Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Painted Lady Butterflies, Dinghy Skippers, Small Heaths etc

Painted Lady Butterfly (Click over photo to enlarge)
Photo: taken on June 5th last year in Dalton Crags
Sunday 28th May 2017 - Dalton Crags and Hutton Roof Common 1400hrs to 1800hrs

I forgot to mention on Sunday last, I did have a couple of Painted Ladies at the Trig Point, they were really flitty and the odd one was fighting with a Red Admiral, and I am sure there were more around.

This species has always been a favourite especially after once having had the privilige to see them on their Annual migration whilst passing through Menorca in the millions. It was on May 8th perhaps twenty years ago and they were flying past us in groups of anything up to 20 at a time, every few seconds more and more and this went on for a couple of days.  Sadly the main roads were littered with the poor souls which had succumb to passing cars.  But to think of the numbers that had gone through I have never seen anything like it. I was also watching them come off the sea.  I am told this phenomena takes place every year.  The butterflies I believe are coming from the Atlas Mountains in North Africa. When I got back home after returning from holiday I made a point of checking our first Painted Ladies arrivals and it timed to about the end of May early June which could possibly be about the time it would take them to get here from Spain!  who knows for sure....

Every few years we do have "Painted Lady" eruptions when you see the butterflies coming through here on migration, although lots of butterflies are involved its nothing like the amounts I got in Menorca although it is still very impressive with perhaps hundreds over the hour or so.  The last eruption I saw around this area was over at Beetham about 7 years ago when they steadily were going over every few seconds, so I guess we are due anytime for that great spectacle once again.

The following paper has been done which looks interesting.


Below is some interesting reading from Butterfly Conservation - which tells you something about the incredible Painted Lady migrations:

One of the longest standing mysteries of migration has finally been solved after scientists discovered where the UK’s Painted Lady butterfly population goes each autumn.
The butterfly, a common immigrant, migrates from the continent each summer to UK shores in varying numbers.
But up until now scientists did not know if the Painted Lady made the return journey at the end of the summer, like the closely related Red Admiral, or simply died in the UK.
In one of the largest citizen science projects ever conducted, scientists from Butterfly Conservation, the University of York, the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and Rothamsted Research amongst others, have discovered exactly what happens to Painted Ladies each autumn.
More than 60,000 public sightings of the butterfly during 2009 were collected across Europe including radar images tracking butterfly movements across southern England with 10,000 British observers taking part.
Scientists discovered that the Painted Lady did indeed migrate south each autumn but made this return journey at high altitude out of view of butterfly observers on the ground.
Radar records revealed that Painted Ladies fly at an average altitude of over 500 metres on their southbound trip and can clock up speeds of 30 mph by selecting favourable conditions.
The findings also revealed that the species undertakes a phenomenal 9,000 mile round trip from tropical Africa to the Arctic Circle – almost double the length of the famous migrations undertaken by Monarch butterflies in North America.
The whole journey is not undertaken by individual butterflies but is a series of steps by up to six successive generations so Painted Ladies returning to Africa in the autumn are several generations removed from their ancestors who left Africa earlier in the year.
Richard Fox, Surveys Manager at Butterfly Conservation, was one of the report authors. He said: “The extent of the annual journey undertaken by the Painted Lady butterfly is astonishing. This tiny creature weighing less than a gram with a brain the size of a pin head and no opportunity  to learn from older, experienced individuals, undertakes an epic intercontinental migration in order to find plants for its caterpillars to eat.
“Once thought to be blindly led, at the mercy of the wind, into an evolutionary dead end in the lethal British winter, this amazing combination of mass-participation citizen science and cutting edge technology has shown Painted Ladies to be sophisticated travellers.
“We are extremely grateful to the many thousands of members of the public who reported Painted Lady sightings and contributed to this extraordinary discovery.”
Radar in Hampshire operated by Rothamsted Research revealed that around 11 million high-flying Painted Ladies entered the UK in spring 2009 with 26 million departing in autumn.


Also Dinghy Skippers have been seen on Hutton Roof over the past week or so. Also Red Admirals, Peacocks, Brimstones, Speckled Woods.  Small Heaths started hatching about one week ago and now we have hundreds of them flying around on Hutton Roof.  It wont be long now before we get our first Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries.