On April 8th, my first butterfly sighting of the year coincided with a slight increase in temperature, and at last it seems that the worst of the cold weather has been broken. There are four butterflies on view altogether, each one a small tortoiseshell. Two of them appear quite content, absorbing the sunshine on the leaves and grasses, when they are crudely disturbed by what appears to be the amorous intentions of a couple of keen males. As the seemingly uninterested females take to the air in search of a quieter location, they are bothered time and time again by their persistent pursuers.
Small tortoiseshell butterfly (Aglais urticae)
The RSPB reports that the small tortoiseshell butterflies emerge from hibernation on the earliest warm days of the year, with the spring sunshine prompting the males to seek out the females in earnest. UK Butterflies, a great place for information on all UK butterflies, explains that the UK population of small tortoiseshells have declined in recent years, particularly in the south. It will be interesting to assess and monitor its local progress.