Until July 2017, documenting the seasons of coastal Dorset. I'm a complete amateur so don't trust I'm always right. If ever you see I'm wrong - whether with identifications or in anything else - do say! Meanwhile . . . I've now moved to Halifax in West Yorkshire. Click on the link below to collect the new URL. Don't forget to follow there!

Thursday, 18 September 2014


Red Admiral butterfly on buddleia flower
This is a Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) on a buddleia flower. It's a familiar sight in late summer - especially along parts of the South Coast of England where Red Admirals gather before migrating to Africa in advance of the winter. It seems an impossible task for such fragile beings. But there you are, many facts seem impossible but are true. I'm getting into a tangle!

I've never counted Red Admirals on a Buddleia. For one thing, I hadn't thought of it till just now - and now is too late, mostly they are gone. For another they don't stay still. They aren't fluttering around all over the place, they sit a while, then move to another flower; it's a slow but shifting scene.

Red Admiral butterfly on buddleia flower - closer. With half open wings.
We zoom in closer
Red Admirals are dramatic. Red and black showing clearly on the bushes. When I remember them I nearly always think they are bigger than they really are (wing tip to wing tip) and photographing them is a bit awkward. They move. Buddleias aren't tall trees but one can rarely get close to a butterfly sitting on one. The most important thing, I've found, is not to let a shadow fall across them. They find this more alarming than being looked at close to - but close to is difficult when there's a ditch in the way.

So . . . it's easy to be aware of only three things; that are lots of them, that they are brightly coloured and they like buddleia. Which is why I decided to look at them in detail. And for the reasons listed the detail won't be high quality (especially if you're viewing on a large screem). I like my camera but it's stretching it a bit to do well when one zooms in and crops. Never mind. You'll get the gist. I think you'll be impressed - not by the pictures themselves but what they point to. A butterfly is more than red and black with bold bits of white.

A Red Admirals wing from the side.

Sideways look at a wing.

The orange curve of a back wing showing black spots, white edge and flash of blue

The edge of a back wing.

Closed wing of Red Admiral - brown with hearts and orange wavy line

A closed wing.

Profile of Red Admiral's head showing antennae


Proboscis of a Red Admiral plunged into the centre of a buddleia flower.

Proboscis. A Red Admiral drinking nectar.
It's why they're here.

Head of Red Admiral with eyes clearly seen.

It's looking at you!

Site Recommendation.
And in particular because it's relevant to this post, the section on Butterfly Anatomy.

(Bother. I shouldn't have told you about this site. You'll be so busy looking at it you'll never have time to visit Loose and Leafy ever again. Ah well.)

And REMEMBER  - there will be a link box for posts about urban wild plants this coming Sunday (September 21st 2014).
For more information, there's a 'Street Plant Bloggers' page. If you are not participating this time but intend to - maybe in April - let me know in the comments or email me at looseandleafy@googlemail.com and I'll add you to the list as an occasional street plant blogger.

You might also like to see a previous post on Red Admirals in early autumn. 'Ivy and the Butterflies' was posted on October 14th 2014. (I think the pictures are better there.)


Donna said...

What a stunning macro profile of this butterfly

John Wooldridge said...

Very impressive pictures.

Anonymous said...

I have strong childhood memories of the "butterfly bush" covered with red admirals and other butterflies. I have seen quite a few of these insects about this year.