Friday 30 June 2023

Two Go West For Two Butterflies.

 Now that Lisa has seen all of the normal Sussex species of butterflies, we are venturing a little further afield to see other British species new to her. 

It is also an excuse for myself to be acquainted again with species that I have not seen too often. A month ago it was one of my favourites, the Marsh Fritillary. Our planned trip to Kent for the Heath Fritillary unfortunately didn't go ahead this year, but a trip to Somerset and Dorset was achieved, and these species I have neglected over the years, with only two visits to see the Large Blue, and just a single visit to Dorset for the Lulworth Skipper.

As we had decided on an overnight stay near the Large Blue site, we didn't even have to leave home too early, especially as we were starting from Worthing. We even had time for a long river walk at Blandford Forum on the way giving us a couple of views of Kingfisher as well as several dragonfly species.

After Blandford Forum we drove to the pub where we were staying overnight to drop off some of our baggage. 

It certainly didn't take long for Lisa to see her very first Large Blue when we arrived at the butterfly site with several seen after just a few steps onto the reserve. 

Large Blue.

Most of the Large Blue were showing signs of wear and tear, which was a shame, but hopefully it has given us an incentive to go a little earlier in the season next time. By carefully walking around we did manage to spot a handful of butterflies that were looking a little fresher, and one gave us both several opportunities when it stopped to nectar on a Thistle flower-head.

Both sides of a Large Blue on flower-head.

After a few hours spent in the meadows enjoying both the Large Blues and other butterfly species, and hoping to see some roosting we felt it was time to head back to the pub for our evening meal before it was too late. It was a fabulous evening and after eating it was still warm enough for sitting in the pub garden.

The following morning, it was back to the Large Blue to see if we could find some before they woke up too much. However, just as we reached the parking layby the sun came out and by the time we had walked up to the reserve the butterflies were very much awake. We then once again walked around hoping to find more fresh individuals. A mating pair of Marbled White was a nice find, and eventually a reasonable quality Large Blue showed itself.

Large Blue.

I have never managed a decent open wing shot of a Large Blue, and I must confess, that is really what I was hoping for at the start of the trip. Unfortunately, I still haven't got a decent open wing shot of a Large Blue, with the only one that did open its wings being a bit tatty and not in a particularly nice spot.

Female Large Blue.

Another insect that was at the reserve was a Crescent Plume. A species that I can't recall seeing before, so I did spend a little time with one of these that settled nearby.

Crescent Plume.

Eventually we decided to call it a day with the Large Blues, and to head to West Lulworth for the Lulworth Skipper. This species is only found along the Purbeck coast between Weymouth and Swanage. It's actually 190 years since it was first discovered in this area, and it was also the subject of my original first post on this blog!! (not 190 years ago)!! when Nigel and I made the trip down there 10 years ago. That was my only previous experience with this species, and that time I also managed some reasonable shots of the males and females. This time I only managed to get shots worth keeping of the male. However, the main purpose of the trip was for Lisa to see this tiny skipper, and we certainly didn't need to search for long as there were 100s of them in the small area we covered. Once again, the condition of most was a little worn, but this species does have a very long flight season, so there were sure to be some fresher ones out there.

Eventually Lisa spotted a male that looked pretty fresh, and after she had taken a few images I had a go. Although it did keep moving, it didn't fly far before settling again. All of the skippers kept landing deep in the grass, which made it very difficult to get good shots, but this little male did settle just the once higher up the grass and I managed a couple of quick shots of it in a clearer position.

Male Lulworth Skipper.

The only problem with stalking the skippers in the long grasses was the possibility of picking up ticks. One point when I stopped for a drink of water I took off my rucksack and found a tick crawling over the rucksack. We then realised that despite being careful there was a chance we may have collected some. 

At the end of the day we sat down on the benches just below the car park and celebrated with some gorgeous home made Devon ice cream.

It was the following morning that, despite thorough searches that had revealed no ticks the previous evening, that we had indeed managed to collect a few with Lisa coming out on top 11-4. Her blood is obviously more tasty than mine!! At least we have now had a lot of practice at removing ticks!!

Sunday 25 June 2023

A Marbellous Summer.

 Each year I look forward to the first Marbled White butterfly flying, as I regard this species as one of the most photogenic species we have, this despite it being principally 'black and white'!!

I am lucky to have several sites within walking distance from home, and indeed, my first sighting this year was on my home patch on the 12th June. 

Since then numbers have built steadily, especially in my local meadow that is called The Marbled Meadow due to the large numbers seen here. This particular site was a few days behind, but once the Marbled Whites start to emerge I try to get some images before they become a little worn.

My first attempt was only half hearted at the end of a long walk and was only a few shots as I passed through the meadow.

Male Marbled White on Agrimony.

The following morning I decided to have a more focussed attempt at getting a few images. I was eventually rewarded by a newly emerged individual that performed well for me as it tried to warm up in the hazy sunshine, fluttering around the Agrimony. 

Male Marbled White on Agrimony.

I then found another one that had a slight kink in the wing. This one was on a Pyramidal Orchid and I managed a couple of quick shots before it moved on.

Male Marbled White on Pyramidal Orchid.

I was also pleased when a very fresh male Small Skipper landed on a tall grass stem at the edge of the path. 

Male Small Skipper.

It was a fabulous hour or so spent in the meadow.

