Butterfly Photography

May 26, 2020  •  1 Comment

The 2020 butterfly season started some time ago and when the lockdown was announced my heart sank as I had big photography plans this year given I wouldn't be working for a spell. To add insult to injury, the spring weather has been better over the last few months than I can ever remember. Daily walks have been a welcome pick-me-up, with stacks of butterflies seen on the wing, and the sight of my first orange tips bouncing along a hedgerow lifted my spirits further. I've since taken a few photos on my phone in an attempt to satisfy my cravings but nothing beats being up at the crack of dawn and finding a dew-covered butterfly roosting on a lovely perch! On one particular walk, I found some favourable looking habitat for orange tips and green-veined whites so set an early alarm in the hope of a butterfly photography fix. Sadly, my hopes were dashed, with no butterflies found. I figured this year might just have to be forgotten.

A few days later on an evening dog walk around the local park, I noticed a number of white butterflies skirting along the edge of the woodland and a hedgerow nearby. I hadn't even considered this area but on closer inspection, I wondered if I might just be in luck as there was a good amount of cow parsley around. The following evening, we went out a little later and between kicking a football and dog walking, I had as good a scan as I could for any roosting butterflies. After about 15 minutes I came across a roosting green-veined white. At last! I just hoped it would still be around in the morning when I'd have my camera with me.

Up early to beat the heat and make the most of the golden hour, I soon found the green-veined white. However, my tripod and other bits and pieces were sadly stowed at my place so any photography would have to be done hand held. A challenge at the best of times but it's possible and I've managed before so I began making the most of the opportunity, shooting with the sun behind to start with before attempting some backlit images. All in all, a very enjoyable albeit short session.

Green-veined WhiteGreen-veined White Green-veined WhiteGreen-veined White

I decided I'd scan this area each time I went past and a few days later found a male and a female orange tip and another green-veined white going to roost so I was very encouraged and kept everything crossed that I could time my daily walk to allow a few photos to be taken. A few failed attempts followed but I did find a male orange tip very early one morning roosting on a dandelion head, which was a very nice reward for the searching I'd done.

Orange TipOrange Tip Orange TipOrange Tip

The first Duke of Burgundies, Dingy and Grizzled Skippers, Small Blues and Green Hairstreaks emerged in the weeks that followed I'm very lucky to live within walking distance of a brilliant site for these butterflies. I hadn't been expecting to see them this year but an unfortunate washing machine breakage meant I was back at mine earlier than expected. I spent a few very early mornings making the gruelling climb up the hill and the first was an abject failure with only a single Dingy Skipper found. Birds were a different story, with a stunning male Redstart seen singing, a Spotted Flycatcher hopping along a fenceline and a Ring Ouzel flushed from the gorse.

My second visit saw the first Small Blues of the year for me, with at least 50 found, made up of a single here and there but mainly groupings of 6 or 7+. I did find a few in nice accessible positions.

Small BlueSmall Blue Small BlueSmall Blue

My third morning visit started with another (or possibly the same) male Redstart singing its heart out atop a blackthorn bush. Conditions were pretty decent, with clear skies and the sun already feeling quite warm, though there was a bit of a breeze. I decided to check a different area this time around and was rewarded almost immediately with a super fresh looking Duke of Burgundy basking on the leaf of a Hazel tree sapling. A Green Hairstreak was also seen nearby, but it was the duke I decided to focus on initially.

It was soon off and I was surprised at how active it was given the time of day. That didn't last long though as in the half an hour or so I spent watching it, the weather changed dramatically, with thick cloud rolling in over the top of the hill, encouraged by an increasingly gusty wind. The temperature also dropped markedly and it was this that forced the duke down into the lower vegetation. I managed a few shots of it exploring a cowslip, before it moved into a more sheltered spot. Duke of BurgundyDuke of Burgundy Duke of BurgundyDuke of Burgundy

I followed up with another early morning visit but was unable to find any roosting butterflies but on the way home when it was a lot warmer and very sunny, I found a few Duke of Burgundy butterflies on the wing and was very happy to get some images of a very fresh looking specimen which took a rest on a hazel leaf and very kindly spread its wings flat allowing for a fully sharp photo.

Duke of BurgundyDuke of Burgundy Duke of BurgundyDuke of Burgundy At the time of writing, lockdown rules have been eased with outside time now unlimited so I have been taking advantage of this and have more images to share soon with these to included in my next few posts. Hopefully I'll be fully up to date soon!

As always, thanks for reading!


Stephen M(non-registered)
You have set the bar very high. Thanks for the information, as a photographer beginner you have given me something to aim for.
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