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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.


  1. Just lovely pictures of the beautiful butterflies and dragonflies! Greetings from here in cold and rainy Lapland ;-))

    1. I'm sorry to hear that you are having cold wet weather while you are away from home. I hope you get some sunshine soon.

      Thank you for your visit - - Richard

  2. A strenuous day, but a rewarding one it seems, Richard, and you made contact with some of your target species. We get White Admiral here and at times it can be fairly easy to find in the right location and habitat. The picture of the Eurasian Magpie is terrific, I think. I expect to be seeing many of them in just over a month. Love to you and Lindsay.

    1. It was very worthwhile, David, and I hope to return again next year. It's interesting to know that you get White Admiral there too. This was my first ever sighting of that species, and I suspect that there are many people in UK with a passing interest in butterflies that have never seen one either.

      I suspect that you'll see many Magpies in Slovenia. I have been known, on occasion to pronounce that I believe that Magpies are taking over the world. Incidentally, my next door neighbour, who gets about a bit as he's an airline pilot, told me yesterday that they had just got back from Slovenia and reckoned it's the best holiday they'd ever had!

      My love to you both - - - Richard

  3. Oh my goodness, you've managed a decent photo of the always flying depressa mating wheel, special congrats for that one!! I've tried it several times to no avail, it is one the most difficult mating wheel to photograph!
    I managed 3 or 4 Crocothemis erythraea mating wheels this summer but they had perched... 3 seconds!
    Wonderful Argynis paphia pics too and the hairstreak is quite special too, I don't get to see many here.
    Lovely dragons too, the quadri is gorgeous!
    got my LO up on my blog!!!
    Warm hugs to share with Lindsay :)

    1. I promise you, Noushka that that is not a decent photograph of Libellula depressa mating in flight. I have had to apply a ridiclulous amount of sharpening and it's still very blurred! I would have been too ashamed to publish it if I thought I had the slightest chance of getting better in the future, but it's a sight I've never seen before, and they seem to move very fast while they're at it!

      Crocothemis erythraea is a very rare visitor to UK, but perhaps climate change will increase its visits.

      You LO is gorgeous!

      With my very best wishes - - - Richard

    2. Nonetheless, mating wheels of dragonflies remaining airborn are incredibly difficult to shoot so I insist on congratulating you! ;-)
      On the other hand, what you told me about the LO's is really sad, I hadn't understood it was that serious. But I agree, at a certain age (I'm getting there too) it becomes difficult physically to run around! So maybe their are somewhere and you will see them in winter, at least I hope so!
      Warm hugs :)

    3. Very kind words, Noushka, and much appreciated. Thank you!

    4. Hi Richard,
      I had a first good laugh at your comment on my dragons (I've answered you on that one) but David's comment also got me started again!
      As I told him on his blog, it is so much fun I'll publish more about odonata in the future!!!!!
      Keep well my friend and be on the look-out for our cute friends the LO's!!

  4. It's a nice wood Fermyn. Saw my first Lesser Spotted Woodpecker there

    1. It's a great place, Doug, but it gets a bit busy when the White Admirals and Purple Emperors are around.

      Haven't seen a LS Woody for a few years now. They've got quite rare in these parts.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  5. Stunning photography, and I never have seen a White Admiral, there is plenty of time.

    1. Thank you, Bob. This was my first time for White Admiral. I hope to visit again next year.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  6. Hi Richard and what a superb visit, several species of Butterfly I have never seen, as you say many thanks Sarah. Then to find some Dragonflies and again onto Launde and find some more. Wonderful post. All the best. John

    1. Thanks, John. We must try and get out there next year. It was good to be out with you again (at last!) on Thursday.

      See you soon - - Richard

  7. How I hate our WiFi. I just typed you a long comment, hit publish and it went off line. Bye bye comment.
    Another great post and it was good to see the White Admiral after my mistaken identity the other day. I have never seen a Purple Hairstreak, I must keep my eyes open. The dragon fly shots are superb as are the ones of the mating.
    The magpie photo is superb, quite a handsome bird, again I must look harder! Red kites used to be all over the place when we lived in Oxford, but that was in the days when I had a small camera just for holiday shots! How my life has changed since Nigel bought ‘us’ a Nikon 3200 – shame I don’t think he has ever had the chance to use it!!!
    Hope that all is well. Have a good Sunday. Cheers Diane

    1. Hi Diane. Sorry I've not replied before now, but I've been a bit tied up - partly because of a brilliant Sunday (must have been your good wishes that did it!).

      Thank you for your kind words, which are much appreciated.

      I think that Nigel is very wise to leave the D3200 in your hands - you're getting wonderful results with it!

      With my very best wishes - - - Richard


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