Tag Archives: Small Tortoiseshell

Defamation of Character!

As you probably realised I have been away for a few days, gathering botanical specimens for the benefit of our understanding and not what Fizz said, that is just her impish sense of fun.

Impish sense of funI was not lying in a ditch, I was in the pink.

Starting with pinks, I have got Primroses.
PrimroseNot pins or thrums or even yellow ones, I have got pink Primroses.

Pink Primrose

Pink PrimroseThis is the real thing, not a hybrid or garden escapee, this is the pink form of Primula vulgaris subspecies vulgaris a pink wild Primrose. They are not that rare but I didn’t have pictures and now I do 🙂

Pink Primrose

Pink Primrose

Pink Primrose

Pink PrimroseNow put pink out of your mind or the colours might clash.

This next one was a wonderful find.

I have been walking miles to get photographs of the various stages of Coltsfoot. A couple of days ago I was walking back from just such an expedition when we came to the gate.

This is where Fizz likes to play “The Gate Game.”
The Gate GameThis particular gate is by the side of a track we regularly walk and it is very close to home.

The rules of the game are simple. She runs under the gate with the ball and sits there looking at me, she won’t budge. If I climb over the gate she runs back under, to the other side and we play again. She can play this game for a long time. It is so funny. (Her impish sense of fun, again)

This time when I climbed over, I forgot all about her and didn’t bother coming back.

Coltsfoot on my doorstep.
ColtsfootI have shown you the flower, it is a beautiful flower but that’s not it.

We had been out for about three hours in bright sunshine and we hadn’t seen an insect, not even a Butterfly. The Coltsfoot was swarming with them.

I need these photographs again for Easy Wildflowers. It is okay to say, “Provides a valuable source of nectar and pollen early in the year” but it is much better to have photographs.

Honey Bees.
Honey BeeWhen I photograph insects I really want to get the eyes and it can get very frustrating trying to capture Bees on Thistles or Dandelions because they bury their faces in the flower. Coltsfoot is lovely and flat and it doesn’t give them anywhere to hide.

Honey Bee

Honey Bee

Honey Bee

Moving on…Honey BeeThere were lot’s of Butterflies but all of them Small Tortoiseshells and some of them were quite badly torn so today I will move past them quite quickly. (We will have lots of Butterflies later)

Small Tortoiseshell(Butterfly nectaring on Coltsfoot)

I just want to show you one more insect today. This next one is a Hover Fly, called a Drone Fly it is a Bee mimic.

This is Eristalis tenex.

You can tell it is a Hover Fly and not a Bee because it only has two wings and it has a thick waist.

Common Drone FlyIt has huge eyes that would meet in the middle if it were a male, this one is female and it has stubby little antennae.

Common Drone FlyIt is not quite so easy to get it to species, they can vary in colour a lot.

This is Eristalis tenex because it has a banana shaped back leg (curved rear tibia).

Eristalis tenexThe hairs on it’s back legs are longer in the centre of each section and that is indicative of species.

Eristalis tenexIf you look closely there are two lines of fine hair running down it’s eyes. That is probably not very clear unless you are looking for it.

Eristalis tenexOh dear. Am I boring you?

Bored FizzJust one more little flower today.

I have been fretting over this one. It is already in flower and I haven’t put it on EW yet. There are two subspecies and I wanted the pictures to show the difference. This is the flower in question.

The Ivy-leaved Speedwell.

Ivy-leaved Speedwell

You have to look closelyIvy-leaved Speedwell

Really closely.Ivy-leaved Speedwell

There it is.Ivy-leaved Speedwell

A British pond coin is about the same size as a wedding ring and an Ivy-leaved Speedwell is the same size as the “G” in “REG.”Ivy-leaved SpeedwellInside the flower there are even tinier bits (smaller than Fizz) and what I have been looking for is a picture of the anthers just before they open to produce pollen. There is a fairly small window of opportunity.

If the anthers are bright blue, before they get covered with white pollen and all the other bits add up then it is Veronica hederifolia subspecies hederifolia and that is what I think that I have got here.

Ivy leaved speedwellDoes it really matter? Will anybody ever look?

What do you think Fizz?

FizzFizz thinks that we should play ball.

Like a Puppy on a string…

We do have quite a bit to report today. The Badger cam turned up an astonishing creature that I really didn’t expect to see, I will show you that in a little bit.

Fizz is on a bit of string for a reason and it’s not just because I lost her lead, I am keeping her out of trouble today.

But first, our first butterfly of 2015.

Small TortoiseshellIt has been hibernating in my flat. It was quite sunny yesterday and I guess the poor little thing thought that spring had arrived.

I had exactly the same thing last year with the same species waking up in February. I kept the curtains shut in my bedroom to keep the sun out and it went back to sleep. I let it go in March.

I have given this one a good book to read and sent it back to bed.

Small TortoiseshellThis is last year’s stowaway.

Small TortoiseshellI was out searching for wildflowers this morning and I found this one.

Common-field SpeedwellI found two of them in flower. This is Common–field Speedwell. There is so much that isn’t in flower that should be but I wasn’t expecting this one until March.

Common-field SpeedwellSo another nice surprise 🙂

Common-field SpeedwellThey may not look like much at the moment but in the summer they will look like this.

Common-field SpeedwellThe third nice surprise was that the Mallards are back.

Well the drake is, no sign of the female yet.

MallardShe will be here soon. They breed on our ponds but last year she didn’t nest here. That was a shame I would have loved ducklings on the pond.

MallardFor the next couple of months they will strut about the garden as if they own the place. It is nice to have them here.


MallardSo what has Fizz been up to?

FizzWell yesterday I said that I would take her for a picnic.

FizzShe announced it on Facebook and all sorts of rabble turned up.





GatecrashersIt’s all gone Pete Tong!

Next is a little video that I made yesterday. This little bird sings for me every day and I always want to remember this.

That brings us to the mystery animal, this is the last thing that I expected to see up there.

The mystery is not what it is but what is it doing up there?

The only water around is the stream that feeds the pond the ducks are on. That is only a couple of feet wide and nearly three quarters of a mile from Badger cam.

It is of course a European Otter, Lutra lutra. I am told it might be a dispersing juvenile but dispersing from where?

Could there be Otters breeding on our little stream out back of the farm? I doubt it. I don’t know anything about Otters, I really didn’t expect to see one here. It is an exciting mystery 🙂

You Are My Sunshine

Emotional Blackmail

Can Colin come out to play?

Go away it’s raining.

Whine, whine whine emotional blackmail.

Throw shoe out of window.

Is that you final answer?


Wet Fizz

Wet FizzI can’t do anything today. I can’t take photographs and I can’t bring happiness to the smallest heart.

She doesn’t have a heart, she is part of the me generation. Me Me Me! That makes her my sunshine.

Today I am going to take a retrospective look at what a lovely summer it was. Starting with Butterflies. Fizz and I had a good butterfly summer. Regular readers will have seen these pictures, I took them from my media library, new readers will never even have heard of Lord Tusk (Beloved of the Faeries) either way it is just a look back at a great summer and something to do while stupido dog splashes in puddles.

We had the best of summers.

Common Blues Mating

Common Blue Male

Common Blue Female

Small Tortoiseshell Larvae

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

Marbled White

Marbled White

Marbled White

Small Copper

Small Copper

Small Copper

Small Skipper

Small Skipper

Essex Skipper

Peacock Larvae

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock ButterflyIt hasn’t been a bad summer, has it Fluffy?

Not so far.


Our Day Clouded Over

Yesterday Fizz and I set out with a good plan that would fetch us a lovely bowl of fruit, so what  went wrong? There was lots of fruit in the hedgerow.


SloesHazelnuts are the fruit that I really want, I shall be collecting these by the sack load. The trees around the farm are loaded with them  and the animals don’t seem to be touching them.

