Monday, 25 July 2011

Angels of the Summer

     Along the South Devon Coast,  23rd July 2011

At last we have a lovely warm Saturday, and our brief Summer has returned if only for one day. A good chance to get along the coast and spot some Butterflies and any day flying Moth's.
Berry Head has a wonderful varierty of Wildlife, and can count on a list of 28 different species of Butterfly along with some rare Wildfloers. One favourite wildflower of mne here is the rare White-Rock Rose, which seems to appear early Spring then disapears for a while then re-appearing around this time.

Above: The White Rock Rose, rare in the South West so it is quite special to see this flower every Spring and Summer.

No secret I have a passion for our 'Angels of the Summer' and with the Weather now set fair today, it was my aim to spend all day walking along the coastline from Berry Head to Kingswear taking note the Butterfly Species and also number and behaviour. One regret in my life is that I should have studied entomology in my younger years.

First Butterflies of the morning were the Speckled Woods, and there were plenty to be seen either basking in the Sun or on the Wing.

I had hoped to see my first Wall species today, and I did not have to wait for very long, I found this one in a sheltered sunny warm spot, not the pefect specimen but my first of the Summer.

With so many wildflowers to be seen and identified sometimes you come across one and you are left my younger years I could name all the Wildflowers, but then I moved to Birds, Butterflies and Dragonflies..
Well here is one Wildflower above that has left me stumped, been through my books at home over recent days and still cannot find it....any idea's please drop me a line and I will give you a mention.
After a stop for a refreshing drink and to also bask in the warm sun time to move on, Butterflies were now to be seen almost everywhere, Gatekeepers and Small Whites. Above Barn Swallows were passing through. The odd Whitethroat was seen, but the bird song has now gone for the time being now that the main part of the breeding season could be over.

Below, I found this Six Spotted Burnet feeding on nectar and it looked quite a picture with the bright yellow.

This coastline walk is one of mny favourites and I have walked it so many times now that I sometimes can trace every step in a dream...
The shot below is of  Mansands (click on the photo for a larger image). It is quite a steep climb here and the coastline from this point on is similar so plenty of water is required on a warm day like this was.

Not far along I found this mating pair of Gatekeepers, with the female top of the photo. By this time the number of Gatekeepers was quite high.

Another first along this part of the coast was a Grayling, similar to the Gatekeeper, but trying to get a decent shot was impossible.
After stopping to take in some water, a very bright Butterfly fluttered past me and landed on a leaf in the full sun, the Comma Butterfly one of my all time may ask how did the Comma get it's name, well here is the photo to answer your question, click on the photo for a larger image. You will see a White Comma on it's wing and that's how it got it's name. a truly lovely Butterfly.

It has been extinct in Scotland since the 1870's but is now moving far north every year, won't be long now before the Comma makes a comeback to Scotland.

Coleton Fishacre belongs to the National Trust and was owned by the D'oyly Carte family famouse for the opera's such as the 'pirates of Penzance' a good stop off point to rest and enjoy a wonderful garden on the coast. Here a noted a Golden Ringed Dragonfly.
This Bee was far too busy to take any notice of me, look carefully and you can see he is covered in pollen.

Nearing the end of my journey today, been walking along the coast now for over 4 hours taking note of Butterfly species, a full list will appear at the bottom of the page. Near forward point  a Small Tortoiseshell made a perfect shot as basked and drank nectar...

And finally just heading along from Forward Point looking through the undergrowth for Adders or Grass Snakes, a surprise not seen any today it was the perfect day to see one.

Last shot of the day was another Six Spotted Burnet, not really a Butterfly as such but a delightful day flying Moth...


Speckled Wood = 36
Wall  =  6
Marbled White  = 2
Ringlet = 2
Red Admiral  =  11
Gatekeeper  =  118
Small White  = 22
Large White  = 9
Peacock = 2
Comma  = 3
Grayling = 2
Small Copper = 5
Small Tortoiseshell = 2

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Counting Butterflies

Taunton, Somerset, Sunday 17th July 2011

With the Big Butterfly Count starting this Weekend, the British Summer turned sour with most of the UK looking more like Autumn than Summer.

