Saturday, 31 August 2013

Common Darters in flight

  I photographed these Common Darters at Croft Pascoe on the Lizard. They were flying over the small pools created in the tyre tracks of the heavy forestry machinery that had been working there earlier in the year.

  The Common Darters were flying "in tandem" over the pools and laying eggs.

  I always find photographing dragonflies in flight a challenge and these two photos are the best out of the hundred that I took!  

Monday, 26 August 2013

Dragonfly watching on Bodmin Moor

  Today we visited the pools at Cheesewring Quarry on Bodmin Moor in search of Common Hawker dragonflies. 

  We saw several Common and Southern Hawkers flying around the pools. They were accompanied by several other species, including Black and Common Darters, Large Red Damselfly and a single Beautiful Demoiselle.

  When the sun was out the hawkers flew constantly around the pool, the males fighting with each other with a clattering of wings. The males would also chase any female that dared to fly too close and we saw several pairs of both species sat in the nearby gorse bushes.

  I thought that I would try and photograph the dragonflies in flight. Never an easy subject the photographs below are the best that I managed to take. Whilst I was hoping to photograph the Common Hawkers the best two pictures I took were both of a male Southern Hawker! They were taken with my 105mm macro lens and they have both been cropped. 

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Alners Gorse, Dorset

  On Sunday John and I took a trip to Alner's Gorse reserve in Dorset in the hope of seeing both White-letter and Brown Hairstreaks. When we visited last year we only had binocular views of the White-letters so we were hoping for some closer views.

  We were not disappointed! Luckily for us these little butterflies decided they would frequent the lower flowers of the bramble bushes allowing us to see them very well without binoculars!

  We were also treated to some close views of Brown Hairstreaks feeding on the thistle flowers. 

  We had a very enjoyable day, seeing twenty species of butterfly on the reserve and the photographs below show a few of the species that we saw.

Brown Hairstreak - Male
White-letter Hairstreak
Small Copper
Silver-washed Fritillary - Valezina female
Clouded Yellow
Clouded Yellow taking off from a flower!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Butterflies in the rain!

  John had recently been told about a colony of Purple Hairstreaks in the Luxulyan valley, so we decided to have a look for them today. 

  We found the location and soon saw several Purple Hairstreaks flying around the ash and oak trees. The butterflies did not seem to mind the heavy rain showers and would just walk underneath the leaves to shelter!

  I have always found hairsteaks to be fidgety little creatures and always find it hard to get good photographs! The two pictures below are probably the best of those that I took, the first image being of a male. The second image shows the butterfly nectaring on the sap of the tree. 

I also photographed this bumblebee feeding on the Teasel flowers.

  Afterwards we paid a visit to Cabilla Woods. Unfortunately we did not see many butterflies as it was overcast and we got caught in several heavy showers....again! We did see a few Silver-washed Fritillaries together with Large White, Peacock, Meadow Brown and Brimstone.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

High Brown Fritillaries at Aish Tor, Dartmoor

  We made a trip to Dartmoor to visit Aish Tor to see the High Brown Fritillaries. We arrived quite early but the day was already warming up and butterflies were already flying around the bracken covered slopes.

  There were plenty of Dark Green Fritillaries flying to cause confusion with the High Browns but eventually after searching the hillside we found a male High Brown sitting on a patch of brambles. 

  A little later we saw a mating pair sitting on the bracken. 

  On another part of the slopes we found a female High Brown which is shown in the photographs below. A male, the butterfly on the right,  landed next to her. As he made his advances he flew off the bracken towards her and she raised her abdomen in repsonse as you can see in the photograph. Unfortunately it wasn't to be and he flew off to look for another female!

 During the day we found over 40 High Brown Fritillaries, which makes Aish Tor one of the best places in the south-west to see this rare species of butterfly.

 We also saw several other species including this Green Hairstreak.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Black Hairstreaks at Bernwood Forest, Oxford

  The Black Hairstreak, probably one of Britain's rarest butterflies has always been a butterfly that John has wanted to see. So when he received a message from Adam Hartley saying that they had been seen at Bernwood Forest we decided to take a day trip to Oxford to see them!

  We met Adam at Bernwood Forest and he guided us through the wood to the area where they had been seen known as the M40 Compensation Area. It was not long before we spotted our first Black Hairstreak flying amongst the trees. 

  Walking around the site we and the other butterfly spotters soon started to see more hairstreaks. One of the best areas where we saw several sitting on the trees was right next to the M40 motorway. Here we were watching these beautiful little butterflies and just feet away the traffic sped past. Peace and tranquility is obviously not high on a hairstreaks list of home requirements!

  It was difficult to count how many individuals we saw during our visit but reports from other visitors noting their sightings on the local butterfly website reported at least 20. 

  The photographs below are all of Male Black Hairstreaks. In the last picture the butterfly is nectaring on honeydew on the leaves.

A male Black Hairstreak hiding in the leaves!

And finally we must say thank you to Adam for taking the time to show John and I these lovely butterflies.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

There is a silver lining to every cloud!

  Whilst Saturday did not look the best of days to go butterflying, we decided to take a chance with the weather and venture out of county! Our first stop of the day was to Branscombe in Devon and for a walk along the cliffs to look for Wood White. It was raining when we arrived but we could see some breaks in the cloud so when the rain stopped we started our walk! Something tells you that when you have to put your raincoat on to go for a walk you are probably not likely to see any butterflies!

  It was a lovely walk along the coast path and we soon found ourselves in the woodland growing below the cliffs next to the beach. The sea was crashing in and there was a view of the coast towards Sidmouth.  

