Sunday, 8 June 2014

Small Pearl-bordered and Marsh Fritillaries

Butterflies are like birds, its nice if you can find them in your own patch. The trouble is that we had set ourselves a target of forty different species for the year and getting them all in Sussex was always going to be difficult. When one of our bankers, the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, failed to appear at Park Heath Corner we started to worry. Finally with reports coming in from Hampshire and Wiltshire of them starting to look past their best our nerve broke, we would have to go out of county.

We decided on a trip to Bentley Wood out near Salisbury and while we were there we thought we might as well carry on to Cotley Hill on the other side of Salisbury to pick up the Marsh Fritillary. My wife is pretty good about the birding but I was not looking forward to explaining why I needed to do a round trip of 230 miles to see a butterfly, particularly as my windscreen had not yet been replaced and I needed to borrow her car.

It was a good trip for the nerd in me, we got both butterflies and the year ticks. It was not so good for the photographer in me, the butterflies were past their best and the picture opportunities were limited, and it was even worse for the eco-friendly part of me but we we'll not go there today.

We parked up at Bentley Wood and within two minutes of leaving the car Dave had spotted our first Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary.

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary

There were plenty of them about although most of them were starting to look a little worn. They were nectering on various plants mostly yellow but also on Brambles, the best option seemed to be to find some bramble flowers in a sheltered spot and wait for the butterflies to come to you.

We got some good pictures but somehow I have managed to come away without a closed wing shot.

There was a possibility of Marsh Fritillaries at Bentley Wood but we could not find them. However, whilst we were searching we came across this Dragonfly. It a Black-tailed Skimmer, either a female or a juvenile.

Black-tailed Skimmer

Flushed with our success we headed off to Cotley Hill to find the Marsh Fritillaries and our luck held when we spotted one as we walked onto the site. In fact there were dozens flying and they are a lazy butterfly, much easier to photograph than the Small Pearl-bordered. The only problem was that these had really gone over and most had faded or damaged wings. A bit disappointing but at least we came away with record shots.

Marsh Fritillary

Bramble seemed to be the favourite nectaring plant

Both sites we visited had a lot of butterflies flying and we had a good supporting cast, Large Skipper, Brimstone, Spotted Wood, Small Heath, Meadow Brown, Small White, Brown Argus, Small Blue, Common Blue, Small Tortoiseshell, Dingy Skipper, Grizzled Skipper, Green Hairstreak, and a good assortment of day flying moths.


Brown Argus

Common Blue

Grizzled Skipper

Large Skipper

Meadow Brown

Six Spot Burnett

Small Heath

Small Tortoiseshell

Its a pity that the two main butterflies that we were after were a bit faded but we have solved the problem for next year, we will be going early when the two species start to emerge. It will turn what was a good day into a great day.

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