It seems Commas don’t know their road code: no stopping on double yellow lines 24/7 if no signage. Or maybe this Comma thought the sparkling yellow paint was a flower. Luckily, this was on a quiet country lane with little traffic so the butterfly was in no danger. And it did look rather pretty, highlighted by the bright sunshine.
Off we went again, our gallant gang of four, this time in search of the rare Brown hairstreak at Butterfly Conservation’s Alners Gorse reserve in Dorset.
This reserve is beautiful, the colourful swathes of wildflowers reminiscent of a painting by Monet or Van Gogh, the wide range of trees providing diverse habitats for local wildlife and welcome shade for butterfliers on yet another hot summer’s day.
Unfortunately, the Brown hairstreaks eluded us, and most of the other 20-odd people wandering around the reserve, staring intently, as we were, at bramble bushes, hedgerows and oak trees.
One person, on turning a corner in the path, had almost bumped into a Brown, but the butterfly immediately flew off and wasn’t seen again. A couple said they’d seen one high in a tree but much tree staring failed to produce another sighting.
Still, there were butterflies in abundance and my list for the day totalled a very respectable seventeen: Silver-washed fritillary, Purple hairstreak, Comma, Peacock, Red admiral, Painted lady, Essex skipper, Small skipper, Small white, Green-veined white, Common blue, Small copper, Brimstone, Meadow brown, Ringlet, Gatekeeper and Speckled wood. My companions also saw Marbled white, bringing the group total to eighteen – I was obviously staring at a tree at that time!
Alners Gorse is a well known site for Marsh fritillaries – now finished for this year, and we saw large numbers of other insects – hoverflies, bees, flies, crickets and grasshoppers, and several species of dragonfly, so it’s well worth a visit at any time of the year.
Yesterday, with my friend Sharon, I went to Slade Wood, in the neighbouring county of Gwent, for a walk and some butterflying.
The woodland was lovely and a haven from the hot sun but, for us, the best butterflying was to be had just wandering along the country lane leading to the woodland. With high hedges, abundant wildflowers and occasional blooming Buddleia bushes, backed by the tall woodland trees, it was heaven for butterflies. These are a few of the 12 species we saw …
My first White admirals of the year, the first I’ve seen in Wales; they seem to float over the vegetation.
Those giant orange-and-brown speedsters, the Silver-washed fritillaries.
Red admiral extracting minerals from poo … mmmmm, delicious!
Comma, incredibly well camouflaged amongst the grasses and leaf litter, also heading for a slurp at the poo.
Peacock, hiding its glorious bold colours away behind those closed wings.
Small tortoiseshell, a pretty little butterfly that I don’t see very often, so a delight to spot one of these.
birding, birdwatching, British birds, British butterflies, butterflies, Cinnabar caterpillars, Comma, Cows, Glamorgan Bird Club, Green-veined white, Meadow Brown, Peacock, Red fox, Red kite, River Ely, Sand martin, Small tortoiseshell, Stock dove
Yesterday I enjoyed another wonderful, if rather hot day’s birding with my friends from the Glamorgan Bird Club, this time wandering a trail alongside the River Ely near Peterston-super-Ely and Pendoylan.
On the way there, my friend John and I had incredibly close views of three Red kites and more of these magnificent birds of prey were gliding overhead during our walk.
We saw Stock doves (one pictured above) sitting obligingly close to Woodpigeons so we could see the differences in the two species.
A Red fox was spotted trotting along in a distant field, its lunch in its mouth.
A large herd of large cows moved reluctantly away from the river so we could pass by. You’d have to be crazy to mess with this lady, who was keeping a steady eye on us in case we ventured too close to her calves.
The fifteen participants … well, fourteen really, as I was taking the photo.
The meandering River Ely was running low due to the recent drought conditions here in south Wales.
As well as birds, we also saw lots of butterflies, including these: Cinnabar caterpillars, Comma, Green-veined white, Meadow brown, Peacock, and more Small tortoiseshell than I’ve ever seen in one day before.
The highlight of the day for me was watching these Sand martins hawking for food over the fields and then returning to their burrows in the river bank to feed their hungry young. Magic!
I think it’s fair to say it’s not been much of a Spring so far, weather wise at least. It’s often been cool, frequently wet, and the sun has been elusive. I’m hoping Monday, the last day of April, was a hint of days to come – though there was a cool wind, the skies were mostly blue and it was warm in sheltered spots. Those conditions at Cosmeston persuaded the butterflies to come out to play, and I saw the highest numbers so far this year: 7 Brimstones, 2 Orange-tips, 2 Speckled woods, 2 Commas and 4 Peacocks. And it was such fun to be cavorting like a crazy woman again, flitting across fields and dancing along hedgerows to try to get photographs.
Spring came to south Wales on Saturday at approximately 3.30pm and lasted about 4 hours. (It’s supposed to return again next week and stay a few days but, in the constantly changing contemporary climate, it pays not to count your chickens – or, maybe that should be, your rays of sunshine!) Amazingly, as soon as the sun appeared, so too did the butterflies. It was like a door had been opened – where had they been hiding, I wonder? In the space of about 30 minutes, I saw Peacocks and Commas, several never-settling Brimstones, a distant large-or-small White, and my first Speckled wood of the year. Oh, and a couple of Bee-flies – not butterflies, obviously, but the cutest wee flying things you ever did see so I’ve included one here. It was delightful!
We went for a wander around Combefield Quarry in Portland looking for birds but found butterflies instead. And very nice butterflies they were too, especially considering we are now half way through autumn. There were two Peacocks, a Comma, Speckled woods and Red admirals …
And the icing on the cake was not one but two Clouded yellows (Colias croceus). But wait there’s more … I’ve been told that the paler of these Clouded yellows may well be the helice variety (Colias croceus f. helice), which is something of a rarity. So, we were privileged indeed with our Lepidoptera sightings that day.
In Fauna Britannica, Stefan Buczacki describes this butterfly’s ragged outline as being the ‘shape of a fallen leaf’ and its colours, too, are quite autumnal. This is the most grammatically correct of Britain’s butterflies, the Comma, Polygonia c-album.
Though I have no personal experience of this, the Comma is, apparently, one of the three butterflies most likely to be found hibernating in sheds and outhouses – the other two are the Small tortoiseshell and the Peacock. Adult Commas can usually be seen flying between March and September so maybe these ones I’ve seen recently were having their last feeds before looking for a cosy spot to snooze away the cold months of winter. If I had a shed, they’d be most welcome.
Perhaps it would be easier to ask ‘What’s not on the scabious?’ because it seems that almost every type of fly, bee, butterfly and beetle loves this plant, though that may also be because the Devil’s-bit scabious flowers in late summer – early autumn, when most wildflowers have finished flowering, and so it provides a last delicious taste of summer’s sweetness.