Thursday, 28 July 2016

JULY 18 - Silver-washed Fritillaries (Argynnis paphia) are fast-flying butterflies of woodland glades. A low percentage of females can occur as the beautiful grey-green f. valezina which strongly contrasts with the bright orange of the normal form. Much sought after, the valezinas are very scarce and in Britain appear restricted to a few large woods in the south of the country. Hearing that one had been seen at a locality in the south Midlands, and for which I had good locality details, we took the (distinctly ambitious) decision to make a 360 mile round-trip to try to see it despite the chance of success being low.

From early afternoon these butterflies apparently tend to spend the time high in the trees, so following a 6.30am start we were at the site in good time (10.15am) in ideal hot sunny conditions. The normal form was already flying in an open glade in good numbers, sometime resting briefly on brambles as well as on tree trunks in the shade. It was more than an hour before we located the valezina. It was spending its time resting or briefly flying low down in deep shade, and never straying far from a limited area of the glade. Frequently it would fly very close as though inspecting an intruder and on one occasion it actually flew between my legs (nutmegged by a valezina!). We watched and photographed it (not easy in the deep shade) for over an hour before it was finally lost to view. In the wood we also saw two White Admirals, a Small Copper, some Purple Hairstreaks, and many Meadow Browns and Speckled Woods in this ideal butterfly locality.

It was a long but most rewarding day as for many years I'd hoped to eventually see a valezina. So another long-standing target was achieved - not least thanks to Les who did all the driving and to Dave for his tip-off (July 18, 2016).


Wednesday, 27 July 2016

JULY 16 - Gatekeepers, Commas, Small Tortoiseshells, and Small Whites on a weedy area at Brockholes, Preston.


JULY - At this time last year I tried to re-locate the beautiful British endemic Linum perenne subsp anglicum (Perennial Flax) at its four historic sites in Cumbria. At two of the sites (Rosgill and Potrigg) grazing was very heavy and none could be found (although one had been seen in flower at Potrigg just prior to my visit). At the other two sites (Gilts and Crayston) there were just three plants and one plant, respectively. This year I understand that the single plant at Crayston (very vulnerable due to location) has reappeared but is now becoming overgrown, whilst at Potrigg where I found none last year, three vegetative plants have been seen. So far, there has been no further news about the Gilts plants (3 last year). So by the current count only 7 plants appear to be extant in the county. Although it is more frequent in the south of England, it will be a sad indictment of conservation measures (or the lack of) if the Cumbrian plants are finally lost due to indifference and neglect.

Photos: Crayston (1-3) Gilts (4)


Tuesday, 26 July 2016

JULY 5 - Silver-studded Blues (Plebejus argus) on Great Orme and Prees Heath. Those on the limestone of the Orme are subspecies caernensis, smaller than the type subspecies and with the females' wings shot with blue on the upperside. Those at Prees Heath are the nominate subspecies (argus) of the heath-land habitat where the females' wings are usually dull brown lacking the blue flushing.

The first group of photos show subsp.caernensis, two males followed, by several females showing varying levels of blue on the wing ups. Also a group resting from the wind in low vegetation and a male and female together.

The second group are of subsp argus at Prees Heath. Here the females wings ups are dull brown, occasionally with a slight hint of blue. The first two photos are males, followed by females, then a pair and finally a mating pair

As a postscript, several Graylings were seen on Great Orme; these are the endemic subsp. thyone, smaller and less contrastingly marked on the wings' undersides than in the type

Also, one of several Common Lizards basking at Prees Heath


JUNE 24/28 -  Other butterflies found in the French Jura. Other than the wet meadow areas (see Lycaena helle) another rich area was an open limestone pasture in the Foret du Risou. Some of these seen were

Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages)
Duke of Burgundy (Hamearis lucina)
Large Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus alveus)

Mazarine Blue (Cyaniris semiargus)

Moorland Green-veined White (Pieris bryoniae)

Red Underwing Skipper (Spialia sertorius)

Small Blue (Cupido minimus)

Elsewhere in damper or shaded areas were:

Woodland Ringlet (Erebia medusa)

Marsh Fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia)

Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines)

Purple-edged Copper (Lycaena hippothoe)
Northern Wall Brown (Lasiomatta petropolitana)