"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

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Moth and Butterfly Afternoon

On Saturday afternoon, 6th August, we went along to Wild Hollowfields Farm in Worcestershire to attend a Moth and Butterfly Afternoon. Some of you may remember we attended a similar event last year and enjoyed ourselves so much that when the opportunity arose we just had to return.

The farm is under Natural England's Higher Level Stewardship Scheme and every single one of its 250 acres is farmed in a manner which is sympathetic to wildlife and historic features. A wildflower meadow has been created using local seeds from Eades Meadow (a Site of Special Scientific Interest - SSSI) and a wet meadow containing plants of botanical interest has been allowed to regenerate naturally. Wide field margins are sown with wildflower seed mixes, for example, Knapweed, Birds-foot Trefoil, Horseshoe Vetch. Hedges are managed on a rotational basis to take account of the needs of various butterfly species particularly the rare Brown Hairstreak. Scrapes have been made to encourage wading birds - Snipe and Curlew visit and Lapwings breed. The farm is continuously monitored under the RSPB Farm Alliance Scheme and 80 species of bird have been recorded. One of the people attending the event had been lucky enough to see a Spotted Flycatcher as he arrived.

Tea and biscuits were served on arrival and we were able to inspect some of the moths caught in a moth trap on the farm the previous night. Highlights for me were a Drinker and a Yellow-tail - two species I have never trapped at home.

We then spent several hours walking round this superb farm looking for butterflies. This is the "Master" Ash tree where Brown Hairstreak butterflies congregate to mate and feed on aphid honeydew. A Brown Hairstreak had been spotted earlier in the day but, unlike last year, this individual didn't hang around waiting for us to arrive!

One of the many wide field margins full of wildflowers and grasses and just buzzing with insect activity.

Ripening Elder and Blackberries

We walked the perimeter of the "bird seed" field where flowers are grown and allowed to go to seed and left to provide food for birds over the course of the autumn and winter. What a wonderful sight - I would so love the return in the winter and see it full of buntings and finches.

Around 20 species of butterfly were spotted during the day. We didn't manage to get quite so many photos this year as most of the butterflies were exceedingly lively and constantly flitting from flower to flower.

Meadow Brown

My first Painted Lady of the year!


A blurred image of my first Marbled White of the year.

My dragonfly id skills aren't that good - I think this is a Common Darter but please correct me if I am wrong.

Wild Arum berries in one of the hedgerows.

Then back to the farm for drinks and several slices of exceedingly delicious cake :) Sorry no cake photo as D had the camera :(

Huge thanks to the exceedingly knowledgeable, friendly and enthusiastic GC who led the walk and to the owners of Wild Hollowfields for their wonderful hospitality and determination to look after wildlife. I appreciate not all farms would qualify for HLS but it is so uplifting to visit a farm like this and see the difference that farming in a way sympathetic to wildlife can make. I won't turn this into a political debate on the results of the recent EU Referendum but it would be a tragedy for English wildlife and conservation if farms such as this weren't subsidised in the future after we have left the EU.

I do hope there is a similar event next year because I can't wait to return :)

If you would like to read my post from last year when we did manage to see a Brown Hairstreak please click here

D and I shared the Canon Bridge camera during the afternoon so the photos were taken by both of us.


Margaret Adamson said...

I have not seen a painted lady this year yet and your shots are great.

Ragged Robin said...

Margaret Adamson - Thanks so much Margaret :)

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

Grerat pictures from a lovely place. I've never seen a marbled white!

Ragged Robin said...

Simon Douglas Thompson - Thanks Simon. I know Marbled White occur Warks/Worcs area but in the main I've seen them most often when on holiday in the South!

Rosie said...

The farm sounds a wonderful place to visit and learn all about its work. Your photos are wonderful espeically of the butterflies. I noticed that both elderberries and blackberries are ripening on our walk a few days ago, rosehips too, I love the hedgerows at this time of year:)

Stewart said...

Hi Caroline, Im very envious of your marbled white and brimstone. Lovely. Neither occur up here, I have to look for them when we go on holidays down south. We do get a lot of Drinker moths though, in the garden and right along our coast.

Ragged Robin said...

Rosie - Thanks so much Rosie. Yes you are so right re: hedgerows at this time of year - so much of interest to see and the fruits are good for attracting birds fattening up for migration and also butterflies :) Will hopefully be going blackberrying soon. I love to freeze them and use them in crumbles throughout the winter.

Ragged Robin said...

Stewart - Thanks so much Stewart. I didn't realise you didn't get Brimstone in Northumberland! I know I see in general far more Marbled White down South than round here - they are such beautiful butterflies. Envious of your Drinker moths! They are such an unusual shape - perhaps one day I will trap one - am still getting the occasional new species for the garden (and if I tackled the micro's seriously I would get a lot more!!) :)

Countryside Tales said...

What a fantastic and inspiring place. Long may it continue to flourish.

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Thanks so much - yes it is so beautiful and inspiring :)

Millymollymandy said...

Super photos of the butterflies! This must have been a very enjoyable experience. Fingers crossed they will be able to continue to farm like this.

Ragged Robin said...

Millymollymandy - Thanks very much Mandy. Yes, it is a great experience - leader so enthusiastic and knowledgeable as are the owners, wonderful farm and great hospitality :) Will go again next year if they hold another one - super afternoon out :)