Saturday, 31 July 2010

Butterfly afternoon

There was no sunshine forecast when the sky cleared after lunch.This would be my best chance to try and get some photos of the pied wagtails I had spotted on Friday, and which were still in the same place in numbers this morning. A large group was feeding on a tilled field by the road across the moss. A mixed group of adults and youngsters begging for food and chasing their parents around.

When I drove to the field there wasn't a bird of any sort to be seen, never mind numerous wagtails. I scanned the field away from the road with the big lens on the off-chance they had moved. They'd moved alright!

As I was planning move elsewhere I had also put the smaller lens in the car, so off out to the flatlands for a look around. I left the car on a verge and set off down a farm track bordered on one side by a tall hedge and on the other by a copse. With the sun shining this made it a bit of a suntrap as the hedge provided shelter from the strong wind. Although there is a rapidly silting pond nearby and a few ditches I was surprised to see a dragonfly hawking up and down the track, looking as if it was searching for a perching post. I had the camera with the big lens round my neck and didn't have much hope. I was in the process of switching to manual focus for a flight shot when it settled, I fumbled and missed it. I never saw the thing again. I'm pretty sure it was a female common hawker, which would have made a nice photo perched on a pine tree.

Into the field there were plenty of butterflies around. Gatekeepers and peacocks were abundant, there were a few common blues and one small copper, plus plenty of whites flying around aimlessly. The umbillifers are going over now, but the thistles and ragwort were covered in bees, wasps, hoverflies and other insects.

 Common blue

On my way back  I turned right and along the side of the copse towards the pond. Before raching the pond I had seen more butterflies along the hedgerow plants. Whites, peacocks and a comma. Thirty years or so ago, when I first saw this pond, it was quite open, but silted. Now it is the sort of thing you wouldn't realise was there as it as willows have almost completely encroached on it. In fact it's little more than a large puddle in the middle of a clump of willow extending from the edge of the copse.


There was a brown hawker patrolling the edge of the trees over the rough, neglected, grass. As usual with hawkers it showed no signs of resting.  As I rounded the corner of the pond and into a sheltered spot there were butterflies everywhere. There was a large group of gatekeepers, an odd battered looking skipper, quite a few whites and well worn meadow browns, plus a lone speckled wood.

 Speckled wood

I also disturbed a common darter from the grass. I hadn't expected that. With a bit of stalking I managed to grab a couple of shots of it in this habitat.

Darter in the grass

Having seen three dragonflies I thought the litter pit might be worth a look. Apart from a few blue-tailed and blue damsels there was a lonely emperor patrolling it's big pond. So I went to the newt ponds. These proved to be similarly dragonless. There were a few damsels, but there were lots of butterflies. The same species as at the flatlands. I suppose I should spend more time in one place, even taking something to sit on near some attractive (to insects) flowers so that the insects will come to me.

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