Chilly evenings and shortening daylight hours remind us that summer is now slipping away and autumn is here. This is confirmed by a bounty of sloes and elderberries, together with a good crop of acorns. A further sign of the changing seasons are fewer wildflowers in the surrounding countryside. Even so, this remains a good time to enjoy watching butterflies, especially comma and the other species that overwinter as adults rather than eggs, larva or chrysalis. They now gorge themselves on life giving nectar offered by flowers in many of our local ornamental parks and gardens to help them survive the winter and breed next spring. This also includes red admiral, which can currently be seen in very large numbers around Wakefield. This species can be seen flying during milder days well into November and sometimes beyond. This may suggest it overwinters in a reduced state of dormancy compared to our comma, peacock, brimstone and small tortoiseshell. Indeed, there is growing evidence to suggest this butterfly is beginning to be accepted as a resident, especially in the south of the UK.
Photos of red admiral feeding on Buddleia x weyeriana and comma feeding on Sedum spectabile at a Wrenthorpe garden during the past week are attached. In addition, to our garden flowers look out for our native ivy. This is starting to flower now and is a magnet for a wide range of insects searching for nectar at this time of year. This important plant is one of our few native evergreen plants sheltering many wildlife species during the winter months.
comma on sedum
Red Admiral butterfly
A few more photographs from our field meeting at Potteric Carr earlier this month: an emerald damselfly resting on a rush stem at the dragonfly ponds.
A more unusual angle on one of the dragonflies.
In close up, you can see that perennial sow-thistle is covered with orange-tipped glandular hairs.
Green-veined white on bramble leaf.
Last week Wakefield enjoyed a mini heat wave, which was encouraging for our local butterflies. This week we have seen an abrupt and very wet change in our weather with any sunshine in short supply; a real dampener for any butterfly activity. However, today just after 3p.m. after the main showers, I called into Nostell Priory. It was still gloomy with occasional spots of rain as I walked around the wildflower meadow and orchard in the gardens. Despite the weather there were several ringlet butterflies flying amongst the tall grasses and occasionally some would rest to open their wings to bask (see attached photo) even though there was no direct sunshine. However, this behaviour is not unusual for this species which is not deterred by overcast drizzly days. Happily, ringlets appear to have extended their range throughout much of the Wakefield district over recent years.
ringlet butterfly at Nostell Priory
On the edge of a large nettle bed close to Engine Wood I watched a male small tortoiseshell butterfly establish a courtship territory. It was basking in the morning sunshine and suddenly taking flight high into the sky to investigate every passing small tortoiseshell butterfly. Other males were chased away before eventually, a female was attracted back to the nettle bed where I managed to take the image below. It appears mating takes place well inside the nettle bed and afterwards the female goes off in search of suitable nettles to lay her eggs. Sadly, nettles are often cleared away as part of clean ups in the garden and countryside. My encounter shows how valuable nettles are to wildlife. Indeed, they are vital food plants for the caterpillars of small tortoiseshell, peacock, comma and red admiral butterflies. The other image is of a roosting male orange tip butterfly that I found earlier in the morning
small tortoiseshell mating
orange tip male roosting
During a quick trip to the former colliery site at Haigh, I came across my first dingy skipper of the year and managed a few images.
To many people, our garden at home in Wrenthorpe would appear to be an ideal candidate for a TV rescue programme. The lawn is full of ‘weeds’ and there is a lack showy non-native plants elsewhere in the garden. Indeed, at the moment the centre piece of the garden is a large clump of tansy and fleabane. To some it might not look pretty, but it is an awesome magnet for bees, hoverflies and butterflies. Indeed, on 28th July there were two holly blues and one comma butterflies feeding on the tansy, together with peacock, gatekeeper and green-veined white feeding on the fleabane. Other butterflies to visit the garden during July include ringlet, meadow brown, large white, small white, small tortoiseshell and small skipper, which was seen egg laying. A photo of one of the holly blues is shown.
Holly Blue in Wrenthorpe
If anyone is thinking of visiting Brockadale for the marbled whites, they are absolutely at their peak just now. Many have only just hatched and are in immaculate condition and are on the wing with ringlet and meadow brown. I had a very productive photo session there today. More photos over at Wildscenes
There’s a patch of yellow flowers growing in a field near Ryhill that, from a distance, looks like dyer’s greenweed. The other day I parked up and went to check it out but it appears to be a variant of oilseed rape and nothing more. Whatever it is, it is very attractive to butterflies and there were quite a few orange tips and these green-veined whites enjoying the pollen, the spring sunshine and each other :¬)
mating green-veined whites
Today, I had only half an hour for some butterfly watching and decided to visit Stanley Ferry Flash. Without going too far I had counted large numbers of orange tips and speckled wood. Also, I watched comma and peacock feeding on dandelions and just managed to keep my eyes on a brimstone flying past at high speed. Slightly easier to see, but slightly camouflaged was a green veined white feeding high up on some hawthorn flowers.
green veined white butterfly