Male Brimstone ButterflyEarly Brimstone at Breney Common

On the 11th February 2012 I reached the grand old age of 50 and to mark the event I decided to get as many people as possible to attend a scrub bash at Breney Common, one of the most important wildlife reserves in Cornwall.

For the uninitiated scrub bashing is an activity where volunteers of all ages & backgrounds meet up at a wildlife site and take out all their pent up stress, anxiety & anger in an orgy of destruction directed at Gorse & Willows.

Our session at Breney Common Cornwall Wildlife Trust nature reserve took place on an area of dry heathland which, under the guidance of Peter Kent, the East Cornwall reserves manager, we were hoping to make more attractive to butterflies. The 20 people I had gathered together swelled Dave Thomas’s regular work party to 26, a number which ensured a very large area was cleared of the offending gorse & willows, far too much for our two bonfires to cope with. The constructive destruction of scrub bashing really is very satisfying as the sessions are such friendly affairs, great exercise and so rewarding.

On this particular bright & sunny day the reward came extremely quickly as a pristine male Brimstone Butterfly - Gonepteryx rhamni appeared from no where almost as if to say “thanks for sorting out my patch”. After flying around the warm air stream over the bonfire the Brimstone settled on a small patch of rhododendron that was due to be cleared, blending almost immediately into it’s surrounding with the perfect camouflage afforded by it’s leaf like wings.

It was fantastic to see this beautiful butterfly so early in the year. It is of course one of the first species to fly each year in spring but February is still a really early sighting. Perhaps it was temporarily spurred into action by the heat from the bonfires, but eventually the insect settled again and would allow the observer to approach as close as 100mm away.

It was of course the first time ever that I have gone on a scrub bash without my trusty Tamron 90mm macro and there in front of me was the perfect shot of a Brimstone! Fortunately all was not lost as I had my second choice 100-400 lens with me so at least I got a shot (see below) even if it wasn’t the killer shot the macro would have given me. A lesson for next time!

In the evening I organised a buffet & quiz at Townshend Village Hall to try and celebrate my 50 years on the planet in a meaningful way by raising some money for the Cornwall Wildlife Trust (also 50 years old this year), Cornwall Butterfly Conservation & the British Dragonfly Society. It was a great evening and we raised £420.00 to split between the three wildlife charities. Thank you to everyone who supported the two events and made it such a special day for me.

If you like the idea of joining in at a scrub bash to help keep butterfly or dragonfly habits in prime condition you can find further details of up & coming conservation events on the Cornwall Butterfly Conservation website here:

It really is a great way of keeping fit through the winter months as well as being surprisingly good fun and so worthwhile.
Male Brimstone Butterfly
Canon 50D, Canon 100-400 IS lens , f9, 1/85 sec, ISO 400, handheld.