Numbers of the Marbled White have grown quite considerably since then and last night I witnessed an extraordinary sight of 100s of them going to roost. Certainly the highest number of Marbled Whites I have ever seen in a small area. Some grass stems had double figures trying to roost, whilst all around there were countless flying low over the meadow trying to find space to roost.

Friday 16 June 2023

Marsh Fritillary.

 I have several sites that I do like to visit and most of these are not too far from home so I can easily get there when the conditions are right, however, there are a handful of sites that are further away so I only get to them every other year or more.

Martin Down is one of these sites. It's an awful long drive to do too often, however, when we are staying in Worthing it is at least an hour nearer!!

Arriving on an early morning in mid May it wasn't long before we started to see things of interest with some of the wonderful bird life in the area. A gorgeous male Stonechat was posing in a bush that Lisa tried to get a little closer to. The bird then flew over our head to a further bush. As I wasn't too worried about getting a Stonechat photo I stayed put, but then the bird flew back over to my area and posed in such a wonderful position that it would have been rude not to take advantage.

Male Stonechat.

The next sighting was of an Adder basking in the early morning sunshine. Although it was tucked into the bushes it was worth photographing, as it was shortly going to be sloughing its skin, shown by the cloudy eyes.

Male Adder.

The main purpose of the visit was for Lisa to see her first ever Marsh Fritillary. It appears it wasn't the best year for the species this year and it was sometime before Lisa spotted one. Although we did see several more during the visit this one was the best condition one we saw, it was also the best poser as we saw it before the temperature got unusually warm. I even managed to get a few photos of him, which wasn't really the plan, but when you have a really good one that moves only small distances between posing I took advantage.

Male Marsh Fritillary.

Burnt Orchids are also worth seeing at Martin Down with family groups of them, along with the scarce plant, the Field Fleawort, which I have recently become familiar with as it has now been found on my local patch.

Burnt Orchid groups.

Field Fleawort.

We also saw huge numbers of Small Blue, several Grizzled Skippers, as species that has been very hard to find locally this year, lots of Brown Argus and Common and Adonis Blue.

It was a very long but enjoyable visit as ever!!

Tuesday 6 June 2023

'Common' Club-tail and other Dragons.

 I have only managed to see the not so common Common Club-tail Dragonfly on one other occasion, and that was back in 2017, so this year, I was determined to see these brilliant dragonflies again.

It was also a totally new species for Lisa, and as the site is also only 30-40 minutes away from her home it is much easier to get to from there. In just over a week we have made the most of this year being a particularly good season for them too by visiting the site twice.

Not only are there reasonable numbers of this rare dragonfly, but there are also enormous quantities of Banded Demoiselles and a variety of other odonata species.

By visiting the same area twice we have also worked out the favoured area of the river for the Club-tails and seen their behaviour, both territorial, and where they like to rest up. At one point I had 4 males flying around me trying to win the territorial battle for the favoured bush. In the end I took far more photographs than I needed to, but at least I now have plenty of shots, although it was only the males we were seeing most of the time. The only female we saw rested just briefly on a bush before shooting off in the reeds and disappearing, probably egg laying?

Male Common Club-tail.

Male Common Club-tail on his look out perch.

Male Common Club-tail.

Male Common Club-tail.

Male Common Club-tail.

Female Common Club-tail. (our only sighting of a female).

On our walk along the river the many Banded Demoiselles were often trying to pair up. We did see several matings, which were quite a short encounter. Only one encounter really gave us a good photo opportunity when the pair were perched on a lovely reed.

Mating Banded Demoiselles.
 It looks as though he is celebrating scoring!!

A sparkling Female Banded Demoiselle.

2023 is looking a particularly poor year for many butterfly species, but dragonflies and damselflies seem to be doing extremely well. On some of my other local trips I have been seeing plenty of other species and have managed a few photos that are hopefully worth posting.

Immature Scarce Chaser.

Male Scarce Chaser.

Broad-bodied Chaser.

Broad-bodied Chaser.

Female Beautiful Demoiselle.

Blue-tailed Damselfly.

Male Hairy Dragonfly.

Male Hairy Dragonfly.

Male Beautiful Demoiselle.

Mating Azure Damselflies.

Friday 2 June 2023

Spring Butterfly Adventures.

 Despite this Spring being extremely poor for most species of butterfly I have been very lucky with some of my sightings, with some rarities and unexpected species, as well as some others showing themselves well for my camera.

It has been nice being inspired to travel a little further afield a couple of times with Lisa, as well as a couple of reconnaissance trips for my Naturetrek tours to check on sites before the tour. With 2 mating pairs of Duke of Burgundy, one on the recce trip with Lisa, and then another on the actual Naturetrek tour. Green Hairstreak have posed a couple of times for me, with two individuals standing out. Other highlights have been listening to several Nightingale, with one in full song whilst a Turtle Dove was also purring nearby.

A selection of some of the species seen.

Male Orange-tip.

Green Hairstreak.

Green Hairstreak.

Mating Duke of Burgundy.

Th 2nd Mating Pair of Duke of Burgundy. This pair we saw the start of the courtship right through to the full mating. When the female landed on this leaf, the male landed just behind her, fluttering around her before coupling up. They were still there 30 minutes later and possibly longer as we left them alone to get on with their pairing.

Male Wood White.

Wood White preparing to roost.

Small Copper.