Tuesday, 22 July 2014

A Clouded Yellow and a Painted Lady at Grange Park in Northampton -21st July 2014

The last few days have seen some interesting weather systems as the sunny and hot conditions gave way to some very impressive thunderstorms and some incredible lightning displays. These fronts  coupled with the recent photos and sightings I had seen online turned my mind to a special migrant butterfly called the Painted Lady. The numbers that visit Britain fluctuate every year and sometimes there's lots and other times they can be quite scarce. In fact I only saw one last year and that was in Norfolk so we were wondering how easy they'd be to see this year. They originate from north Africa and they gradually migrate north with some reaching our shores and heading inland during the summer months so with this in mind I headed the my local patch at Grange Park in Northampton on the 20th July. Gatekeepers, Small and Essex Skippers seemed to be everywhere and just about every teasle head had a stunningly fresh Peacock busy feeding away. I went through these systematically hoping to see the orange flash of a Painted Lady but no luck at the base of the bank so I moved along slowly and headed up and hadn't got far before noticing a large butterfly take of and fly to the other side of a small clump of teasles. I was sure it was paler and noticeably more spotted than the Peacocks so I walked round to be greeted by the sight of a Painted Lady busy nectaring away. Migrants can always be held with a degree of uncertainty at the start of a year so a sigh of relief is exhaled when you see one. I rang up Jon and Kirsty to tell them the news and in record timing they arrived on site to enjoy it too. Here's a couple of pics which with the exception of a small degree of tattiness along the hindwing it was a nice looking specimen.

Painted Lady, Grange Park, Northampton
Painted Lady, Grange Park, Northampton
  I also had the following day off work but the all day sunny spells never materialised in the morning. I did have a half hearted look at Brackmills Wood but a couple of lads on a motorbike and the ever greyer cloudy weather meant that not much was seen. I decided therefore to head back to Grange Park to see if anything else had turned up. I was surprised to see the Painted Lady was not only still there but it was busily feeding away on the same bunch of teasles, in fact it hadn't moved from it's location the previous day! I had a walk along the base of the bank and it was all pretty much the same as the day before until I reached a secluded area that's blanketed with a carpet of Trefoil. Almost as soon as I went passed a little yellow butterfly shot up and whirled up and down the bank! "I don't believe it" I said to myself as I watched a male Clouded Yellow do what Clouded Yellows do and tore across the wasteland with very impressive stamina! I'm 6 foot 4 inches tall with a large stride and although I'm not a marathon runner I consider myself to be pretty fit and within an hour it had well and truly wore me out! The first Clouded Yellow of the year (found by Ian Pretty while I was showing him the Bee Orchids here on the 8th of June) shot off so fast I couldn't get pics so I wasn't letting this one go lightly. For those who have seen the epic western The Good, The Bad and The Ugly if you can picture the last scene at the end of the film before the gun fight when Tuco is running through the graveyard then was that pretty much sums up what I was doing, and my legs are still aching a day later! Despite the fierce sun (the previous clouds had dispersed) it did stop every now and then to nectar on a flower allowing me a couple of shots before shooting off again with me running along in tow - only the Benny Hill music was missing (or Ecstasy of Gold if you're still thinking about the film). My favourite shots during the chase are below.

Clouded Yellow, Grange Park, Northampton
Clouded Yellow, Grange Park, Northampton
 I'd made a few phone calls while all this was going on and Jon and Kirsty managed to get to the site in the afternoon to see it while a few more decided to head down in the evening. I couldn't resist heading back too as they're normally more photogenic as they settle down to roost. It took a bit of finding upon the return and unfortunately Ian Pretty had to leave before it did so but as Jon, Kirsty and Doug Goddard appeared I saw the little mustard coloured speck appear through the undergrowth and the chase started again. We did have quite a laugh as we raced round trying to get pics and then eventually it slowed down as it started to find a roosting site finally allowing prolonged and close up photography. We got some good shots as it rested on the floor and posed under leaves with the now low sun shining through the wings.

Clouded Yellow, Grange Park, Northampton
Clouded Yellow, Grange Park, Northampton
Clouded Yellow, Grange Park, Northampton
Stuart Mundy also arrived at the right time as we were watching it roost and he got some good shots too. It's amazing how much happiness one little butterfly can bring to many and I'm not sure if it's the thrill of the chase, getting good pics or just seeing one on the first place? To be honest it's probably a combination of all three!

3 comments:

  1. Not sure what I would like to see more a clouded yellow or Doug running around lol

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  2. Ha ha yeah it was pretty funny to see us all running round lol. I've been back tonight and there's three there now :-)

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  3. Is there any further reading you would recommend on this?

    Gene Cage,
    Northampton Web Design

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