A record of wildlife in my garden and various trips to the Warwickshire countryside and occasionally further afield.
"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."
From "Auguries of Innocence"
by William Blake
Thursday, 22 May 2014
Butterflies at Bishop's Hill
Every year I make a New Year's Resolution to try and see more butterfly species and this year I am determined to carry this through. To do this means travelling further from home and yesterday was such a beautiful, warm, sunny day, ideal for looking butterflies that I decided to drive to a reserve in South Warwickshire that I haven't visited before.
Bishop's Hill/Bishop's Bowl at Bishop's Itchington was once a limestone quarry with associated cement works. Lime waste from the cement factory has created a limestone grassland-scrub habitat which has made it an important regional area for insect species. In fact, as we were leaving I met 2 ecologists who were just about to start surveying insects on the site.
The Yellow Land Community Nature Reserve created in 2008 as a Heritage Project has transformed one acre of the area into a village nature reserve so people can connect with nature and see wildlife (much of it rare) on their doorstep.
There were four species I was hoping to see Small Blue, Dingy and Grizzled Skipper and Green Hairstreak. Two of these species would be life ticks for me if spotted.
Many times in the past I have visited nature reserves with a target species in mind only to be disappointed when, on arrival, its like looking for a needle in a haystack. But on this occasion the reserve exceeded all my expectations.
As we entered the reserve Orange Tip and Brimstone Butterflies were flitting around and within a few metres I had already spotted my first Small Blue butterfly - a life tick for me.
Small Blue (male) - you can just make out the hint of blue scales at the base of the wings.
This was the first Small Blue we'd seen and I was really cursing the fact that I'd put the 70-300mm telephoto lens on the camera as I couldn't get the autofocus to lock onto the butterfly. Actually D, who was with me, took this photo of the male using manual focus and did a better job than I could have done.
Small Blue (female)
Hindwings with little black dots (similar) to Holly Blue and different to hindwings of Common Blue which has spots of orange as can be seen a few photos down.
Two Small Blues about to mate
Common Blue (a male) - the first I have seen this year
Hindwings of Common Blue - the photo is a bit blurred but you can see the difference when compared to Small Blue
Small Blue butterflies are rare in Warwickshire. A few years ago there were only 3 colonies in the whole of the county. Thanks to conservation measures by various organisations there are now nearly 10 colonies - all in fairly close proximity to each other.
I had clambered over the fence to walk up the slope of Bishop's Hill itself thinking it might be better for butterflies when I noticed D gesticulating wildly in my direction from the reserve. It turned out he had seen not one but three of the skipper species I was hoping to see. I scrambled hastily and in an exceedingly undignified fashion back through the fence and there it was - my first Grizzled Skipper for many years.
Even better a few yards away was a Dingy Skipper - again a species I haven't seen for a long time
D also thought he had seen a Large Skipper but we weren't able to relocate this butterfly.
Damselfly - Common Blue? to be honest my id skills where damsel and dragonflies are concerned are not exactly good. So please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
There was an amazing variety of wildflowers at the site - sorry no photos as its difficult taking flower pictures with the lens I had on the camera. In fact, I stopped taking pictures and just soaked in the wonder of so many blue butterflies in such a small area.
I didn't see Green Hairstreak but I will definitely be returning to this reserve.
I'd persuaded (bribed) D to come with me with the promise of a pub lunch so we stopped off at the Butcher's Arms in the village - great food and service and excellent value - another reason to return :)
Blue Tit update
Sadly, 4 of the Blue Tit chicks died last Friday night. It was very upsetting especially as all the chicks looked so healthy and of a similar size with plentiful food being provided on the Friday. Usually you can tell when the smaller chicks are weakening.
A poor photo of the remaining four earlier this week.
There is now a huge difference in size with one huge nestling who looks as big as the adults, two medium-sized and one tiny one who is managing to hold his own and compete for food.
The Emperor moth caterpillars have already undergone their first moult and are growing. I'll post a photo soon. Its very quiet here moth-wise at the moment although I have had several new species for the year. Photos again to follow soon.
Finally, just after we moved into the house many years ago a Whitebeam tree self-seeded in the garden and this is probably my favourite garden tree. I have never seen so many flowers as it has produced this year - there'll certainly be a good crop of berries!
Many thanks to Neil for information concerning the location of Bishop's Hill.
Welcome to my blog. I have been interested in natural history from an early age and we have tried to create a garden attractive to wildlife. I also enjoy reading, photography, collecting fossils, visiting historic buildings and gardens and supporting Aston Villa. Please feel free to leave a comment and, if you would like to email me, my email address is ciraggedrobinsATgmail.com - remember to replace AT with @. Thank you for visiting.