Wednesday 25 July 2007

25 July 2007 - Stockbridge Down, Hants

Having seen all the Britsh Breeding butterflies (bar Mountain Ringlet), new species were going to be few and far between. News of a Black-veined White a few days ago was intruging - news of it being refound and showing again, was too good not to go for it.

After collecting John Clements we headed out West in glorious Kent sunshine - spirits were definately high - this was going to be easy. M20, M26, M25 - and then it started to cloud over... By the time we passed Dougal's house at Guildford the wind had got up and it was starting to drizzle - damn it! Still, the weather finally persuaded Doug not to come along for a trip that wasn't going to produce anything.

In for a penny, in for a pound - we carried on until reaching Stockbridge Down. The drizzle then turned to rain, then drizzle again - we got wet, then wetter still as we aimlessly and somewhat pointlessly, mooched around kicking up the occasional Meadow Brown and white spp - but no Black-veined White.

Captain Clements gave up and left me to get wetter as I searched the site with two guys from Exeter - dejection. After bloody ages of searching the herbage I searched one last small patch of vegetation and there hanging upsidedown deep in the undergrowth was a very distinctive looking butterfly - a Black-veined White!

The Exeter boys were called over to enjoy the finding and start the celebrations while I ran back to the car to gather up John who by now had sucessfully managed to get the car windows all steamed up - hmmm. It is fair to say that John didn't believe my, "Get out the car now, I've found it", claims - until I insisted. Sure enough he was able to stagger out the car and witness this highly amusing relocation.

Black-veined White

Before leaving, I stuck two branches in the soil 6 feet either side of the roosting butterfly. A call through to Dougal finally convinced him to hit the road - in the drizzle.

I would really loved to have witnessed Doug's arrival at Stockbridge Down an hour or so later - he pulled up, parked up and walked up to a Doctor and his family as they, very sodden, were finishing their unrewarded searches. Asking if they'd had any joy, he was rather unsurprised at their complete lack of success - then, he looked around and saw two branches 12 feet apart. "Follow me", he surprisingly announced and led the family party over to a small clump of vegetation where a short search of the correct plant revealed a perfectly peaceful, Black-viened White.

Friday 8 June 2007

7-8 June 2007 - Scotland & Northern England

News of a White-tailed Plover at Caerlaverock was a dream - the last species of bird that my father had seen (Packington, 1975) that I hadn't. Back in '75 Dad had got the news whilst working at The Lodge (RSPB) and had gone up to see that bird with colleagues. For me, things weren't quite so easy...

Unable to head north with Doug and friends any earlier, I booked a flight to Newcastle for 7 June. Hire car collected I did the easy trip over the Pennines to Southern Scotland and Caerlaverock WWT.

Alas, though the bird had been seen earlier, it had now gone to ground - I was even pointed to the ant's nest that it had last walked behind... By dusk things were really bad and I had to resort to wlkking out on to the marshes to flush the bird - no success for such a naughty act... Night fell - I'd dipped and faced a drive back to Newcastle for my late night flight back to Stansted.

I phoned the Good Lady Wiff who thought I should stay up north, change flights, see it in the morning and then fly home - good idea, why didn't I think of that?!?!? Thankfully 'er indoors, was able to change my flight and somehow I managed to pursuade work that things were OK.

A night spent in the car was not great (did see three badgers though which was nice). At 4.30am I was back in the hide for more waiting - but not much as soon after arrival news filtered though the double-story hide that it had been refound - phew. Sure enough, shortly afterwards I was witnessing this long-distance traveller as it wandered around the pools.

White-tailed Plover

With many hours to go before my flight - where next? It was at this point that my enthusiam took over me and I decided to head for Lancashire and the Lady Slipper Orchid which I'd heard was in flower now. Following Adrian's directions I arrive at the right carpark and was able to go striaght to the plant.

Lady Slipper Orchid

Two down - what next? I decided to have yet another attempt at Mountain Ringlet above the slate quarry at Honister Pass. Now I've don ethis walk several times, and each time I've been knackered with the walk - not knowing exactly where to head for... This time things were better, the sun even came out and there, over to the left of the footpath was a butterfly.... a Mountain Ringlet. In total I found six ringlets before heading back down the hillside and off on my drive to Newcastle Airport. White-tailed Plover, Lady Slipper orchid and Mountain Ringlet - not a bad collection?

Mountain Ringlet

Just have to grapple these wee beauties!

Tuesday 13 February 2007

13 Feb 2007 - Near Rye, East Sussex

News of a Camerberwell Beauty just down the road in East Sussex was interesting. A few calls later and I was speaking to the guy looking after the beastie.

His neighbour had been clearing the flower border and noticed, amongst the Crocosmia, some movement - a butterfly walking out of the left litter.

This represented one of the very few cases of a Camberwell Beauty successfully overwintering in the UK.

Yes, I will go and see another one in the UK when the opportunity arises.

Camberwell Beauty - Nr Rye, East Sussex