Saturday, 6 August 2022

A Blue Day

 Again needing some exercise, I set out on a warm and sunny afternoon only intending to walk a circuit of the woodland burial ground, but on a whim I nipped through the judiciously placed gap in the perimeter fence onto the Horsefield.  I immediately started seeing more butterflies; they seem few in number in the burial ground, perhaps because the council, in their wisdom, have flailed the vegetation around the edge of the path.  Whites were plentiful, although they refused to perch and some were distant but the 15 I saw were either small or large whites. Gatekeepers and meadow browns were on the wing and I was delighted to find 4 pristine small heaths.  A late brood must have emerged as many butterflies are now looking quite worn.  The find of the day, though, was the good numbers of common blues attracted to the knapweed growing at the eastern edge of the field.  The benefit of the horses on the field is that where they have been tethered the soil is disturbed and they keep the rank grasses cropped short.  This results the following year in verdant growth of birdsfoot trefoil, yellow rattle and knapweed, all attracting insects.  Amongst the male common blues were a few small brown butterflies which I assumed were females, but having compared my photographs to my field guides and checked the differences on the internet, I am more convinced that they are brown argus, which is a very satisfying find for the Horsefield.

I finished my circuit of the Horsefield and squeezed back through the fence to complete my cemetery circuit.  There were a few dragonflies on the wing and I saw both migrant Hawker and Common Darter.  I even managed a very distant shot (for a macro lens) of a male Migrant.  An excellent session.

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Female Common Blue/Brown Argus
Female Common Blue/Brown Argus
Female Common Blue/Brown Argus
Harvest Time
Male Migrant Hawker
Small Heath
Speckled Wood.

Thursday, 4 August 2022

Very Quiet on the Butterfly Front but a Welcome Visitor.

 Needing some exercise, late in the afternoon, I walked around the Woodland Burial Ground.  Things were very quiet on both the butterfly and bird fronts.  However, as I turned a corner of the perimeter path a large familiar form flew ahead of me with a tyical bounding flight: a superb green woodpecker.  Regretting not taking either binoculars or camera, I walked slowly and quietly up to where it had disappeared and was rewarded with two more close views before it flew off, it's laugh-like yaffle echoing round the site.

The few butterflies I did see included: Speckled Wood 2, Large White 1, Comma 1, Meadow Brown 1.

To view large, please click on an image. All from the archives.

Speckled Wood
Speckled Wood
Comma
Meadow Brown, male

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Rimac Rambling with Peter

 We are enjoying a wonderful few days with my brother and sister-in-law, Peter and Linda, staying with us.  Yesterday we treated ourselves to a nostalgic bike ride around our old childhood stamping ground and today we went down the coast to introduce Peter and Linda to Saltfleetby/Theddlethorpe Dunes NNR, one of my favourite locations.  We were lucky with the weather at 24C and largely sunny, although quite breezy.  Unfortunately the wind and warm temperatures made the butterflies very flighty and reluctant to perch, apart from on the plentiful common fleabane, as we were to discover.

After an easy drive we pulled into the car park at Rimac at 11.30 and set out into the dunes.  We headed for the pond and freshwater marsh hoping to find marsh helleborine still in flower but we were much too late.  There had been a good number though, evidenced by the dead flower spikes.  Dragonflies were active over the pond, especially the large and magnificent emperor dragonfly.  As normal, though, there was no chance of photography as they were constantly on the wing.  We saw several more during our visit.  Amazingly the new scrape had completely dried out and was graced by the resident herd of Lincoln Reds.

We headed south through the dunes noting both plenty of butterflies, marsh harrier and kestrel on the way.  Eventually we took the track across to the beach/saltmarsh and paid a quick visit to the remains of a Comet WWII era tank out on the beach.  This model came into use towards the end of WWII and was used up until 1958. Perhaps it was used at one time for target practice on the boming range.

