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Wednesday, 30 August 2017

A White Letter Day - on 12th July, 2017

I'd first visited Ticknall Limeyards earlier in the year, having been recommended it as being good for dragonflies and damselflies. This would be my third visit. There was a fair bit of sunshine and, for a change, it wasn't too breezy. However, it was just after a cold wet spell so I wasn't over-hopeful.

On arrival at the place where I park my car in Ticknall I was accosted by a gentleman who asked if, by any chance, I was headed for Ticknall Limeyards. He explained to me that he was recovering from a stroke, and had difficulty in finding directions. He also pointed out that he didn't walk very quickly - which suited me fine! So off we set. 

The gentleman was on a mission to find a particular species of butterfly which he said had been reported as being seen in the limeyards. If I remember correctly, it was Silver-washed Fritillary that he was looking for. I told him that I was looking for dragonflies, and he said he didn't know much about them - in the event it turned out that he was probably more knowledgeable than myself on that subject as he was pointing out and identifying species without hesitation! 

He stayed with me for a while and then went off to return to the lime kilns which we had passed earlier, where he thought he had most chance of finding his target species.

The first subjects to get my attention were a pair of Ruddy Darter. I'm rather fond of the first image below, although it is not of the best quality, because it shows the pair in tandem, with the male having already touched down on the stem, but the female still hovering. Moments later, she too touched down.


Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (pair in tandem) - Ticknall Limeyards
On 1st June I'd been impressed by the number of Red-eyed Damselfly that were here. On this day I saw just one, which stayed distant before disappearing.

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) (male) - Ticknall Limeyards
I think this visit possibly gave me my first local sighting of Common Darter for the year.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - Ticknall Limeyards
An Emperor appeared for a short while, but I only got a distant record shot.

Emperor (Anax imperator) (male) - Ticknall Limeyards
Other damselflies here included Common Blue Damselfly, and Azure Damselfly.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (pair in tandem) - Ticknall Limeyards
Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) (male) - Ticknall Limeyards
I also took some more shots of Ruddy Darter.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (teneral female) - Ticknall Limeyards
Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (male) - Ticknall Limeyards
At one point in time, I took a break to look at some nearby orchids. There was an area that was covered by a mixture of Common Spotted Orchid and Fragrant Orchid. The first image shows part of that area.

Common Spotted Orchid and Fragrant Orchid - Ticknall Limeyards
Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea) - Ticknall Limeyards

Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) - Ticknall Limeyards
I'd decided that it was about time to depart, but took a few shots of another teneral female Ruddy Darter before setting off.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (teneral female) - Ticknall Limeyards
Heading back, I soon found the gentleman that had accompanied me earlier. He was sitting on a bank, keeping an eye out for the butterflies. This prompted me to wander off in the immediate area to see if I could find anything interesting for him. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw what I took to be a Purple Hairstreak on some Rosebay Willowherb. I took a few shots, dropped my hat on the ground so I could find the location again (there was a lot of Rosebay Willowherb around!) and rushed off to get the gentleman. I told him what I'd found and he followed me to my hat - the butterfly was still there (so was my hat)!

It was not until I looked at my photos when I'd got home that I realised that what we'd seen had been the elusive White-letter Hairstreak. If the gentleman that was with me had known of my mistake, he was too polite to say so! I was delighted with this find, as it was a 'lifer' for me.


White-letter Hairstreak (Satyrium w-album) - Ticknall Limeyards
After a while it flew up into the trees and was lost to sight. I continued on my way back to my car, stopping to photograph a Comma and a Gatekeeper en-route.

Comma (Polygonia c-album) - Ticknall Limeyards
Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus) (male) - Ticknall Limeyards
Before I reached my car, I couldn't resist taking a shot of wild flowers in a field  - sadly there were no butterflies on them!

Wild Flowers - Ticknall
It was now time to head home and check what I had managed to achieve with my camera.

Thank you for dropping by.

I suspect that my next post will feature my initial experiences with my new macro lens.


