Sunday, 13 May 2018

Glorious Glanvilles.

With a so called' Big Birthday' this year Pen wanted to take me away somewhere that I really wanted to go to for a special treat.

I thought about it for 5 minutes or so and then thought that the Isle of Wight may be a good opportunity to see the Glanville Fritillary in its natural home. I have only seen this species a couple of times before, and both were in an introduced colony. This made me feel that I hadn't really seen them where they really live naturally. Looking quickly at the flight season I saw that the area around Ventnor was where the earliest sightings each year was and they are often on the wing before the end of April. Well, that was that decided and the bookings were made. Then the problems arrived with 2 really cold spells of weather and most butterflies being very late appearing this year. I kept checking whether any had been seen and it was all negative news. It was not looking good!!

The day after the birthday we headed off, catching the ferry and arriving at our hotel in Ventnor mid afternoon. The weather was a little breezy and cloudy, conditions that were expected during our stay, also not very helpful!! 
I soon left Pen resting in the room and headed out along the promenade and within 5 minutes I had found some Glanville larva. This was a bit of a bonus, although I was hoping to get these further along the coast. At this point I realised that the chances of an adult flying were even less than I had thought. I had heard though that this site often gets both the 1st and last sightings of the year which gave me the tiniest hope.

A group of Glanville Fritillary larva.

Glanville larva feeding on Plantain.

Other than this no other butterflies were seen in the cool conditions so I headed back to the hotel, pleased that at least I had seen part of the life cycle of this special insect. It was at this point that I thought the nearest I would get to photographing an adult Glanville would be the mosaic that was along the seafront!!

The mosaic along the promenade.

The next morning I was out quite early, and despite the cool breeze, at least the sun was shining. In the sheltered spots it was actually warm. Just beyond Bonchurch I headed away from the seafront onto some scrubby land and it was here that I saw my first butterfly of the trip, a Wall Brown!! Due to my local studies of this species I probably see more Wall Brown than anyone else in the Country so I did find this a bit ironic. 
When I returned to the hotel Pen wasn't feeling too brilliant and she wanted to rest on her own, so it was back out again. This time I headed up on Bonchurch Down where I saw another 6 Wall Brown as well as several Brown Argus, Dingy Skipper, Common Blue, Small Heath and my first Small Copper of the year. 

The following day the wind had changed direction and was now blowing straight onto the land, however, at least it was a lot warmer. I wasn't out quite so early this day and it was around 8.30am when I was walking along the promenade when I saw 3 Common Blue fighting amongst themselves. I thought this was a bit more promising as these were the first butterflies I had seen along the front other than a couple of Small White. Suddenly a 4th butterfly joined in the battle and I was amazed and mightily relieved to see it was a really fresh Glanville Fritillary. I can't remember a time when I have been so excited about seeing a species before. I then enjoyed nearly an hour of watching this beauty and taking the odd photo when it landed in an open area. It was generally landing on the ground so opportunities were few and far between. I'm not sure if this was the first UK sighting of this species in 2018, but I'm not aware of any others. Eventually I thought I had better get back to Pen, although on the way back I did spot another darker Glanville which had a small tear in the wing.

The spectacular Glanville Fritillary.

Later we drove out to a couple of other sites where plenty of larva were seen by a good friend earlier in the year. At Shepherd Chine I did find 8 larva and I did disturb a butterfly that flew up from under my feet. Unfortunately, despite a good search I could not re-locate it. It could well have been another Glanville?? Compton Chine didn't produce any sightings of larva or butterfly.

Glanville Fritillary larva at Shepherd Chine.

Late in the afternoon it was back along to where I had seen the Glanville earlier, as by now the clouds had rolled in and it was much cooler. Despite a lengthy search I couldn't find it roosting at all. The only butterfly I could find was a roosting Common Blue that was sitting on top of an Oxeye Daisy bud.

Male Common Blue roosting.

On the final morning I once again searched in vain for the roosting Glanville. I did spot 3 Common Blues this time, and at one point the sun very nearly came out, just enough to tempt one of the Common Blues to open up very briefly.

Common Blue warming up.

A very memorable trip that was so much more successful than we ever expected it to be.


  1. Wonderful photos!
    Have a nice sunday
    Maria from
    Divagar Sobre Tudo um Pouco

  2. Sounds like a great trip. It is interesting that there are both adult and larva of the Glanville Fritillary. Is that two different generations? I was hoping to see them in Corfu last summer, but I was too late in the season.

    1. Hi Nick.

      Only one generation, that was the first sighting for 2018, they are on the wing for around another 6 weeks so these larva will soon be pupating and be on the wing before the season end. Seeing both stages was a big bonus.