May 18-20th 2018. A long weekend away visiting new sites and hopefully new species. The first destination was Bentley Wood. Recognised as one of Britain’s finest butterfly woods it straddles the counties of Wiltshire and Hampshire.
Our aim here was to see the Pearl Bordered Fritillary. This is the first Fritillary to emerge and timing is everything. I had been carefully watching the emergence reports and weather forecast, everything came together for my time off work. Despite being situated down narrow country lanes, Bentley was easy to find. A short walk back from the small car park leads to the eastern clearing, the best site for Pearls.
The Frits were very easy to see but difficult to photograph! They are forever on the move, zig-zagging low over the ground, the males searching for mates while the females looked for egg laying sites close to violets, the food plant of the caterpillar. I was fortunate to see several laying their eggs, a good sign for this declining species. A few did settle to nectar on bugle for a few seconds allowing for some images of these gorgeous insects.
This area turned out to be good for many other butterflies, moths and bugs. I found Grizzled skipper, a very photogenic Dingy Skipper and had a black and white Speckled Wood land on my jeans but fly off before I could snap this unusual aberration! There were hundreds of Speckled Yellow moths, harder to photograph than the Pearls! And sighting of the scarce Argent & Sable moth. I was also shown an Oil Beetle which are quite uncommon.
After two superb days, time to return home. The weather was still very warm and sunny so we decided to avoid the motorways and go through Oxfordshire and into Northamptonshire. Here we stopped at Bucknell Wood which is found about 1 mile north of the village of Silverstone, and within ear shot of the famous motor racing circuit!
My target here was the rare Wood White which had only just started to emerge. This is a small and delicate looking butterfly with a slow floppy flight. Like the Fritillaries they also do not settle often. I found about six in the first few hundred yards along the main ride. My luck was in and I managed to get some nice images. They always settle with the wings closed. The males have little white patches on their antenna.
Two of my targets for the year seen and photographed, roll on July.