Peacock and Red Admiral butterflies

Out for the Big Butterfly Count

Recently I wrote that there had been few butterflies in the garden this summer. And I had seen no Peacock butterflies. Happily, some have now appeared, as you can see from the top picture (where it shares the buddleia flower with a Red Admiral.)

There aren’t as many butterflies as in last year’s really warm summer, but it’s great to see some. A little bit of sunshine and the scent of the buddleias has brought them into the garden to feast and sun themselves – conveniently for the ‘Big Butterfly Count’, which finishes this weekend.

Small Tortoiseshell butterfly
Small Tortoiseshell

The appearance of this Small Tortoiseshell butterfly was well-timed for my second go at the butterfly count. It’s the only one I’ve seen so far this year. In fact, I’ve only seen it a few times in the garden. I was delighted that I had my camera ready, and even happier that it didn’t fly away. (Most of the pictures here have been cropped from much bigger images because I couldn’t get close without disturbing the butterfly.)

Below is a butterfly that I’ve not noticed in the garden before. It’s a Gatekeeper and there were two of them, often in the same area. (The dark, band-like markings on the forewings of this one show that it’s a male.) These are common in hedgerows, grassland and around the edges of wooded areas, so they may have come from the woodlands across the road from us. There are plenty of trees and shrubs in the gardens around here and wilder areas with long grass too, so there could soon be more of them.

Gatekeeper butterfly
Male Gatekeeper butterfly

After I had photographed the Gatekeeper, I thought to myself that it would be good if I could find a Comma to photograph too. They are common butterflies and sure enough, a couple of them turned up. In fact the first one surprised me by landing on the grass at my feet and then deciding to perch on my leg for a while. So I got a rather dodgy photograph of that one and then managed to get a better photograph of the Comma below.

The butterfly that we see most often here is the Red Admiral. There’s usually several of these around on a sunny day and they’re pretty reliable when it comes to being around for the Big Butterfly Count. Afterwards they entertained me by chasing each other around the garden. It was amazing to see them spinning wildly through the air in the last of the evening sunshine.

Comma butterfly
Comma butterfly

While I was taking part in the butterfly count, I noticed that many of the butterflies came to feed on the buddleia plant that you see in the photographs here. This was good, because I hadn’t seen many on it before and I wondered if they preferred the paler purple varieties. This one is ‘Royal Red’. Here it looks more of a reddish purple but the colour changes a lot with the light and sometimes it’s a really lovely deep colour with more red in it. I’m glad to see that it does attract butterflies. I have several cuttings of it that are growing well, so I’ll plant them out in a sunny and sheltered area. Maybe they’ll bring in more butterflies for next year’s count.

There was a surprise while doing my first butterfly count for this year – a big hedgehog snoozing in the undergrowth! I haven’t seen one in this garden for a few years, so it’s good to know that they are around. It was worth having to restart that count just for the glimpse of him or her. (And don’t tell my cats, but I left out a bit of their food, which it ate pretty quickly.)

Red Admiral butterfly
Red Admiral on Buddleja davidii ‘Royal Red’

28 thoughts on “Out for the Big Butterfly Count

    1. Earlier this summer, Red Admirals and whites are all I’d seen too. Suddenly the others have arrived, but not very many all the same. The hedgehog was a big surprise! πŸ™‚


    1. I was excited to see the Gatekeepers because I’d never seen them before. We’re right on the edge of town here and have the right environment for them around us, so I’m hoping there will be more. Apparently the like marjoram/oregano and I have just planted some – must plant more!

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      1. STOP PRESS! Less than hour ago I saw a Gatekeeper in our garden, supping nectar from the Water Forget-Me-Not that flourishes in the pond. We’ve lived in this house for 35 years and it’s our first sighting of the species here. So it’s official, 2021 is the Year of the Gatekeeper! πŸ™‚

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      2. I think you’re right about that – lots of other mentions of them around from folks in a wildlife gardening group on FB – so it does seem to be their year. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thank you Indira! I had a lovely time watching the butterflies! Right now it’s raining but the weather is supposed to be sunny again in a few days, so I’ll look out for them again then.

