It is that time of the year again when the season has changed. The sun rises later and sets noticeably earlier; there is a chill in the evening air and a crisp edge to the days. Autumn has arrived and so have the Cape Autumn Widow (Dira clytus) butterflies. This year they seem to be more abundant than ever: I counted over fifty of them congregated just above the lawn in our back garden this morning.

Despite their numbers, I assure you they are quite difficult to photograph as they’re never still for long. They flutter here, there, and everywhere. I have encountered them on our back lawn every morning from early on until about mid-morning, when they seemingly disappear. Fewer of them appear on our front lawn and I suspect this is because I have deliberately allowed a variety of wild grasses to grow round the back. After all, if I cannot grow vegetables during this drought, why not let the natural grasses take over and cover the ground at least.

The Cape Autumn Widows are dark brown with numerous eye-spots on their wings which are thought to confer some protection against predatory birds – although I watched a Fork-tailed Drongo feasting on them the other morning!

I mostly see these butterflies almost floating on the air, flying low over the grass. I understand the females do this to scatter their eggs, which are then attached to the grass stems. I certainly hope most of them have chosen the wild grasses, for our lawn will need to be mowed once more at least before the winter sets in!



The seasons have turned and, if we’re not already sure of that, we could tell by the variety of butterflies flitting through the garden. Most are too high or too fast for me to capture and then there is a host of Cape Autumn Widow (Dira clytus) butterflies that fly slowly just above the level of the grass, often settling on bare patches of ground.

These velvety brown butterflies only appear during March and April, when the warm, dry days provide perfect flying conditions. They sometimes land on the bricks surrounding the pool and wait obligingly to be photographed.

We have watched them with delight as they skim the lawn and dip into the surface of the pool in passing. Sadly, some take a dip too far:

During one teatime we rescued three Cape Autumn Widows in less than a minute – all within seconds of them landing in the water. Here is one on the pool net:

We have since covered the pool to slow down evaporation. This is another rescued butterfly, pausing to dry its wings. Doubtless the eyespots help to protect them from predatory birds – it is interesting that they are clear on the underside too:

I am pleased to report that it was able to continue its flight – many more were not as fortunate.

These photographs were taken with my aged cell phone.