Not a common butterfly in Otley – they prefer the warmer south of the country – but spotted on Ragwort in Alex Eve’s wilded garden on the east of town. Weather is a significant determinant of population size, and climate change is behind a northward spread. They are also known as the Hedge Brown, and look quite similar to the Meadow Brown, especially with wings closed. Fortunately, the smaller Gatekeeper tends to rest with its wings open, displaying (bird-deterring) eye spots with two white pupils. They are also more orange. The two names point to the butterfly’s preference for field margins as a habitat, and they like blackberry nectar – look out for them along the old railway track. The caterpillars feed on different grasses. The adults are “little and often” fliers: they don’t go far compared with other butterflies, but make frequent flights in sunny weather. This may explain a bunched distribution: a lot in one place, but none in a similar habitat a short distance away. Mating lasts roughly an hour, with the butterflies stationary and with wings closed.
By Neil Griffin Photo by Alex Eve