In contrast to a rather wet and windy July, the first 10 days of August were very warm or hot, with plenty of sunshine. Crops were harvested, grasses dried out and wild flowers withered. On The Heath I saw the first of the second generation Adonis blues on Church Hill on the 3rd. The following day, more Adonis blues were seen at the other (east) end of The Heath. With decent second generations of holly blues, common blues and brown argus on the wing, as well as around 1000 chalkhill blues, my butterfly photography took on a very 'blue' theme. A second generation of small heath butterflies started to emerge at the beginning of the month and brimstones, commas, meadow browns, gatekeepers, the three common 'white' species and one or two Essex skippers were still on the wing. However, peacocks, small tortoiseshells and red admirals rapidly disappeared: had they gone into hibernation already or was the heat too much for them?
Male Adonis Blue, Church Hill, 3 August
Male Adonis Blue, Lankester Hill, 4 August
"A Suitable Boy"
In the human world, the selection of a partner is a complex issue. In higher mammals and birds the female often makes a selection based on male qualities such as display, power, strength of song, etc. However, in the insect world any niceties are thrown out of the window! I saw a good example of this early in the morning of the 7th on Church Hill. By 8.30am around 100 male chalkhill blues were flying very low across the short grass, twisting and turning but ignoring each other as they flew. Suddenly there was a commotion as several converged on a small patch of grass, close to a yellow flower (image).
After a minute or two the ruck of butterflies gradually dispersed and on the grass a female, which had probably only just emerged from her pupal case, was already mating with a lucky male (image). Perhaps this 'suitable boy' had fought off all challengers to claim his prize, but more likely he had just been closest to her when she emerged.
Eventually I was able to photograph the pair perched on a small flower (image). The rest of her life will revolve around incubating and then laying fertile eggs close to the butterfly's food plant (horseshoe vetch). If the male is lucky he may mate with other emerging females. Then the cycle of life will begin all over again next year.....
On the same morning I was lucky to photograph a female chalkhill blue and a male common blue roosting on the same grass stem. As the ground warmed up the common blue moved up the grass stem, past the still roosting chalkhill blue (image), reached the top of the grass stem and took off.
Male Common Blue (right) and Female Chalkhill Blue, Church Hill, 7 August