Wednesday, 17 July 2013

16th July - You May See the Floating Motion Of a Distant Pair Of Wings

Summer is well and truly with us now, with the tree's leaves beginning to look tired, and thick vegetation everywhere.  But at last we also have entered into the dog days of summer.  For at least the last ten days we have enjoyed sunshine and warmth, and the signs are that this will continue through the rest of the month.  With the dog days though the bird life pretty much vanishes, I read on a web site early this week that the autumn migration had started on the south coast, but not here.  That said there were sizeable flocks of swallows chattering above me as I walked along Brislands Lane far more than I would have thought were resident or fledged birds.

The Swift sightings have continued, with at least three being seen over the garden on Sunday the 14th, and a single again over on the15th.  With warm clear skies there is every chance that more wanderers will be seen.

I set off for an evening walk, and decided to check the area of land along Brislands that is waiting to be developed.  It is covered in tall Grasses, Thistles and Ragweed, and I hoped I might be able to find some butterflies.  As I walked up the slope to the field, Meadow Browns fluttered around the Bramble flowers, they were very mobile as usual, but a large Skipper was more confiding.

I walked up into the field, disturbing more meadow Browns as I waded through the long grass.  I was not alone as their was a young man walking around the field, and every so often he would stop to pick something up.  As we both approached each other I asked him what he was doing.  It turns out he was checking for reptiles.  The developer of the site has engaged with his company to work on clearing the site of reptiles.  Around the boundary there is a reptile fence, and any that are caught are deposited beyond the boundary.  They are tasked to do 30 mandatory visits, and then after that they have to have five clear visits where no animals are caught.  He is about half way through the visits and so far every visit has caught Slow Worms.  Today he had found four, which he showed me in his bag, and in total they have caught and removed over 60, which I found amazing.  I asked about the Dormouse boxes that can be found in the hedgerow, and apparently they have not seen any this year, but there were some seen last year.  I left him to continue checking the felt mats, and returned to the butterflies.

As well as the Large Skippers there were a few small Skippers, this seemed to prefer the thistle heads, that were growing amongst the grasses, they are a lighter orange than the large, and look a lot more delicate.

Little splashes of red could be seen on the stalks of the thistles and Rag weed, these were the infamous Blood Suckers, or to give them their correct name, the Common Red Soldier Beetle.

Every so often an orange butterfly would flutter by, or take off out of the grass, but when I managed to get a clear view it was always a Small Tortoiseshell.  However they are really very beautiful insects, despite the fact they are only a Tortoiseshell!

I finally managed to find some Meadow Browns that were prepared to rest on the plants.  These butterflies are very mobile, and due to their colour are very quick to warm up, to fuel their flights.  when at rest it is almost always with the wings closed.

I had spent quite a bit of time here in the field, and wanted to make my way to Old down, so I started to leave, only to be distracted by another orange butterfly.  This time I knew it wasn't a tortoiseshell and I waited patiently as it flew around the bramble and nettles, before it finally settles down.  A Comma, not what I hoped for (a Fritillary), but still a nice find at this time of year.

As I left the Comma, and large blue insect flew past me, and I could see it was a type of damsel fly.  I hoped it would stop, and it did settling on the flower of a bramble.  This is a Banded Demoiselle, a beautiful Damsel Fly.  This is a male, the females are greener.  There is a dark band in the wings that give it the name, but this is only found in the male.  If you look at the thorax, you can see it is a beautiful blue green colour.  Where it has come from is an interesting question as there is no sizeable body of water close by, so I as the larvae can  tolerate muddy water and overwinter buried in mud, I would assume possible a garden pond.  This is a first for me on the patch.

I finally set off along Brislands towards Old Down, Large and Small Whites could be seen along the hedges by the side of the road, and every so often a dark Ringlet would come over the hedge, and fly past me, frustrating my efforts to photograph it.

I resisted walking down the outside of the wood in the sun, and took the footpath through the middle.  Where the sun did manage to get through there would be a Meadow Brown, but little else.  I walked over the crossroads and headed towards the Old Down entrance.  The hot weather has dried out most of the puddles on the paths now, but there is one still by the cross roads and it is covered with flies.  These are I think from the family Dolichopodidae, and are known as the long-legged flies, they make up a large family of true flies with more than 7,000 described species, so I am afraid I can not be more specific than the family name.

Again the sun where it managed to break through the foliage would catch the brambles, and meadow Browns would fly and duel with each other.  I did though manage to find this Speckled Wood sitting and enjoying the last sun of the day.

And then I finally managed to get the opportunity to photograph my first Ringlet of the year.  Like the Meadow Browns, their colour means they are highly mobile, so this was a treat.

At the footpath entrance, I noticed a small patch of scented Milkweed was attracting butterflies, so I took a detour, and tramped around it in the hope that there might be something different, but all I could find were more Meadow Browns.

I came out of the wood, and was going to walk to the pond, when something made me change my mind, and I decided to check the hedge along the road from the field side.  As I climbed the style i disturbed more Meadow Browns and a few Tortoiseshells, but a little further along I saw what I had hoped for.  A Marbled White sitting quietly while nectaring on a thistle flower.

They are lovely butterflies with exquisite markings both on the upper wing, and lower wings.  A little further along the hedge one sat with its wings open, showing the pattern on the upper  side that gives its name.

I turned back towards the style, and came across a pair of Small Whites, one was on the ground and the other was fluttering above it.  The higher butterfly dropped on top of the one on the ground, and then both took off flying around each other into the the surrounding trees.  I just managed to catch them together in flight.  It think this was mating behaviour as it didn't seem like they were duelling as they stayed together.

There were a few large Skippers about and every so often a Small Skipper would buzz past.  This one took a liking to the Scented Milkweed amongst the wheat, and created quite a lovely scene.

As I was about to climb over the style, another orange butterfly caught my eye, I turned back and followed it as it flew along the side of the hedge, and when it stopped briefly on a leaf I thought it could be my first Gatekeeper of the year.  I kept watching it, and finally it settled and opened the wings to confirm it was in fact the first Gatekeeper.

I stopped of at the pond as I made my way back, and there was a lone Emperor Dragonfly circling low over the water.  However it was too dark to get any credible pictures.  I carried on towards Kitwood, and then took the path back towards Old Down.  the paddock before the main field has been left to wild flowers, and this may well warrant a look during the day, when the sun is about for insects and flowers, this evening it looked quiet, but by now the sun was low.

I walked across the field towards the wood, but apart from a few scurrying Dhur Beetles there was little about.  I walked around the outside of the wood and disturbed a few more Meadow Browns.  As I crossed to the Gradwell entrance there was once again a good sized flock of swallows flying low over the Barley.  The field is split between wheat and barley.  The barley seems to be doing much better than the wheat, and the swallows were also more interested in hawking for insects over the barley.

It was lovely to have found so many butterflies today, the heat obviously contributing to them flying at this time of day.  I will be out at the weekend and will look to explore the open glades in the woods to see if I can find some more different species.  Who knows they may be hiding the big one!  perhaps I will take a can of coke!

Talking of a big one, if you read the comments to these posts you may have seen that Smudger had seen a Monarch Butterfly in his garden in Lee-on-Solent.  Well it returned and he managed to get some video of this impressive butterfly, you can watch it here

1 comment:

  1. Some lovely butterflies on your patch Chris.Hopefully this weather will give them a much needed boost in numbers.Still ploughing through The Butterfly Isles...a definite must read, especially now! Thanks for the link. Off to Devon and Cornwall for a week. Lost Gardens of Heligan beckon on one of those days. Enjoy the great weather,looking forward to some more great Butterfly pics here :)


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