“One last hurrah before the summer fades away” My reply to John from Hertfordshire on a fb group when he jokingly comments I’ve not been out and about much recently. He’s quite right though. The only butterfly trip I have been on this year was back in July to see the Purple Emperor in Fermyn Woods. A hot, hard day with only eight sightings in six hours and only two half decent photos, so no post.
With Mrs H on holiday, my day off and the weather set fair I knew the perfect place to visit and the perfect species – Yoesden Bank and the Adonis Blue.
It was two years ago when I made my previous visit to this beautiful nature reserve ( https://blhphotoblog.wordpress.com/portfolio/adonis-blue-delight/ ). The journey is a round trip of 330 miles that takes eight hours so we were up before dawn to make the most of the day. Yoesden Bank is in the county of Buckinghamshire on the border with Oxfordshire in the village of Bledlow Ridge. The area is known as the Chilterns. It is a range of hills that form a chalk escarpment across four counties. Yoesden is a steep south facing hill covered in wild flowers and the most northerly site (and closest to home) to see this enigmatic butterfly.
The Adonis (named after the Greek god of beauty and desire) is one of the largest of the blues with a wingspan of 1.5 inches (40mm). The caterpillar only eats horseshoe vetch and they require the perfect conditions. Because of this they were predicted to become extinct in the ’80s as farmers stopped using the hills for grazing and the rabbit population was hit with myxomatosis. The grass grew too long for the Adonis to survive. Now thanks to major conservation work the butterfly is back from the brink, still rare but increasing.
It was a touch breezy on the bank and every now and then the clouds would hide the sun. We sat and watched. When the sun appeared so did the butterflies. Hundreds of sadly faded milky Chalkhill Blues rose from the turf flapping weekly about as their life cycle draws to a close. Smaller but vivid Common Blues fed on the scabious and marjoram making you think Adonis? Then the real deal, so bright and electric. The males kept low down to the grass, searching for newly emerged chocolate brown ladies without luck. Not interested in nectar they were difficult to photograph. I had to wait for cloud cover, then they settled, carefully get in position and try and clear a few grass stems. When the sun comes out they open their glorious wings to warm up allowing time for a couple of shots.
Well that’s probably a wrap as far as butterflies are concerned this year. For sure there will be plenty around for weeks to come if the weather behaves and I might make a few more images. If you are interested in the butterflies of the UK check out this page I have put together, those who already have big thanks! https://blhphotoblog.wordpress.com/british-butterflies/