple flower heads in the vicinity. I chose this particular individual as the blue pupils on the marginal spots show up so nicely.
I only managed to make one trip for Lulworths this year which I’m kinda annoyed about but the extortionate prices of petrol started to bite and so trips remained in local range. However my wife wanted to visit some particular shops on the Isle of Portland and L had opted for Geography GCSE so getting to see a tombolo would very educational so of course we set off across the border to Dorset and made our way to Portland. I had a look around Broadcroft Quarry and there was a Lulworth Skipper – my first one knowingly seen on Portland. This fact alone would have made it worthy of my choice of favourite but as I only managed to get a shot of this one individual the decision was reached. Next year I think I need to spend a lot more time with this species – perhaps a safari of the various sites they fly on would be good?
This year selecting my overall favourite for this species was relatively easy but not for a positive reason. Sometimes there are one or two shots that stand out head and shoulders above the rest or perhaps the shot was from a memorable trip…I didn’t see that many Large Whites this year possibly because there were plenty of times when there were whites passing by at a distance prohibitive to identification (?). This meant selecting my overall favourite was relatively easy for the unfortunate reason of a scant selection to choose from. I went with this one in the end as it came from an afternoon wander around, what we’d termed during 2020, our ‘Lockdown Park’. I’d not expected anything as there were only a few breaks in the cloud but in a little patch of untidy grass that had been left specifically for the wildlife I spotted a Small Copper, Brown Argus and Common Blue. There was also a Small and then this Large White – in a patch of a couple of metres square. It was brilliant to see that even the smallest space if left for nature gets utilised.
This was taken at Martin Down back at the beginning of June. I was hoping to add DGF to the years tally but they were having a bit of a lie-in at Martin Down this year and so despite checking out plenty of likely looking spots and covering plenty of miles I drew a blank. However the time wasn’t wasted as I found a great selection of Orchids (Fragrant, Burnt-tip and Common Spotted including the all-white variety) a large group of Med Gulls and the star of the morning this rather tired looking Large Skipper on an Orchid – always a winning combination.
I couldn’t help myself but choose two Large Skippers…I’d was doing a bit of sorting out and this image popped up on my screen. I’d forgotten about it despite thinking at the time it was taken that it would make an excellent addition to the Favourites collection. The reason I like it so much is that it reminds of the broiling heat at Daneways whilst looking for Large Blues. I was coming down the track from the top field and this little chap stopped by as I clung to the side of the hill. It was the most accommodating butterfly of the trip and so won a place in my heart.
I managed to make a visit to Daneways this year. To save petrol and reduce the C footprint I made my way over straight from work as my workplace is one the way. However this meant that I ran the risk of arriving when the butterflies were all heading to bed and also that I would have reduced time on site in which to explore. Luckily things worked out okay and I spotted several Large Blues. This was my favourite shot as in the heat I hadn’t expected any that I found to open up. I would have loved to have gotten back but it’s always good to save something for the following year.
This was taken right at the start of the season during a family walk from Garston Wood. There had only been a few butterflies during the walk and even fewer opportunities for any photography. We’d all set up camp to eat our lunch and it was then that the butterflies decided to start playing fair. A few Whites drifted past and then up on the hill behind us I descried a pastel blue bit of fluff that floated down from a nearby tree. Only it wasn’t a bit of fluff it was a Holly Blue and it remained seated whilst I remained likewise as I was finishing eating. With the last morsel departing down my oesophagus I was already climbing the hill and heading for the spot where I’d watched the blue make landfall. It was still there waiting for me and once it knew I was onto it, it fluttered a short distance and landed on a much nicer perch. So because of its patient and obliging nature and also because of the lovely perch it chose this became my favourite shot of this species
My favourite shot this year came from my second sighting of the year. I’d traipsed and trooped around Martin Down staring at the ground in the hope of spying a little grey blur unsuccessfully for most of the morning when in a break from photographing courting Adders I found what I’d been seeking when a little grey blur did indeed appear flying low to the ground and resolving into my first Grizzlie of 2022 when it dropped the very short distance to earth. There was a keen breeze blowing and so for lunch I sought a little shelter and so made my way to the little island of shrubbery in the middle of the lower slopes of the Down. A little narrow track leads into a small clearing where the sun beams down but the wind can’t reach and so I relished the warmth almost as much as my hot lime pickle sandwiches. While I was munching and my cheeks were still burning my second Grizzlie showed up (butterflies often do while the chilli eats through my cheeks). I took many shots of it using my sandwich free hand and this one became my favourite of the day and managed to hold onto this position throughout the year because of its hairy knees. I’d not noticed this feature before and neither had another UK Butterflier but luckily Adrian Riley identified them as ‘erectile pencils of scent scales found in males and used for chemical communication during courtship’.
This one was taken at Five Rivers right at the start of the year. I was trailing along the Banks looking specifically for this species as I’d already had a few runs in with one earlier in the day but not got the classic closed wing shot that I was after. As I scanned across the typical verdant green of early spring this butterfly stood out as a lemon triangle. I got as close as I thought I’d be able to and then a little closer and a little closer still and so on and so on until I was right up and so close I was worried that my beard might tickle it and send it fluttering off. I just love the way that the dark lines from a distance become an exercise in pointillism as your proximity decreases.
