Tag Archive: Peacock


After releasing the Hebrew Character and spending the morning on some very worthwhile physics revision, and after soup, cheese, wheaten and a quarter of a mars bar…

… I went to Glencairn Park.

Those who’ve been following my gallavantings for a while will be somewhat familiar with Glencairn Park by name. I posted a few photos recently that hopefully gave a sense of the place. But I thought I’d do a bit of writing as well.

First, to break up the text, an artistically-messed-up photo of a lesser celandine flower, photographed there.

Bang!

Bang!

At the very western edge of Belfast where housing estates abruptly meet steep muddy fields, Glencairn Park is an area of mixed woodland, recreational grassland and grazing meadows which has provided me with some nice wildlife moments over the past few years (since I got the courage to go there alone. Muddy tracks leading to bottlecap-littered areas hint at the nighttime goings-on, and quash any desire I have to go dusking there!)

I squeezed through the overgrown galvanised access gate into the central grazing meadow. “Well, what have you got for me this time?” Last year, the meadow introduced me to such characters as Grapholita jungiella and Glyphipterix thrasonella. Today, nothing much seemed to be happening – just not enough sun yet. I picked out blackcaps and a chiffchaff from the auditory fauna for the first time this year as I descended down into Forth River’s valley, into an area pockmarked with deep hoof-sized holes from far muddier days.

I followed the cattle tracks into an area I hadn’t previously explored – an open bit of ground with swathes of bramble flattened from the winter’s heavy snows.

And there, powerfully fluttering through the air and alighting on a bare bine-stem, was my first butterfly of the year.

Surprise!!!

Well, there’s a first. And a very nice surprise indeed. For the past three years since I turned into a lepidopterist my first butterfly of the year has always been a Small Tortoiseshell. But a Peacock! Does this tell of a different type of year to come?

Patrick Barkham, in The Butterfly Isles, anticipating his first butterfly of the year in 2009, writes about the characters of the Moomin world of Tove Jansson, discussing the significance of the first butterfly of the year. A black or brown butterfly is sad. A yellow butterfly foretells a happy summer, while a white butterfly heralds a quiet summer. But a golden butterfly is the best of all!

The Small Tort probably goes under “golden”. And, not that I make it my business to read into signs, indeed I’ve had three great summers, even if they left me a bit burnt out.

But a crimson red butterfly? What can that mean? 🙂

It has probably something to do with the gigajassive adventure of going to uni. I just hope its black-brown underside isn’t significant…

The beautifully, cryptically patterned underside of the splendid Peacock.

Turning around and poising its wings, it settled to bask in the intermittent sun.

Peacock

Up close and beautiful

Then, as I was creeping up with the camera, it was up again – chasing off another Rhopaloceran, smaller and flashing orange as it retreated into the treetops, only to sneak in around the corner a few seconds later to take advantage of some lesser celandine nectar. Well Luke Hewitt Iz, a Small Tortoiseshell.

The smiling butterfly

As the sun went in for the last time, the butterflies disappeared and I explored for a while. The bumblebee population seems to be thriving, which is very encouraging. I spotted Bombus lucorum, terrestris, lapidarius, pratorum and pascuorum, all foraging on a pink-flowering shrub which looked a bit non-native but is certainly welcomed by these members of the ecological community.

Ah, spring.

Sallow catkins, on a tree broken by the winter's snows but still alive

Sallow catkins, on a tree broken down by the winter’s snows but still alive

Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell get the year list off the ground
2013 BUTTERFLIES: 2

And the bees get their list too!
2013 BEES: 5

Where’s Wally?

Sheepland

I took a trip to Sheepland, on the coast near Ardglass, Co. Down, yesterday, and the butterflies were so brilliant that the only shot I got of the scenery was this fence – and even that was only to get the kestrel hovering behind it.

My main purpose for the trip was to see the Wall Brown, a sun-loving butterfly that gets its name from its habit of sunbathing on walls and other warm places. In Northern Ireland it is only found along the South Down Coast, particularly at Sheepland, and between Ardglass and St Patrick’s Well. There was also a record from Kilkeel last year. After some correspondence with Ian Rippey, the chairman of BCNI, I carped the next sunny diem and headed off to see the Wall in its second brood.

To cut a long story short, it was towards the end of my visit, at 3:25, that I assaulted a stile, descended into a sheltered cove and saw two pristine Wall Browns, a male and a female, fluttering about on a rock face.

I hope nobody was around to hear my ecstatic YES!!!! 

17AUG11 Wall Brown male

The pair didn’t stay together for long though, and certainly not long enough to get a decent photo – the male (above) took a sip of knapweed and then made off away from the rock face, leaving me with the diva, who made me, the paparazzi, work to get a photo of her. She stayed high up on the face. I had to climb to get near her, and she was quite skittish. It didn’t help that she was being harassed by a Small Copper; and the resident Peacock must have been getting jealous because he landed slap bang under my nose as I was stalking her with the camera. He insisted on having his photo taken, and threatened to beat me up if I didn’t. I diplomatically obliged.

17AUG11 Peacock

The Wall was basking quite a lot both on the rock and on the grass. After a look round the cove to see if there were any more (nada) I returned to the female and, after she’d landed on my trouser leg just to tease me, I finally got a close-up.

17AUG11 Wall Brown female

Beautiful.

And the other butterflies were beautiful too – as well as the Wall Browns I saw:

2 Large White
6 Speckled Wood
3 Red Admiral
2 Peacock
4 Small White
4 Green-veined White
11 Small Copper
23 Meadow Brown
22 Grayling
1 Painted Lady
2 Small Tortoiseshell
2 Common Blue.

Thirteen species in a day – I think that equals my standing record.

The Painted Lady was the other highlight of the trip – it was so thirsty after its migration that it drank knapweed nectar for three hours straight (it was there when I arrived and there when I left). That allowed me to get a really decent photo for a change.

17AUG11 Painted Lady

Sheepland is also home to a thriving Grayling colony – to my amazement they were more common than Meadow Browns, my total coming to 22. There was quite a lot of boy-and-girl stuff going on – often I would see a female with her wings wide open, trying to dissuade an amorous male crawling through the grass after her. I took a good look at every one to check if it was a Wall, but of course when I actually saw Wally it was much smaller than both the Graylings and the Meadow Browns – more like Speckled Wood size (and you can see the resemblance between the two.) The Graylings here seemed to be a bit less camera-shy than the ones at Murlough.

17AUG11 Grayling

The Small Coppers were little gems as usual – I found one pair doing you-know-what while I was waiting for the sun to emerge at the beginning. My guess is the female is the exhausted-looking one on the bottom.

17AUG11 Small Copper pair

And lastly, a butterfly that in my opinion gets too much bad press and not enough compliments, as it really is quite neat and pretty, despite the fact that it’s invaded two continents and ravaged their brassicas.

17AUG11 Small White

I was going to say something poetic, but I’m not going to embarrass myself. It’s a photo of a Small White, take it or leave it.

2011 BRITISH BUTTERFLIES: 24
          Ireland: 22

Last Saturday I went running up into the hills around Belfast – and oh JOY!! Butterflies – four new species for the year. I saw 4 Green-veined Whites, 15 Orange-tips (coolio!), 4 Small Tortoiseshells, 2 Peacocks and finally on the way back, a Speckled Wood. You’ve seen the Small Tort; I didn’t get a photo of the Speckie – but here are the other three (guess which is which!)

14.4.11 Green-veined White female

14.4.11 Orange Tip male

14.4.11 Peacock

2011 BUTTERFLIES: 5