Common Blue Butterfly– I have been watching this, our most widespread but still declining blue butterfly, while down South but it can be seen on grasslands, in urban cemeteries, on dunes, and as far north as Orkney, though it avoids mountain terrain. The female has mostly brown upper sides, with a varying amount of blue, while males are completely blue on their upper wings- see photo’s. The jewel-like patterning of the underwings are beautiful but make them hard to spot- stand in a grassy area, when it is sunny, and just watch to see if any fly around- t
Male Common Blue on Knapweed
Male Common Blue
Female Common Blue
Female Common Blue
he best way to spot them. Conditions: Sunny intervals and showers. Temperature: Max 18- Min 14C.
Hoverflies- there are 5,000 species of these harmless, true flies, many of which mimic wasps and bees as a deterrence to predators which are misled into believing they will sting if attacked. Many are hard to identify but this large and colourful one, which mimics the Hornet, is easier than most. Volucella Zonaria turned up in the south of England in the 1940’s and is spreading north, often found in suburbs and city gardens, I watched these in a Sussex garden last week. Many hoverflies are really helpful to gardeners, feeding on pests like aphids. Conditions: Sunny intervals Temperature: Max 19- Min 12C
Volucella Zonaria- Hoverfly that mimics the Hornet
Brimstone Butterfly– one of the few UK butterflies which overwinter as adults, I’ve been watching this beautiful female which will have emerged from eggs laid by the overwintering generation. They will be around feeding all autumn, building up for their hibernation. Opinion is divided as to whether the colour of the much more yellow male of this species (see other photo) gave rise to the generic name of ‘butter’-fly, but male and female are both beautiful and distinctly shaped. The caterpillars rely on buckthorn and alder buckthorn so please grow either in your patch if you can (Can be bought from Ashridge Nurseries mail order) Conditions– sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 20- Min 11C.
Female Brimstone butterfly feeding on Knapweed
Female Brimstone butterfly
Male Brimstone Butterfly feeding on Scabious
Male Sparrowhawk– Yesterday the grey-backed, smaller male Sparrowhawk (the female and juveniles are brown-backed) was heralded in the garden by loud alarm calls from other birds. Sweeping through the garden, too fast to photograph, here it is recently, looking dapper, and an older photo by Lynn, where it is eating a Collared Dove. No one is certain why many raptors exhibit ‘reverse dimorphism’ (meaning the males are smaller than the females) but it it is thought to relate to their need to be very manouevrable in dense woodland, hunting for the incubating female
Sparrowhawk- male eating Collared Dove
, and/or the female’s need to have enough bulk to produce eggs. Conditions: Cloud and sunny intervals and showers Temperature: Max 20- Min 12C.
Rowan berries provide high energy food for many in the Thrush family, including this female Blackbird stripping our tree. Mountain Ash/ Rowan was thought by the ancient Greeks to represent an eagle battling evil, the leaves recalling the feathered eagle-wings and the red berries, spots of shed blood. In Scotland it was widely planted beside houses to ward off evil and witches. The hard wood has been used for divining rods, spinning wheels and tool handles while pieces of wood were carried as charms against rheumatism. The flowers feed many insects and the
Female Thrush balancing to reach Rowan berries
Female Blackbird packs her bill with Rowan berries
Female Blackbird flies to and fro our Rowan, with bill-fills of Rowan berries
An all-round great plant for wildlife. Conditions: Rain, sun and cloud. Temperature: Max 18- Min 13C.
At this time of year no plant in our Sheffield city garden feeds more Butterflies and Bees than Marjoram, which spreads easily but is easy to control. Just right for taking part in the Butterfly Conservation 15 minute Butterfly Count– easy to download an app- with an identification guide if you need it. This week it attracted a (tattered) Ringlet, the first one we have seen here, and a favourite Gatekeeper, as well as the Small Skipper. Conditions: Cloudy with sunny spells. Temperature: Max 20- Min 15C.
Small Skipper- easy to identify as it holds its forewings at an angle
Gatekeeper, in garden- easy to identify by two ‘eye-spots’ on wing
Bees also love Marjoram
The small, beautiful Holly Blue butterfly, the only blue we get in our garden and the one you are most likely to see in parks and gardens in England and Wales, flitting low and fast, is back feeding on our flowers. Numbers of Holly Blue fluctuate greatly, thought to be due to the variable numbers of the parasitic wasp which lays its eggs in their caterpillars. The caterpillars feed on holly as the name suggests, but also on dogwood, spindle, snowberry and other common bushes. The female has a dark edge to the wing. Conditions: cloudy after heavy rain. Temperature: Max 19- Min 13 C.
Female Holly Blue
Female Holly Blue butterfly