There are various predictions floating about which say that this year we’re in for a bumper invasion of Painted Lady butterflies. Millions of individuals have reportedly been amassing in Southern Europe just at the critical time for a mass summer migration to these shores. I mention this not purely for curiosities sake but also to get the news out that, on Gower at least, it seems as though they’ve already started to arrive! On Sunday we walked the coast from Rhossili to Mewslade and recorded more of these colourful visitors than I can ever recall seeing. Wherever there were patches of Thistles growing you could pretty much guarantee at least a handful of Painted Ladies, some looking rather tatty but others in pristine condition. Despite the breezy weather it wasn’t too difficult to find a few individuals relatively settled and in the end we were spoiled for choice.
Also on the wing were a smattering of other species including Peacock and Red Admiral but it was only the latter which I managed to photograph.
This abundance of butterflies quickly turned what had been planned as a birding walk into more of a bug safari as with eyes concentrated towards the ground all manner of goodies started to reveal themselves. First up were a couple of impressive caterpillars sitting virtually next to each other on some Brambles, the first a colourful Lackey Moth and the second a Fox Moth measuring almost seven centimetres in length.
They weren’t to be our only caterpillars either as around the coast at Fall Bay we found a Garden Tiger happily munching its way though a patch of juicy vegetation (at least I assume it was juicy as I didn’t take a bite myself). Now I’m not one to criticise anyone’s eating habits but it may want to consider tucking in somewhere other than the middle of a footpath if it wants to make adulthood.
Probably my favourite species of the day though has to be the Common Blue which we found at Mewslade. Quite out of character for this species it sat happily for a good long while on one of the limestone scree slopes before finally moving along.
Bringing things down in scale again we couldn’t help noticing the abundance of spider nurseries covering the Gorse bushes out to Worm’s Head. I’ve come across one or two before but never this many and thoroughly enjoyed watching the groups break up and then reform.
As for species I’m presuming that these younglings are Garden Spiders as we found this adult not far away wrapping up a rather unfortunate Hover-fly. Dinner is served.
I should also mention the sheer number of Bee species out and about, some familiar, others less so. One species in particular was absolutely tiny but alas I didn’t manage to get a photo which means identification is all but impossible. Fortunately the larger individuals were a little easier to track and I had to include the following shot not just for the Bee (Buff-tailed?) but also for the fact that it includes a Foxglove. As one of my favourite flowers they are always a welcome sight and we saw our first this year just two weeks ago. Since then they’ve been popping up everywhere and have certainly been an attractive proposition for the insects.
Of course despite concentrating on the insects we didn’t neglect either the birds or the views completely but I will leave those for a later post. This one is already getting long enough as it is.