Bird's Eye View of Bute

Small Tortoiseshell / Red Admiral

1 Small Tortoiseshell
1 Small Tortoiseshell
2 Small Tortoiseshell
2 Small Tortoiseshell
3 Small Tortoiseshell
3 Small Tortoiseshell
4 Small Tortoiseshell
4 Small Tortoiseshell
5 Small Tortoiseshell
5 Small Tortoiseshell
6 Small Tortoiseshell
6 Small Tortoiseshell
7 Red Admiral
7 Red Admiral
8 Red Admiral
8 Red Admiral
9 Red Admiral
9 Red Admiral
10 Red Admiral
10 Red Admiral
11 Red Admiral
11 Red Admiral
12 Red Admiral
12 Red Admiral
13 Red Admiral
13 Red Admiral

 

Small Tortoiseshell

With the weather being great for the 'Glesga Fair', it has also been very good to many species of plants and insects that inhabit our wee Island, especially the Butterflies, Dragonflies, and Moth families.

The one that you see here, the 'Small Tortoiseshell' is the most common one, so there will be plenty of opportunities to spot one, or indeed dozens.
I say small, but there is nothing small about this butterfly. It is slightly smaller than most, 42mm, but as a lot of other ones that we see here are only a few millimetres larger the difference is not noticeable.
Anywhere on Bute you will find these and many other species fluttering about as it appears, 'haphazardly', but that is far from being the truth, they know where they are going and will get there very quickly dodging through trees, bushes, and even small mesh fencing which would appear to be too small for them to get through, but through they go without a pause.


Colour- The Upperwings are marbled orange, yellow. and black; underparts are smoky-brown, but as they land and the sun is out, you will seldom see the underparts as they love the sun, so their wings will be wide open for all to see.
What I love to see in these is the beautiful black and blue, with a bit of yellow forming a border from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other.It is hard to see from a distance, but if you can get close you will see what I mean.
They can have two to three broods in a season, and the ensuing caterpillars will feed on the common nettle.
There are a few others around that look similar as they fly past, and it is easy to get confused as to which one you are looking at, but persevere and you will get there, as I also still get it wrong sometimes when one appears from nowhere and whizzes of at high speed leaving me flummoxed as to which kind it was , so don't be put off, keep at it!

Norrie Mulholand

First Published in the Buteman 2006

 

The Red Admiral

A look at another of our butterflies that we have on Bute.

This week, as we are still in what is supposed to be our summertime, I will continue to write about things that we should see at this time, but, the weather that I see as I look out of my window is more like November, with strong south westerly winds and heavy showers making it hard for any butterfly to fly around looking for food and shelter. I just hope that their wings are waterproof. The migrating birds have got the same problem, for, if it is too wet for their food, which is flying insects, to fly, then they will starve, and at this time they need to store as much energy as they can. Food means energy, no food and they may not be able to get to their wintering grounds, which for many is in Africa. The Red admiral comes into this category, as the bulk of them migrate to the Mediterranean for the winter, and if these south westerly winds don't abate, then they will have a terrible time getting there, if at all! How can a little thing like them fly all the way there, it is incredible, more so if conditions are bad. When you see them fluttering about, they look as though they are not in control of their flight. This is far from being the truth, as they can be seen in windy conditions getting to where they want to, and when you are crossing on the ferry to Wemyss Bay, they can be seen heading in a direct line to either side. That is a hop skip and a jump for them, it is when they go for a long haul flight, that they may have problems.


It is the most colourful of them all the butterflies that frequent our shores, almost jet black with red markings that are shaped like a horse shoe, facing the way that you would hang one up for luck, if you were looking at the butterfly from the rear. They also have a smattering of white spots of different sizes, and two very small, steel blue markings at the middle of their tails, that are usually very hard to see. Undercarriage are marbled smoky grey.
Quite a lot of them hibernate here, and can survive if the winter is mild as can be seen on walls in the closes of tenements, outhouses and the like, also in your own houses, much to the annoyance of occupiers as they are classed by some to be as annoying as bats as the flutter around you. If you leave them alone, they will settle down and will not move until the following spring. There are great numbers of them migrate, and arrive on our shores during July and August. Some years they come to Bute by the hundreds, and other years, they are very few to be seen. This year the most commonest appears to be the 'Scotch Argus' then the 'Peacock variety', ( which I wrote about on 19/09/03), and is followed by the 'Painted Lady', which I will write about soon. The Red admiral are few and far between this year, for reasons unknown, but this may be reversed next year, depending on conditions.


They lay their eggs on the stinging nettle, as do a great deal of other varieties, and these eggs hatch out to be caterpillars, and feed on the nettles. Now we know what it feels like to be stung by a nettle, it is sore and ends up in a small lump that may last for an hour or so depending on how allergic you are to the stinging hairs. If they sting us, why do they not sting the butterfly as they lay their eggs, and why don't they sting the caterpillars that feed on them? The next question is do they sting the birds etc that try to eat the caterpillars? I must admit I don't know the answer to these questions, but it is interesting.

Norrie Mulholland

First Published in the Buteman in 2004.
 


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