Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Territorial behaviour

 Today in my garden, two butterflies spent over a minute flying round and round each other in a whirling ball of wings.  When they stopped and one of them perched for a rest, I saw that they were speckled woods.  The males of this species are renowned for trying to scare rivals off their territory in this way.

Photo: Alan Watts

Also today I thought there seemed to be more birdsong: coal tits, blue tits and especially robins.  Now this is the time of year when male and female robins cease co-operating to raise nestlings and prepare for winter rivalry.  The song is a way of staking out territory.

Photo: Nadya Webster

Monday, 10 August 2020

Ragwort pull

 Started back with our twice-a-month work mornings on Sunday.  We usually meet on the Second Sunday and the Fourth Wednesday of each month (SS & FW).  So the next one will be Wednesday 26th August.

On Sunday we cleared out all the ragwort we could find.  Although it is a good nectar plant and the foodplant for the cinnabar moth caterpillars, we remove it before it seeds into neighbouring farm fields.

We were careful not to mistakenly pull up any St John's Wort (pronounced 'wert' not 'wart'), which flowers at about the same time.

The Ragwort flowers are like yellow daisies while the StJW flowers are like a cluster of five-pointed stars.

Monday, 3 August 2020


This is another white butterfly, distinguishable by the row of small black triangles at the end of the veins on the forewing, rather than a large black tip to the wing found on the large white butterfly.  The triangles show up best on the left wing tip in the photo on the left below.

In the photo on the right you can just see the attractive markings on the underside of the left wing.

These 'green veins' are what give it its name and can be clearly seen when the butterfly is at rest, thought it does help as camouflage when the butterfly sits on a hogweed.

All photos by Alan (flutterby) Watts

Sunday, 2 August 2020


One of our most noticeable butterflies, especially if you are growing cabbages, broccoli, kale or nasturtiums.

They have black tips on their forewings.  The male only has one small spot on the hindwing but the female has an additional four spots on the forewings.

The small white is very similar and errrm smaller!

Saturday, 1 August 2020


This butterfly gets its name because it likes to sunbathe in farm gateways which are often sunny because the vegetation is kept low by passing livestock and machinery.

There are lots about at the moment.

They are faster fliers and more orange than the meadow brown, especially the females.   The males have a darker patch on their forewings.

You can also distinguish them from the meadow brown by the TWO white dots in the black eye-spot on the forewings, and several WHITE dots on the underside of the hindwings - if you can get close enough before they fly away laughing.

Friday, 31 July 2020


Meadow brown butterflies are so common that we rarely bother to photograph them.  This is a pity because they are very cheery, flying in much gloomier weather than most other butterflies.

Photo: Alan Watts

They are basically pale brown with a touch of orange on their forewings.  When they perch you can see that the eye-spot usually has only one white dot in the centre, unlike the gatekeeper with two;  and the hindwing has a few BLACK dots, which you can just make out in the photo, whereas the gatekeeper has white dots.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020


All insects are in decline including butterflies, but all is not lost.  If we find out which ones are living where we can help improve things.  So this survey by non-experts all over the country is really important. 

You can join in the Big Butterfly Count anytime from now until Sunday 9th August.  They make it as easy as easy by supplying an identification chart.  All you have to do is spend 15 minutes watching for butterflies in your garden or anywhere else and then recording what butterflies you see.

Here is the link

And here is one to get you started:

Photo: Alan Watts

The brown and orange Comma butterfly looks rather raggedy.  When it lands and folds it wings over its back you can just make out the tiny white comma or C-mark on a brown background, which gave it its name.  

Photo: urban butterfly garden

Comma caterpillars feed on nettles or hops.