When the sun shines and temperatures reach the high 50’s F those butterflies that overwinter in hibernation are stirred into life. On Wednesday we had those conditions. After two plus weeks of continuous gales and periods of rain it was a welcome relief. Driving the four mile round trip to get my daily newspaper I spotted a couple of Brimstones, it just felt like it was going to be a good day.
The back garden is a little sun trap, surrounded by high hedges it is also nicely sheltered. Movement caught my eye, a Peacock (Aglais io), got the camera ready and popped outside. The Peacock was almost unapproachable, it was so full of testosterone (or caffine!). Anything that ventured into view was immediately chased, the poor old Bumblebees on the winter heathers where getting a hard time! Enter Peacock number two, all hell breaks loose, the two butterflies join combat and go spiraling upwards till they are so high they disappear from view. A few seconds later and he is back on the patio! Then the interloper re-appears and the performance is repeated, again and again!
I recorded all five hibernating species in the garden. Several Brimstones danced along the flower beds and the Comma was back, it might even have been the same one from February it was looking slightly worn. My first Small Tortoiseshell of the year landed on a daffodil, this would make a lovely image such colours, just about to hit the shutter button when a certain butterfly decided the Tortoiseshell was not welcome! The Peacock was becoming a bit of a thug. I did manage to photograph the Comma before it too was attacked.
It is often hard to imagine something as delicate as a butterfly being violent but several species are well known for their appetite for a fight. The tiny Green Hairstreak and Duke of Burgundy are very aggressive so too the White Letter Hairstreak. The champion though is His Imperial Majesty the Purple Emperor (Apatura iris). This fellow is not satisfied with assaulting his own kind or any other butterfly but will attack birds up to the size of pigeons!