They are not quite ready yet but they are getting close.



HazelnutsMost of my hazelnut bounty will probably end up as bait for my cameras. There are many more than I will want and animals love hazelnuts but they are very expensive to buy.

We had gone out looking for Blackberries and things started off quite well.


BlackberriesThen I saw the first Clouded Yellow Butterfly. I have been after these for a couple of weeks now and didn’t expect to see them up here.

Clouded YellowWith a shout to Fizz I was off and running through the field. The Clouded Yellow is quite a big butterfly and in flight it’s wings are golden yellow almost orange so they are easy to follow.

It was good exercise. There are four fields behind the farm each of them about fifteen acres and the butterflies were enjoying the open space. Fizz didn’t have a clue what was going on but she enjoyed this new pass time much more than standing in front of bushes  and she chased after me, at my heels.

FizzThe blackberries that were in a punnet in my shoulder bag all jumped out of the punnet and juiced themselves in the bottom of my bag and we didn’t really get the pictures that I wanted either. Every time that I stopped and fell to my knees in front of my prize Fizz came bowling up and sent the butterfly flying. Not her fault she didn’t understand the rules of the game.

Clouded Yellow

Clouded YellowI did capture that beautiful little Small Tortoiseshell that I showed you yesterday.

P1820897Something else that I found flying in that field was this little day flying moth the Silver Y.

Silver Y

Silver YI know that it doesn’t look much in those shots so I will just show you a couple of older pictures. I would quite like to have another crack at it.

Silver Y

Silver YToday Fizz and I are sitting indoors hoping for a bit of clear sky so that we can get back up to that field and chase some more butterflies.


Fizz Well I am going to chase butterflies.

Clouded Yellow

Small Tortoiseshell Colours

I took Fizz blackberrying this morning. Yesterday got rained off, we got soaked but this morning it was warm and sunny for a while.

We didn’t get many Blackberries, there were too many butterflies in the field for that.

Here are some beautiful summer colours for my Small Tortoiseshell collection.

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell


Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

Torn Wings and Worn T’ings

Don’t worry I am not getting into selfies but this is a theme. This post relates to the last selfie post and the theme is “imperfection.”

I will just shut Miss Funny Bones up.

Funny BonesThat should do the trick.

When I put that last post up about the Butterfly with the bad wing I realised that… well, we have been hiding the truth from you.

There are a lot of damaged Butterflies in the wild. Animals that have been the target of attacks and have escaped but also all of that fluttering around Bramble bushes and Thistles causes wing damage too, they are sharp and spiky plants.

Comma Butterfly

I don’t generally photograph damaged animals. In fact I have just spent about an hour looking through my old photographs for pictures to use in this post and I could hardly find any. It is not just me. If you go on any of the well known Butterfly web sites you won’t see any damaged animals.

We have been trying to protect you from the truth. The truth is that nature is a brutal place where a lot of killing and eating of each other goes on but are you ready for that?

The other thing is that of course we all admire the perfect form and would rather not know about the imperfect ones.

I have decided that I am not going to protect you any more.

Orange Tip

Orange Tip

Orange Tip

Nature is imperfect and from now on I will feature damaged Butterflies on this blog.

That is not because I can’t find perfect animals to photograph. Flick back through my previous posts, I am perfectly capable of photographing beautiful animals. It is because I am a naturalist and I want to show how it really is and not some idealised fantasy of nature. I am a bit ashamed that I have so few pictures of imperfect animals in my back catalogue.

Green-veined White

Green-veined WhiteButterflies don’t need such large wings to fly and they can take a lot of damage and still be flying perfectly well.

If you look at the Dragonfly for example, they are superb masters of the air.

Black-tailed SkimmerThey can move all four wings independently. They can fly backwards, they can even fly backwards with two wings and forwards with the other two and hold their position in the air.

