Joys of Spring

I wasn’t going to do a post ’till after the weekend (spoiler alert it involves very fast noisy cars and bikes)  as I’m fast running out of free WordPress gb’s and will soon have to pay our blog masters for the privilege to post more images if I want to carry on.

However we had a great day out yesterday, the weather has kicked into full spring mood, and I just wanted to share some piccies, hang the expense!  First off, Mrs H and I took a walk around Foxley Wood to admire the sea of bluebells, very nice they were too.  Then over to the coast and Wiveton Downs.  Here we saw four newly emerged species of butterfly for the year including the first Green Haistreaks and very early Small Coppers.  Nearly all the action took place around a hawthorn that was bursting into bloom, enjoy.

Remember this cute fellow from last year? The very aggressive Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi). Tina was delighted as this was the first she had seen
Another species that likes to give everyone a hard time. The Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) has a quick refuel on hawthorn
Taking a look at the world upside down. The years first Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)
Bugs as well! This impressive creature is a Hairy Shield Bug (Dolycoris baccarum) it is only 1/2 an inch (12mm) long
Also bees! This is the beautifully coloured Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva)
A delicate Green-veined White (Pieris napi) enjoyed the blossom
And to finish, my absolute spring favourite a male Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines) nectars on a bluebell just minutes after Tina said she had never seen one land!

That’s another gigabyte used up!  Join me next time for something completely different.

2018 Butterfly Highlights

How was 2018 for you?  This year just past had so many great memories for me.  It turned out to be a cracker for butterflies.  Spring got off to a brilliant start.  Armed with the new macro lens I got a huge amount of satisfaction photographing my favourite insects.  The long hot summer added to the fun despite the disaster with the camera.  I photographed five new species and got stunning images of so many more.  Here are just a few of my favourites, enjoy!

Back in April I got this shot of an Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines) which turned out to be a favourite for you bloggers
After a long search I caught up with this Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus malvae)
May and the Duke of Burgundy (Hamearis lucina) my shot of the year!
A trip to Bentley Wood in May and my first ever sighting of the Pearl Bordered Fritillary (Boloria euphrosyne)
On the way home new species No2 the Wood White (Leptidea sinapis)
Can’t forget the Brown Argus (Aricia agestis) and the stinging nettles!
Black Hairstreak (Satyrium pruni) had a fantastic year at Glapthorne
White Letter Hairstreak (Satyrium w-album) photographed for the first time
A trip to the Lake District and we found one of Britains rarest and most endangered butterflies the High Brown Fritillary (Argynnis adippe) at Latterbarrow
Also in Cumbria a tiny Northern Brown Argus (Aricia artaxerxes)
Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) in September as the season draws to a close

Next time I will be highlighting some of my favourite bird shots.

The Emperor of Fermyn Wood


The one species of butterfly that most UK enthusiasts look forward to seeing each year is the mighty Purple Emperor (Apatura iris).  Once this was a mythical beast that lurked deep in ancient woodland and was rarely seen.  When I was a child I never dreamed I would see an Emperor, that was a long time ago, now with the internet and my car it is (relatively) easy.  The most famous woodland for seeing Iris on the ground is Fermyn, part of the ancient forest of Rockingham near Corby in Northamptonshire.

Face off with the Emperor. A shot I wanted to get with the purple sheen on both wings

On the 26th I set off early.  It was very misty when I arrived at 7am.  Parked opposite the glider club and waited for a friend to arrive from Hertfordshire.  The mist did not clear until 10.30 then it went from cool to very hot in minutes, not great for seeing Emperors on the ground.  At about 1.30pm they did however start to land in partial shade and become very approachable.  What they are doing is extracting minerals, they don’t nectar on flowers like most butterflies but will feast on dead animals, excrement and other delicacies!

