Thursday 24 May 2012

A very Pleasant Surprise on Patch

Yesterday afternoon I went out looking for more butterflies, I didn't have anything rare or unusual in mind just Common Blues. I knew of a good spot for them and headed for that, it was swelteringly hot ( yippee!)  so I was very hopeful that good numbers would be on the wing. I saw one almost immediately and very nice it was too.

Lovely new male Common Blue

As I wandered along looking for any good photo opportunities, my eye was drawn to some movement, it was two butterflies engaged in an aerial battle. They were small, dainty and orange and looked for all the world like a couple of fritillaries to me. They couldn't be though, could they? After all I'd never seen fritillaries of any sort here before . I decided I must have been letting my imagination run wild and they were just going to be a couple of Wall Browns. I saw one land and when I got to where it was I was astonished to see this....

No mistaking this...
 A pristine shiny new male Marsh Fritillary!

I never saw the second individual again but it was getting late in the afternoon hence all the butterflies were becoming much less active. Today I went back with Dave and we  almost immediately saw four males up in an aerial battle. There were definitely five individuals and quite probably seven. They were all males and all very new. As far as we are both aware this is a previously unrecorded colony. It will be very interesting to see how many individuals eventually emerge here and to see if they breed successfully and reappear next year. I'll definitely be keeping a close eye on developments. There are historical records of Marsh Fritillary in East Devon but I'm not sure how long ago the last ones were. It was certainly a massive thrill to find something so unexpected. Here's some photos of a couple of today's individuals.

Marsh Fritillaries... On patch too!

We also saw lots of Dingy Skippers which seem to be having a very good year this year. A first for both of us was spotting and photographing a mating pair.

Dingy Skippers

Larval web of Small Eggar Moth
I think the caterpillars were feeling a bit too warm and were all dangling down below the web.

Curlew Sandpiper

A rather lovely partial summer plumaged Curlew Sandpiper was showing well on Black Hole Marsh yesterday evening with a few Dunlin and a single Ringed Plover.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Cream-coloured Courser and Small Blue

I nearly didn't go for the Cream-coloured Courser in Herefordshire yesterday, what a massive mistake that would have been! I only heard about it in the morning when I got a text from Bun. He wanted to go, obviously! I was umming and ahhing, not really feeling up to the long drive and eventually decided not to bother. Then I heard that Nick was going to go after work and that would mean that I'd only have to drive to Bristol, so that's what I did. We got to Nick's house at four-ish and were looking at the Cream-coloured Courser at six-thirty. There were only around fifty people there and the bird which was always more or less in view, was not only seriously good looking but also highly entertaining ( well, some of us live very quiet lives so are very easily entertained). I'm so glad I decided to go. We were discussing just how attractive the bird was when Bun enthused "It couldn't be any better looking" to which I replied "Yes it could. It could be blue". Talking of which on Saturday I finally had success in my search for a local Small Blue, with one on Axmouth Beach in the exact same place as the previous two years. On Sunday I saw two more, this time on Hooken Beach near Branscombe, but only one in the same place today. These are just the first few males and I think there's still a while to go before their peak emergence. On Sunday I didn't see any Wood Whites but there were oodles of 'em today. I saw around a dozen and Dave saw a lot more further towards Branscombe. Several females were egg-laying so they haven't been wasting any time since emerging yesterday and today!

Cream-coloured Courser Twitch

 Open it to see if you know know you want to.

This was our cue to head for home. The bird flies off to the 'sunny side of the mountain'
If you enlarge this photo you can see the bird just by the left ear of the bloke near the centre.

Bun , Nick and a bloke who'd obviously come straight from the office.
 Actually there were quite a few of those.

You're looking the wrong way! look at this....

 Back of its head's the best bit! look...

Very, very handsome. Better in blue?

Uhm? On second thoughts, I think not!

A short video clip..I Couldn't keep up with it!

Butterflies and Stuff

First Small Blue of the year. This one on Axmouth beach looks a little worn already so probably emerged a day before I spotted it on Saturday.

Today's male on Hooken Beach is very fresh in comparison.

Wood White.  
The female in the bottom photo is egg-laying.

Mining Bee, Anthrophora plumipes

Plume Moth. Platyptilia gonodactyla?

Green Tiger Beetles.
Horribly beautiful or beautifully horrible?!

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Dukes and Pearls

Two days of sunny weather over the weekend just couldn't go to waste so I spent the majority of both of them looking at butterflies. Saturday I went just over the border into Somerset to a couple of sites for Duke of Burgundy. It was two weeks later than I'd seen them here last year but that was exceptionally early. I met up with Dave and Doug at the first sight where we eventually saw four males, a female and our first Common Blue of the season. We moved on a few miles to the second site, Thurlbear Quarrylands, where we again saw a single female and four males. We were also lucky enough to find a mating pair here. Grizzled Skippers were much  in evidence too and were the first I've seen this year. The Bird's Nest Orchids which grow here were only just pushing up and not even really in bud yet, which is much later than previous years I've seen them here. A couple of Nightingales were in good voice even though the weather was warm-ish and sunny, they are much more vocal in overcast gloomy conditions, probably because it resembles dusk. Thurlbear Quarryland really is a 'magical' place. One of my favourites locally.

Sunday, I joined Dave and Hazel on a  bit of a 'Pearl-bordered Fritilllary marathon'. We looked at three sites in the Haldon Forest area and then moved on to a site on Dartmoor in the afternoon. There were good numbers at two of the Haldon sites with most of the butterflies being very newly emerged. By the time we reached Dartmoor however, a strong and cold north-westerly breeze had developed causing any butterflies to 'lay low'. We did see quite a few in the more sheltered areas though, again almost all of them looked to have emerged that very morning.

Duke Of Burgundy

 Four different males, the last one has unusually pale hind wings.


Male and female....Obviously!

Grizzled Sipper


Pearl-bordered Fritillary

The Early Purple Orchids on this hedge bank in the Haldon area put the puny ones I photographed on Axe Cliff last weekend to shame and clearly show why one old English name for them was 'Long Purples'

A couple of Dartmoor views.
I think the bottom one shows Kes Tor but I'm not at all confident.... they do all look rather 'samey'. Whereas Pearl-bordered Fritillaries....

On a flower...

 On some wood...

 On bracken...

And on a stick....Are not in the least bit samey

 Just holding on!!

This photo really benefits from enlarging. It's too wide for me to make it any bigger on the blog (click to enlarge)