These shots came from Martin Down in the second half of April. I chose the first because it caught the light almost perfectly giving it a glittering metallic emerald appearance. I also included the second shot as it’s the same butterfly but taken from the opposite side and so the difference that the direction of lighting can cause is clearly obvious. From almost golden green it becomes more mat and the green takes on a blueish almost turquoise tinge.
I was able to make a couple of trips to Godshill this year. The first was tagged onto the end of a trip to Bentley Wood but it was the second that really produced the goods as I was able to find probably more Graylings on site than I ever have before. They were all over the low laying Heather and when one would fly another couple would often go up in its wake. I was also treated to the full range of their variation – greys and whites, sandy, golden browns and blacks, some with barely a band etc. Their considerable variation is just one of the reasons that I love this species and I could happily have not made a decision and put all of my shots in! However while I was going through the rigmarole of selecting just one shot this one stood out. On the actual day it also stood out as it had the thickest and clearest white band that I’d ever seen in this species – so much so that when I first saw it for a fraction of a second I though Rock or Great Banded Grayling!
This was taken at the Wiltshire colony at Whitesheet Hill in the closing weeks of May. There were Glannies all over the site but their favoured spot held 6 or 7 at any one time. I’d managed to get some cracking upper side shots but as the Mercury continued to rise I was worried that they would become increasingly active and my chances of getting an underside would become vanishingly small. Instead as the temperature kept rising and the sun beat down more and more strongly the butterflies would sit still more frequently and for longer and longer periods. Even better than this they’d close their wings – possibly to reduce their heat load – and I was able to get possibly my best ever closed wing shot. Hence when it came to choosing my Fave this one popped straight into my head.
My summer trip to Wales once again paid off and allowed me to bear witness to the plethora of variation within this species. When it came to choosing my ‘Fave’ I could have gone for streaks or different number of spots on the underside, pairs in cop, dark individuals, excessa, post-excessa, pathological etc. However the one that I chose really stood out despite being in the autumn of its days as the ‘eyes’ look massive in comparison to all the other individuals that I saw.
This was taken on site at my work in the abandoned Track and Field pits during my lunch break. I didn’t get out as many times as I’d have liked this year, mainly due to the oppressive heat but also because work had started to bleed more and more into my lunch break. Still this had the advantage of making me much keener in my spotting as I was eager to make up for lost opportunities. I chose this shot as it shows off the more ‘chonky’ outline of this species; to my eye they always seem a little more robust in shape and build(?).
Duke of Burgundy
I thought that have a difficult job choosing my Favourite shot for Duke of Burgundy this year as not only did Fovant hold good numbers but they put in a very decent showing at Sidbury – my Duke Site of old. In the end I settled on two but I couldn’t decide between them. The first was from my first trip to Fovant and once I’d found it in the little quarry I realised that there was something different about it. The orange markings across both the wings were washed out and almost off-white and the ground colour was less chocolate and more grey brown than usual – a cracking ab.leucodes. I photographed one before but it was quite old and this was fresh out of the box.
The second also came from the little quarry at Fovant but was a few weeks later. I dropped in one my way home from photographing Glannies and was chuffed to find 5 or 6 Dukes all buzzing about in the bowl of the quarry. This one stood out as it was still really fresh and the total opposite of the leucodes, the orange shining out from the rich chocolate background and sitting in the three quarters open pose that I love.
The Dingy Skippers took their time arriving this year. This one was my first from Martin Down. When I looked back at the images I couldn’t choose between the two as the first showed a lovely fresh individual with the ‘Native American Chieftain’ visible in the markings on the fore wings (perhaps Cherokee Skipper would be a better name for this species?) and the second was a nice view of the underside which I don’t see that often. In the end I gave up choosing and opted for both.
Dark Green Fritillary
This species seemed to have a good year this year and I encountered them at a wide range of sites. However my favourite by far came from a trip to visit the Outaws in Wales. I’d just returned from a trip to the local Nisa (and a sneaky look in the field behind it) and I wasn’t needed for anything so I had a little look around the garden. The path around the left hand side of the house has a large scrub which I think is a Hebe? In the past it’s fed Small Torts, Red Admirals, Peacocks, Meadow Browns, Painted Ladies, various Whites and the odd Hedge Brown including one very nice ab, so it’s always worth checking out. On this occasion the Small Tort sat on the side of the house and basked whilst a Red Admiral supped nectar and a Common Blue did likewise. However my attention was drawn to a mid-sized brown/orange butterfly. It was a DGF and not something I’d expected and not something I’d thought of as a garden species. The incongruity of it assured its selection as my favourite for this species.
