Monday, 26 June 2017

25th June - All You Gotta Do Is Walk Away And Pass Me By

For several reasons my plans changed today.  The forecast had not been brilliant and the days started overcast, but around midday the sun came out, and I was in Winchester!  When I got home it was still quite warm, and there were still patches of blue sky about, but not as much as around midday.  However I decided to take a walk around Old Down, the lesson I have learnt during the recent short heatwave is that butterflies do not need hot weather, it just has to be warm.

I parked at the pond and walked around checking the damselflies, but there were only Azures.  I walked from the pond towards Old Down.  Above the bramble on the left hand side I saw what I thought were two Small Tortoiseshells, but as one settled back on the bramble it was definitely bigger, and the wing colour completely wrong.  It was in fact a rather pristine Painted Lady, definitely not an arrived migrant.

It didn't stay long, and was off over into the field, and after walking around to the other side I couldn't find it.

Not a bad start.  As I stood on the edge of the field I watched a distant Kestrel carry prey off to a loud calling young bird somewhere in the trees around the pond.  Above me a Yellowhammer called from the wires, and it was carrying a caterpillar, there must be a nest nearby.

Then over the pond I picked up a Swift, It flew over.  Swifts are not a common bird around Four Marks, there are breeding colonies in Alton and Alresford, but we only see them as they pass through.  At this time of year this is probably either a failed breeder or one that has finished for the year and is now on the return migration.  To back this up there have been several reports of birds heading out to sea from Portland in the last week.

I headed into Old Down and noticed that at the end of the field there was a large covering of daisies, I walked around here but couldn't find any other butterflies than Meadow Browns, but I was taken by this Hover Fly.

This is Helophilus pendulus and its scientific name means "dangling marsh-lover" (from Greek helo-, "marsh", -phil, "love", Latin pend-, "hang"). It is a very common species in Britain, where it is the commonest Helophilus species; it occurs as far north as the Shetland Islands, and also has a common name 'Sun Fly' although this is probably based on a mis-reading of helo- as helio-.

Walking into the wood I was greeted by the first of what would be many Meadow Browns, but amongst them was an orange butterfly.  Commas this year had been hard to find but it appears that the second flight are easier to see.

I turned off the main path walking through many more Meadow Browns.  I was heading for the Kitwood path in the hope I may be able to find a White Admiral.  However the sun went in, and there was little moving.  The Meadow Browns were in amongst the lovely grasses that were alongside the main path.

One female Meadow Brown, which unusually looks a lot better than the male sat up on a leaf with a nice dark background.

I checked the bramble along the Kitwood path, but still only Meadow Browns.  Then the sun came out and the butterflies took off, and were joined by a Southern Hawker dragonfly chasing them.  While it chased them it never made any effort to catch them.  Getting close then turning away as if realising that maybe they were not what it wanted.  Finally it settled on a bramble flower and you could see the distinctive black stripes on the thorax that tell it apart from the similar Emperor dragonfly that had been present at the pond earlier inthe month.

With the sun out another butterfly species appeared on the dry path in front of me, a Speckled Wood.  When it took off it too was chased by the Southern Hawker, and again rejected when it got close.

I walked down to the main path, and here there was a small triangle of grass in seed.  Once again many Meadow Browns, but also a Green-veined White which eventually settle on a nettle leaf.

I was about to walk on when a large butterfly buzzed me, and then flew strongly around the grass.  It was a Red Admiral, and was very busy buzzing around the grass, alighting and then moving on quickly as if testing to see if there was anything in the grasses, maybe a suitable mate.  At one point it briefly settled on my shoulder, before continuing its search.

I walked down towards the West End of the wood, disturbing many Meadow Browns once again from the bramble and the grass around the footpath.  I don't recall ever seeing so many butterflies in Old Down, there were literally clouds of them rising in front of me as I walked, quite an amazing sight.

As I reached the open area at the end of the path there was a bit of variation, a Comma sat, wings closed on a leaf, The shape of the wings has a sort of surreal look about, like the head of a tree person.  It was also possible to clearly see the white "C" that for some reason gives the butterfly its name 

Another view from the other side, like the trees in Lord of the Rings.

At the end of the path I stopped to look out over the field of wheat, what you don't get from the still photograph is the movement in the ears of wheat, and the sound as the breeze rustles them.

I walked back through the clouds of meadow Browns, and then headed back towards the pond.  Another Comma was sitting on a leaf, this time with teh wings open, and it looked like a butterfly once again.

Before i left, I thought it only right to at least photograph another Mesdow Brown to acknowledge the vast numbers present today.  Impossible to count but there must have easily been hundreds.  This is a female again, this time with wings open, sitting, waiting, for the advances of one of the many males around her.

With all the Meadow Browns I had probably overlooked any Ringlets, but I finally found one as I was about to leave the wood.  It settled, wings closed in amongst the leaves.

Back home with the clouds now fully covering the sky the House Martins were busy catching insects around the trees.  The young in the nest above the back garden have fledged and I noticed the House Sparrows inspecting the nest the other day, but I suspect the House Martins will raise another brood there.  At the Front of the house the young are still calling loudly and must be close to fledging, the parent busily bringing in food.

Despite no bright sunshine it was warm and muggy, and this probably contributed to the numbers of butterflies about, albeit many brown ones.  Nevertheless, it was an interesting walk with some lovely photo opportunities.  This was my 499th post on this blog, will the 500th be able to deliver something special?

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