"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

Monday, 14 July 2014

Butterflies at Oversley Wood, Warwickshire

There are three species of British Butterfly I would dearly love to see - Purple Emperor, Swallowtail and Glanville Fritillary. Not to mention a Hairstreak (any species of |Hair Streak would do) but lets not be greedy! Despite numerous visits to the Compton Bay area of the Isle of Wight (a stronghold for Glanville Fritillary) I've never seen one although to be fair I think we have always visited at the very end of their flight period. To see Swallowtail I would need to go to Norfolk (my family's least favourite place :( - last year was an exception as I only "persuaded" them to visit to mark my "special" birthday) and, as for Purple Emperor well let's just say it can be elusive and its not likely to turn up in my garden or local wood so more travelling is necessary.

Last weekend I was hoping to go to an exhibition in Northamptonshire celebrating The Life and Works of BB (Denys Watkins-Pitchford) and then, if there was time. on to Fermyn Woods to look for Purple Emperor. There was that much to do, however, after returning from holiday late on the Friday evening and a family birthday that weekend in the end I just wasn't able to go. I decided this weekend to make a visit to Oversley Woods, South Warwickshire (a Forestry Commission woodland) which is one of the best sites, if not the best, in Warwickshire for seeing Purple Emperor. Purple Hairstreak, Silver Washed Fritillary (none of these butterflies are exactly "common" in Warwickshire) and White Admiral can also be found in the woods.

D and I arrived early this afternoon - things were looking promising because as soon as we entered the wood a Comma floated into view followed by this worn female Silver-washed Fritillary. I was so pleased as I haven't seen this species for years. This one butterfly had already made the whole visit worthwhile.

In 1999 there was only one definite Silver-washed Fritillary colony in Warwickshire. Active woodland management, such as the removal of conifers from former deciduous woodland sites, has helped the recovery of this species and last year there were 23 definite colonies in the county.

Ringlets were absolutely everywhere although I still found it impossible to get a photo without grass stalks in the way!

We continued along the path to an area known as "The Triangle" and took a left hand fork. I'd been told to continue along this path and I would know the best place to look for Purple Emperors by the presence of photographers. Unfortunately there didn't seem to be any photographers about so after a while we turned back and spent some time where several butterflies were coming down to the ground.

Red Admiral

Male Silver Washed Fritillary (we must have seen at least a dozen of these beautiful butterflies).

And now for the Skipper conundrum - is this Small or Essex? I know Essex have glossy black tips to the antennae and to be honest these look half orange and half black so I am going to go with Small Skipper!

We walked slowly back to the "Triangle" stopping every so often to check on oak trees for Purple Emperor or Hairstreak and spent ages walking round and round the Triangle but no definite sign of either of these species. We did have one or two sightings of large butterflies in the oak canopy but they would disappear as soon as we raised our binoculars. I was also a bit annoyed with D who, when we reluctantly returned to the car, decided finally to look closely at my FSC Guide and announced "some of those "Ringlets looked a bit like Purple Hairstreak". Well his eyes are a lot better than mine so I suppose it is possible. There was one possible sighting of White Admiral but I didn't get a good enough view to be sure. Butterflies are worse than birds for not keeping still!!

It was a shame we didn't see "His Imperial Majesty" but to be honest I was that pleased with the Fritillary sightings that it didn't seem that important. I will certainly return to these woods - if not this year then next.

I couldn't make up my mind before the visit whether or not to wear this pin badge to bring me luck but in the end decided to wait until I've finally seen one! I can then wear it in celebration :)

Many thanks to Mike (from Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire) for giving instructions to the car park (which is very hard to find if you don't know where it is) and the best area for PE. I should have heeded his advice and gone earlier in the morning when they are most likely to be found on the ground. Thanks too to K on Twitter for his help.

I'll try and finish the Dorset holiday posts early next week. My car has decided to spring a water leak so I'm going to be "grounded" for a few days until I can get it fixed - had to use my husband's today! - so hopefully should be able to find the time.


Countryside Tales said...

Marsh Fritillaries are next on my list to go and see. There is a colony somewhere on Salisbury plain which is not far from me.
Funnily enough, I'm going to look for his majesty with a friend this morning. Keeping fingers crossed! Silver-washed are due out here any time, there is a colony in a local wood which is usually pretty reliable. Such a great time of year for butterflies. Loved your shot of the Red Admiral x

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Thanks CT :) Yes, its a great time of year for butterflies :) Good Luck with the Purple Emperor search. I'd have gone back today to look again if it wasn't for the car - have to ring the garage now :(