I wasn't expecting much in the way of butterflies on the Hebridean island of Colonsay, where P and I are having a week with family. Nor of the weather. But in both respects my pessimism has been happily confounded. Blessed with five days of sunny weather so far (double the entire summer's total as of last week according to one of the very friendly islanders), I have also encountered an unexpected and very old friend.
This is the Dark Green Fritillary butterfly, which swoops aristocratically around the marram grass of the coastal dunes and the grassy banks rich in small wildflowers thrift, thyme, harebells and tormentil - which lie behind. It was in just such conditions that I captured the rarest butterfly in my small collection (dating from the time when cameras were hopeless and small boys such as myself went out with nets).
I noticed that one of half-a-dozen fritillaries which I had caught differed strikingly from the others, with broad slashes of silver on its lower underwings. It proved to be the rare variety Charlotta whichwas once considered to be a separate species and briefly rejoiced in the name of Queen Charlotte's Fritillary. You can read more here.
Here are the underwings of the standard Dark Green Fritillary and Charlotta. The difference is fairly dramatic, I think you will agree.
And here are the top wings with Charlotta showing the 'keyhole' pattern near the wing edge.
I wasn't so amazingly lucky this time but I did have luck nonetheless. On our second last day, I was hoping to get a good picture of the fritillary to match my sister Tessa's - yes she and many others are with us here - of the beautiful orangey male above. But it was very windy and by 2pm I'd not seen butterflies of any kind. Then, while waving at some of the others from a marram dune, I caught a slight movement right by my feet out of the corner of my eye. It was the female shown in the first two pictures, so hunkered down because of the wind that I was able to photograph her from very close-to.
Apologies for now for the quality of my pics but my camera will not connect to the iPad - or at least I haven't yet found out how to entice it to - so these are iPad photos of the camera's playback screen.
While on IT skills, this post is kind-of historic as the first I have ever written, illustrated and published while away from base.