Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Wood Whites, Swallowtails and Broad Bordered Hawkmoths - 26th May 2014

The bank holiday weekend of the 24th - 26th of May was a very good one for me and I managed to get some decent shots of some truly magnificent butterflies. The weekend had a damp start with rain all day on Saturday but luckily it held off long enough in the morning for me to help complete a Dawn Chorus walk for the Wildlife Trusts. We had a decent amount of singing birds for the group who'd remained enthusiastic throughout despite the ever building rain clouds. Unfortunately though as soon as it finished the rain started to lash down and the rest of the day was a write off. Sunday the 25th was a different matter though and from early morning large expanses of blue sky could be seen which was very encouraging as today had been set aside to find Wood White butterflies. Wood Whites are one of the speciality butterflies for us here in Northants and it was no surprise when a birding mate of mine (in the shape of Sam Viles) was asking for directions to the best places to see them and as I was going to have a look anyway we decided to meet up and go together. Me and Sam Candy met Sam Viles and David (Sam's Dad) in the car park of the local supermarket and they followed us to Sywell Wood just north of Northampton. This is easily one of the best sites in the county for these dainty little butterflies and you can be afforded great views almost straight after getting out the car and it wasn't long before we were on one. Then we found another, and another, and another! I've never seen so many all in one place. At one point Sam Viles turned round and had 10 in his field of view all at the same time. It also looked like the recent inclement weather followed by this sudden spell of warm weather had triggered an emergence as some of the Wood White we were finding had very crinkled up wings and would pose for pictures with ease. I've know from years of experience that getting pics of these butterflies can very frustrating as they sometimes hardly stop for more than a second but today it was different and we found them on the ground, on grass, on bushes and flowers. One even took a rest on my finger to pose for a pic!

Wood White, Sywell Wood, Northants

Wood White, Sywell Wood, Northants

Wood White, Sywell Wood, Northants
There was also plenty of other impressive looking insects to be seen along the main ride with Cinnabar Moths on the wing and some great looking Golden Bloom Longhorn Beetles with a pair proving to be very photogenic as they secured the next generation.

Cinnabar, Sywell Wood, Northants

Cinnabar, Sywell Wood, Northants
Golden Bloomed Longhorn Beetles, Sywell Wood, Northants

Golden Bloomed Longhorn Beetles, Sywell Wood, Northants
 After this we parted our ways and me and Sam Candy headed to a private site in Northants that's an amazing place to see Green Winged Orchids. Unfortunately we arrived a little late in the year and all the orchids had "gone over" but we did find a great looking white variant and shooting a macro shot on one of the better looking specimens showed the strange human characteristics of the flower.

Green Winged Orchid, Northants

White Variant Green Winged Orchid, Northants.

 On the bank holiday Monday the weather once again took a turn for the worse and a forecast of rain all day was the greeting I received in the morning. I started to browse different areas on my phone's weather app saw that the weather in Norfolk was forecast to be superb - I then suddenly had one of those lightbulb moments! My mind straight away went to Swallowtail butterflies and I rang Jon and Kirsty who readily agreed and within the hour we were driving to Norfolk. Sam Viles, who'd accompanied us the previous day for the Wood Whites, gave me directions in the morning to the infamous "Doctor's House" near Strumpshaw Fen where the very kind owners allow people to venture onto their front lawn to photograph Swallowtails visiting the flowers. We almost straight away had a Swallowtail flying over the small clearing before the house and when we got to the house proper we had one come in and land on the flowers. Despite us taking pic after pic getting one straight on isn't as easy as it looks but it was looking like it was only a matter of time as after changing camera settings the pics started to get better. The first one flew off and we spent a bit of time taking pics of the amazing looking Swollen-thigh Beetles hiding in amongst the flowers.

Swollen-thighed Beetle, Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk.
We didn't have to wait too long for the next Swallowtail to fly in and then shortly after another joined it. They were absolutely pristine and watching them feed on the flowers in front of us was an amazing sight. Not only this but they both hung around for over an hour allowing us to get lots of pics and plenty of passers by were able to enjoy them too. Apologies for posting so many pics of them but I am still staggered by their beauty - just stunning!

Swallowtail, Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk

Swallowtail, Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk

Swallowtail, Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk

Swallowtail, Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk

Swallowtail, Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk
Swallowtail, Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk
After spending a large part of the day here Kirsty came up with the great idea of heading to Holt Country Park to see the Broad Bordered Bee Hawkmoths that had been wowing the crowds there. As soon as we pulled in we saw a couple with cameras and after a brief chat we discovered they were showing right in the car park. We were soon onto these amazing insects and tried to keep up with them as they hovered and darted from flower to flower snapping away as they did so. It was quite a challenge to get a good pic but as always perseverance pays off and I got some pics I was really happy with.

Broad Bordered Bee Hawkmoth, Holt CP, Norfolk
Broad Bordered Bee Hawkmoth, Holt CP, Norfolk
 We had also been told of Birds Nest Orchid but despite searching I couldn't find any at all but luckily for us a good friend of mine, Kieran Nixon, lives in the nearby village and after having a quick drink at his house returned with us to the site and put us onto them straight away! Never ever under value the benefit of local knowledge. Apologies for poor quality of pic but it was late in the day and the light was fading so I had no option but to use a great deal of flash, at least it's a record of a flower I have never seen before.

Birds Nest Orchid, Holt CP, Norfolk
From here we had to reluctantly call it a day and we drove home still buzzing from the days sightings. It had been one of those days that will forever remind us why we do all this in the first place and getting the pics I managed to achieve of the Swallowtails actually fulfilled a dream I have had for many years. I'm back up to Scotland next week for Chequered Skippers so lets hope for some good weather!

3 comments:

  1. The swallowtail's are just amazing images David but equally I really like the Golden Bloomed Longhorn Beetle as it's a species I am not too familiar with well done on all the images

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  3. Thanks Douglas, the Swallowtails were a target species I'd wanted to photograph for years :-)

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