12 Aug 2020

My Big Brum BioBlitz

It has been an interest of mine for many years to record our local wildlife and having lived round Birmingham for most of my life I have found some of the best places to do it. Living near to the countryside there is every opportunity to explore and to find out more about our wildlife of which there is a lot.

My particular interest is in insects and butterflies and if anything else gets in the way then I try and capture it on my camera including flowers, fungi, birds, and the occasional landscape if the weather is good. Having been a professional Photographer for just over 35 years, mostly covering weddings and portraits with the occasional commercial project, it was quite a change when I took to capturing butterflies and insects. It has been just over three years ago when I bought my new camera which is a LUMIX, with LEICA optics, what superb images it produces.

I retired nearly two years ago and this newfound hobby has provided me with an interest and something to occupy my time, photographing butterflies is a real change to capturing people. Becoming a member of Butterfly Conservation last year, a charity devoted to saving butterflies, moths and their habitats throughout the UK, has provided me with so much information about these delightful creatures. 

To date I have managed to record 19 of the 72 butterfly species in this country so I have got a long way to go before I see them all, with some of them being extremely rare and only found in very remote places - so I have set myself quite a task to complete over the next few years.

Rather than cover all the butterflies that I have recorded over the last three years I am going to concentrate on some gorgeous little Skippers of which I have photographed three species: Small Skipper, Essex Skipper, and the Large Skipper. These are by far my most captured and fascinating to observe. It must be said that the Small Skipper and Essex Skipper are very similar so not so easy to tell apart, here I will try to explain the differences.

All of these butterflies are fairly common provided you know their habitat, if you find one there will most certainly be more to follow. Small Skippers seem to live in quite large colonies and normally inhabit the same patches of tufted grass during one breeding season so once you find them you can go back again to record and observe them. One of the plants that they enjoy the most is Clover of which there are many, I have included some of these in my photos and they can be found basking on the long meadow grasses when the sun is out.

Small Skipper
Small Skipper.

The most detailed of these three Skippers is the Large Skipper which has quite distinctive markings and tends to be found in the same areas as the Small Skipper living in large colonies. Similar to the Small Skippers they only have one generation per year and are around until August at the latest, the first can usually be spotted in early June. There is one thing you need to know when you are looking for any of these butterflies and that is they are very small, no bigger than 34mm (an inch and a half in old imperial measurements).

Large Skipper
Large Skipper.

The difference between the Small and Essex Skipper is the colour on the tip of the antenna, on the Small it is orange and the Essex it is glossy black. This is not always easy to spot but you can see the difference between these two photos. The Essex Skipper live in large colonies and they tend to only be around for July and August inhabiting the same open grassland as the Small Skipper and feed of the same plants.

Essex Skipper
Essex Skipper.

I hope my blog will encourage you to go out and find some Skippers and maybe even take some photos of them. Good luck with your own adventures!