The Comma

The other day I didn’t quite get a shot on the only Comma (Polygonia c-album) I sighted. Therefor, I decided to set this species as my next target and get some proper footage.

Interestingly, it turned out to be a lucky day since I found several individuals. Butterflies tend to wake up during spring in a certain sequence. Probably the first species are the Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) and the Common Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni), followed by the European Peacock (Inachis io) and the Moarning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa). Then there comes the Comma, which appears generally a couple days later after the previously named species. Next, the Comma will be followed by the Map (Araschnia levana).

This post is dedicated to the Comma, even though while writing I’m already looking forward to sighting the first Map this spring. Furthermore, the Comma is also one of my season targets for raising caterpillars. I once found one ages ago at my grand mother’s place. Back then, I didn’t get the chance to raising it to a butterfly.

The individuals I photographed all lost pretty much in color. I’m looking forward to having some fresh ones hatching during summer.


A Mourning Cloak moment

Focusing on a particular area when searching for butterflies makes sense. Choose the location wisely and, if you’re lucky, all you need to do is wait.

Yesterday, I decided to walk to the horse stable nearby. It’s my favorite spot and sometimes it feels amazing that a place that rich in species can be this close. The area provides shelter and since the surrounding fields are generally left on their own, there’s plenty of food around for adult butterflies and caterpillars.

Standing behind one of the stable buildings, the red building in the gallery below, a large creature was flying about 40 meters away. Due to size and colors, particularly the yellow borders, there was no doubt it was a Mourning Cloak, also known as Camberwell Beauty (Nymphalis antiopa). Fortunately, this skilled flyer landed where it was easy to be located.

Mourning Cloak

The Mourning Cloak was definitely the highlight of that day. Having confirmed its presence in the biotope around the horse stable I know where to start looking for caterpillars, too.

Another species that crossed my path was the Orange Underwing (Archiearis parthenias). This moth is flying at daylight and is one of the first species getting active after winter. It’s terrible in flying and the moth hardly manages to stay in the air. Obviously, see photos below, also a proper landing appears to be a challenge.

Orange Underwing

Today it’s raining outside. After a long dry period rain is very welcome and is exactly what the flora needs right now. Worth being mentioned, a copula of Scarce Tortoiseshells (Nymphalis xanthomelas) has been sighted this weekend by Helmut D., a lepidopterist living nearby. A great sign that caterpillars will be around in a couple weeks from now.

Awakening of the Scarce Tortoiseshell


Today, I wanted to dedicate my lunch break again to get into the greenery. After recently spotting the first butterfly this spring, I was hungry for more. Like yesterday, I only took a 5 minutes walk to my favorite spot.

Despite of the weather conditions, with heavy wind and only 6 degrees Celsius, I got lucky again. This time a Scarce Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis xanthomelas) appeared out of the blue. After flying for some time the butterfly was finally willing to take a rest on the ground.

The Scarce Tortoiseshell used to be a rare visitor in Finland. However, since the mass migration of the species in 2012 it seems it has settled for good in the region. Many sightings of this species have been reported in the last couple days, a good sign there will also be caterpillars around later this spring or early summer. To get the chance to raise caterpillars of this rather large butterfly is definitely one of my season targets.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast predicted snow and cold weather for the weekend. This will force the early individuals back to hibernation for another moment.

Related photos

Scarce Tortoiseshell

As a kid I mostly came across Small Tortoiseshells (Aglais urticae L.) and some close, equally common relatives. I was wishing to spot some of the larger, but quite identical species.

It took 20 years to make this wish come true, and all by coincidence. Spending time with my family on a children’s playground nearby, I suddenly saw a creature flying nervously. It looked very similar to the Small Tortoiseshell, but bigger.

Thanks to the decent camera built-in into the iPhone, and the fact that the butterfly took a rather long rest on a birch next to me, I got the chance to get some photos. This was of huge help for later identifying the individual at home.

First, I was convinced it was a Large Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros), one of the species I seriously wanted to sight as a kid. Nevertheless, a more detailed look confirmed it actually was another species, a Scarce Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis xanthomelas).

Related to another incident in summer 2013 which got me to reinvent a childhood hobby, this was yet a big player helping to make that decision.

Finding caterpillars of the Scarce Tortoiseshell is definitely one of the challenges to aim at in summer 2014. It’s not an easy target, but that’s what the Butterfly Playbook is all about.

Did you know…

The Scarce Tortoiseshell used to be an unusual wanderer in Finland. However, in summer 2012 a mass migration of the species took place. The same phenomenon repeated itself in Finland in 2013.

Source: LuontoPortti (January 9, 2014)

Related photos