Tuesday 24 June 2014

Silver Studded Blues, Scarlet Tigers, Six-belted Clearwings, Large Blues and soggy Marbled Whites - 24th June 2014

I had an unexpected day off from work on the 19th of June and after speaking to Jon we decided to head south to a Silver Studded Blue site near Reading with the hope of seeing Scarlet Tigers near Oxford on the way home. As it was all so close me, Jon and Kirsty waited until midday and headed down to the first stop which was Silchester Common just in the Hampshire border. Information about exactly where to see the Silver Studded Blues seemed to be very hard to find on the internet but as the site looked fairly small on the map we had a good feeling that we should be able to find them. This feeling however was short lived as we arrived just as the sun went behind a cloud! We searched the site from the car park heading to all the likely places but we could see no sign. We walked through the wood and met a local dog walker who didn't know either. It really wasn't looking good and that pessimistic sinking feeling really started to take over the mood but as always we persevered and heading out into another area of the clearing. I had read that Silver Studded Blues can be very communal so if you can manage to find one then you find them all so the speak as the local population can stick to a small very small area and luckily by now the sun had returned so things were starting to look up again. We walked across a more open area and out of the corner of my eye I saw the flash of blue. I cannot tell you how relieved I was when the "flash of blue" settled and proved itself to be a Silver Studded Blue! Then we saw another, and another, and another! We spent the next hour or so snapping away at this tiny colony of very nice looking butterflies and for once the weather was in our favour as bright sun gave way to a touch of cloud meaning we could get under and overwing shots. The Silver Studded Blue is definitely one of those things where no photo or picture in a book can do it justice and if you ever find yourself in an area to see them it's really worthwhile taking a look - they really are stunning butterflies! To add an added bonus for our butterfly lifelists this was our 50th British butterfly species seen for all of us.

Silver Studded Blue, Silchester Common,Hants

Silver Studded Blue, Silchester Common, Hants

Silver Studded Blue, Silchester Common, Hants
Silver Studded Blue, Silchester Common, Hants
We left here late afternoon and headed to Cothill just south if Oxford to try and see Scarlet Tiger moths. We found the area they were and found them easily but unfortunately they were incredibly flighty and when they did settle they did so at the tops of the trees. Luckily one came down far enough to be able to get a record shot but despite a lot of chasing I couldn't manage any better pics.

Scarlet Tiger, Cothill, Oxon
My next day off wasn't until the Sunday the 22nd June and it was earmarked for a trip to try and see Large Blue. As it was closest to us here in Northants, and the fact that we'd seen pics of them on Twitter the week before,  we decided to go to the reserve at Daneway Banks in Gloucestershire. Jon and Kirsty had managed to see them the day before while I was at work but they very nicely offered to take me with them on a return visit on the Sunday as well. I had been starting very early at work the week before and my body clock woke me up at 4.30am so after some breakfast I headed my local site of Grange Park before getting picked up to head to Daneway. Despite the sun blazing down even at 6am there was still a lot of dew on the grass and some of the still roosting butterflies looked pretty soggy in the damp.

Wet Common Blue, Grange Park, Northants

Wet Marbled White, Grange Park, Northants
As the sun came up they started to dry out and some were quite tame before the sun fully recharged their batteries. One even sunned itself for a moment on my hand.

Marbled White, Grange Park, Northants
Time came to head to Daneway and after hearing about Jon and Kirsty's sightings on the previous day I was very excited. We arrived in good time and we shot up the bank to be greeted very quickly by the sight of my first ever Large Blue butterfly! I chased it up the bank before it finally settled and I got some pics. It must be said that photographing these butterflies is harder than it looks as they tend to settle deep in the grass and when they do pose in the open it can be difficult to find a specimen that isn't covered in red mites. With the exception of a lunchtime pitstop for a couple of pints of cider at the fantastic Daneway Inn at the bottom of the hill we spent most of the day there snapping away. The other thing to be mentioned is they hardly ever rest with their wings open and the only open winged shot I achieved has a stem of a plant going across it! I real shame but it's included here as it's the only one I got to show the upperwing pattern. Oh and they really are "large" too, I was surprised at just how big they were especially in comparison to the Small Blues that were also present.

Large Blue, Daneway Banks, Glos

Large Blue, Daneway Banks, Glos

Large Blue (and obligatory thing in the way!), Daneway Banks, Glos

Eventually the heat got to us and we left and headed back to Northants. Recently during the previous week I had found a small population of Six-belted Clearwings at the Grange Park site so we rounded off the day looking for them and luckily they weren't too hard to find.

Six-belted Clearwing, Grange Park, Northants

Six-belted Clearwing, Grange Park, Northants
It's now time to turn our attention to the woodland species as Purple Emperor, White Letter and Purple Hairstreaks, Silver Washed and Dark Green Fritillaries are all emerging. It's going to be a very busy few weeks!

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