Red admiral butterflies – God’s gift to amateur photographers, including myself. Colourful, prolific, simple to identify, usually within easy camera reach. All very well, but sometimes they are so busy feeding that the colourful topside is kept hidden. These images from Dorset attempt to show that closed-wing images of feeding red admirals have the interest if not the good cheer factor of the popular view. See what you think…


There’s a time and place for resorting to an iPhone for close shots. The time is when your camera is not handy – possibly 3 or 4 counties away; the place is where you are right now, when an orange tip – so often a skittish species – decides to choose a plant to land on and to stay there for a while.Orange Tip Butterfly, Dorset 3

The technique for getting reasonably sharp pictures with an iPhone is this: take 20 – 30 rapid shots of the subject, holding the phone at varying distances from it until you get too close and the creature flies away. This specialist process is necessary because it is impossible to be sure what the camera has actually focused on and what the optimum distance for the shot actually is. This may be a question of distance, angle or lighting – or any combination. These were the best of them – but I also got some great detailed shots of the flowers and their stems, with the butterfly a smear of orange and white.

Orange Tip Butterfly, Dorset 4

These images are never going to make the grade in the aggressively contested photograph section of the village art and craft show (unless there’s a special iPhone group, perhaps). But they are better than I was expecting, with reasonably sharp ‘buds’, as I think the blobs on the end of the feelers are called. That’s the first thing I look at when deleting butterfly photos…
Orange Tip Butterfly, Dorset 1


It’s high summer in the garden. That means beans. Beans does not mean Heinz in garden terms. Beans means butterflies, in this case a brimstone feeding on the bright fiery runner bean flowers. This female is a pale greeny yellow; males are a more striking bright yellow.

Brimstone Butterfly on Runner Bean Flowers, Dorset Brimstone Butterfly on Runner Bean Flowers, Dorset Brimstone Butterfly on Runner Bean Flowers, DorsetBrimstone Butterfly on Runner Bean Flowers, DorsetBrimstone Butterfly on Runner Bean Flowers, Dorset


Easter Monday sunshine after 3 drizzly overcast days. Suddenly the garden is full of birds, bees and butterflies. We have had indoor butterflies right through the winter – all tortoiseshells. They have to be guided gently to an open window. If we haven’t been around for a while, it’s a sadder result. Where on earth have they been coming from? The house may be old, but it is by and large weatherproof and butterflyproof, so they must be emerging in the house… 

In the garden we saw plenty of peacocks and tortoiseshells, and several large whites and brimstones. I had a short time to try out a new camera – an alien thing with changeable lenses, a bossy screen, strange settings, too many choices, a mind of its own and an ignorant owner. I deleted almost all the photos, but these just about survived the cut. But they are poor, and nowhere near what can be achieved with my previous camera (which I have kept). But just as I was about to blame my tools and indeed condemn them utterly for incompetence, I realised that the problem is not in fact with the camera at all. Damn. I’ve got to trawl through the 756 page manual again… It’s all my fault!Tortoiseshell Butterfly Dorset 3Tortoiseshell Butterfly Dorset 4Tortoiseshell Butterfly Dorset 2Tortoiseshell Butterfly Dorset 1

Even the peacock photos that I had high hopes of were rubbish. This is the dodgy best. Next time out, all will be well… Peacock Butterfly Dorset 1


Meadow Brown Butterfly, Dorset Meadow Brown Butterfly, Dorset 1 Meadow Brown Butterfly, Dorset 2 Meadow Brown Butterfly, Dorset 4 Meadow Brown Butterfly, Dorset 5 Meadow Brown Butterfly, Dorset 6


The Gatekeeper is (yet) another butterfly species that I have photographed this year for the first time in our garden in Dorset. There are several possible reasons for this: I haven’t bothered to notice them before; I have noticed them, but confused them with the similar meadow browns I do recognise; I have become more observant and butterfly-aware since we restored the garden and planted a lot of bee / butterfly / moth attractant plants; the species is in fact new to the garden, perhaps for the previous reason. Anyway, whichever is right, they suddenly arrived in the garden / I finally recognised this ‘new’ species in early August. Here are some.

THE FIRST GATEKEEPER I NOTICED THIS YEAR Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset (1st of the year)

SUBSEQUENT SIGHTINGS Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 1 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 2 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 3 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 4 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 5 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 6 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 8 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 9 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 10b Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 11b Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 12 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 12a


I’ve been waiting for these tiny butterflies to appear, but this is the only one I have seen this year, and then for only a minute or two. Then Hurricane Bertha’s tail-end arrived  and the butterflies have all but disappeared except for the occasional large white fluttering round. The flowers this one was visiting are tiny; and the butterfly looks small, even on them.

Small Copper, Dorset 1Small Copper, Dorset 2Small Copper, Dorset 3







Speckled Woods have just started to appear. Unlike most of the other species in the garden, they are eschewing the flowerbeds in favour of the hedgerows. I saw my first one a couple of days ago in the vegetable garden, but it was by the hedge there and not on the flower side. So maybe its name – and its unshowy dappled colouring – says something about its preferred habitat.
Speckled Wood Butterfly, Dorset 1 Speckled Wood Butterfly, Dorset 4 Speckled Wood Butterfly, Dorset 8 Speckled Wood Butterfly, Dorset 9 Speckled Wood Butterfly, Dorset 10


Planting hyssop and other bee- / butterfly- / moth-friendly plants in a resurrected border last summer is paying dividends this year. Butterflies and moths that I have never seen (noticed) in the garden before have taken to the new arrangements in a big way. This is the only painted lady I have seen this year, and she didn’t stay long – but I’m glad she paused briefly when I was right there with a camera…

Painted Lady, Dorset 1 Painted Lady, Dorset 2


I’ve only noticed the appearance of this pretty little butterfly species in the last couple of days. They are the devil to photograph – very small, often ensuring several blades of grass get between it and you so the focus goes awry, and always on the move. That’s my excuse, anyway.Common Blue Butterfly, Dorset 4Common Blue Butterfly, Dorset 1Common Blue Butterfly, Dorset 2Common Blue Butterfly, Dorset 3Common Blue Butterfly, Dorset 5