16 August 2011

Butterflies - Browns and Blues

I thought I would show a small selection of some the butterflies that are around at the moment concentrating on Browns and Blues.

Ringlet - Aphantopus hyperantus

The Ringlet has to be the brownest of the Browns. In flight it just looks brown and when it lands it still looks brown. But that is not to say it is dull especially when in full sun light  when its rings almost glow.

Ringlet - Aphantopus hyperantus

Even when it opens its wings it is still the same colour!

Meadow Brown -Maniola jurtina

I see quite a lot of these and also the Gatekeeper and used to get confused by the two as they seem quite similar at first. The Meadow Brown is a bit bigger than the Gatekeeper and its upper wings  have less orange  but knowing that and seeing one in isolation doesn't always help especially as you can get a lot of variation between individuals....

Gatekeeper - Pyronia tithonus

...however there is one tell tale identification feature. The Gatekeeper has two small dots inside the "eye spot" on the wing tips whereas the Meadow Brown has one. Simple.

You now just have to get close enough to see it...but not too close if you are getting a bit long-sighted like me!

Gatekeeper - Pyronia tithonus

The helpful Gatekeeper even has the two spots on its upper wings as well , so it doesn't matter how it decides to perch.
There are of course other tell tale differences but the two spots is a great confirmation.

Brown Argus - Aricia agestis

This is where it gets confusing. This (obviously) brown butterfly is a actually a Blue!

What we are talking about here is related families of butterflies of different species which get grouped together under the name "Browns" or "Blues" (or "Whites", "Hairstreaks" etc). The Brown Argus being closely related to the Common Blue (below) and other "Blues".

In fact the female Common Blue does look very similar to this but the brown wings have a blue iridescence mixed in whereas the Argus wings do not have any hint of blue, although the abdomen may do.

Common Blue - Polyommatus icarus (Male)

The Blues are small colourful, dainty butterflies with an almost metallic sheen to the wings. And I have great difficulty getting a decent picture. I tend to use flash with my Macro photography to help freeze movement and to add  light to often dull inaccessible places where insects live but using flash on these never quite seems to work right because of the reflective nature of their wings and the colours often become washed out.

So natural light (as above) is the way to go if possible.

Common Blue - Polyommatus icarus

The Blues mainly have under-wings like these with orange and black spots in very similar looking patterns.
If I had got a picture of the Brown Argus at rest like this it would have looked very similar at first glance.

I am no expert but I think that this is a male because of the blue tinges near the body.

Brown Hairstreak -  Thecla betulae

This is another "Brown" that is more closely related to a "Blue". It is also quite scarce and I was both  lucky and surprised to see it at Trench Wood, Worcestershire. Worcestershire is one of the few places in the country where these occur but their stronghold is a few miles away in Grafton Wood. I hadn't realised that they occur in Trench Wood.

I was only able to get this one shot before it flew off and it was quite overcast and breezy so it was quite a low shutter speed and it isn't the sharpest picture but good enough for an ID shot and quite an unexpected thrill.

The "trouble" with Brown Hairstreaks is that they spend most of their time high up in trees so even if they are about you don't always get a good view of them.

Small Copper - Lycaena phlaeas

Well copper is sort of Brown! But again this is more of a hairstreak.

I don't see many of these where I usually visit but I took a trip to Hartlebury Common (Worcestershire) and they were quite common but also very active and I spent more time chasing than photographing and still  didn't manage to get any shots with its wings open.


  1. Lovely post with some cracking shots, I especially like the detail in the Common Blue. Well taken, superb.

  2. Hi Antony, Thanks. I was also very pleased with the Common Blue. It is a lovely little butterfly.


  3. Very nice images again, Pete.