June 2nd. It was three years ago, when this blog was in it’s infancy, that I last drove the 120 miles south to Essex in search of one of Britain’s rarest butterflies. Except for our trip to the Brecks, all my driving this year has been the 5 miles to and from work on our local country lanes. So, it was quite daunting and a bit nervy to hit the dual-carriage ways at 70-80mph and battle it out with the endless line of heavy goods vehicles and business men on a mission, yep ‘lockdown’ is over it seems. Anyway two and a half hours later I arrived safe and sound. With blue skies, temperatures in the mid 70’s and a very light breeze it was a lovely day to hunt butterflies.
The butterfly in question is the Heath Fritillary (Melitaea athalia) and as I said it is a very rare beast. Athalia can only be found in three areas of the Country, Blean Woods in Kent, some coombes (steep valleys) on Exmoor and here in sth Essex with Hockley Wood the biggest colony. What makes this little (wingspan 1.5-2 inches 39-47mm) butterfly so rare is habitat. The only food plant of the caterpillar is common cow-wheat and this will only thrive in regularly coppiced woodland. The practice of coppicing is no longer a commercial activity so we are reliant on conservation bodies to carry out this work.
In all I saw about thirty individuals. The males zig-zagging low over the clearings whilst the slightly larger females enjoyed a feed on the bramble flowers. It was here I captured these images. I thought it would be nice to try and show the butterfly as part of the scene as in the two shots above. I still got the up close and personal images with the macro but with that type of photography you are limited by depth of field, so step back a bit, use the same lens to capture the fine detail and the results can be quite pleasing.
For more images from 2017 and this week take a look at this portfolio https://blhphotoblog.wordpress.com/portfolio/heath-fritillary-in-essex/