Insects on display

Common Blue

Common Blue

Common Blue

Common Blue

Common Blue

Common Blue

This weekend, the insects have been out again in great numbers.  Interestingly, both the butterflies and the dragonflies have taken to perching high up in the grass, or on available posts, canes, sticks and tables and seem to be on display.  Common blue butterflies are often difficult to photograph because they sit so low in the grass, or on low plants such as birdsfoot trefoil, and by the time you have got down there to get a decent view they have long-since flown away (at least if your knees are as bad as mine).

But this weekend they have been shining like lovely little jewels at the top of the stems of grass.  Choosing a sheltered part of the meadow, but with plenty of scope for their pheromones to blow downwind to attract the females, the males have been sitting, rubbing their wings, at the convenient (for photographers) height of about 2-3 feet.  Getting decent shots has not been terribly easy because of the breezy conditions, but there were just a few occasions when the light was perfect, and I managed to capture some more of these little jewel-like creatures.

We have also had a great display by the common darters, usually males but a few females.  These dragonflies like to perch at the top of something, and they are making full use of the bamboo canes we put into the ground to support self-seeded oak and birch trees around the margins of Betty’s Wood.  Not the most picturesque background, but for the most part they are quiet, using their wings like a veil, sitting and waiting, each claiming the territory around their own perch.

Common Darter

Common Darter

Common Darter

Common Darter

Common Darter

Common Darter

Finally, a few sightings of the emerald damselfly, which seemed to be totally missing last year, but are present in numbers again this year.  We also spotted some new-generation brimstones feeding around our ponds on the purple loosestrife.  We hope the numbers will swell in future thanks to the alder buckthorn we have planted for their caterpillars.  The spectacular small copper butterfly has also made an appearance, feeding on the thistles around the field margin.  These are such beautiful little butterflies, but also very fast-moving, however I managed to get a few snaps of one.

Small Copper

Small Copper

Brimstone

Brimstone

Emerald Damselfly

Emerald Damselfly

This year seems to have been brilliant for butterflies and dragonflies, and they are certainly on display at the moment.  They needed a good year after the last two have been so difficult for them.

Common Blue – Jewels of the Grass

Common Blue

Common Blue

I’ve always thought that “Common Blue” is not the right name.  This butterfly is an absolute jewel.  It isn’t all that common either – widespread, maybe, but numbers have suffered in recent years.  The Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) is just beautiful as it flits along the meadows, verges and wastelands in search of both nectar sources and foodplants for caterpillars – plants which include birdsfoot trefoil, white clover, black medick, thistles and knapweed, all of which we have in plentiful numbers in Betty’s Wood, as well as in our main clearing in the ancient wood.

They have more than one generation a year.  Last year was poor for Common Blues, and we only spotted one or two of the first generation in our meadow.  Thankfully, the second generation has now emerged in good numbers.  The second generation, in particular, is spectacular.  I think this is because of the contrast of colours:  the yellows, browns, oranges of the drying and maturing grass and seeds and that stunning flash of blue from the wings of the male.  Complementary colours really do their best to set each other off.

The upper wings are beautiful, but I think the lovely little dainty spotted underwings with their flash of orange are the real treat.  Last night, all the male Common Blues had gathered in a small part of the meadow, in an area sheltered from the wind and catching the evening sunshine.  They were perched head-down, in typical fashion, high up on the grass stems and rubbing their wings to release the pheromones, presumably to attract the ladies.  I didn’t see any females, just 8 to 10 males sitting within a few feet of each other at the top of the grass.

I managed to catch a number of photos of these stunning little jewels of the grass.  I hope this lovely little butterfly will carry on coming to our meadow for many years to come – we are certainly doing all we can to encourage it.  It is a real pleasure and delight to behold.

Common Blue

Common Blue

Common Blue

Common Blue

Common Blue

Common Blue