Monday 29 May 2023

River Stroll.

 The day after our Kent trip Lisa and I just fancied an easy day, so we went for a lovely local stroll along the river. I have always enjoyed walking slowly along the river in May as there are always things to find, and I was also hoping to be able to show Lisa a few of my favourite river creatures.

The weather was a little dull and cool, but we still found lots for her to get some camera action. I was only taking a few photos as I have many photos taken from this area over the years, but as ever, when a Mayfly is looking good I normally get tempted!!

Adult Mayfly with Sub-adult Exuvia.



After a short walk of well under a mile taking 2-3 hours we had almost got back to the car when we found a male Beautiful Demoiselle. Once again, this is too tempting, so the camera came out again for a final flourish.

Male Beautiful Demoiselle.

A fabulous stroll and a great way to spend a few hours on my birthday.

Monday 22 May 2023

The Duke and Duchess of Kent.

 Most years Nigel and I venture over to Kent for the woodland Duke of Burgundy butterfly. Most sites now for this species are downland, but the Kent colonies are generally woodland, which is what most of the colonies preferred going back in time.

Nigel has recently had a knee replacement, so he was not able to join me this year, so instead, I took Lisa for the long trip to one of my favourite destinations.

The forecast was not particularly favourable, but as it was the day before my birthday, I was keen to do something a little special, so we decided to risk the weather. This was a very good move, as it appears that most people didn't risk it as it was quieter than expected, and as the forecast was very wrong, we actually had a perfect day!!

It wasn't long before Lisa had seen her first Lady Orchid, and just after that we saw the only worn Duke of Burgundy of the day. Following this one we estimated that we saw around 15 individuals, and all the others were in mint condition. We also managed to witness a duchess egg laying on the Primrose leaves.

Apart from the Lady Orchids we saw some Fly Orchids and base leaves for Greater Butterfly Orchid and White Helleborine. 

Male Duke of Burgundy.

Female Duke of Burgundy resting between egg laying on Primrose.

Duke of Burgundy Egg on Primrose leaf.

Male Duke of Burgundy.

Latticed Heath Moth.

Lady Orchid with visitor.

Fly Orchid.

We then visited another woodland nearby where most of the orchids were still a little way off from flowering. However, a nice Herb Paris was in a lovely position for a photograph.

Herb Paris.

With sunshine most of the day we then headed home with a great feeling that follows a really good day out.

Monday 15 May 2023

Silver-washed Fritillary Mystery.

One of my strangest butterfly finds happened on Saturday when Lisa and I visited Tugley Woods in Surrey. The idea of the visit was to do a recce for my Naturetrek tour later this week, basically to see if the Wood White was on the wing yet.

More of that in a future blog, but there we were strolling along the rides when a large brown butterfly flew towards us and landed high up a tree and started to feed on the nectar. I quickly got the binoculars on the butterfly and almost fell over in surprise, as it was a female Silver-washed Fritillary. This is a butterfly of the high summer, and shouldn't be on the wing for another 6-8 weeks. It was also clear that this was not a fresh individual, and was almost certainly at least 10 days old.

Many questions and theories abound when something like this happens. The most obvious thought is that it is a home reared individual that has been brought through far too early and whoever reared it has let it go in a wood where the species is prevalent in the summer. However, over the past few years several single brooded butterflies have managed to produce a few 2nd brood individuals. Species that come to mind are Duke of Burgundy, Orange-tip and White Admiral. Just maybe, this Silver-washed Fritillary, instead of hibernating as a 1st instar larva like it should do, decided to feed up and then hibernated as a much later stage larva, pupa or even as a butterfly. This is unlikely, but in nature anything is possible, especially with the warming climate. 

One more observation that perhaps gives more credence to this theory is that a butterfly enthusiast in Somerset who was doing a butterfly transect saw what he was pretty sure was a Silver-washed Fritillary, but didn't get a clear enough view to be absolutely sure. This was on April 28th, which looking at the condition of our specimen, could have been on the wing around that time. So maybe our Silver-washed Fritillary isn't the only one flying around. I guess we will not know what has really happened unless someone comes forward saying they released the butterfly, or in future years more of these out of season Fritillaries are seen.

The butterfly expert Matthew Oates also hasn't ruled out the possibility that the long hot summer of 2022 could have created different behaviour that could have produced this strange event.

Fortunately, both Lisa and myself managed to get some photos of this strange sighting, although because she had her telephoto camera out already, and I had to rummage through my bag, she managed to get more shots, and better shots than I did in the brief moments before it flew. Over the next 30 minutes we saw the butterfly several more times, but always in flight.

Female Silver-washed Fritillary.

Wednesday 10 May 2023

Pupa Success and Failure.

 The two pupae that I have been monitoring over the past 2-3 weeks have had mixed fortunes. This stage of a butterfly's life is very hazardous and whilst the Speckled Wood pupa succeeded in becoming a butterfly, the Wall Brown pupa unfortunately failed to make it through.

As ever, it was fascinating seeing the Speckled Wood pupa change colour as the butterfly formed in the pupal case.



3/5/2023. Wing forming inside pupa.

Speckled Wood pupa 4/5/2023. One day before emerging butterfly.

On Friday 5th May Lisa came over and wanted to see the pupa again. She couldn't get to me until early afternoon, so more or less as soon as she arrived we went to the site. I carefully looked in the tussock where the pupa was and immediately saw that the pupa was empty. I then picked and lifted the dry grass stem that the pupa was on and suddenly the Speckled Wood that had just emerged sat on my hand. It must have emerged a few minutes before we arrived. Although we missed this final part it was great seeing the butterfly that had come out of the pupa, and also being able to see it was a female.

Female Speckled Wood, newly emerged 5/5/2023.

Thursday 4 May 2023

The Green Greenie.

 With the easterly wind continuing to blow, but at least the temperature has risen a little bit, the species of local butterflies has grown, albeit by not as much as it should. It's still far behind where it should be by now, but at least a Small Copper has now been added to the year list!!

Small Copper.

Wall Brown numbers have also increased, but not by a huge amount. However, the male Wall Brown are now defending the tops of the hill in their usual way. 

Male Wall Brown.

With Grizzled Skipper still missing from the usual suspects the Green Hairstreaks are back to fighting hammer and tong with each other. The two pictured below were battling for several minutes before they eventually called a small truce so they could rest up. Although they have both only recently emerged they are already looking a little battle worn!!

Two different male Green Hairstreaks.