Sunday, 21 July 2013

20th July - I'm Admiral of Nothing at All

Frustratingly the morning was not the clear blues skies of previous days, but sunny spells, it also didn't feel as hot.  I headed off to Old Down in the hope that this would not stop the butterflies.  First stop though was the pond.  The water once again was covered in midges and flies, and there were Damsel Flies on the bank, and the lily pads, while a male Emperor Dragonfly flew in large circles over the water, occasionally flying up to catch an insect.

This Common Blue Damselfly sat nicely on a reed.

While on the water I found a new Damsel Fly, this is a Red-eyed Damselfly, and as well as this male close to the bank, there were a pair in the middle of the pond laying eggs.

Leaving the pond, I walked to the wood.  There were a few Gatekeepers by the cottage, a traditional site for these little butterflies.

In the wood, the thistles are growing really high, well over eight feet high.  The flowers though were an attraction to the hover flies, this one is from the genus Heliophilious

Once again an orange butterfly caught my attention, but once again it was a Comma.  The orange colour is very vivid against the lush green of the brambles and nettles.

Once again there were many white and brown butterflies about, but some of the whites were a little more interesting.  This is a Green-veined White, and they were more prepared to settle than the other whites.

The Peacock butterfly is usually dismissed as a common species, and overlooked, but the pattern on the upper wings is very exquisite, and against the black background looks superb.

I walked around the more open paths, stopping to wait around the sunny areas, on the path towards Brislands there was another Emperor Dragonfly hawking around the trees, but no other new butterflies.  I walked back to the crossroads, and could hear a Sparrowhawk calling from within the wood.  Above I could also hear Swallows, and I eventually was able to see them flying around the tops of the trees.

I took the path towards the west end, and again just stood by the bramble patches waiting for the sun to come out.  With one bit of sunshine a larger orange butterfly flew down from the trees and across the bramble.  It was Dark-green Fritillary, but it didn't stop.  I waited, but it didn't return, so I made my way back to the path towards Old Down cottage.  Another Fritillary flew around me, but never stopped to allow a photograph.  As I stood waiting, hoping, it would return I noticed a grey insect fly by.  I searched the bramble, and could just make it out through the leaves and flowers.

I only managed this one shot, and you can see it is a White Admiral, but it was off and away.  Again I waited to see if it would return, but it didn't.  I set off again back to the other path, and the other patches of bramble.  I stood watching Meadow Browns, and Ringlets as I waited for that special moment.  Then in front of me, and butterfly just dropped down and settled on the leaves in front of me.

I had hoped I could find a new butterfly today, and this was it, during the rest of the morning I saw four in total, which was really nice.

I walked back to the main path again, and watched another Emperor Dragonfly.  It would fly around the bushes, and every so often would look to settle on a grass, but its weight would drag it down.  I thought it strange that it wanted to settle on the grass when there was plenty of firmer plants around.  However it did this several times, and I suspect it was a hunting tactic to see if anything came off the grass it could eat.

As I walked around I found a few Speckled Woods, this one looks a little tatty sitting on a dock leaf.

I saw what looked like a Large White settled on a leaf, as I got closer it was buzzed by a Small White, but it didn't move so I got closer and could see it was a male Brimstone.

I decided to walk to another part of the wood.  This revealed another White Admiral, but more of interest was a family party of Marsh Tits  calling from the nearby trees.

As you would expect for July there was not that much bird activity, but every so often there would be a Chiffchaff burst into song, and as I watched the first White Admiral there was a Blackcap singing.  But almost everywhere was the sound of Blue and Great Tits calling.

I made my way back to the open areas, and finally managed to pin down a Large White.

They always look lovely on the thistle heads.  The Meadow Browns were now almost everywhere, and every so often you would come across pairs mating.  This pair were coupled together, but were being annoyed by a another female.  It would wait for the pair to settle then would buzz them, and the two would struggle to fly off, settling quickly only to be buzzed again.  In this shot you can see the difference between the two sexes, the male being larger and with a much larger eye on the wing.

I decided that that was going to be the best I would find today, so I headed back out of the wood, I wanted to check the field that had been so productive on Tuesday.  As I left the wood, another Gatekeeper sat on the leaves in the hedge by the cottage.

I was shocked as I climbed the style, the lovely grasses and thistles that had attracted the butterflies last week were gone.  The farmer had cut it all down, and it looked very bare.

I don't understand, I thought these areas were left to encourage wild life, and it was, so to cut it down, has completely defeated the objective, and if those butterflies were laying eggs, they have been destroyed.  It would seem to me the border has been left for the farmer to gather silage, which can't be right.

As I walked back this Peacock butterfly seemed to sum up the feeling as it sat on the soil that remained.

A succesful morning, a new Damselfly, and a new butterfly, lets see what this week brings.

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