  Returning to the car, something white caught John's eye and he discovered a Wood White roosting in the grass right next to the coast path! This delicate little butterfly is quite unusual in its appearance, its antennae are bent over at the end and when at rest its body is completely hidden by its wings.

  John then found another Wood White on the other side of the path hiding underneath a leaf in the grass. The photograph below shows the second butterfly.

  Our next visit was to Cerne Abbas, with a stop at the Cerne Giant viewpoint! We had a walk along the hillside but it was quite windy and any butterflies we saw flew quickly by! We found several species, Marsh Fritillary, Grizzled and Dingy Skipper, Common Blue, Small Heath and Brown Argus.

  Our final destination of the day was Martin Down Nature Reserve. On went the raincoat again as we walked across the reserve! We met a group of people coming back from a walk and they told us that they had just been looking at the Burnt Tip Orchids. They kindly told us where to find them, and we counted 19 flower spikes of this lovely orchid.

  Our last butterfly of the day was this male Adonis Blue. He spent most of his time with his wings shut, but briefly showed his beautiful bright blue wings when the sun shone through a break in the clouds.

  And finally, I photography this growing thistle flower as I liked the symmetry of the flower head.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Heath Fritillary at Greenscoombe Wood, Luckett

  On Sunday John and I decided to take a trip to see the Heath Fritllaries at Greenscombe Wood, Luckett. 

  We saw about 35 to 40 Heath Fritillaries. Some were just emerging, their wings still curved and not fully expanded.

  Being a sunny and hot day the butterflies were very active making it difficult to take photographs of them, but to be surrounded by these lovely butterflies more than made up for the lack of photos. Sometimes I think it is just better to stand back and enjoy the spectacle of what you are seeing rather than trying to get a photograph.

  We found a mating pair sitting on some bracken. The female seemed to be attracting several males and while they were mating other male butterflies were landing near them and on them trying to muscle in on the female! At one point there was the mating pair plus another two males. Eventually the males gave in and left the happy couple in peace!

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Marsh Fritillaries near Mullion Cove, Lizard.

  On Sunday John and I decided to visit the cliffs near Mullion Cove, on the Lizard to look for the Marsh Fritillaries that are known to be in the area.

  It was a beautiful day for a walk along the cliffs and there were lots of flowers to look at along the way. ( There will be another post showing the flowers that we saw.) 

  There were many Common Blue butterflies together with Wall Brown's and a Small Copper. We eventually found one Marsh Fritillary resting on a Thrift flower head. Clouds hid the sun for a while, so as the temperature had dropped slightly the butterfly was happy sitting still on the flower. Perfect for a photo!

  As we walked a little further along the cliff, the sun came out and the temperature started to rise and all of a sudden we were surrounding by many Marsh Fritillaries flying over the cliffs. There must have been over forty individuals. The next two photographs are of male butterflies.

  I then found a pair of mating fritillaries slightly hidden in the grass. We noticed that the female was an aberrant form. These are very rare in small colonies like this one.

  The male also had slightly different markings and was quite a dark in appearance. The next photograph shows a close up of his head - this is one of things that I like about macro photography is that you see things that you would not normally see, for example the dark markings on his eyes and the fur on his face. 

  The final photograph shows a close up on the underneath of the hindwing and with the macro lens it is possible to see the individual scales that make up the pattern on the butterfly's wing.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Cuckoos, Damselflies and Sundews

  A visit to Bodmin Moor this morning produced some of the best views of Cuckoos that I have ever had. We had at least four individuals which showed very well. There were at least two females and we were treated to their strange bubbling call.

  Most of the time they would sit up on either prominent rocks or the tops of the Hawthorn trees. We also watched them fly down to the ground to catch caterpillars.

  The two photographs I have shown below have been cropped as the Cuckoos were always some way away from us, and the flight shot was captured as it the Cuckoo flew from the rocks to catch a caterpillar.

  On the way home we paid a quick visit to Breney Common nature reserve but it was a little quiet on the butterfly front. We did see a lot of Large Red Damselflies and found this particular individual enjoying an afternoon snack!

In another part of the reserve we found some Sundews. 

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Grizzled Skippers at Penhale Sands

  We visited Penhale Sands this morning to look for Grizzled Skippers. As the sun warmed the ground they started to become more active and some were feeding on Ground Ivy flowers. Closer inspection of each individual revealed that with the Grizzled Skippers there were also some of the rare abberation form "taras". This differs to the normal Grizzled by having more elongated white markings on the upper fore wings.

  We saw at least four individuals of the "tarus" form and even within this abberation the markings seemed to vary slightly. 

  The first photograph is of a standard Grizzled Skipper and the photographs that follow are of the "tarus" form showing the different markings.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Haldon Hill Butterfly Walk and a return to Yarner Woods

  Today John and I took another trip into Devon, this time visiting the Butterfly walk at Haldon Hill.

  Several butterfly species were seen, including Orange Tip, Brimstone and Green-veined White. The Pearl-bordered Fritillaries were also on the wing and were looking very fresh. as was the single Dingy Skipper that we found.

  We also saw our first damselfly for the year, a male Large Red.

  Of birdie interest, the Tree Pipits were singing and displaying, and the lovely melodic song of the Mistle Thrush rang out across the forest. They were many Siskins flying over and we also saw two Yellowhammers.

Pearl-bordered Fritillary
Dingy Skipper
Dingy Skipper
  We decided to pay another visit to Yarner Woods on the way home. Since our last visit a fortnight ago the trees were almost in full leaf. We spent a couple of hours in the tranquility of the woods watching and listening to the Pied Flycatchers and Wood Warblers. A lovely way to spend an afternoon.

Sunlight through Mountain Ash leaves.