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Tuesday, 12 September 2017

In Search of Chalkhill Blues - on 10th august, 2017

This is another post with me in catch-up mode. It features a visit to a favourite location in early August. At that time I was still only using the Sigma 50-500mm lens.

My destination was Hills and Holes by Barnack in Cambridgeshire, and I set off late morning when it seemed that the weather had a chance of working in my favour.

Things started to look promising when I spotted a pair of Wheatear close to my Little Owl Site No.41 - although no owl has been seen here for many weeks. Here is one of the pair.

Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) - near my LO Site No.41
Further on a Kestrel momentarily remained on a post while I wound down my window and poked the camera at it.

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) (male)
I stopped to have a picnic lunch by my Little Owl Site No.34 in the hope of seeing an owl. I haven't seen one here for a while. They seem to have left the area and have possibly fallen victim to a Buzzard that was hanging around at the time of their disappearance.

I arrived at Hills and Holes at around 13h00, and set off in search of may target butterfly species - the Chalkhill Blue. I'd been twice before to look for this species - once in 2016 when John and I had visited rather late in the season when all the specimens seen were rather worn and tatty, and then again earlier in the season (probably a bit too early) this year when only males of the species were seen. John would have been with me again on this latest visit if he'd not been ill. 

I soon saw a male Chalkhill Blue which had settled on the path ahead of me. Then a little later another one, then a pair of males interacting but all were settling on the path which was not the best of situations. My real target was females of the species and, as usual , these were somewhat more elusive, although I did, eventually, manage to find some.

There were other butterflies too, the most interesting to me being the Brown Argus. This species can, at a glance, be difficult to tell from the female Chalkhill Blue when in flight because their size isn't immediately apparent - the Brown Argus is somewhat smaller.

On the odonata front, I didn't bother with the Common Blue Damselflies, several Brown Hawkers were seen but didn't oblige for a photo, and plenty of Common Darters were seen and a couple were photographed.

Here are some of my shots from the session.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male) - Barnack Hills and Holes
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) - Barnack Hills and Holes

Brown Argus (Aricia agestis) - Barnack Hills and Holes
Note that the dark spots on the forewings of the Brown Argus are somewhat variable in these parts. The norm elsewhere, I believe, is for the spots to be plain black. Hereabouts they tend to have white either side of the black, sometimes almost obscuring the black - tending to make them look somewhat like the Northern Brown Argus.

As previously mentioned, my real target was the female Chalkhill Blue. Here are some images of some that I found that day.

Chalkhill Blue (Polyommatus coridon) (female) - Barnack Hills and Holes
There's no getting away from it, however - the male of the species is remarkably handsome!

Chalkhill Blue (Polyommatus coridon) (male) - Barnack Hills and Holes
 It had been quite a rewarding day, from my point of view, and I went home a happy man!

Thank you for dropping by. I'm undecided, at this point in time as to what my next post will feature.


  1. Beautiful! Lovely photography moments Richard;-))

  2. Hi Richard. I will come back to this next week as I have an internet connection at about a Bit a minute. What happened to this post it showed a few days ago.

    1. Hi Adrian, sorry about the late publication of your comment and my reply. I've been away for a few days (see below).

      Your crippled internet performance sounds extremely painful. I understand your frustration!

      Also sorry about the confusion with this post. What happened was that I published my previous post, then immediately started work on this post. Unfortunately, after a few minutes, I accidentally hit the 'publish' button without realising it. This meant that the draft of this post superceded the post I'd only just published. As soon as I realised what I'd done, I withdrew the draft, but it still showed on automatic links as being my latest post - even though it was no longer there.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  3. I still find the job of identifying butterflies rather difficult. It seems all the guides I have found to browse assume you already know what it is which is not very helpful...I need an idiots guide lol.
    Cracking shot of the Wheatear

    1. I share your frustration with the identification of butterflies, Doug. There are some superb books out there, but I've not found one yet that spells out the key identification features. My favourite is 'The Butterflies of Britain and Ireland' by Jeremy Thomas & Richard Lewington. It describes every species in considerable detail - except their appearance and identifiction features. Fortunately Richard Lewington's illustrations are (as you might expect!) excellent, and I find myself studying these carefully looking for clues. Fortunately there are not too many species to identify in UK (72)

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  4. Hi Richard, I remember our visit last year and I think you have got some far better images than we managed on that occasion, the Chalkhill Blue is such a beautiful butterfly, great post. All the best and see you soon, John

    1. It was a very worthwhile and enjoyable session for me, John. I'd go again!

      I hope that all is well with you. See you soon - - - Richard

  5. I missed this post when it returned and have just discovered it again :-) I love that Kestrel. I seldom can get near any birds of prey, they seem extra skittish around here. I wish I had the patience (and the time) to sit in a field under a camouflage net!
    Well done on the Chalkhill Blue, I have only ever seen them once (to my knowledge) here in the garden and that was not recently.
    Take care and have a good day. Best wishes Diane

    1. Birds of prey are, in my experience, very skittish in these parts too, Diane. It's normal for them to have departed before I've managed to open the car window and take the shot - and I've usually got the camera primed and loaded on my knee!

      Have a great weekend. With my best wishes - - - Richard

  6. Congratulations on a fine day, Richard, when you succeeded in getting great images of the Chalkhill Blue, your target species. Too bad John was incapacitated and couldn't accompany you. I am sure he would have enjoyed the trip. Perhaps on your next trip to this location you will be experimenting with your new macro lens to see how much more detail you can achieve. Much love to you both, David

    1. Thank you, David. I am aware that I'm getting somewhat obsessed with getting fine detail in images of small creatures - mainly because I find I am seeing things that I've never seen before. I do keep giving myself a prod, however, to try and remind me that it's also good to show creatures in their environment. However, with something as small as an insect this isn't easy, as the environment tends to dwarf the subject!

      With love to you and Miriam - - Richard

  7. Brilliant post Richard!
    I believe you took these pics with your new Sigma?!
    If so, the results are perfect!
    I agree, the Chalky blue is a real beauty, I don't see them often enough but again I don't do macro much anymore!
    I also appreciated the immature male S. striolatum, it looks like 2 different males?...
    I hope your weather is Ok, here it is getting cold and rainy and I hate it!!
    Keep well and enjoy your afternoon :)

    1. Thank you, Noushka. No, they were actually all taken with the Sigma 50-500 before I got the 150 macro! That 50-500 is a lens that I'm more than pleased with because of its versatility.

      Well observed - those are two different S. striolatum

      It's very cold here - we've had to put the house heating on 6 weeks earlier than usual. We've also had high winds. Lindsay and I have just come back from a few days in Yorkshire, and we were lucker with the weather than we have been at home.

      Take good care. With my very best wishes - - - Richard

  8. My apologies for not publishing comments, or replying to them before now - I have been away for a few days and, although I had an internet connection, I was not able to log in to Blogger. I'm back now!

  9. What a beauty, you caught the Chalkhill Blue, fantastic Richard.

    1. It's a really beautiful butterfly, Bob - one of my favourites!

      Best wishes - - - Richard


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