This was taken one evening during our family holiday to North Wales. We were staying in a converted barn on what had been a hill farm. We’d visit various places during the day and then in the evening we’d have our meal and then relax. This was taken after a nice G&T in a break from beating the girls at table football, or as the French call it, Babyfoot. This was one of the reasons that I chose it; the fact that it reminded me of such a lovely time, but also because it looked somewhat different. When it flew between perches it seemed to be an ordinary Common Blue. However when it landed it was anything but. Gone where the bold markings and not a trace of orange could be seen around the lunules. For a moment I wondered if there was a rouge breeder releasing exotic European species in the hills around Llangollen? I’ve seen ab.flavescens before but not to this extreme so I was wondering if it was ab.suffescens – whatever it was it was fantastic to see, so much so that I enjoyed another G&T in celebration.
This was taken during mid-June at Grovely Woods (Wiltshire). I chose it as this particular butterfly thought that it had gotten the better of me. I’d finished up hassling DGFs on the terraces (as I call them) and as I followed the track along and down and then back up I came to the next break in the treeline revealing the side of the Down. At the top there was (still is) a large Bramble bush. As I walked over to it to see if anything was basking on it this Comma (Hutchinsonii form) flew at me, circled around and then landed on the other side of the bush, as far away from me as possible and in a position that it thought I wouldn’t be able to get to…Well it did look a little bit foolish when I managed to get round and get it in shot using the Bramble itself as cover allowing me pop up right next to the butterfly and click away at its annoyed and slightly miffed visage WINK.
It was an exceedingly good year for Clouded Yellows; I can’t remember another year where I’ve had multiples on several different trips and I can’t remember having found them as easily as I did this year? Sometimes when it comes to choosing my Favourite for this species it’s simply a case of finding my favourite shot of a single individual but this year how to choose became a problem; to be honest I wish I had the same problem every year! I could have plumbed for my first ever Helice or the first of the year that had been ‘manifested’ by my wife. Then there were the fantastically fresh individuals one of which just plopped down in front of me almost as soon as I’d left the confines of the car park at Martin Down! While the various options were whirling around inside my head on particular image kept popping up more regularly than the others so it seems that my choice was made. It was taken on the first cliff path east from Bournemouth beach after I'd spent the morning accruing Brownie Points by taking 2/3 of the girls shopping. Southbourne had been my back-up plan if a trip the previous day hadn’t been successful (which it was) so it was nice to know that my back-up paid off as well – a regular Clouded Yellow double bubble! As well as the story behind the shot what made it stand out for me was the crispness of the outline and the contrasting colours of the butterfly and the side Daisy it’s feeding on.
This was taken at the very start of my Summer break at The Devenish. As it was the start of the holiday I wanted to start with ticking off another ‘first for the year’ but the Brostreaks and Silver Spots were taking their time in emerging so I had to settle for gunning for a Chalkhill. I strolled through the woodland and onto the Orchid Meadow and almost the first thing that I saw was this delightful chap. I do like a ¾ open shot like this as you get the best of all worlds – top side, underside, a little bit of stained glass and a reasonably close ‘close-up’. Despite seeing plenty of these this year I don’t think I got that many shots- I think that because there were so many about; I didn’t know which one to pint the lens at first!
I just couldn’t choose between these two shots. Both came from Shipton Bellinger and from the first part of the Brown Hairstreak season before they get their second wind as it were and head on into September. Brostreaks were tough work this year and though I did reasonably well shot wise I daren’t look at the number of steps/miles it took to get said images – I think I had my highest ever ‘mile to Brostreak’ ratio!
The first was actually the second that I saw having encountered an unexpected Brostreak in the Secret Garden the day before. This individual was hanging around and looking quite sorry for itself in the Nettle Bed which was also looking very remorseful and dried to a crisp. I chose this one because it was reasonably fresh and the light showed up the scales giving it a furry look. I chose the second as she was an absolutely splendid looking creature and behaved impeccably. Another couple had put me onto a female that sat wings closed tightly whereas this one came down and opened up almost on demand! She was such a people pleaser I had to include her in the ‘Favourite’ selection.
This was taken at The Devenish back in early August whilst in between Shipton Bellinger visits. I chose it as don’t have that many shots of this butterfly from this particular angle. My usual ‘arrangement’ of this species is side on with wings closed or from above with wings open and from this range and position I felt a more intimate connection with the butterfly.
This was taken during the August heatwave at a boiling Shipton Bellinger. I’d been wandering around ratcheting up the miles to Brostreak ratio (one of the biggest I’ve ever suffered) and this was one of 8 or so Brimstones all frequenting the same nectaring spot. At the time I wondered if they were doing resource partitioning in a way the mixed tit flocks do during the winter; all feeding at the same bush so they didn’t waste time flying to a new source only to find it already exhausted. While I mused I clicked away and only realised that I’d gotten this shot when I got home and was looking through the days collection. I struck me that it looked at first a bit like a colourful Dimetrodon but when I saw it later, beer in hand, I was transported back to Camden Town and a room full of Punks and Ska fans watching The Selector – I mean what a hairdo/Mohawk!
This was taken at Sidbury Hill/Duke Site back during the first brood of 2022. I like the shot because; the scaling on the fore wing is visible, it was my first for the year but mainly because of the excellent company both it and I were keeping that day as I was introducing Dave to this brilliant yet relatively under visited site. It had been a cracking day with all manner of species, in fact almost the full complement of those seen up to this date, the site really did me proud.