Butterflies by contrast are clumsy and unimaginative fliers. They have hooks on their wings that enable them to Velcro the front and back wing together so that in flight they effectively only have two large wings to flutter about with.

A Butterfly’s wings are not just for flying. They make the Butterfly seem much larger than it really is and this can deter predators from attacking. They also sometimes have quite scary faces painted on them.

Peacock ButterflyIf they can’t scare a predator off then the next line of defence is to divert the attack away from the body. Birds will go for the eyes and the big eye spots are a long way away from the important little body of this Butterfly. Wings are supposed to get torn it is a survival mechanism.

So from now on we will have imperfect animals on the blog and at some point you will find yourself wondering that a particular animal can still fly with all that damage 🙂 That is how it is.

We will still have to feature perfect animals too. Especially at this time of year when brand spanking new Butterflies are emerging from their chrysalis’s.  They are also reality and they are very lovely.

Small TortoiseshellI am deeply sorry that I didn’t spend more time with you, little Speckled Wood but you had a minor imperfection.

Speckled WoodFrom now on it will be different.



Molasses: Dark Treacle.

I have decided to have another go at raising caterpillars.

Raising Treacle wasn’t easy and for a little while I thought that it was going to be a disaster. I made quite a few mistakes. I took late instar caterpillars from the wild and the mortality rate was high and I found that upsetting. Despite those things there were some fantastic moments.

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshellthe biggest thing was how much that I learned in the process.

The thing that I really wanted to do was photograph the miracle transformation from caterpillar to butterfly and in that I failed so I am going to try again.

Dark Treacle:

Aglais io, used to be Inachis io, some people just say “The most beautiful butterfly in the world.”

You know what a Peacock is don’t you?

Peacock ButterflyThe Peacock’s year is a few weeks behind the Small Tortoiseshell and there are still plenty of caterpillars about, that gives us a second chance to get the pictures.

Finding the animals wasn’t difficult, they make these little tents of silk to hide in while they eat the leaves. I don’t know how well the hiding works, I find that the tents rather draw attention to them.

Peacock Web

Peacock Larvae

Peacock LarvaeI am pleased that I have found small animals, I want to avoid the mistakes that I made last time. These haven’t been exposed to the perils of nature for very long.

Peacock LarvaeAs to building a Molasses-arium I am starting off with my old design. The caterpillars won’t wander while they are this small, they will stay happily on the leaves that I give them but I want to avoid the great escape that will come when they are ready to pupate. I think that I will just have to find and buy a purpose built home for them.

For now they have an old planter that I found in the yard with a little tub of soil in it. The greens will need water to stay fresh but you can’t put them in open water, the caterpillars will fall in and drown.

Molasses-ariumIt is no coincidence that both the species that I have kept have Stinging Nettles as their food plant. I am good at identifying Stinging Nettles and I have a ready supply of fresh leaves.

Molasses-ariumSo that is their new home prepared for now.

Molasses-ariumThe Nettles will wilt immediately but they quickly recover and will stay firm and fresh for a couple of days.

The little animals seemed to like their new home and scampered around exploring.

Peacock caterpillars Peacock caterpillarsThis morning I was pleased to see that they had reorganised themselves into a social group and were seriously eating my nettles.

Peacock caterpillars

Peacock caterpillarsThey don’t seem to have built a tent to hide in and they have no protection if I decide to eat them but I have just had a large plate of delicious new potatoes from the farm shop, they are safe for now.

Coming soon: Peacock Butterflies.

Peacock Butterfly



The Ones That Got Away

These are Butterflies that I have photographed over the last few days but generally they have only allowed me one quick shot at them and for one reason or another I felt that I didn’t have enough material to create a post.

Today’s big frustration was this Gatekeeper. I really wanted an open wing shot or rather I wanted half a dozen and it wasn’t going to play ball. This is a really pretty little butterfly when it opens up.


GatekeeperAlso today a pair of mating Small Whites gave me about four seconds to get everything that I wanted.

