Saturday, 27 July 2013

Butterflies in high summer

JULY is a funny time of year for many - the freshness of spring is long gone and most birds have stopped singing and now skulk around out of sight or feed their young.  So those with an inquisitive mind turn their attention to other things, namely insects - primarily butterflies (Lepidoptera), damselflies and dragonflies (Odonata).

On the Somerset Levels the Odonata were everywhere last Sunday, but pretty impossible to photograph in flight.  However I did have more success with the butterflies.

The steaming hot weather has suited the insects down to the ground.  This beautiful large skipper was found feeding on bird's-foot trefoil.

In high summer the hedgerows and ditch margins are lush and full with grasses, meadowsweet and great willowherb growing tall.  Greater bird's-foot trefoil weaves between stems of other plants to send its golden yellow flowers skywards.

Everyone knows that many butterflies love buddleia. Primarily whites, tortoiseshells, peacocks and painted ladies feed on the purple flowers.  In this case the group of butterflies seemed to be constantly agitated, rising into the sky in aggressive dog fights. 

The cabbage white is one of our most familiar butterfly species -here it was found feeding on willowherb flowers.


Some other subjects also caught my eye:

The highlights of high summer.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Dunkery & Horner Wood NNR - silver washed fritillaries

HEADING out of our campsite near Porlock, undoubtably the highlight of a long woodland walk were the huge silver-washed fritillary butterflies floating around their sun dappled territories, sometimes resting on a sunlit twig and sometimes chasing rivals in mini dog fights.


A river leads the way for much of the walk as you ascend the valley.

The bright sun caught this tree's leaves in a beautiful way:

This time of year foxgloves are at their peak and provide a stunning spectacle framing the view to the coast.


The local campsite was hosting the scouts - they were showing their patriotic sentiments.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Porlock Bay, North Somerset

ANOTHER wonderful weekend just gone and this time we chose to visit the dramatic Porlock Bay in north Somerset.

The beach there is made up of a long shingle ridge backed by a small marshland (which was pretty dry) and hills behind.  Here is a 360 view with the beach to the left and the marsh to the right:

There was only one person on it, but then its not really a sunbathing or even swimming beach.  Even in this tough environment enough organic matter gathers to support a significant number of seashore specialists and other hardy plants.

Narrow-leaved everlasting pea

Rock samphire in the foreground

Buck's-horn plantain
Swallows gathering on the dead trees

Friday, 12 July 2013

Beautiful Ringlet butterfly

Near Southstoke, Bath there is a valley with some rich unimproved limestone grassland and patches woodland.  This year the fields are totally ungrazed, so the grasses are too tall to provide the normal wonderful show of wild flowers.  However I did manage to capture this beautiful ringlet butterfly last week with my camera:

Wellow wander

ONE wonderfully sunny evening this week we went for a walk around the beautiful village of Wellow, in northeast Somerset near Bath.  The walk drops down into the adjacent valley (you turn off next to the pub), takes you across the ford, along a byway, past a long-barrow and over the brook.  You then turn back towards the village and walk along side he brook  until finally you cross the fields and climb back up into the village again (see map below)

Its an easy walk and presents a number of highlights whenever you go.  This time the most exciting find was a pair of kingfishers nesting in the river bank - they were loud with their high pitched piping and regularly flew back to the nest to feed their young.

The Wellow Brook
Also of interest were a green woodpecker, bath asparagus flowering in good numbers and the first banded damoiselles of the year for me.   The only downside were the horseflies!

Bath asparagus
Green woodpecker
Water crowfoot - an indicator of a healthy river
Banded damoiselle damselfly