A powerful symbol of freedom and beauty, nothing quite sums up the British spring and summer like the butterfly. This spring, National Trust naturalist Matthew Oates has picked some of his favourite spots to see these colourful creatures as they gently fly through the countryside and gardens in the South West.
Matthew Oates, a butterfly fan for more than 40 years, said: “Butterflies are fascinating in the extreme. They take you to the most captivating of all places – woodlands, mountains, grasslands and the coast – and the more you learn about them, the more you realise there is to be learnt, and the less you know.
“Over the last two decades a minor social revolution has occurred: butterflies have become cool. They have found their way into all aspects of our life from advertising to diaries and notebooks.
“Butterflying is now as popular a hobby as it was in the heyday of collecting, back in the 1890s, with the big difference that enthusiast are only armed with cameras.”
A new book by Matthew Oates, Butterflies: Spotting and Identifying British Butterflies will be published this June. It will help both beginners by explaining the key points and fundamental principles of butterfly spotting, and more experienced butterfly watchers in need of expert tips and sharpening the focus.
Containing lots of identification tips, the book is a guide on how to get yourself into the right frame of mind when looking for and observing butterflies. It includes chapters on the history of butterflying and on the English and scientific names of butterflies together with useful summary chapters on photographing butterflies and gardening for butterflies.
Mathew’s five top tips for spotting butterflies:
- Master the easy species first and leave the difficult ones till later. Feel unabashed at lumping Small and Essex skippers together and treating the Large and Small Whites as ‘cabbage whites’ – instead enjoy your easy Marbled Whites and Peacocks.
- Concentrate on the brighter, showier and more prominent males. It is wise to ignore the female blues at first, for example, and get to know them through observing the mating pairs.
- Learn the habitats, food plants and flight seasons. They will provide general guidance.
- Use binoculars. It also makes people think you are a birder, and not a weirdo.
- Seek help. Join a wildlife group and attend some field meetings.