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Tuesday, 6 June 2023

A Visit to Ketton Quarry - on 20th May, 2023

I would like to open this post with an apology to my readers for my tardiness, of late, in responding to posts on your blog and replying to your comments on my blog. Life has been a bit full-on over the past few weeks. The reasons for this are mainly good, but some are not so good. Hopefully an element of sanity will return soon.

This blog post features a single visit to a location that, although in the same county as our residence, is just over 50 miles (80 km) from home.

Ketton Quarry, an SSSI, is a favoured location for butterflies and I was keen to get there to see if I could catch up with Green Hairstreak, Dingy Skipper, and Grizzled Skipper butterflies. The day was forecast to be warm and sunny, if a bit breezy, but I knew that there would be sheltered areas where I might have some success. I packed up a picnic lunch and set off.

The cross-country journey to Ketton was, disappointingly, uneventful, apart from an enjoyable chat with some old friends who once hosted one of my Little Owl sites on their farm, until the tree came down in a gale.

At Ketton Quarry, I had a quick look around the small meadow area just inside the entrance gate, and was pleased to find a day-flying moth, for which Ketton Quarry is a stronghold for this species.

Burnet Companion (Euclidia glyphica) - Ketton Quarry

Brimstone butterflies were also in this area but not cooperating with my attempts at photographing them, so I made my way down into the small quarry area (I'm sure it has a name, but I don't know what it is!) that is just through a gate from the entrance meadow.

I was expecting to see butterflies, but I didn't. However, what I was not expecting was to get my first photo of the year of a dragonfly. This Four-spotted Chaser was very cooperative!

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) (male) - Ketton Quarry

From this area, I made my way up the hill on the path through the wooded area and turned right through the gate at the top. The hedge on the right has, in the past, been good for Green Hairstreak. I couldn't find any on this occasion, but I did find a male Holly Blue that was aggressively holding territory against all comers, high up in a tall bush. 

Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) (male) - Ketton Quarry
I then headed down into the old quarry area that lies to the south-west of this hedgerow. Here I found Common Blue, Brown Argus, and Brimstone butterflies.

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) (male) - Ketton Quarry
The female Common Blue butterfly, which is brown on the upper surface of its wings, can be a little difficult to separate from the Brown Argus butterfly for which both sexes are brown on the upper surface, and similarly marked to the Common Blue. One key factor, not always detectable, is that the Brown Argus does not have any spots on the underside of the forewing that is closer than half way to the abdomen. This can be seen in the following image.

Brown Argus (Aricia agestis) (female) - Ketton Quarry
Sex determination in Brown Argus is a little more difficult than it is with Common Blue! The female's orange spots at the forward edge of the upper side of the forewing are usually much stronger than those of the male, which tend to fade away as they near the forward edge.

I managed a shot of a female Brimstone which, on looking at the photo, seems to be ovipositing.

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) (female) - Ketton Quarry
I missed getting a shot of a Green Hairstreak in this area as, although I could see it clearly, I could not find it in the camera viewfinder before it departed.

I then headed back to the entrance meadow, and took the track that runs up through a gully to the north of the site. Although a few interesting items, mainly butterflies, were seen, no photos were taken, and on reaching the point where the gully  gully ends with a steep climb up to a higher level, this looked so muddy and hazardous that I went no further. It was time to return to my car for my picnic and a rest!

After lunch, I went back up to the Green Hairstreak hedge, where the Holly Blue was still in charge, but again failed to see Green Hairstreak. Someone was down in the quarry area to the south-west, so it was time to visit the meadow area on the south-east side of the path. This has been a good area for Grizzled and Dingy Skippers in the past.

My first sighting here was of a Green Hairstreak, although it was in less than perfect condition.

Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi) - Ketton Quarry
I spotted a day-flying moth that I was not sure of, and tried for some photos, only managing to get a couple of shots of the underside. Only after viewing my photos a couple of days later did I realise that it was a Mother Shipton - a species that I had only ever encountered once before, and is considered "uncommon/under-recorded" in the county. 

Mother Shipton (Callistege mi) - Ketton Quarry
I also found my first Small Heath of the year.

Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) - Ketton Quarry
It wasn't until I went into a low dip in the terrain at the north-east end of the area, that I found my first Grizzled Skipper of the day.

Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus malvae) - Ketton Quarry
There were two gentlemen fairly close by who were also looking for butterflies, and I went to join them. One was a gentleman from Yorkshire and the other was an old aquaintance of mine, David Needham (known to many as "Mr Ketton Quarry"). David was busy doing a transect count of this particular area of Ketton Quarry. I think that he might have been interested in my record of  Mother Shipton in that area while he was there, if I had his contact details.

David told me he had seen a Dingy Skipper in the area that I had just come from and, after we parted company, I spotted one.

Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages) - Ketton Quarry
My prime objectives being achieved, it was now time to head home. Back at the entrance meadow, I bumped into David again who pointed out a Twayblade orchid that was soon to flower, although, unlike many orchids, it would not win any beauty contests when it did so!

Common Twayblade (Neottia ovata) - Ketton Quarry
Just before reaching the gate to leave the reserve, I had the opportunity to photograph a male Brown Argus. You can see the 'fading' orange spots towards the leading edge of the forewing and the lack of spots on the underwing nearer than half way to the abdomen.

Brown Argus (Aricia agestis) (male) - Ketton Quarry

I had now been out considerably longer than I had expected, so I headed home via the speediest route, rather than my usual countryfied route. It had been a splendid day out.


As seems to be the norm these days, my next blog post will probably be in about a week's time. I suspect that it will feature a visit to a rather special location. In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature.

Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard