Gems on the Heath

What are your early memories of butterflies?  For me back in the mists of time it was the long hot summers of the school holidays.  A neighbour had a buddleia so big we could physically climb it and it was always smothered with Small Tortoiseshells, Peacocks, Red Admirals, Painted Ladies and various members of the Whites.  They were attracted to the gorgeous heady scent that even today is one of my favourite smells of late summer.  We, as children, were attracted to these brightly coloured living jewels.  Armed with our little nets and jam jars we hunted the best and brightest, they were always released at the end of the day, it was just the fascination to see them and hold them.   Walking, the then, overgrown and traffic free country lanes the brown butterflies would abound, my favourite being the chocolate brown Ringlet.  Looking through my old butterfly books there were species I dreamed of as a boy, the Purple Emperor and the Duke of Burgundy, all the Fritillaries, not the sort of butterflies that would appear in my back yard.  They lived in places far away and unreachable.  However the ones in the books that really caught my eye were the little blue ones.

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The male Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argus), no longer a childhood dream

I don’t have many memories of encounters with blue butterflies but I still have the fascination.  Today I can, if I wish (and I do), travel the Country in search of those rarities and childhood dreams.  For one species I need go no further than two miles down the lane to a local heath where the beautiful Silver-studded Blue was introduced a few years ago.

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The female is small and delicate it is also brown not blue. The butterflies name is because of those little blue marks in the outer row of black spots on the hindwing

On Tuesday I paid a visit to see if they had emerged.  The heath had undergone some serious clearance during the winter.  All the gorse bushes had been removed apart from around the perimeter.  I presume this is to allow the heather to regrow.  It was a bit confusing as the paths I used to follow were no longer there!  I headed in the general direction of the Silver-studded Blue colony and was delighted to see these sapphire coloured gems on the wing and that the massive amount of ‘destruction’ had not affected them.

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This male was the deepest of blues and surprisingly not on the heather

These delightful little butterflies like to keep low and nectar on heather.  No chance of nice clean backgrounds to my images, I had to get right down to their level and let me tell you, all that debris left on the ground from the gorse removal is very painful to kneel on and difficult to remove from clothing!

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Female on heather

Several males were looking for love, criss crossing the ground stopping briefly to nectar on the heather.  I saw a few females searching for places to lay eggs.  Inevitably a male would find her and pester her to mate.  The ladies were having none of this.  They may have been smaller but managed to see off the unwanted advances with much wing flapping and aggressive posturing.  Once spurned, the male would sulk off for a quick nectar or tussle with a rival.

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“Don’t you come near me!” This female Silver-studded Blue is less than impressed by the males attempt at ‘courtship’

A lovely couple of hours spent in the company of these beautiful creatures.  How nice to fulfill those childhood dreams.

43 thoughts on “Gems on the Heath

  1. A very nice series of photos. 😊 I don’t recall being interested in butterflies as a child, (though I did like climbing trees). However, we did have a buddleia in our garden when I lived in York and it would attract all of those you listed. I had a good find the other day, when I wandered up the road at the back of our chalet. I captured an Escher’s Blue (Polyommatus escheri) – on camera of course. I thought about posting just that, but then decided it was a bit of a departure from my usual ‘style’ (whatever that is).

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      1. Funnily enough it was the only one I photographed that day, as it was late afternoon and very dull, so they’d all gone to wherever they go. My Swiss book helped with the id. I’m not sure the pics will get posted unless I change tack and do a summary of my ‘best’ pictures or finds from my walks behind the chalet (which has become a regular feature during the lockdown and poor recent weather). But all that changes tomorrow… 😁

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  2. I love the delicate light in that second picture. And the colours too. Beautiful shot, and a delightful little butterfly. Another one for the to see list.

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    1. You are spoiled Brian by having so much delicate butterflies in your area. I love the blue one’s, but the Silver-studded Blue is definitely my favorite. Here it is an endangered species and I’m always happy to see one.

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  3. Your images are gorgeous and your time with the blues sounds pretty good to me!

    You know, I think this might be the type I spotted not long ago! I’ll have to post it so you can see it and let me know if I’m even close to the right ID. 😀

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  4. That was pretty well how I got interested as a kid, too. I’m sure I’m not imagining things when I say there were far more of those species around then.

    We get visits from a few Holly Blues where we live now, but rarely see any other blues.

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  5. Wow! What a fabulous butterfly!

    My interest in butterflies (and other insects) started early in life due to my cousin studying for his degree in entomology. Fun collection trips!

    Thank you, Brian, for sharing your special time with these spectacular creatures!
    It makes those sore knees worth it. Of course, it’s even better when it isn’t MY knees! 🙂

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  6. Lovely finds, Brian, and magnificent photographs of these little wonders. It was the long hot summer school holidays for me, too, that got me curious, interested and passionate about butterflies and then invertebrates in general.

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  7. Unfortunately, our Butter varieties in my neck of the woods are …. let’s just say sparse at best. I do remember running in the woods with my little net chasing after a White or Monarch – mainly to keep me occupied until the sun dropped and I turned my attention to the fireflies (some day I’ll likely have a reckoning thanks to the destruction I levied on those elusive blinking lights with my wiffle ball bat. Luckily the Butters were simply catch and release. Wonderful shots as always. Eventually decided my favorite was the second shot with the minimalist background.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess we all did things as kids (and probably later) we regret. The only fireflies I’ve seen where on holiday in Greece.
      Yes I like that second shot too, it was the only Butterfluff that stayed still for a minute so I could get a nice angle!

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  8. Beautiful post, Brian. I clearly remember making a butterfly net with my cousins in my childhood, but I don’t think we were very successful in catching any. 🙂 Your photographs of them are stunning especially the blues. Hope the gorse grows back better than ever.

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    1. Hi CJ, thanks for the visit. I saw your post and think they are Cinnabar Moth catties you are watching. Things are a bit all over the place here at the moment, should be moving home but no one is keeping us informed! More when I know.

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