Late Autumn Insects

Female common darter

Female common darter

Despite all the blustery weather, it has remained mild, and in sheltered spots there are still some insects about.  At the weekend we saw red admiral and comma butterflies, and quite a number of common darter dragonflies in the sheltered parts of the woods.  A small white butterfly was also on the wing, and there are still plenty of bumblebees, wasps, hornets and hoverflies in places, enjoying the late autumn fruit.  There are also quite a few plants still in flower, providing nectar for these insects – notably still some ox-eye daisies in flower in our meadow, together with clover, sainfoin, some late buttercups and late willowherb.

These are a few photos taken at the weekend.

Comma Butterfly

Comma Butterfly (pictured with point and shoot camera)

Male Common Darter

Male Common Darter basking on a log

Male Common Darter

Male Common Darter basking on a log

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.

Butterflies and Dragonflies

Four-spotted chaser

Four-spotted chaser

Female emperor ovipositing

Female emperor dragonfly ovipositing

Four-spotted chaser

Four-spotted chaser

Small tortoiseshell

Small tortoiseshell

Large skipper

Large skipper

Ringlet

Ringlet on cleavers

Meadow brown

Meadow brown looks a bit drunk!

This prolonged spell of warm and dry weather has really spurred the butterflies and dragonflies into action, and they are making up for lost time due to the very prolonged winter and late Spring.  Our meadows are full of brown butterflies – we have literally hundreds of ringlets and meadow browns on the wing at the moment, along with some small tortoiseshell, small heath, common blue, brown argus, small skipper and large skipper.  The skippers, in particular, are congregating by the ponds to drink.  It is really lovely to see these little butterflies on the wing.  They are joined by six-spot burnet moths in numbers I haven’t seen for a long time.  Speckled wood are also present in large numbers inside the wood, and I’m waiting to see the first purple hairstreaks of the year.

The ponds are starting to draw down due to the dry weather, some areas drying out completely – we are letting them do this, as temporary pond habitats are very valuable.  Over the ponds are large numbers of four-spotted chaser dragonflies, broad-bodied chasers, southern hawkers, and the first common darters.  In the trees are the brown hawkers and best of all are the wonderful emperor dragonflies – today I spotted a female laying her eggs in one of our ponds.  We also have blue-tailed, azure, common blue, large red, banded demoiselle damselflies on the wing at the moment and I’m looking out for the white-legged damselflies and emerald damselflies which tend to emerge a bit later.  There is frenzied activity over the ponds as the dragonflies and damselflies jostle for territory and prime egg-laying sites.

After such a difficult summer in 2012, and such a cold and prolonged winter, it is wonderful so see so many of these insects on the wing.  There are obviously enough to provide food for large numbers of swifts and swallows, as well as our resident hobby, and at night, plenty of food for the bats too.

I’ve managed to snap a few pictures – hope you enjoy them!