I managed to get out in the afternoon to try and find Some Butterflies and get my count up and running. The patch I chose was an area near Frieze Hill and Roughmoor close to the river in Taunton. The wind seemed stronger than even yesterday.

At first there were no Butterflies to be seen, and I did not blame them for not putting on a show..but then as I got closer to Roughmoor I found a sheltered spot and struck gold.. (Click on photo's for larger image).

I spotted this Common Blue trying to warm it's self and I was lucky to get this shot off without disturbing it. Suddenly there were Butterflies almost everywere, Small Whites fluttered around looking for flowers. Among them plenty of Speckled Woods.
While looking for other insects I found this Red Admiral that had died and a spider was alread at work turning into Sunday lunch..I beleived it to be a Crab Spider later at home seaching through my field books it was itentified as Misumena vatia.

I was really pleased to spot this Beautiful Demoiselle in flight, and followed until it it came to rest and managed to get some really good shots.

During the count I maanged to spot 2 Large White Butterflies, including this one feeding, I always find the White Butterflies harder to photograph as they fly off as you get close. Today I just got lucky.

Another insect find was this Grasshopper Pezotettix gionai (below). Apprantly they are quite silent unlike most of our Grasshopper and Crickets.

The sun did make a brief appearance and it warmed up, pleasing the Butterflies no end. One funny note while trying see and photograph a Butterfly I slipped down the bank and split my trouser's so I had to be very careful for the rest of the afternoon bearing in mind were the split was...

This Gatekeeper made a stop to feed and is one of my favourite British Butterflies they look so dainty in flight.

Ok, I cannot resist posting another shot of a Common Blue, as it warmed up there were plenty on the wing.

Soon after taking this shot another Blue Butterfly appeared and I carefully followed it, it was a Holy Blue, but would not settle long enough to get a decent shot, but it was a good record for the afternoon, and a key target.

This speckled Wood was sun bathing...even if the sun had disapeared again, the ground tends to hold the heat and Butterflies can gain heat direct from the soil.

On my retun walk, I encountered this mating pair of Common Blues and managed to get some superb shots, this is just one..
I found a few Ladybirds on the walk back along the river and found this unusual species resting, it was later identified as an 'Eyed Ladybird' a first for me..not sure what the population is of the Eyed Ladybird, so will be reading up over the coming day's

My Butterflycount for the afternoon:

Large White:   2
Small White: 5
Common Blue: 6
Holly Blue:  1
Gatekeeper:   3
Speckled Wood: 5

The counts were later submitted to the 'Big Butterfly Count Website'.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Big Butterfly Count 2011

The Big Butterfly Count 16th -31st July 2011

Please support the Butterfly Consversation's Big Butterfly Count that starts Saturday 16th July and runs until 31st July.

You can download a handy full colour wall chart to help identify our wonderful Butterflies. Why not sign up and become a member and help our 'Angels of the Summer' it is a lot of fun and all for a great cause. Our Butterflies are under great pressure and this survey will help us understand which species are doing ok and those that are declining. Please visit: and if you going to take part in the Butterfly count you can log your numbers from Saturday:

Enjoy the Big Butterfly Count 2011 and help British Butterflies.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Somerset Level's Walk

Saturday 9th July 2011

With what promised to be a dry and mostly warm and Sunny I headed for one part of the Somerset levels I love to visit. 

Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath provide a rich and diverse mixture and wildlife and wildflowers a stunning wetland habitat.

It was still quite early in the morning, but the Butterflies were very active and it looked like it was going to be a good day for counting the different species.

I disturbed a Grey Heron which took off and circled overhead before noisely dropping into a nearby field, and sat hunched up looking pretty fed up at being disturbed...

 With the weather now warming up over the last week the insects have really come out, over the last few days I have seen plenty of Flying Ants, and now the Soldier Beetles (below) are out in force I have become quite attached to these small insects.

Along with my camera gear I carry a small magnifying glass to study them at close quarters. They also fly so if you get to close they  become rather attached to you as well as I kept finding out.

With all the rain over recent weeks the wildflowers have really exploded into life since my last visitit, the Meadowsweet (photo below) has really brightened up the walk along Ham Wall.

