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On this page we aim to show examples of butterflies you will actually be able to see on our local commons or on visits to nearby nature reserves - if you keep your eyes open. Some are relatively common, others much less so, but all the photographs displayed below have been captured locally. Unimproved chalk grassland is getting to be a rarish habitat nationally, but it does tend to produce a rich mix of wildflowers, and that supports a good variety of butterflies, including some that are no longer easy to find on more intensively farmed land. 

Most of the photographs were taken on Minchinhampton, Bownham or on Rodborough Common - all within walking distance of Minchinhampton itself. However, we do not exclude advertising a few interesting inhabitants of one the nearby nature reserves (e.g. Daneway Banks, Siccaridge Wood or Strawberry Banks - as noted in the text). 

None of the photographs required particularly sophisticated equipment: many were taken with an ordinary and now rather old compact camera (Canon IXUS 100/Powershot SD780), some with an iPhone, and it is mainly my wife Mary who has the most patience. We often find that the best time for photography is early on a sunny day, when the butterflies still need to warm up to become active. Then it is just a matter of very slowly creeping up on a butterfly, taking shots as you close in, sometimes until the lens is no more than a couple of centimeters away. A bit later on they get too lively and fly away before you get near. Mating butterflies are always a good bet - they definitely have their little minds on other things!

Frequently the butterfly gets nervous and moves off - or the auto-focus picks the wrong target. So we do have to dispose of a lot of photos of blurred grass stems - or blurred butterflies and wonderfully sharp grass stems - but we always carry the compacts with us even on the most casual short walks. The best camera for butterfly photography is always the one you actually have with you when you see a photo opportunity and for every ten duds you might get one wonderful shot.  I am sure the same tricks would work with a smart-phone camera.

If you wish to know more about any butterfly, or access a wide selection of photographs to aid identification, go to http://www.ukbutterflies.co.uk/.

 

Blues, Coppers and Hairstreaks (Lycanidae)

Adonis Blue Polyommatus bellargus

Photographs hardly do justice to the startling blue of the male Adonis. (If you are doubtful of the identification it probably isn't one.) Also look for the black lines on the rear of the wings.

The female is  a rich chocolate brown on the upper wing surface. The lower wings are more similar, with the female somewhat browner.

The Adonis has two broods each year, and can be seen on sunny banks in June and August/early September.

According to Dr Anne Goodenough, an ecologist at University of Gloucestershire, this is one of the species that is likely to benefit from climate change, with its range (previously confined to the most southern grassland gradually extending northwards.

 
Adonis Blue Male Adonis Blue Female
  Mating Adonis Blues

Brown Argus Arisia Agestis

Photographed on Rodborough Common - clearly related to the "Blues" in spite of its name. Brown Argus Brown Argus (Underside)

Chalk Hill Blue Polyommatus coridon

Note the dark gray edge to the upper wing surface. Chalk Hill Blue - Upper wing  Chalkhill Blue

Common Blue Polyommatus icarus

People sometimes mistake this for the Adonis, until the first time they see a real Adonis, but the blue is much less intense. Nor does it have the clear black lines along the edge of the wings. Common Blue

 

Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus

This was photographed locally. My wife has, however, only every managed to get a camera close to one example, and not so close at that. The Female can be distinguished from other Blues by the wide dark band on the upper side of the wing.

You probably need to see the wing underside to distinguish the male from other blues. It has a rather restrained pattern of dark dots on a blue background. (See this website for more photographs.)

Holly Blue

 

Large Blue Maculinea arion

This example of the Large Blue was photographed at Daneway Banks, where the species has been re-introduced.

Large Blues have a life cycle that depends on the larva feeding on a single species of red ant. The larva lives in the anthills.

You will not see it anywhere except those special locations which have an abundance of anthills of the right species - so have a trip to Daneway during late May to early July - but don't expect to be alone: people come from far and wide just to see this rarity.

Large Blue butterfly

 

Small Blue Cupido minimus

This was photographed on Rodborough Common, though most of our photographic encounters with this small butterfly have been at Daneway Banks.  Small Blue on Rodborough Common

Green Hairstreak Callophrys rubi

Fairly common, and visible in May/June.

