Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England

Detective Work Required


A little help please, down in the field this evening spud and I disturbed some little black butterflies, they had distinctive white tips to their wings.  I’ve never seen them before, or maybe I haven’t been looking. The photos are rubbish, but here goes, publish and be dammed.

black butterfly, white wing tips-2

As Spud the dog charged through the  meadow grass (whilst carrying his pet watering can, see below)

Spud and his watering can 2-2

about 15 or so butterflies would rise up into the air, unfortunately when they landed again, they went well down into the grass. The only way I could try to get decent images was by trying to look down, from directly above, they then immediately took flight again.

These images are the best of a bad bunch.

black butterfly 6-2

The nearest thing I could find in my books and on the net were Ringlet butterflies Aphantropus hyperantus but I’m not convinced I’ve got that right as the distribution looked as though it was further south than around here.

black butterfly 5-2


Thanks to a tip off from Suzanne (see comments below) I now believe this is a chimney sweeper moth rather than a butterfly 

This unmistakeable but nationally scarce black moth with a white fringe has an unusual foodplant – pignut. This plant is widespread in Cumbria and has a brown edible tuber with a nutty taste. Don’t grub it out though as it is a declining species of grazed pasture and waysides. Both sexes fly in sunshine during June and early July.

And we do indeed have pignuts growing in the field.


Author: uphilldowndale

Watching the rhythm of rural life, from the top of a hill in northern England. Having spent most of my life avoiding writing, I now need to do it! I am no domestic goddess, but if I were expecting visitors to my home, I would whisk round with the duster and plump up the cushions and generally make the place look presentable. I hope that by putting my words where others may see them it will encourage me to ‘tidy up and push the Hoover around’ my writing. On the other hand I may just be adding to the compost heap. Only time will tell! Pull up a chair, sit yourself down, I’ll put the kettle on.

19 thoughts on “Detective Work Required

  1. I love the picture of your dog Spud in the meadow! I’m no expert, at all, but I think that’s a moth rather than butterfly.

  2. Every dog should have a pet watering can.

  3. Spud appears to be dashing off to put out a fire.

    I’ve seen a butterfly–or maybe moth–like that, but can’t remember where. It’s very elegant.

  4. Yes, that looks right, well done for finding it 🙂

  5. Great detective work! Well, I was intrigued with “pignut” and found this info from the UK Safari website:

    “This relative of the carrot is commonly found in fields and meadows and produces little umbrellas of tiny white flowers.

    Underground, at the base of the plant, is an odd shaped nut which is a favourite of pigs, hence its name.

    Years ago, when sweets were not so easily available, pignuts were also popular with children in rural areas. It’s edible… but be warned! It tastes like a cross between a hazelnut and a raw potato.”

    I think if Spud could switch over to carrying a basket instead of his pet watering can, and dig up and collect pignuts, he may be onto something … and he may forget about digging up marigolds, etc. 😉

  6. I’m glad that you solved your moth mystery; I’m currently trying to find out what kind of fly I have photographed – it looks as if it’s wearing some kind of animal print!

    My thoughts on seeing Spud with his watering can was that perhaps he’s a frustrated gardener. He didn’t dig up your marigolds out of doggy playfulness, he wanted them for himself. Perhaps he has a secret flower bed somewhere that he was rushing off to water.

  7. I’m happy to know about chimney sweeper moths and pignuts now 🙂

  8. I – too – was going to suggest the possibility of a moth. But not being an expert by any means..I wasn’t sure. Love the image of Spud with his watering can. Gotta laugh!!!

  9. You wouldn’t want this watering can Flighty, Spud has chewed the spout of it, I’ve reverted back to what was my fathers ‘degging can’ (watering can) it is made from zinc and is probably about 40-50 years old. Made to last.

  10. arh, that spud is so darn cute! 🙂

  11. I’ll belatedly add my name to the list of those agreeing that it’s a moth…..don’t think I’ve ever seen a Chimney Sweep Moth, nice capture!

    Hmmm, that looks like my watering can too….I wondered where it had gone (I’d been blaming Mrs.LDNP’s mother!).

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  15. Happiness is a dog carrying a watering can.

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