Before this summer, I'd never seen a Skipper before. I'd heard of them vaguely - they were in my butterfly book but they didn't stand out shouting "look at me" like the Southern Festoon or the Apollo. Perhaps for that reason I had not read up about just how tiny these little creatures were, and therefore I did not have my 'look out for tiny butterflies' antenna on.
Because it seems that once you are aware of something, you start to see them. And boy, are they small! Insignificant colourwise compared to the large beauties mentioned above, but just as gorgeous and fascinating close up.
I saw my first one, a Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) about a month back and was a really happy bunny! I couldn't believe how little it was and so fluffy and cute!
Then I saw a Mallow Skipper (Carcharodus alceae); now this one could so easily be mistaken for a moth, given its small size and the mottled markings. As its name suggests, the caterpillars feed on mallow plants, of which there are many growing wild around these parts - including my garden. In fact, it's one of the few chicken-scratching-proof plants that still manages to grow and flower in my chicken runs!
Then the other day I came across a very tatty specimen of what I think is a Skipper again, but I'm just not sure. It's about the same size but has lost a portion of its wings. It has no distinguishing marks and never opened its wings, but I can just make out a faint copper colour. It's not fluffy like a Small Skipper.
It doesn't help that it was in the shade and I had to take the photos with flash. Having spent at least several hours looking through innumerable photos of different kinds of 'plain' Skippers in Europe, quite frankly I give up! The most important thing is that I got to see it and to enjoy watching it for quite a while, so intent was it on drinking the nectar of the garlic chives!
The garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) that the butterfly is on in these last three shots is amazingly popular with insects at the moment. Not so much for bees, but the amount of flies and hoverflies crawling and hovering about it is quite incredible.
Not just a tasty plant for humans, then :-)