Saturday, April 11, 2009


There are two reasons for posting this picture of the familiar orange tip butterfly. The first is that thirty years ago, when I first moved to the North East, this was an uncommon butterfly here. Seeing one was something worth getting excited about; now they are very common and even breed on lady’s smock, dame’s violet and Jack-by-the-hedge in my garden. The second is that this photograph, taken today of the first orange tip I’ve seen this year, newly emerged and pristine, was taken in urban Newcastle, on a grass verge beside the lower reaches of the Ouseburn, just before it reaches the Tyne. The lower Ouseburn was once one of the most polluted stretches of river in Britain and until the mid-20th. century was flanked by a devil’s cauldron of industries that dumped waste into its waters. Now it’s well on the road to recovery. I regularly see kingfishers there. So the orange tip shown here symbolises a wildlife good news story – the expansion of a butterfly’s range and habitat recovery. To read more about the Ouseburn’s history, visit


  1. A terrific photo, beautifully sharp and detailed. I'm pretty sure I have never seen an Orange Tip round here. What is a familiar butterfly to you would be a rare visitor for me.

  2. Butterflies do seem to have a very patchy distribution and I gather that a lot of species tend to live in small colonies, that can flourish for a few years and then disappear again.We used to have some small colonies of small pearl-bordered fritillaries quite close to where I live but now they've vanished, even though plenty of the food plant for the caterpillar (marsh violet) is still available.


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