Friday, 25 August 2017

Fermyn Woods - on 7th July, 2017

I'm still in catchup mode and, like my previous post, this post also features one of the excellent walks led by Sarah Proud, for the benefit of volunteers at Rutland Water, which took place just one week later.

Never having been to Fermyn Woods before, and them being roughly 65 miles (105 km) from my home, I left home rather early, not knowing what sort of traffic I might meet on a Friday morning. In the event, I arrived an hour early and did a little pre-visit investigation.  

Within a very short time I'd found a White Admiral. This was one of the target species for the day, and a 'lifer' for me. Sadly, the specimen I saw had a chunk out of one of its hindwings. I initially thought that this was probably a male because the forewings seemed relatively pointed. However, I now suspect that it was a female, having looked at Richard Lewington's illustration.

White Admiral (Limenitis camilla) - Fermyn Woods
I wandered around for a while, only seeing a Silver-washed Fritillary during my travels - but it was quite early in the day. It was time to head back to meet the rest of the group at the arranged time. However, after around 15 minutes, I realised that I'd taken a wrong turn somewhere! I couldn't relocate the route I'd been on and, eventually, had to resort to heading northwards in the knowledge that I should end up at some time at a tarmac road. I did this at a trot, found the road and, to my relief, found I was only a couple of hundred metres from where I needed to be. I arrived just in time, but rather overheated in mind and body.

With the group assembled, we entered the woods, and were soon having another of our target species pointed out to us - Purple Emperor (Apatura iris). Frustratingly, these were all high up in the canopy and, although readily identifiable, were totally impossible to photograph. This proved to be the situation for the rest of the visit, so I will not return to this subject.

Soon we were looking at White Admiral again. This one was also not in perfect condition. As we were in a group, I had to hold back somewhat from close-up photography. The underside of this species is, to my mind, even more attractive than the upperside, although I failed to get a good image to show this. I think that this was probably also a female.



White Admiral (Limenitis camilla) - Fermyn Woods
In the same area as the White Admiral, there was a Silver-washed Fritillary.

Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia) - Fermyn Woods
There were some of the more common (sorry, but I just can't bring myself to use the word 'commoner' in this context) butterflies around, including Speckled Wood and Comma. Here's one of a Comma conveniently showing how it got both its common and scientific names.

Comma (Polygonia c-album) - Fermyn Woods
At one point, Sarah spent some time looking pensively through her binoculars at something up in a tree. Eventually she announced that she'd found a Purple Hairstreak. There was a debate as to whether or not this was a recently emerged butterfly as its wings appeared to be not fully unfurled. This matter was not resolved at the time, but I can see from my images that, although the wings are deformed, the butterfly looks somewhat battered. I'm suggesting that this was an old butterfly that had wings that had never fully unfurled.


Purple Hairstreak (Favonius quercus) (male) - Fermyn Woods
After this, we headed out of the woods and into agricultural land in the hope of finding Black Hairstreak. We were unsuccessful, but there were several Southern Hawker dragonflies distantly patrolling over the cereal crop in the fields adjacent to the path that we were on. As we returned to the wood, to enter by a different track, we came across several Silver-washed Fritillary, including a pair that were mating.



Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia) - Fermyn Woods
Shortly before the end of the walk I spotted another Purple Hairstreak, but most of the rest of the group had gone on ahead, so not everyone saw it. This one was also in poor condition, but I did manage to get a shot which more clearly shows its underwing markings. I don't like to publish such poor images, but it's an absolute rarity for me to see this species - only once before in my life!


Purple Hairstreak (Favonius quercus) (female) - Fermyn Woods
As we left the woods and returned to our cars, a Red Kite was flying in the distance. These birds are now rather common in this area, after a successful reintroduction programme.

Red Kite (Milvus milvus) - near Fermyn Woods
After the group dispersed, I set off in my car to look at another part of the woods which is accessed from the visitor centre. Unfortunately, they'd had a problem with the parking ticket machines here. This resulted in having to walk the 200 metres from car to cafe to buy a ticket and then the 200 metres back to the car to put the ticket in the window - a bit of an inconvenience.

