Thursday, 19 July 2018

Streaking Popular in the Heat

Monday was an eye-opener at a new reserve for me in Lincolnshire, but there was no chance to photograph White Admirals or Silver-Washed Fritillaries, plus the Hairstreaks remained inconveniently and frustratingly just out of reach.  Ben and I arrived around 10 am and were rather surprised to find that the sun was obscured by cloud.  However, it looked as though it would soon clear up.  Monday's glade was empty of butterflies, so we decided to try the red route instead.  
White Admiral
Thursday morning was quite different from Monday, and as the sun broke through suddenly lots of butterflies began to appear.  One of the most impressive was our first White Admiral.  These may be the most graceful fliers of any UK butterflies species.  Their beautiful gliding actions were reminiscent of butterflies from tropical areas kept in Butterfly Houses.  Ben also spotted a Small Copper on the ground.    
Small Copper
This was at a junction and only a few feet along the new path we saw some Hairstreaks basking fairly low down.  One of these was a worn and tatty Purple Hairstreak.  The purple sheen appears stronger depending on the angle of your view.
 Purple Hairstreak
 "more purple" at this angle 
Nearby was another Hairstreak with striking orange colouration near its back end.  this is a darker butterfly than the Purple Hairstreak.
White-letter Hairstreak - the first I've ever seen
 Purple Hairstreak
 Opening its wings
 Looks almost drab from this angle
Purple Hairstreak with wings closed 
 Another Purple Hairstreak?
 White Admiral
 On the ground
We were almost back to the car, when my attention was drawn to a small very dark butterfly, smaller than a Ringlet on the ground.  It appeared to be extracting salt from various items on the ground.  On checking the photos back in the car, while I was driving back, Ben was able to spot the "W" shape at 90 degrees to the vertical, so this was a White-letter Hairstreak.  He also pointed out that they are hardly ever seen with open wings, which explains why this individual only opened its wings when it was flying from one spot to another, when it appeared even darker than when at rest.
 White-letter Hairstreak
 Underside of White-letter Hairstreak on a blade of grass
 White-letter Hairstreak - wings closed
 Purple Hairstreak - wings open
 Purple Hairstreak - looks paler when its wings are closed
Although the morning was successful in regard to White Admirals, Purple Hairstreaks and White-letter Hairstreaks, there was still no chance to photograph Silver-Washed Fritillaries, and there wasn't even a sniff of Purple Emperors this time.  Another visit seems called for.  

Monday, 16 July 2018

Hitting a Purple Patch

I've never seen a Purple Emperor butterfly, but have wanted to encounter one for a long time.  A decade ago, I believe the nearest colony was in Northamptonshire.   I couldn't really justify the long-distance car journey for a butterfly, no matter how much I wanted to see one.  However, I heard a rumour that there were some in Lincolnshire - only a 75 minute drive from the Humber Bridge.  I set off early this morning with 2 passengers, but when we arrived the temperature was already over 25 degrees in the shade.  The reserve had a number of walks, which weren't clearly marked from the car park.  We decided on the middle route, but later found out we were on the longest route.  In the first glade there were plenty of Ringlets, a few Peacocks, and Ben spotted a Purple Hairstreak.  There appeared to be White Admirals (a new species for me) chasing each other and gliding along the top of the trees, but then a Purple Emperor fluttered among the leaves of an Oak.  We also saw a Comma and then a Silver-Washed Fritillary flew past us at speed.  It was then we realised we had come the wrong way, and we headed back towards the car park.
Male Purple Emperor
 The same individual in better light
 No purple sheen showing
In the other direction Ben spotted a large butterfly flying around an oak tree with only a relatively small amount of leafage.  Then it landed on the side of the bole, so we moved round for a better view.  It started walking down the tree to where a branch had fallen off some time ago.  We were able to see it was a male Purple Emperor. it moved down to the base of the scar, and views through the binoculars and camera revealed that its yellow tongue appeared to be drinking sap from the tree.  Later, a search through a book revealed that drinking sap was one of the most pleasant food items of this stunning butterfly!  Several minutes later it flew across the path and landed above our heads where I was able to take some photos in better light.  A Silver-Washed Fritillary fluttered among the grass, but didn't remain for its photo to be taken.  At the same point we were able to spot at least 3 purple Hairstreaks high in the canopy, but later one landed on some Ash leaves.
 Record shot of Purple Hairstreak (c) 2018 Ben Coneyworth
 Record shot of Purple Hairstreak
 Second generation male Brimstone
Brimstone with hoverfly species
 Overexposed Purple Emperor - camera on wrong setting!
enhanced by Chris Cox
This was a very impressive location with some very attractive species, and it would be good to visit when it isn't quite so stifling.  The heat meant the butterflies were very active and flitting about constantly, so photo opportunities would probably have been better either earlier in the day, or on a day when the temperatures weren't quite so high.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Bookings Open for Autumn Course

All my current summer clients have now been asked if they'd like to return for the Autumn sessions, so bookings are now being opened up to everyone else.  There are no vacancies on Tuesday or Friday mornings, but there are spaces on Friday afternoons, Wednesday afternoons or Thursday afternoons.  However, if you are interested in another session please ask. 
Bearded Tit
Autumn is traditionally the period when we will be spending time identifying birds on migration.  This includes birds leaving us, such as Redstarts, and Ring Ouzels; birds passing thorough such as Firecrest and Rough-legged Buzzard; plus birds arriving to spend the winter with us such as Fieldfare, Redwings and Pink-footed Geese.  Generally, people find waders difficult, so time will be spent identifying birds such as Spotted Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Knot, Grey Plover, Dunlin, etc.  On other sessions we will be expecting to have very close views of Bearded Tits and Water Rails, and if there are reliable sites for Hawfinches, Snow Buntings, Hen Harriers, Long-eared and Short-eared Owls we will ensure we connect with them.  
Moulting male Redstart - leaving the UK in autumn
 Ring Ouzel - leaving us
 Firecrest - passing through
 Rough-legged Buzzard - passing over the coast
 Redwing - arriving from Scandinavia and staying
Some of the waders we hope to be identifying. 
Spotted Redshank
 Black-tailed Godwit
 Grey Plover
Views of bearded Tits should be almost 99.99999999% guaranteed. 
Bearded Tit
Other birds we hope to see include: 
Water Rail
 Hawfinch (c) 2018 Mike Woods
 Snow Bunting 
 Hen Harrier
 Short-eared Owl
 Great White Egret (c) 2018 Nigel Kitchen
 Little Egret - eating hawthorn berries!
 Long-tailed Tit
 Starling Murmuration