Tuesday, 4 October 2016

3rd October - Back on Dry Land Once Again

A beautiful October day today, azure blue skies with wisps of white clouds and the scattered remains of aircraft vapour trails cris-crossing the skies, and a sun that in shelter was hot but with a cool air temperature to remind you that the year was moving to a close.

At home in the garden a few spikes of buddleia flowers remain, and they continue to attract the bees, and once again this afternoon yet another Painted Lady.  When I got home Helen had left a message that there had been one before she had gone out, and sure enough as I came out of the back door there it was nectaring hard on the tiny purple flowers.

It was very busy covering the tiny flower heads then flitting up to find another spike.

There was some slight damage in the upper right hand wing, and I always wonder how that happens, is it knocked against the branches, is it grabbed by an attacking bird, it never seems to bother the butterfly and flight is always possible.

As I watched and photographed the Painted Lady around me alarm calls rang out from the resident birds, and I turned to see a Sparrowhawk glide across the sky.  Unfortunately I had no time to expose for the bright sky as it moved away from the garden and gained height.

Back to the butterfly and it continual feeding.

The Painted Lady is a long-distance migrant, and has one of  the most spectacular butterfly migrations observed in Britain and Ireland.

Each year, it spreads northwards from the desert fringes of North Africa, the Middle East, and central Asia, recolonising mainland Europe and reaching Britain and Ireland. In some years it is an abundant butterfly, frequenting gardens and other flowery places in late summer.  The last major Painted Lady migration year was in 2009 when thousands, maybe millions could be seen traveling north throughout the United Kingdom from Europe.

This year has been my best on record around Four Marks for this lovely butterfly, with at least 6 individual sightings, in fact I have seen more painted ladies this year than Common Blues!

 After a while it would fly off and disappear, bit would then reappear back on the flowers, during one of these intervals I managed to find it sitting on my neighbour's roof fueling up on the sunshine like a modern day solar panel.

  The Goldfinches have returned, the feeders are back out, and their jingling song can be heard once again around the garden.  There has not been any sign of more diseased birds so its fingers crossed that we have managed to catch it early.

With the Painted Lady still sunning on the roof my attention turned to the bees that were also busy taking nectar from the flower spikes.  You could get in really close to watch them feed as diligently as the Painted lady was.

And then she returned for one final flourish as the sun began to fade away from the purple flower spikes, one last frantic feed across the flowers that she must have already exhausted.

Would this be the last sighting of the year?  The weather forecast is for it to remain dry and with more sunny spells, as a result there is no reason to not expect to see some more, lets hope the buddleia continues to flower, and to deliver these lovely butterflies.

As a coincidence there is a programme on the Painted lady migration, called The Great Butterfly Adventure on BBC 4 on the 10th October at 9.00pm.

A little later while walking around the village we watched a Sparrowhawk attack a large flock of Linnet in the middle of the fallow field along Gradwell Lane.  While in the field at the junction with Gradwell and Brislands the two Roe Deer I had seen Sunday morning were grazing by the far side hedge.

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