My main objective here was to locate the ponds that were shown on the site plan that is in the site's brochure, and try and find some dragonflies. Because the site plan didn't bear to much relationship to the actuality, and the signage was minimal it took a while to locate what I now believe to be the only accessible pond.

Whilst searching, I took a shot of a Magpie which I'm quite pleased with. It departed at speed as soon as it saw me!

Magpie (Pica pica) - Fermyn Woods
By the time I found the pond, it was turning cloudy and breezy. There were a few moments of sunshine when a few damselflies and dragonflies appeared, and I took advantage of these as best I could.


Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) (male) - Fermyn Woods



Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) (male) - Fermyn Woods
Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) (pair in tandem) - Fermyn Woods
When the cloud looked as if it was going to be continuous, I gave up at the pond and did a little more exploration. In spite of the lack of sun, Gatekeepers were still around.

Gatekeeper (Pyronia tythonus) (male) - Fermyn Woods
Being weary by now, I decided to head homeward. It had brightened up a bit by the time I reached Launde Abbey so I stopped at the very small pond by the road junction here as I'd seen dragonflies on previous visits. 

On arrival I saw Black-tailed Skimmer, Broad-bodied Chaser, and Emperor dragonflies. There were also plenty of Common blue Damselflies around. I didn't do at all well with the photography, and it got dull again ten minutes after my arrival and the dragonflies disappeared over the horizon.

I wish I'd got a closer and better focused image of this next one as it reminds me of an approaching fighter aircraft.

Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) (male) - Launde Abbey
I didn't manage any sensible images of the Emperor, and my attempt to get a record of my first sighting of mating Broad-bodied Chaser resulted in a very poor shot, but I include it here for the record.

Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) (male) - Launde Abbey
Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) (pair mating) - Launde Abbey
After this it was time to head home.

I take this opportunity to thank Sarah Proud once again for yet another splendid Butterfly Walk.

Thank you for dropping by. I suspect that, unless something else crops up, my next post will also feature dragons and butterflies.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Ketton Quarry - on 30th June, 2017

Another retrospective blog post - this one concerning one of the several excellent Butterfly Walks led by Sarah Proud for the benefit of the volunteers at Rutland Water.

I've been to Ketton quite a few times, and it is a place I love - I just wish it was closer to home! This day we were to be blessed with good weather, after a few wet days. The meeting time of 09h00 meant a relatively early start for me as I'm around two hours away from this location.

We soon had one of our target species in sight - the wonderful Marbled White. This one was a male.

Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) (male) - Ketton Quarry
We had many other sightings of this species - here are a few more images:-



Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) (female) - Ketton Quarry

Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) (male) - Ketton Quarry
Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) (pair mating - female on top) - Ketton Quarry
There were a number of other butterfly species around, and I managed to photograph a few. Here's a selection:-

Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus) - Ketton Quarry

Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus) - Ketton quarry
Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) - Ketton Quarry
We saw several day-flying Cinnabar moths. Here's one:-

Cinnabar (Tyria jacobaeae) - Ketton Quarry
Two species of fritillary butterfly were there. The first seen was Silver-washed Fritillary, which I have never before photographed.



Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia) - Ketton Quarry
 More numerous, however, were the Dark Green Fritillaries.





Dark Green Fritillary (Argynnis aglaja) - Ketton Quarry
Ketton Quarry is also known for its orchids. I've tried to learn a bit about orchids, but so far find that I fail miserably when it comes to identification of the Spotted/Marsh/Fragrant Orchids. Here are a few that I'll just call A, B, C or D. I suspect that they were all colour variants of Common Spotted Orchid (yes, I omitted to make a note of the leaves!), but I'd be grateful for any advice.

Orchid A - Ketton Quarry
Orchid B - Ketton Quarry

Orchid C - Ketton Quarry
Orchid D - Ketton Quarry
I do know, however, that just before we set off back to the start point we were shown Bee Orchid.

Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) - Ketton Quarry
I take this opportunity to thank Sarah for yet another splendid Butterfly Walk.

Thank you for dropping by. I'm not sure what my next post will be about.