 

Small Copper

 

This was photographed in a Minchinhampton Garden Small Copper butterfly in a Minchinhampton Garden

Browns, Fritillaries (Nymphalidae)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Browns

Gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus

These were photographed on Bownham Common

Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina 

A common butterfly of the summer months. Meadow Brown Butterfly

Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus

Look for these at the end of June or early July. They are more likely found in shaded areas (such as the shrubs round the edge of the Commons) rather than in full sun.  Ringlet Butterfly

Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus

  Small Heath Butterfly

 

Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria

As the name suggests you would expect to see this in woodland, but it can be found where ever there is suitable shade. (This was photographed on Minchinhampton Common.) It has a complicated life cycle, with up to three broods a year in suitable conditions (and therefore potentially visible from April through to September) and both the pupa and the larva can overwinter.  Speckled Wood Butterfly

 

Marbled White Melanargia galathea

Despite its name this is related to the "Browns". This specimen of the Marbled White was photographed on Bownham Common. Peak time for observation is July, but it can be seen from the middle of June through to the beginning of August.

Fritillaries

 Dark Green Fritillary Argynnis aglaja

Photographed on Rodborough Common. The name comes from the distinct green hue on the underside of the wings which also show silver spots. However, all our photographs seems to have captured the butterfly with wings wide open.

Dark Green Fritillary - front view

Dark Green Fritillary - rear view

Other Nymphalidae

Painted Lady Vanessa cardui

Most likely seen mid to late Summer when it migrates in from the Continent. Painted Lady

Peacock Aglais io

We have seen these on our local commons, but our best local photograph - from Bownham Common - just shows the rather dark underside of the wings (which provides excellent camouflage when the butterfly rests against tree bark and dark stones. The upper wing surface was captured on a walk near Sapperton.

You can see these in April when they emerge from hibernation, then again in August when the next brood hatches (which then hibernates over the winter). However, they can emerge from hibernation whenever it gets suitably warm.

Peacock butterfly upper wing surface Peacock butterfly lower wing surface

 

Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae

This example was photographed on Bownham Common in April probably soon after emerging from hibernation. They have two broods each year, so can been seen almost anywhere up until September, when they are feeding up to prepare for over-wintering. Small Tortoiseshell

 

 

 

 

 

 

Riodinidae

Duke of Burgundy Hamearis lucina

This is sometimes called the "Duke of Burgundy Fritillary" (e.g. on the National Trust information board outside Winstone's Ice cream factor) but it is quite a different family from the fritillaries.

The Duke can be found on two of our local commons, Rodborough and Bownham Common (Swell's Hill). Peak time for seeing the Duke is the middle of May. They roost in shrubs and trees, which indicates the type of habitat in which they can be found.

Take care if you go looking for the Dukes! They are quite rare and too much tramping over the ground can damage the habitat.

Duke of Burgundy

Duke of Burgundy on Swell's Hill

Duke of Burgundy Butterfly - Rodborough Common


 

 

 

 

 

 

Skippers

Dingy Skipper Erynnis tages

  Dingy Skipper butterfly on Swell's Hill

 

Grizzled Skipper Pyrgus malvae

This was photographed at Daneway Banks. This is a local nature reserve worth visiting, which is also the site at which the Large Blue was introduced. It is best visited by parking at Sapperton and walking down past the entrance to the old canal tunnel.

 

Large Skipper Ochlodes sylvanus

Photographed in Siccaridge Wood, close to Daneway Banks.

This is not easy to distinguish from the Small Skipper. (You have to look at subtle details like the colour of the tips of the antennae and the position and size of sex marks on the wings of the males.)

They should be slightly earlier than the Small Skipper (June onward) and this is in agreement with the dates associated with the photographs on this website.

Large Skipper Butterfly

 

Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris

These have often been encountered on Bownham Common, typically in July. Small Skipper Butterfly

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whites

Green-veined White Pieris Napi

This tends to be a species of woodland and damp grassland. (This example was photographed in Woodchester Park.) Unless you see the underside of the wing they might be mistaken for Small Whites.

 

Orange Tip  Anthocharis cardamines

This is a male photographed in Woodchester Park. The females do not have the orange tips and can be mistaken for whites. You need to see the underside of the wing to confirm identification of the females, however, all of our photographs show them resting with wings open and the underside not visible.

These do not overwinter as adults, so can be taken as a genuine sign of Spring.

Orange Tip Butterfly

To Do - Seen and photographed locally, but have not yet edited photos for inclusion here - watch this space

Awaiting local photographs

Category: Fauna