We returned to the car park via the excellent path on the edge of the dunes and salt marsh.  Alongside the path were many patches of common fleabane which was very attractive for insects, especially butterflies.  There were large numbers of many species of butterfly, but the highlight for me were the 12 wall browns that we saw. I hadn't seen any Walls in this country for some years until this May when I found a few at Covenham Reservoir.  I was delighted with the large number of common blues that we saw; I have also found reasonable numbers this year on my local Gooseman's Field patch.  I have found them so scarce recently that I had taken to referring to them as uncommon blues. The results of Butterfly Conservation's Big Butterfly Count and the ongoing counts and transects by members will not come out until later this year, but on a positive note from my observations, it would appear to be a good year, perhaps because of the hot weather driven by climate change, although the drought will not be good for them. Altogether we saw 15 butterfly species as well as large numbers of ruddy darter and quite a few emperor dragonflies and migrant hawkers.

Arriving back at the car, we were ready for a sit down, drink and piece of Christmas Cake (I make 2, the second to be used for pack ups during the year!) before heading for the Lincolnshire Wolds Steam Railway and a genteel ride on the marvellous train.

To view large, please click on an image.

Mating Common Blues
Mating Common Blues
Female Common Blue
Female Common Blue
Mating Meadow Browns
Migrant Hawker
Migrant Hawker
Migrant Hawker
Painted Lady
Peacock
Ruddy Darter - male
Ruddy Darter - male
Ruddy Darter - male
Small Heath
Comet Tank
The tank and ladybirds
Peter and the Tank
Wall Brown
Wall Brown

Friday, 29 July 2022

A Big Butterfly Count

 A warm walk around the Woodland Burial Ground today to carry out a Big Butterfly Count for Butterfly Conservation.  Despite seeming quiet with few on the wing and the fact that the council have flailed the vegetation on the path around the ouside, I had a reasonable count: Large White 4, Speckled Wood 6, Small White 2, Meadow Brown 3, Gatekeeper 3, Red Admiral 1 and Peacock 1.  There also a few dragonflies present but sadly not settling: Common Darter and Migrant Hawker.

To view large, please click on an image.

Large White
Meadow Brown
Red Admiral
Speckled Wood

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

More Butterfly Counting .

 Having had a cool and windy session on The Horsefield last week I was keen to do a count in better conditions.  All worked well on the Horsefield but by the time I reached the Woodland Burial Ground it had clouded over and turned cooler.  Overall, though the weather was ideal: warm when the sun was out at 20C and a gentle breeze.  I was delighted to find 96 individuals of 11 species plus an, as yet, unidentified moth, 7 common darters and 1 migrant hawker. It was satisfying to find a painted lady and a small copper, both in pristine condition.  Sadly I couldn't get near the painted lady.  Two copulating common blues had their minds on other things and allowed a very close approach.

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Common Blue, Male
Common Blue, pair
Common Blue, pair
Unidentified moth
Unidentified moth
Small Copper
 
Small Copper
Small Copper
Small Copper
Small Copper
Small Copper
Small White
Small White

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

A New Butterfly.

 Over the weekend we visited Heather's brother in Ashwell in Hertfordshire to help celebrate Maureen's retirement.  Knowing that there was a strong colony of chalkhill blue butterflies on Therfield Heath just outside Royston I was keen to explore as July is in the height of their flight period. The heath is a nature reserve and site of special scientific interest on the chalk escarpment near Royston.  Although there is a golf course it is common land and sheep are still grazed there.  I managed to squeeze in two visits: one on Sunday morning with Malcolm and Maureen and one with Heather on Monday morning 'on the way home'!  On both occasions it was warm but very windy making photography very difficult. The blues were easy to find being right next to the car park and on the Monday I counted over 30 within an area only a few yards square.  As its name implies, this is a butterfly of chalk and limestone downland, to which it is restricted because the larval foodplant, horeshoe vetch, is similarly confined to this habitat.  The males are a lovely silver-blue whilst the females are brown as in common blues.  I was much take with the beautiful white heart-shaped mark on the underwing of both sexes.  In Britain it is restricted to southern England, south-east of a line from the Severn Estuary to the Wash

To view large, please click on an image.

Female

Male
Male
Male
Female
Male
Male