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  1. I don’t remember ever hearing about Buddleia, but suddenly its images are appearing everywhere; it must be a summer bloomer that’s just coming into its own in gardens. It is a beautiful flower, and it certainly looks as though it could support a lot of butterflies! We have the Comma and the Red Admiral, but I’ve never heard of the Gatekeeper, and I think the Small Tortoiseshell might live farther north. This seems to be a butterfly-rich year for us. Gulf fritillaries, various swallowtails, Monarchs, and Red Admirals are pretty common now. As soon as it cools a bit, I’m going to head out to the fields to see what I can see. Just now, it’s entirely too hot for it to be enjoyable, even in the mornings. Of course, after a week of working in the heat, spending the weekend in the AC is pretty darned nice.

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    1. Buddleia is common here – it spreads easily by seed so tends to take over waste ground. The common form has a pale pinky purple flower but garden varieties come in a range of colours. It has a nice scent too! I hope you see lots of butterflies when it’s cool enough to go looking for them!


    1. For the Big Butterfly Count, they have a list of butterflies and moths on their survey, which I think are the commoner ones. There’s another scheme that lets folk report sightings of any butterfly or moth at any time of year but that’s not so well-known. (And the Gatekeepers are little – but they all count to me anyway, hehe!)

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  2. How lovely! I’d noticed far fewer butterflies than last year, which seemed to be a bumper year for them. Never seen a comma butterfly. I’d love to have a hedgehog to eat all the slugs and snails, but I think it would be unlikely in London. 😦

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    1. There aren’t as many butterflies as last year but that was an amazingly hot summer. The weather here has been a bit breezy and cold for them, so it’s nice to see that there are some around when the sun does shine. I hope that the hedgehog has a good appetite and that he/she stays. πŸ™‚


    1. It certainly felt like a reason to celebrate, especially watching the butterflies flying around each other. And seeing the hedgehog was exciting – they’re nowhere near as common as they used to be.

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  3. Wow – Gorgeous butterflies Ann! I love the red ones – I don’t think I have ever seen a red variety around here – just lots of orange and yellows. I looked up the buddleia shrub and it says it is an invasive plant in the US. Never heard of it. It looks a little like the Penta and Lantana plants I grow to attract butterflies but I have seen very few so far. Usually we have a few Monarchs at least. I would love to see the Peacock and Red Admiral – just gorgeous. Even the orange ones in your yard look lovely! Now about your hedgehog buddy….I pulled one out of my pool this year. That was a first! Enjoyed your blog and pix!

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    1. Thanks Syd! I was worried that we wouldn’t have many butterflies this year but they are here at last. The weather hasn’t been great for them, so I hope they manage to breed well in the time left. Buddleia can be invasive here too because it seeds itself everywhere. But cutting the spent flower heads off stops that. πŸ™‚
      At the moment I’m working on creating a shallow beach area for the pond I’m building. That should make it easy for hedgehogs to get out again if they fall in. (And let birds enjoy the water easily too.)

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      1. We are having fewer butterflies this year too it seems. I live on little lake that has all kinds of cirtters in it (including some fairly good sized alligators at time) so I am never surprised by what appears in the pool. We always save as many of the animals as we can and Mr. Hedgehog was put back in the lake with no damage from his swimming pool exhibition. My cat was going crazy though! HaHa!

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      2. That reminds me of many years ago when my lovely cat Hagar met a hedgehog for the first time. We were out in the garden when it was getting pretty dark and he came across a big hedgehog on the lawn. Maybe he thought it was out other cat at first. Anyway, he stuck his nose out – probably got it prickled – and jumped all four feet at once into the air. So funny! πŸ™‚

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  4. Beautiful pictures Ann. I am still astonished at the amount of native varieties in the UK and the different ones which appear where. My garden has a scarcity of red admirals and gatekeepers though I have spotted them round the corner. Commas too seem to prefer further down the lane. My most frequent visitors are whites and tortoiseshells.

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    1. Thanks Jill! We don’t get many tortoiseshells here, so seeing one felt a bit special. Very occasionally I’ve seen a blue butterfly – not sure which – but just a glimpse. (I think it may have been a Holly Blue and we do have both holly and ivy for it. I’ve read that they also use snowberry bushes, so the seedling which came from next door can stay. πŸ™‚ )

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    1. I was getting worried that there were few butterflies around this year, so it has been a relief to see some. I hope they breed well! And I hope to see the hedgehog again. πŸ™‚

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