Big Butterfly Count…and some photography!

After last year’s dreadful summer for butterflies, the recent warm weather seems to have been very favourable and my garden has been alive with fluttering, particularly around the buddleias, of course! I haven’t had as much variation in species in the garden this year, but in terms of sheer numbers, this year has to be the best so far. Over the last few years I have been gradually planting more and more plant species to attract insects and my Hub green roof has been a contributor to that too. My bee hotel  will need the ‘No Vacancies’ sign to go up soon as the red mason bees and leaf cutter bees have taken up occupancy of at least half of the holes , with other parasitic species, ( unidentifiable to me!) have been hanging around too, waiting for the opportunity to lay their eggs too. 

With so many butterflies around now, I wanted to submit my count to The Big Butterfly Count. Easy to do with some great resources on their website, it is simply a matter of counting the number of individual species in your chosen space. You can submit more than one count, on different days, in different locations if you wish.  

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If you have not already done a count, then I urge you to take 15 minutes out of your day and help to contribute to the survey… and take your camera too! My garden count included 18 Large Whites, 8 Small Whites, 2 Gatekeepers, 1 Speckled Wood, 1 Comma and 16 Peacocks.

As the weather was lovely, I decided to walk over to a field near my garden that backs onto a main road. Over the last few years, soil has been dumped in one corner, causing a raised area. At one point, it had looked to be rather an eyesore, as locals used it to dump all sorts of top soil. This practice has now stopped and the area has now turned into a little insect haven. The soil dumped has been full of seed and plants remains and has now developed into a rather bizarre mixture of wild flowers and cultivated. Two large buddleias have been able to mature and the area is also full of thistles; popular with the bees when in flower and the finches when in seed.  I often nip over there to see what is about, but have not done so in the last month or so. I was very glad I did this time, as it was almost a surreal experience! As I walked into the area, it was alive with movement and absolutely buzzing with bees, hover flies and all sorts of insects! Ragworts were covered in cinnabar moth caterpillars and the huge buddleia was absolutely covered in butterflies! I have never seen so many in one place … there must have been well over 100 butterflies on this bush! Every blossom was laden and the air was full of their fluttering wings… it was magical! I had to estimate numbers for my Butterfly Count as there were too many to be able to count them!

I only had my little Panasonic camera and this called for my DSLR, so I came back to the house. My dad is a keen photographer too, so I gave him a ring and within an hour, we were both over there, crawling about in thistles and stinging nettles, shooting away! My macro lens had broken, so dad lent me his trusty Tamron 90mm. There were so many insects, it was difficult to decide where to photograph and it was not long before we were both happily snapping away…. Peacock and Large and Small Whites dominated the butterfly species, but then dad spotted one of the blues. On closer examination, it turned out that there were about 4 Common Blues flitting about in the grass. I followed them around for about an hour, taking about 60 shots of them in various positions as they landed on grass stems. Their tolerant nature meant I was able to try different settings and positions and the late afternoon sunshine created the perfect light for photographing!

At one point, two individuals landed on one grass stem. One opened its wings and one posed with wings closed, showing off the equally stunning underside. It was a photographer’s dream…. and I just knew I had the potential to get a brilliant shot! They stayed like this for at least a minute, allowing me to fire off lots of shots… one of those just had to be good!

Dad and I had an absolutely lovely few hours before leaving this little haven to return to the house to have a look at what we had…. I was not disappointed!

I still have lots of photos to process, but these are some of my favourites…..

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One photo stood out… the shot of 2 individuals. This image was picked up by Flickr Explore and, as of this morning,  has now had in excess of 7000 views…. I am amazed and very chuffed! It is certainly the best photo I have ever taken of butterflies. The combination of this experience, my macro lens breaking and me having a lens to part exchange, has spurred me on to go and get the lens I have been hankering after for a while! Very soon, I will be out photographing with the Canon 100mm 2.8 IS lens….. but I know I will be struggling to recreate that very special moment when 2 Common Blues posed perfectly for me! You can see this image and all the very kind comments on my Flickr account by clicking on the image below:

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