Tag Archive: Small Tortoiseshell

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.



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.


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.


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

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


If you can believe I actually had to make a decision – biology duh!

Small Tortoiseshell, 30 Sep 2012

Small Tortoiseshell, at the Westy, 30 Sep 2012


Common Blue (female); Kinnegar Bay; 16 Jul 2012

A female Common Blue enjoying a nice drink from a birds-foot trefoil flower.

Small Tortoiseshell; Kinnegar Bay; 16 Jul 2012

The charismatic Small Tort.

Beautiful Golden Y; Springmartin; 17 Jul 2012

And finally, one from last night’s moth trap: a Beautiful Golden Y.

‘Twas Aprillig

I’ll let the slithy toves do the gyring and gimbling. Here are some photos from my weekend jabberwocking.

Our front garden

Kiss my tulips.


Hebrew Character (released from trap), 1 Apr 2012

I put the trap out again over Saturday night and got another two Hebrew Characters, both fresh specimens, and both actually inside the trap!


Speckled Wood, Murlough, 1 Apr 2012

My first Speckie of the year, in Murlough on Sunday.


Small Tortoiseshell, 1 Apr 2012

Finally - a decent Small Tort photo. None of this faffing around in trees business.


Shoulder Stripe, Murlough, 1 Apr 2012

I had my net with me this time when I went dusking in Murlough, and found a few of this species: Shouder Stripe. A new tick for me. Double-striped Pugs as well... all the Stripes.


Mother of Pearl or Small Magpie caterpillar (captive, project 13A), 1 Apr 2012

Ah yes. As well as Lesley, I've got a nettle leafroller that I'm keeping inside as well. It's most likely Mother of Pearl, but possibly Small Magpie.


2012 MOTHS: 6, 2L
  2012 new ticks: 4
  life list: 140 

Species study 13, project B: unidentified Pyralid


The Northern Irish Summer has hit us – hazy blue skies sending temperatures soaring into the 20s. I was in Lisburn on Friday for a student conference, and during my lunch break a small dark shape flitted from the river over my head, and over the rooftops.

A Small Tortoiseshell, my first butterfly of the year.

Another two Small Torts entered my records in College Square East the next day, from where I was leaving on a school CU retreat to Castlerock on the North Coast.

Small Tortoiseshell, 24 Mar 2012

Spot the Butterfly!

Castlerock Strand

Castlerock Strand

When we arrived back at school I got quite a surprise. Where there had been Small Torts before, there was one very early male Green-veined White, sunning itself on a juniper bush.

Ahh. My summer has begun!


Emperors and Tigers

17.4.11 Garden Tiger caterpillar

After some correspondence with the Chairman of Butterfly Conservation NI, Ian Rippey, I went to Murlough yesterday (17-Apr) to try and find an Emperor Moth. It wasn’t hard! I saw thirteen of them but boy were they fast! Without a butterfly net I had no hope of catching one. Not that I minded – it was good enough to see them haring across the heather in search of a female (the females fly at dusk, the males in the daytime), free and wild. One whizzed right past me and I saw its bright orange wings but couldn’t get a photo of the magnificent eyespots that give it the rights to such an imperial name.

Thankfully, caterpillars are less inclined to zip around at sixty miles an hour, and so are much easier to photograph. The Garden Tiger, above, (or “woolly bear” for the kids out there) has got to be one of my many favourite caterpillars. It was accompanied, of course, by a huge Drinker moth caterpillar (squashed, sadly) and more Marsh Fritillary caterpillars.

The other treat that day was a kestrel, hovering above the heath and looking intently down for any small mammals. I didn’t see it catch anything. Plus, I saw what I think might be a reed bunting, skulking in some gorse bushes. Beautiful day for it too.

And of course a Small Tort popped up for good measure.

I’m off to America tomorrow so if I don’t get much Internet time I’ll report on the wildlife (hopefully including butterflies) and the weather (possibly including thunderstorms) when I get back. I am EXCITED!!!

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


More Torts

My parents didn’t have to wait too long to see their first butterflies of 2011 – and yes, more Small Torts. My dad’s was trying to hitch a ride on a white van on the Westlink; my mum saw five in our back garden – one chasing a bee and another nearly eaten by our ‘other’ cat. 😮

My first butterfly of 2011

Yesterday, 16 March, one of my mates in school called me over to a sunny windowledge to see this:

16.3.11 Small Tortoiseshell

Yes!!!! A Small Tortoiseshell!

That’s a month earlier than my first Small Tort record last year!  I couldn’t definitively identify my first three sightings of 2010 but the first was actually in school, not far from yesterday’s sighting.

So this rather tired but beautiful insect kicks off the season. I’ll (hopefully) be keeping a tally of butterfly species this year, so that makes:


Happy is me!