If You Go Down in the Woods…

The house renovations (for this year) are nearly finished.  As I write this the dining room carpet is being laid, soon all the furniture will be in it’s proper place!  Just to keep my sanity and collect my thoughts I took a couple of days off over the past months to immerse myself in nature.  Purple Emperors started emerging in the third week of June down south.  On the 23rd, more in hope than expectation, I visited Foxley Wood our local Emperor site.  It was a lovely morning and the first Silver-washed Fritillaries and White Admirals were on the wing.  I sat in the shade watching the coming and goings and had just finished chatting to a lovely couple who were on holiday when out of the blue his loveliness landed on the path right in front of me!

The year’s first Purple Emperor (Apatura iris)

Spurred on by this early success the following week I decided on a trip to Fermyn Woods in Northamptonshire.  I have struggled in the past couple of years at this Emperor mecca and have even pondered foregoing the delightful (not) two and a half hour journey.  Perhaps I should have listened to my inner self.  The sun was intermittent but the wind far too strong.  I kept to the more sheltered areas but sightings were few and far between.  After several hours and many miles of walking the grand total was just nine with only four on the ground!  In future, conditions will have to be perfect before I venture here again.

His Imperial Majesty enjoying brunch, Fox scat!

Back at home the dragonfly activity in the garden pond has been poorer than last year.  Not sure of the reason as the weather has been ok.  There was some emergence in May and the damselflies returned to breed but now sightings are thin on the ground.  One species I did see, and a new addition to the garden, was a female Banded Demoiselle.

A female Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) spreads her wings by the garden pond

Into July and for the first time in three years I took a look at Holt Country Park 18 miles to the west.  As I got to the site a band of dense cloud had covered the sun.  No going back, I was sure it would clear.  I made my way up to the heathland called the Lowes.  This is a great place for Keeled Skimmer dragonflies (Orthetrum coerulescens).  Making my way down the slope to the boggy area where the Skimmers breed I was stunned to come face to face with a Roe Deer and her fawn.  What a lovely but very brief sighting.

I’ve been spotted! The Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus) and fawn about to flee

Normally the Skimmers are highly active and very difficult to approach.  The cloud worked to my advantage and I managed to get my best shots to date of this species.

Female Keeled Skimmer at Holt Lowes
Male Keeled Skimmer. The blue colouring is a waxy powder called pruinescence which will wear off with age and mating

Sure enough the sun eventually appeared and I made my way back down to the woodland.  Like turning on a switch butterflies were everywhere including the one I had come to see the Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia).  They hungrily searched out the last of the bramble flowers for a boost of nectar before seeking out a prospective mate.

Male Silver-washed Fritillary nectaring on Ragwort

Now the paint brushes are put away ’till next year hopefully more trips out are on the cards.  Watch this space.

45 thoughts on “If You Go Down in the Woods…

  1. Just wonderful to see these photos!!!! We have a an above average year for butterflies and dragonflies in our garden but sadly few frogs. Our pond dried while we were on vacation and I think they relocated.😳
    Best wishes on your final remodel touches, it is always a great feeling to finally just enjoy once it is completed. Stay hydrated!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. We also had a couple of (newts) salamanders in our pond but not there now (we think… finally a break today with some rain and cooler temperatures! They say back to the heat come Sunday but not as hot.
        You guys had it bad!!!🥵🥵🥵
        Stay hydrated and hopefully this will pass and the creatures in your pond return to be photographed.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed watching this beautiful captures especially the Silver-washed Fritillary. For the first time ever it visits our garden quite regularly. Unfortunately I haven#t been able to take a decent shot. Hence my joy, watching yours

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It must feel so good to be nearing the end of the house remodeling. I enjoyed the creatures you saw and photographed during your outings but hope you will also find the others you have missed so you feel more satisfied.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Always time to see other beauties Tanja. Some I’ve missed will have to wait ’till next year but not a problem.
      I will be so relieved when the major work is done. We have one room left and that’s for next year now. I think we’ve done enough this year, I’m shattered!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautiful post. Reminded me of tramping through woods near Ramsey with my folks to go see bluebells when I was an anklebiter.
    Gorgeous photos as usual.
    And to see a deer! Cool.
    I once surprised a duiker
    while on my hols’ on the south coast over here.
    Managed a single grainy shot with my old Olympus Trip!
    Hardly David Bailey but an encounter to treasure nonetheless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s the first photo of a Roe Deer I have ever taken and to see the fawn as well was a bonus.
      Thanks for popping over Mr A, hope you are keeping warm, we have just had a spell where the temps topped out over 40c! New records, even at night it was over 25c 😎🥵


      1. Still in Winter down here. The worst of our freeze is just about over but if you lot are melting we’re probably in for a burner come Christmas.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I totally understand your willingness to put up with a long drive for a potentially terrific sighting! Likewise, I understand the reluctance to do it again!

    This entire post is littered with such magnificent photographs! It is always so interesting to see “similar but different” species. It’s been a bit weird lately as I’ve seen a great variety of butterflies and odes but have not been able to get very many satisfactory photos. I am certain age has nothing to do with it …..

    Thank you for the brilliant post, Brian!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful visit to the woods, Brian. I really enjoyed your narrative for it demonstrated how familiar you are with these wildlife friends and your frequent visits and pure pleasure in finding them. The photographs are stunning, giving us an intimate view of these gorgeous insects. I was dazzled by the Purple Emperor and found the female banded demoiselle so lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you like this little offering Jet.
      Each year I look forward to seeing various species during their, sometimes brief, flight period. The past 18 months have been difficult to do so, so my rare visits are even more pleasurable.
      The Emperor is a beautiful butterfly as the light catches those refractive scales sending the purple/blue sheen across the wings but it is also sometimes difficult to see.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Good to hear you are getting out there B! All work and no play.. well, you know the rest. Surprised at how different the male an female Keeled Skimmers look – taking on traits of our warblers here ha. Like the first shot as the light hit one side of the wing for the more brilliant color.

    Liked by 1 person

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