Small White

Small WhiteI would have liked to have a proper shot of them 🙂

This is one of my favourite butterflies the Speckled Wood. I got one quick shot and he was gone.

Speckled WoodSmall Tortoiseshells were everywhere today but they were being very territorial and flying up at everything that moved. I couldn’t get one to stay in the same place for a minute while I took it’s photo.

Small Tortoiseshell

Small TortoiseshellA Green Veined White gave me a couple of chances but the light wasn’t very good.

Green Veined White

Green Veined White

Green Veined WhiteLast of the pictures, there are hundreds of Ringlets about now but will they sit still?

RingletApart from these there are two other species that I am desperate to get pictures of and they are the Marbled White and Small Skipper (I think it’s a Small but could be an Essex Skipper) There are lots of these about at the moment.

I don’t worry too much about all of these animals that don’t want to be famous, their day will come and there is always one that does. I just have to find the right animal.


A New Beginning

This little butterfly was raised as a caterpillar and pupated in my flat. She emerged from her chrysalis, inflated and dried her new wings and took a brief flight around my kitchen.

Now she is standing on the edge of a precipice. She has never felt the breeze on her wings before. You can see the exact moment when she understands everything and takes control of the rest of her life. It is wonderful.

She has a long life ahead of her. this summer is all for her, she will drink sweet nectar from the flowers and spend long summer days basking in the sun. When winter comes she will find a sheltered place and hibernate, maybe waking once or twice on very warm days. In the spring time, next year she will awaken and set about finding a mate and creating the next generation of Small Tortoiseshells.

Enjoy the summer sun.

Missing you already

This is going to be another Butterfly post concerning the Small Tortoiseshell.

I was out yesterday taking photographs when I was accosted by yet another Aglais urticae, “Take my picture.” These have been by far the most common butterflies around here this year.

Small Tortoiseshell

Small TortoiseshellI don’t know what to say to them any more. I have got Small Tortoiseshells coming out of the woodwork.

Small Tortoiseshell When I went to bed last night, some time after midnight I had a chrysalis (one of two remaining).Small Tortoiseshell ChrysalisWhen I woke up it was empty.

Small TortoiseshellShe could have waited. Actually these pictures had to be taken indoors on an overcast day so the light would have been rubbish anyway. I was not going to disturb the animal by moving her.

A little while later she started making a mess on the table.

Small TortoiseshellDon’t be alarmed, that fluid is what she used to inflate her wings. Once the wings are fully inflated she drains off any excess. It takes quite a few hours for her wings to inflate and harden and she has to be left to hang there and let everything happen as it should.

Small TortoiseshellI turned my back for a second and my butterfly was gone.

Empty Small Tortoiseshell chrysalisAt this time she was acting very keen to go but I wouldn’t let her out, she didn’t even have a coat.

Small TortoiseshellAfter a bit the rain stopped and I took her outside.

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

Small TortoiseshellNow just like the other two she was reluctant to let go. Something new was happening. There was a slight breeze and I could see the air flowing across her wings and moving them gently She has only ever flown inside and it must be very different to have to master the air currents.

I was in no hurry.

Small Tortoiseshell

Small TortoiseshellWhile we are waiting for her to make up her mind and fly I am just going to crop a couple of pictures and show you something about her.

You would be excused for thinking that this butterfly has four legs, two on each side. In fact she is just like all other insects and she has six legs.

Small TortoiseshellShe belongs to a family called the Nymphalidae or Brush-footed Butterflies. They don’t use their front two legs for walking. The front legs are very hairy. You can see them in this next picture and if you can’t then clasp your hands behind your neck, now can you see them?

Small TortoiseshellAbout now I began to wonder if she was too cold to fly or just not ready, she didn’t seem to want to go.

Small Tortoiseshell

Small TortoiseshellI put her down just inside the open door out of the breeze, so she could go in her own time and as soon as I broke our connection she was gone out of the door forever.

Maybe she will be one of those animals that pesters me in the field this afternoon.

It has been great having them live with me.