This week saw us move into Summer but not with the required weather, it was cold and overcast up until Friday, when at last we saw the sunshine once again. We were away over the weekend so missed Saturday, but today saw it warm up considerably. we arrived back from Portland at midday, and I had the opportunity to go out in the afternoon, hopefully when the butterflies would be about.
Walking along Brislands I was once again taken by the amount of Hawthorn blossom that was still on the trees, some of it a blush of pink and white.
As I reached the turn for Gradwell I was faced with a lovely scene. Every year the rhododendrons flower here, and every year I am taken by the beauty of the view with the soft greens and the boldness of the purple flowers. They seem to be a little late this year but non the worse for it.
A little further on I noticed some activity in one of the gardens, movement at the base of a pile of branches. I waited and a Mistle Thrush appeared and I could see it was feeding a recently fledged bird.
As I came out form the cover of the trees I could hear Skylark around me, a distant Yellowhammer and the air filled with the heady smell of the Cow Parsley that was now all in full bloom.
A little further on and I heard a Whitethroat sing. I stood and waited to see if I could get a glimpse of the owner, but it wouldn't show. Just after I had decided to walk on it burst from the hedge in its song flight. I turned to watch it drop back into the hedge to start the process all over again. One bird that was showing was a group of Goldfinches, they flew over me with that dipping flight and jangling song, then settled on the hedge close to the fronds of Bracken.
Close to the entrance to the wood is a pile of cow dung, and this is an attraction not just to the fly tippers who have deposited a divan bed on it but to the insects, and then consequently the birds. I watched as a Meadow Pipit collected insects in its beak, a sure sign that they were nesting close by.
With the sun quite hot I went to check the edge of the wood where the trees and grass face to the sun. Well the trees faced the sun but there was no longer any grass, as our wildlife friendly farmer has now ploughed right up to the edge of the wood. Not sure why this is, is it to get a greater yield? Or is it just a petulant way of stopping those that walk around the edge of the field. If I had to guess it would be the latter. I had hoped that this practice I had seen in the field along Gradwell would not be repeated elsewhere, but that would not seem to be the case.
I walked into the wood and then took the diagonal path. Here the fallen trees and branches have been taken over by the bramble and bracken, and where the bear wood was an attraction for insects and butterflies it was now totally green. From the path I headed own along the old logging track, disturbing Speckled Wood butterflies as I went, there brown and yellow colouring merging perfectly with the dappled sunlight coming through the canopy.
There were quite a few insects about, several large Hornets passed me, and hover flies and bees could be seen hanging in the parts where the sunlight would catch them. I found this fly, but was unable to identify it yet.
There were also several Silver Ground Carpet moths flying.
I made my way to the West End as I wanted to walk down through the paddocks, but when I reached there and walked out of the wood I was faced with this.
The field and footpath ploughed right up to the edge of the wood. I was difficult to walk across and I fell over so gave up. Looking down towards Court Lane there is another footpath that comes up alongside the field. As you can see it is now impossible to walk safely along this.
I will keep a watch on the situation and if necessary make contact with EHDC over the footpaths, as for the wildlife strips we have now probably lost more land through these being ploughed up than that used for new housing in the village.
I headed back into the wood and along the open footpath, this area is now perfect for butterflies.
Last month there were many Orange Tips here, these now seem to have passed, but there were several other white butterflies about including this Green-veined White.
There were also at least five Red Admirals patrolling the open area, flying fast after any white butterfly that came close.
There had been several Blackbirds calling in alarm, typical for this time of year as Magpies take an unhealthy interest in nests of recently fledged birds, but here in Old Down the danger is more likely to come form a quite beautifully marked bird, the Jay.
This one appeared as two Blackbirds were making a hell of a noise. Just after the photograph the two Blackbirds did manage to chase it off.
At the Ash tree copse I could hear a Chiffchaff singing and also one calling. The bird calling was low in a bush surrounded by bramble, a typical Chiffchaff nesting site. The calling bird went from sight, but the singing bird continued out of sight. As I tried to see this bird I noticed a small, what I thought was a white butterfly drop onto a sunlit leaf. As it turned I thought at first it was actually blue, but as I moved to get a better view I could see it was in fact a metallic green. Bingo! A Green Hairstreak, the first one here in Old Down Wood.
I wrote in the Away Blog about how this is the more widespread of the hairstreak butterflies and that they can form small colonies, this is the first here, and is it as a result of the clearing out of trees in this part of the wood, maybe some good news for once.
I moved to get closer, and was able to get a good view of the black and white hoops on the legs.
As I moved again I disturbed it and it was off as quickly as it arrived. This was the 28th species of butterfly I have found on the patch.
Moving on up the path I came across a Small White on the brambles investigating the new flowers on the bush.
I turned towards Swellinghill at the crossroads, and was disappointed not to find anymore butterflies along the open path. I came out of the wood and walked to the pond where I could only find one Azure Damselfly, settled on the lily pads.
From the pond I headed down to Kitwood, and across the meadow and field, I was a little concerned that the meadow had been cut once again, I hope the owner continues to let it grow again this year.
Walking through the wood there was very little about, and it wasn't until I was almost home that I found something of interest, a family party of Long-tailed Tits flying across the road and then moving through the trees calling incessantly.
As I watched the young tits I noticed another small butterfly, and this time it was blue. I begged it to settle and eventually it did, appropriately on a Holly leaf, at last a Holly Blue to photograph.
A fitting end to a butterfly day, a new butterfly for the patch, and after a long wait, a photograph, and not just a passing blue image, of a Holly Blue. June is always tough, there is a doldrum period at the start and it isn't until the end of the month