Now that the Summer is in full swing and most birds have completed breeding or possibly having further broods, there is not much bird song now, but there is the odd Reed Warbler announcing himself, and the Marsh Frogs burst into life all of a sudden then qo quiet on you.

While walking along the reed lined path I found this Moth (below) and managed to get a few shots without disturbing it. I understand this is 'Silver-ground Carpet' Moth.

Red Admiral Butterflies were everywere, along the walk today, really good to see so many after all the damp weather of late. There were also many Ringlets on the wing. Managed to get a close up of a resting Gatekeeper. (Click on image for larger image).

A pair of Jay's were making a racket flying between tree's in the wooded section of Shapwick Heath, managed to get to the Decoy Hide just in time as a heavy shower suddenly appeared. Good time for a lunch stop and just enjoyed the tranquil peace and quiet, just the sound of rain falling on the lagoon, something very theraputic listing to the sound of rain.

Glastonbury Tor is a rather special place to visit, and there is something very special about the place, not sure what it is, it keeps pulling me back. I took this while waiting for the shower to clear and turned it into a B&W image, looks better than in colour. A stunning female Marsh Harrier quartered the reeds before climbing and drifting out of sight. Two Hobbies rested on a dead tree in the distance.

I caught this image of a Blue-tailed Damselfly just after the rain cleared, there were not too many Damselflies or Dragonflies seen today, I was expecting to see quite a few.

The rain seemed to have an effect as it suddenly got very warm and although for a while sightings dipped there was the odd Butterfly sighting, This Small Copper clearly enjoyed the warm sunny moment to 'dry off'.

Purple Loosestrife is at it's best now and could not resist a photo moment with one of my favourite wildflowers. On the return walk a Peregrine flew low overhead carrying prey it had caught.

Ok, now that Red Admiral Butterflies were everywere today I could not resist in the end, and got this shot of this sunning male. A Green Hairstreak rested on a blade of grass, very nearly walked on it... Last sighting was of a Scarlet Tiger, sadly it took off as I got my camera ready...shy !

Spotted this Dandelion seed head, blowing in the strong breeze, not easy to take a good close up with the breeze blowing..

The final tally of Butterflies seen today was impressive:

Red Admiral's           48
Ringlet's                    18
Small Copper             2
Small Tortoiseshell    14
Small White's            12
Large White                6
Green Hairstreak         1
Speckled Wood          9
Gatekeeper                 4

Silver-ground Carpet   1
Scarlet Tiger.

Could not resit one last photograph of the Soldier Beetle's....then it was off into Glastonbury for a cool drink.

Hope you enjoyed my sharing the walk and some of natures wonderful gifts. I shall in the course of the weeks ahead post more Wildlife and Landscape's as well as tell you of my sightings.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Butterflies of Berry Head

Saturday 2nd July 2011.

My first post on my blog, a day trip to Berry Head to look for some Butterflies and any other Wildlife on view.

It turned out to be a very warm and sun filled day. It is a popular spot for day trippers and dog walkers, but there are some quiet little sunny spots were you can find Butterflies.

First Butterfly to show was a Small Copper, trying very hard to avoid being Photographed.

I have always found Marbled Whites to be very tricky to photograph as they always tend to be very flighty. But after being very patient I managed to track this one (below) and get a distant shot. Later in the day I watched a pair in a courtship flight.

Some of the Wildflowers of Berry Head are now starting to show, including the Great Mullein (below), in a short time it will be spike of bright Yellow flowers.

There was a good number of Ringlets on the wing basking in the warm sunshine. By the end of my stay at Berry Head I had counted 25.

Below is only one of the two Comma's seen today. But found this one tucked out of the way in a sunny glade away from the many people.

One of the most common wildflowers to be seen on Berry Head is the Perenial Cornflower. Despite being very common it is one of my favourites to shoot.

After resting and enjoying afternoon tea at the Berry Head Fort cafe, I found this Green-veined White feeding on nectar.

Sadly no sign of any Adders or Grass Snakes despite the very warm temperatures today. But who know's maybe on my next visit.