Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Park Corner Heath

Ok, here's Sunday's report. We had a small window of opportunity for butterfly-searching, after aikido in the morning and in between dropping off a tall stack of raptor-related books at Nigel's and getting home to watch Toy Story 2. It was warm but cloudier than Saturday.

Nigel provided us with excellent home-made elderflower cordial and the chance to see a Grass Snake in his compost bin - but alas, the snake wasn't there when he lifted the lid. We did see a Slow-worm in there though, or a bit of one at least.

Then it was westward bound for Park Corner Heath - a Butterfly Conservation reserve near Hailsham. I had only been once before, to see Grizzled Skippers in spring 1996 or something, but today we were after some midsummer butterflies.

The reserve begins with a track through woodland, lined with bramble bushes. This looked extremely promising for butterflies, but the sun was behind cloud and we didn't see any.

Not easy to capture the essence of the place. It is flattish and well-vegetated. Even in the open 'heath' area the bracken comes up to chin-height (well, my chin-height anyway). Here's a look through the trees.

Wandering around, we soon saw a Silver-washed Fritillary, bombing across the 'heath' at dangerous speed. Zero chance of a photo.

This Peacock was finding everything a bit too hot, and kept its wings closed as it rested. So instead of a stunning technicolour open-wing pic I offer this stark cardboard cut-out effort.

Rob spotted what he thought was a Smooth Snake in the undergrowth. Further round we saw this Grass Snake and Rob got lousy photos before it zipped away. He conceded that the first one could have been a Grass Snake too.

We saw a couple of Brimstones among the Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers. This female actually sat down for a rest, allowing me to take this badly exposed photograph of her.

On the way back along the access track, the sun was now out and various butterflies were visiting the bramble flowers. We spotted a pair of Silver-washed Fritillaries flying through the wood in their courtship dance - one insect going in a straight line and the other looping round and round it. They came back along the track and went right past us, then broke apart - one flew off and and the other went and basked on some bracken, unfortunately at such an angle that all we could see was the tip of one antenna.

 Eventually patience paid off and the frit came to feed on a bramble flower, revealing itself to be the male of the couple (those streaks on the forewing give it away). It is pretty worn but still a lovely-looking insect.

The fritillary soon skipped off, just as a White Admiral flitted into view. The most elegant UK butterfly, it glided around the clearing on open wings with great panache, then picked a sunlit bracken frond on which to bask. Close views revealed that it was very worn, even more than the fritillary was (they're not supposed to be see-through) and was missing a big piece of hind-wing. Nevertheless, it was still a great-looking butterfly and an excellent way to round off the visit.

1 comment:

thefitwriter said...

You must have immense amounts of patience!

(From another Kent girl :) )