This week at Lorton Meadows Nature Reserve has been less about the butterflies (but they’ll appear later in this post don’t worry), and more about returning my attention to the pond. I LOVE the pond at Lorton. It is a source of constant fascination, there is always something happening. Whether it is dragonflies zooming about, the skittering of a pond skater across the surface or the slow and steady progression of snails along the bottom, I never get bored! The sun was casting some beautiful light as well, resulting in some nice photos I think.
Also of note at Lorton this week, I saw a number of Migrant Hawker dragonflies (Aeshna mixta), spied a Great Green Bush Cricket (Tettigonia viridissima) in a tree and filmed a Marbled White butterfly (Melanargia galathea) clinging on desperately to the grass (in a windy and not sunny spell). Plus some intriguing unidentified creatures …
The sun set on the working week and I joined some fellow young moth-ers on Chesil Beach for a spot of moth trapping. A female Oak Eggar moth (Lasiocampa quercus) almost took me out as she flew into the trap, Amy Schwartz and I enjoyed a good catch-up (talk consisted of butterflies/moths, and dead things), and Jack Oughten found a roosting Clouded Yellow butterfly (Colias croceus). The latter was my first of the year! When I left to pick up Matt from the station, it seemed to have decided to roost on Sean Foote‘s hat.
The weekend proper begun bright and clear, already warm when we set off in the car. We were off on an adventure to the north! Of Dorset anyway. Having heard about my amazing visit to Alners Gorse Butterfly Reserve, Matt was keen to visit as well, and I wasn’t going to say no to a second visit! Alternating between watching butterflies in the hot sunshine, and cooling back down in the shade, we made our way around the reserve. It started well, with a Brown Hairstreak (Thecla betulae) and Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) almost immediately, followed by a Purple Hairstreak (Neozephyrus quercus) only a little further on. A wander through the woods saw us getting dive-bombed by fiesty Silver-washed Fritillaries (Argynnis paphia), followed by the gentler flutterings of a Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) and a Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) in the meadow (plus some other species too, but they were the highlights there).
In total, we saw 16 species – 2 of which were lifers for Matt (Brown Hairstreak and Essex Skipper, Thymelicus lineola). I dipped again on seeing White-letter Hairstreak (Satyrium w-album) and the valezina form of the Silver-washed Fritillary (seen only in the females). We also bumped into Megan Lowe, who was a trainee at the Chesil Beach Centre before me and is a fellow Lepidoptera enthusiast, now working for Butterfly Conservation.
Late afternoon and the sun was still beating down strongly. Feeling buoyed by Alners, we set off for one of my favourite spots – King Barrow Quarries Nature Reserve on the Isle of Portland. Straight away we saw my favourite butterfly, and another lifer for Matt, the Chalkhill Blue butterfly (Polyommatus coridon). With its powder-blue wings and distinctive spots, it really is a superb butterfly, and I saw my first female of this species!
A lazy Sunday lie-in, and we decided to stick with the butterfly theme and crossed the causeway again to visit Tout Quarries Nature Reserve. I took a wrong turn trying to find the spot where I saw the Grayling butterflies (Hipparchia semele) last time, but I am glad I did as it resulted in seeing a Wall butterfly (Lasiommata megera)! I hadn’t seen this beautiful species, with such a wonderful patterning, since May! Bonus – it was another lifer for Matt. Onwards and I found the right turning, and we had soon disturbed a Grayling (pretty much the only way to spot them, they are excellent at camouflage). And guess what, it was a lifer for Matt! We saw a few in all, but I bet there were plenty about that we couldn’t see. Strolling further, I took Matt to see my favourite carving in the quarry, ‘Still Falling’ by Anthony Gormley.
On the way back, I had to stop and question – “what’s that?”. Initial thought, it was too dark for a Kestrel or a Jay, but too light for a black corvid (e.g. Crow, Jackdaw, Raven). Quick zoom with the camera and snapping away to get some reference photos. Upon further thought and comparison to ID books, we reckon it is a Common / European Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), but a slightly odd-coloured one!
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