Butterfly Bucket List – on Sharpenhoe Clappers

Anna who writes the lovely ‘Transmutational Garden‘ blog is hosting a new meme – Butterfly Bucket List, posting on the 4th Sunday of every month and kindly encouraging stragglers to add a link over the following week. Anna’s photographs and Butterflies in Texas are very beautiful. Please take a look and if you can, join in too.

On Sunday we took a different dog walk than usual and drove over to Sharpenhoe Clappers, a couple of villages south from us. The Clappers are now managed by the National Trust, its a small area of wildflower rich chalk grassland and an adjacent Beech wood, in years gone by we would drive there just to kick the leaves up. We had been told the Pyramidal Orchids were good, but we did not bank on a couple of lovely Butterflies and Moths too.

Six-spot Burnet Moth

Five-spot Burnet Moth – we think! Enjoying the Knapweed

The Five-spot Burnet Moth is a tricky moth to identify and can be confused with the Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet, which has more pointed wings. The Butterfly Conservation folk who identify Moths too, say The Narrow Bordered caterpillars prefers Greater Birdsfoot Trefoil found on wetter ground, but there are two subspecies of the regular Five-Spot, one prefers Greater Birdsfoot Trefoil, one prefers Common Birdsfoot Trefoil found on chalk grassland. We were on chalk. Either way we are fairly sure its a Five-spot Burnet, not sure if a subspecies, unless someone can say otherwise.

Marbled White Butterfly

Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) Butterfly on Knapweed

Far less tricky to identify, quite common and very striking is the White Marbled Butterfly, they are said to show a preference for purple flowers but we saw several enjoying other plants too.


Marbled White Male Butterfly on Sharpenhoe Clappers

The Marbled White Caterpillars are mostly found on flowery grasslands but can stray into gardens too. The caterpillars prefer grasses as their food plant, particularly Red Fescue – Festuca rubra as well as Yorkshire Fog grass – Holcus lanatus and Tor grass – Brachypodium pinnatum. Adults can sometimes be found roosting half way up a tall grass stem, another good reason to leave the grass long at home.

The reason for our initial visit – the Pyramidal Orchids – they were abundant too!

Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis

Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis

Happy Butterfly watching!

33 thoughts on “Butterfly Bucket List – on Sharpenhoe Clappers

    • I have seen a few Tortoiseshells here too, there is a mass influx of Painted Ladies coming up from Southern Europe due this summer, we haven seen any yet, but fingers crossed we do.

    • We have a few species of Burnet Moth here in the day-flying category with similar patterns and colouring to the Five-spot. There is so much to learn Matt! 🙂

  1. Wow, what beautiful butterflies! I’ve never seen anything like your Five-spot. Its colors are truly wonderful. And the white and black of the Marbled is also quite pretty. Thanks for the information, including the link to the Butterfly Conservation site. And thanks for joining in this month! I hope you can make it every month. Butterflies help our gardens grow… 🙂

    • I hope I can too, we expect to see more Butterflies nectaring in our own garden from July, we are due a mini heatwave this week, which should encourage pupation and hopefully we are helping with the right habitat here.

  2. Another gorgeous post Julie! I just love those Bedfordshire names too! We don’t get Marbled Whites here unfortunately as I think they’re beautiful. Our lane verges are full of Pyramidal Orchids. They appeared 4 or 5 years ago and have returned every year. It’s the chalk they love.

    • I looked that up Clare, Clappers means ‘rabbit warren’, archaeologists have dated that area back to medieval times where they believe the hill we walk up was originally built as a rabbit warren, presumably for food. Your lane sounds wonderful, what a sight that must be!

    • I read on the Butterfly Conservation site the Marbled White is more prevalent in the south of England but the distribution includes the South of Wales too, would be lovely if some were to reach you too Julian.

  3. The closed wings of the Marbled White are works of art. Not seen any burnets this year yet and was not aware of the subtleties between species, but will look out now. We have lots of tortoiseshells, meadow browns and skippers around.

    • I had not realised either, we have spotted lots of Meadow Browns too and others so fast I only catch them out of the corner of my eye. There is supposed to be a mass migration of Painted Ladies coming up from Europe but we are yet to see any of those!

    • Marian, we have some good folk trying to preserve our wildflower meadows as we have lost 95% of them. Coronation Meadows and the Wildlife Trusts are both excellent organisations working in that area. Hope you do get to see some our meadows one day!

  4. the marbled butterfly is pretty, I once saw a spotted burnet here, never seen one before and wondered what it was, I thought it was pretty, you seem to have some nice walks near you and several wild areas which is good and nice, Frances,

    • We would love to move nearer a coastline, we are pretty much central, but for now with job constraints and family to consider we are happy here, in the meantime local walks count for a lot.

  5. Such pretty pictures, Julie! We have the same around here especially the marbled white is abundant in the meadow. The orchids are over now but it’s nice to see them in your blog. This spring I photographed masses of white Anacamptis by the roadside, quite a view!

  6. Lovely post & images! I haven’t seen either the 5-spot Burnet moth or Marbled White here in N Wales. We do have the Pyramidal orchids, though they’re not quite flowering yet.

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