My what a big tongue you have! The yellow proboscis acts as a drinking straw to extract minerals

The beautiful purple/blue sheen on the upperwings is only seen at certain angles when the light catches it right, the females lack this.  The Emperor is a large butterfly with a wingspan between 70-92mm (3-3 3/4 inches).  The eggs are laid on the caterpillar’s food plant sallow.  Males will congregate around the tallest, sheltered trees in the woods.  Here they will watch out for passing females and joust with rival males.  Their battles are quite vicious and they will even attack passing birds the size of pigeons!

In the spotlight

In all I saw probably twelve different individuals.  The most fantastic sighting sadly was not caught on camera, it was aberration iole where the wings lack the white markings.  This is the ‘holy grail’ of Emperors, the rarest of the rare, unfortunately as it came to land it got involved in a skirmish with two Ringlet butterflies and glided off, not to be seen again, sigh!

White Letter Hairstreak

I left Fermyn at 3.30pm, it was 84f.  I had another target the White Letter Hairstreak (Satyrium w-album).  This small butterfly lives most of it’s life high up in elm trees feeding on aphid honeydew.  It will occasionally come down to nectar on bramble.  I saw several at Fermyn but none descended, but a visit to Bedford Purlieus near Peterborough and I struck lucky.  This is a species I have never photographed before, a lovely ending to the day.

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Glapthorn’s Black Hairstreaks

Mention to anyone with a keen interest in UK butterflies the wonderful name Glapthorn Cow Pastures and one species springs to mind, the Black Hairstreak (Satyrium pruni).  Glapthorn, as the name suggests, used to be grazing land, now it is a wonderful woodland nature reserve.  It is located about 3 miles north of the historic town of Oundle in Northamptonshire, a drive of 2 1/2 hours from home.

Black Hairstreak on dewberry

The Black Hairstreak is a small and rare butterfly.  In the UK it can only be found in a narrow band of woodland stretching from Peterborough to Oxford, it also has one of the shortest flight periods, only 2 to 3 weeks in mid-June.  When I visited last year I struggled to see two in an afternoon, this year has been a record emergence and there was over twenty around their favourite dewberry bushes when the sun shone.  Unlike most butterflies the Hairstreaks are very approachable allowing for some great photo opportunities.

Hairstreak heaven

The Black Hairstreak spends most of the day in the tops of trees or scrub feeding on aphid honeydew.  They need banks of blackthorn in sunny spots to lay their eggs on, the egg overwinters and the caterpillar hatches in spring.  The adults have a wingspan of 35-40mm (about 1 1/2 inches).

Green Hairstreak

After last weekend’s glorious weather things have gone downhill, rapidly, here in north Norfolk.  So much so that a warning is in place for possible flooding, up to 70mm (nearly 3 inches) of rain and gale force northerly winds overnight and into tomorrow, it is also cold!  I have decided to do a post on what was a popular butterfly from last weeks post, the Green Hairstreak ( Callophrys rubi).

The Green Hairstreak, cuteness personified

If Walt Disney was to use a butterfly for a cartoon what better candidate.  Just look at those big innocent eyes and cute striped legs and antenna, but this fellow has a vicious temper!  It is a small butterfly, wingspan 27 – 34mm  1 to 1 1/2 inches.  It can be found in  small colonies of up to 12 individuals (sometimes more) in a variety of scrubby  habitat like gorse commons, moorland, embankments and valley bottoms.  In Europe the range is from Lapland to the Med.

This is the UK’s only true green butterfly and because of the colour is very hard to spot, the upperwing is dark brown but they always rest with the wings closed.  When you do locate Green Hairsreaks they are very easy to approach and photograph.  The males sit on favorite perches waiting for a female, if another male passes a battle ensues!  They also attack other butterflies and insects, last week it was the Holly Blues that were chased away, because of this their wings soon become battle scarred.

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From 2017

These butterflies start to appear in mid-April and can be found into June.  They are great fun to watch, last week I spent over an hour amused by the antics of the one I found and was able to photograph it from only a few inches.