Saturday, 2 July 2011

High summer meadows, butterflies & moths

THIS time of year can be a bit quiet on the birding front, so for a change I diverted my focus away from the honeypot nature reserves and wandered around the lanes and droves of the Somerset Levels instead....and WOW - it proved well worthwhile.

I must admit that the area in question is mainly a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), but is farmed for a profit, not for nature per se.  Being an inquisitive sort of chap I did venture into an old derelict set of buildings, including a cattle feeding barn.  I could see the tell-tale bird droppings on the rafters and who should fly out of a quiet nook, but a beautiful barn owl.  It was about 2m from me but it did not make the slightest sound vocally or with its wings - we were both surprised.  On the floor were regurgitated pellets with the usual remains of small mammals and fur.

Back outside, the track leading to the barn was overgrown with wet-loving plants and flowers, and enjoying these were numerous butterflies and dragonflies.  In fact the whole day seemed to be spent coming across clouds of insects.

In my obsessive (-ish) drive to photograph flying insects I did try to catch a few, including these ones below, of the abundant ringlets butterflies feeding on the thistles.

Around the area of the barn there were a number of wonderful flower rich meadows, still uncut.  These were packed with black knapweed, meadow sweet and vetches - they really were a sight for sore eyes and such places are quite rare nowadays

 Black knapweed meadows
 Old stone gate post with its own flora

Whilst walking along the track I was amazed to see flashes of red and black.  There were hundreds of Scarlet Tiger moths.  It appeared to be males mobbing the females.  These day flying moths are no less spectacular than most butterflies.

Although its hard to show on the image below the rhynes were full of meadow sweet and valerian.

The brambles were being enjoyed by the small skippers

I did not totally shun the reserves.  My hunt for amphibians came up trumps with four slow worms, three adders and a grass snake. This female adder can just be seen amongst the foliage.

Adder (female)


Young grass snake

 Dragonfly in flight

A real stunner on the reserve are the white admirals. This species is wholly dependant on honeysuckle for its caterpillars to eat.

 White admiral


  1. Animals, birds,insects and plants appear to be totally ignorant as to where the reserves are and just go and grow wherever they like - an appalling state of affairs! I am absurdly jealous of your close encounter with the owl, their silent flight is just amazing, isn't it.

  2. It was super close...but I felt a bit bad about disturbing it. I am pretty sure that there were no youngsters there at that time, but did not investigate further. It was a great experience indeed...
    The great thing about the Levels is that the reserves are just examples of great areas for wildlife and are not islands of interest (although they do stand out as areas where there is careful water and reed management to promote nesting rarities such as bittern).


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