A Month of Butterflies!

Now that July is over (and I don`t seem to have found the time to post anything here at all) I thought I would look back over the month of July and recollect what has been an amazing butterfly extravaganza...

The start of it all was another surprise present - off Daughter - in the form of a year`s membership of The Butterfly Conservation organization. This meant that we finally were encouraged to look into local butterfly walks and see if we could enlarge on our meager species-count.

Our first butterfly walk, organized by John Slater of the Warwickshire Branch, was an amazing success. (Beginners luck)? The Purple Hairstreak pointed-out on a low-level leaf as we set off was the first `lifer`, quickly followed by a Purple Emperor high in the trees! All this in a local woods (Oversley Woods) less than 45 minutes from our house that we knew nothing about!

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The Purple Emperor was too far away and in heavy shade high-up in an Oak Tree but following instructions from John, a visit the next day produced heart-stopping views of this beautiful and elusive butterfly drinking water from the damp path!
I was fascinated to watch the butterfly rotate through 360 degrees to the sun as it`s iridescent purple coloration `moved` across the wings dependent on the sun`s angle (the butterfly is almost black unless catching the sunlight at just the right angle). 
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Another butterfly that got the adrenalin flowing was the Silver-washed Fritillary; not overly rare but until now not photographed - they were to prove frequent sights in the wide sunny rides of the woodland of subsequent visits also. White Admirals should not be neglected this far North either...

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Ringlets have been particularly plentiful this year - this one seen among many at the woods.
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Coughton Court is not far from Oversley Woods and has provided a perfect opportunity to stroll in a different habitat (fields and new woodland) with correspondingly different butterfly species such as Marbled Whites, Meadow Browns and Small Skippers in large numbers.
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The Essex Skipper has expanded its range North in the last few years and can now be seen in favored haunts across Warwickshire. This charming little moth-like butterfly is best distinguished from its close cousin the Small Skipper by studying the antennae; `dipped in black ink` in the case of the Essex Skipper. Compare this image with the one above...

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Essex Skipper.

The next Butterfly Walk (with the West Midlands Branch) turned-out to once again be at a previously unknown location - Baggeridge Park - on the edge of The Black Country. This oasis on the edge of sprawling housing is a place that will be visited again in the future - for dragonflies as well as butterflies: the species one would expect on spoil-tips-turned-meadows were abundant. This shot of mating skippers was very satisfying...

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Small Skippers Mating.
Mind you, the target species here was in fact a moth - a Six-Belted Clearwing Moth no less!


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Six-belted Clearwing Moth!

Wicken Fen (a National Trust Reserve in Cambridgeshire) proved good for butterflies as well as dragonflies (more about them in another post) although the Great British Summer weather was not exactly helpful. Large Skippers were plentiful as well as Red Admirals and Brimstones to name just three not mentioned above.
large skipper 052a (327)Red Admiral feeding on sap. 052a (419)brimstone butterfly 052a (590)

A walk around Weeting Heath (NNR) hoping for Stone Curlew provided plenty of sport of the butterfly kind even of the birds did not co-operate. This Small Heath Butterfly is drinking water from a recent rain-shower....
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Small heath Butterfly Drinking Rain-water.

And last - but by no means least - must be the Graylings photographed on the high crags of Malvern Hills thanks to the great guidance provided by Mell Mason of the West Midlands Branch. These butterflies are now critically endangered due to the growth of scrub following the cessation of grazing on the hills. This is an emergency as they are a unique sub-species (and are hence on the critically-endangered list) although scrub-clearance by volunteers and plans to reintroduce grazing may yet save the day...
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The Malvern Grayling.

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