Monday, 29 July 2013

Down with the blues

Yesterday I went for a walk on the North Downs with Susan and didn't take my camera, because it was supposed to be a WALK. But we did end up having a sit-down and there were impressive numbers of butterflies around. So much so that when I got home in the late afternoon I called Rob to see if he wanted to go butterfly-photographing and he did. After some minor lens-wrangling which saw me end up with his 70-180mm Nikon macro while he took my 180mm Sigma BigMac, we set off. It was nearly 7pm but I knew the particular slope we were heading for would be lit up until sunset.

Almost as soon as we arrived I heard a familiar but unexpected croak, and looked up to see two Ravens gliding overhead. The 70-180mm macro protested at being asked to do something it was really not designed for and trundled back and forth through its entire focal range without locking onto anything, while the corvids flew out of sight. Oh well, on with the butterflies. It was quite breezy which made for challenging conditions, but otherwise a gorgeous summer evening.

The species I was most keen to see again was Chalkhill Blue, and there were plenty about. A few of the males were posing with wings spread, though most looked to be settling down for the night. I only saw two females, their darker colours making them look much smaller than the males in flight.

Second on the wishlist was Marbled White. These too were numerous, though many were starting to look a little faded and frayed around the edges. The one above with wings spread was carrying one of those red mites that this species seems particularly prone to.

Gatekeepers were present in reasonable numbers, sticking to the hedgerow edges and around the bushes. Meadow Browns preferred more open spots but with long grass, and were very flighty right up until dusk.

Earlier in the day I'd seen a few Large Skippers as well as Smalls, but didn't find any of the former this evening. Another species seen earlier but on the missing list tonight was Dark Green Fritillary.

Six-spot Burnets were everywhere, as were their recently ruptured or just about to rupture pupae. Here's one inspecting my camera settings...

... and explaining I'd done it all wrong.

As it got darker, I found this lovely Pyrausta sp. moth hiding in a shady spot and used flash to try to get a clearer pic of it, which didn't really work. Any thoughts as to species? I'm tending towards an aberrant P. aurata.

With the sun almost gone, I found an Essex Skipper which was amenable to boarding my hand, and held it up for Rob to take that diagnostic antennae-first photo before returning it to its perch.

A Chalkhill Blue also accepted similar treatment.

A bit of a view to finish.


Warren Baker said...

Brilliant evenings entertainment Marianne :-)

Marbled White is one species ive not had here, but might one day, as for Chalkhill blue, I dont think i stand much chance!

Greenie said...

Marianne ,
Nice set of evening butterfly shots . I agree , the 6 Spot Burnets are having a really good year .
Would agree with P. aurata ID , but perhaps it was the flash gives the indication of aberration ?

Marianne said...

Thanks folks :) Maybe, Greenie, didn't think of that. The flash has really lit up the yellow on its 'shoulders' and thorax. I did also think it had more extensive yellow on the forewings than I'd noticed before, but looking on Google the species seems to be very variable anyway.

Lou Mary said...

Fabulous to see those chalkhills! Pretty open and closed wings! The photo of the burnet on your nose is super!

Graham Canny said...

Lovely set of photos. The butterflies seem to be out in some numbers now. At least, up here they are.