Monday, September 2, 2013

Butterflies - Fritillaries & Nymphalinis

Nymphalini and fritillary butterflies are colourful members of the nymphalid butterfly family. These butterflies are arguably our most colourful and are certainly our most well known. It would be hard to find someone who has never seen a peacock butterfly or a small tortoiseshell.

Marsh fritillary (Euphydras aurinia) 
My first ‘first timer’ species of 2013. Marsh fritillaries are quite rare and are (partially at least) protected in Ireland. This stunning butterfly is worth seeking out. The wing patterns are quite interesting. Unfortunately I found it hard to get an underwing shot and most of my shots where interrupted by tufts of grass partially obscuring the butterflies.

Silver-washed fritillary (Argynnis paphia) 
Before this summer I was completely unaware of this butterfly. I don’t know if my expertise has increased or if this species had an especially good year but I have seen it in four different locations now. This is Ireland’s largest species of butterfly. It makes quite an impression sailing around the forest. This species prefers areas with trees unlike the closely related dark green fritillary which is generally found in coastal habitats.

Peacock (Inachis io) 
The peacock butterfly is probably Ireland’s best known species. Its large size, bold red colouration and the fact that it hibernates in houses makes it almost impossible to avoid. They are seen for a period in spring before they die off but a second generation later in the summer occurs. These later butterflies can be truly magnificent with their vivid red coloration and bright blue eye spots.

Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) 
Another very common butterfly. This species can also be seen through much of the summer but has a massive population explosion around August. I have seen over twenty individuals on one bush. Interestingly on my travels I have noticed that small tortoiseshells outnumber peacocks in some places whilst in others peacocks are far more regular. In my opinion this species looks its best when the blue dots on the rims of its wings are at their most vibrant.

Red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) 
Red admirals are unusual in that I constantly encounter solo individuals throughout the summer but never manage to get close. Then around August they emerge in their hundreds and become very approachable. Red admirals often stay unphased even when you are mere inches away. This large orange reddish species is a staple of flowering shrubs in July-August and can be seen almost anywhere.

Painted lady (Vanessa cardui) 
This relatively common butterfly eluded me last year which prompted me to search far and wide for them. I found my first individuals in Carrigaline, a week later though; I had seen them in about 5 different sites. It’s a relative of the above red admiral but can be easily told apart by its duller orange coloration. Anywhere the above three species can be seen is worth checking for painted ladies.

The list so far 
Peacock (seen)
Small Tortoiseshell (seen)
Painted Lady (seen)
Red Admiral (seen)
Silver-washed Fritillary (seen)
Dark Green Fritillary (a species I unfortunatly missed this year)
Marsh Fritillary (seen)
Pearl-bordered Fritillary (a burren only species that I hope to find next summer)
Comma (Not found in Cork. Again, I will be seeking it out in 2014)

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