Studying butterflies is a very interesting field in wild life field, that reveals lot of interesting matters of beautiful small creatures which is not normally, interacts with people.
All that you want to study butterflies is the keen interest of the field, which arouses gradually when you are proceeding.
You should have a field note book and a pencil for recording field notes, which are very helpful in identifying species that you never come across before and to collect data on their distribution, flying seasons, habits, habitats, early stages etc. Having a hard cover for a note book is valued when using it in unfavorable environmental conditions in the field such as at rains. Following things should be included in a field note, for identification of a species.
Date of sighting
Time of sighting
Location - (Sinharaja, Kalugala, Maragala etc.)
Weather condition (cloudy, rainy, sunny, windy etc.)
Sketch of the butterfly
Habitat/ micro habitat (grass land, scrubland, forest - undergrowth etc.)
Date of sighting is important to identify the seasonal distribution of the butterfly. Normally butterflies are commonly on wings after monsoonal rains, when plants are flushing. Time of sighting is also play a vital role in identification because some species are restricted to selected hours such as dawn, dusk and mid day. Most butterflies like morning sun shine and afternoon between 3.00 pm to 5.00 pm. When a butterfly is restricted to some area, noting down the location is good information to sort out the species. In other way it is helpful to make the distribution map of that species in the country, which are still not up to a standard. Weather condition too is significant at some identifications. (eg. In 90% - 100% cloudy condition, a butterfly that prefers dawn and dusk can appear in mid day.) It is good if you are an artist when doing sketches, but it is not a must. Recorder should make an attention on wing shapes; color patterns; sex brands and colors etc. Butterflies have different color patterns and colors on upper side and underside of wings, where recorder should consider both. Sometimes color pattern on abdomen and antenna may also helpful in identification.
Micro habitat too is providing us a valuable identification feature, since different species prefer different micro habitats. Considering habits; flying patterns and flying heights varies drastically among species. Food sources and feeding methods too can be taken as distinguishing characteristics.
Comparing all afro mentioned details in your field note with a guide, you can identify the correct butterfly. Keeping all the things in mind and referring the guide is not recommended because picture in the mind can vary when you are going through with the guide. Sometimes you may cannot merge your details with the guide, but keep your interest and try to have the second attempt in the field. When you refer the guide with your field note, you can identify the features that you should think of, in the next attempt. Some Lycaenids and Hesperids are confusing species in identification, so it is better to start with large butterflies for a new comer to this field.