Following my last blog post, which covered my exploits in May, I had planned on writing a follow-up post about the dragonflies and damselflies I've seen so far this year however the butterflying season has me well and truly hooked and shows no sign of letting up, with June getting off to a brilliant start!
Last weekend, I visited Linear Park in the Forest of Dean with Dad. The aim was to see my first ever Wood Whites. Other than reading that a colony resided at the northern end of the park, I had nothing to go on but decided it was worth a visit if only to explore a new location. Thankfully, within ten minutes I found my first Wood White so it was a case of mission accomplished. However, I obviously wanted to get a photo or two to capture the moment and that's when I discovered Wood Whites can be flighty little things. Watching these butterflies in flight is something I've heard lots about and seeing it with my own eyes made me appreciate their description as 'dainty'. Eventually this small, almost ethereal creature settled on a fairly accessible perch though it took some contortion to get low enough and ensure all of the butterfly was in focus. I only managed two frames before it was off again but fortune smiled as they were both keepers.
We saw three in total at Linear Park and later on took a drive up to Brierley but a long walk around there drew a blank. We were also keeping our eyes open for Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries but again no joy. A shame as this species is another of my absolute favourites. On my way home I stopped by at Daneway banks for a quick walk around but all was quiet. My gut feel was it was still too early for the Large Blues but the fact that they had been reported in Somerset combined with the warm weather gave me a glimmer of hope. A few days later I heard through the grapevine that a Large Blue had been seen at Daneway banks on Sunday - I should've looked harder! I did put more effort in on Thursday after work, waiting until things had cooled down and was rewarded with finding two pristine specimens. One was still very active and the other was tucked up deep in the undergrowth, so no photos yet but I'll be back up there very soon.
Now onto the main topic of this blog. Following my Wood White expedition I was in two minds as to whether to stay local or go further afield again for something more exotic. The repeated reports and photos of Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries throughout the week had really whet my appetite and as these are limited to the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire it was here or elsewhere, with Somerset the nearest alternative. The latter sounded more reliable so I did some research and decided on a maiden venture to Priddy Mineries. Friday night was spent checking the forecast which seemed to change by the hour but I was for once in a decisive mood and promised I'd go, no matter what. Given the recent mild conditions I wanted to get there nice and early before the insect life became too active, so the alarm was buzzing at 4am. I was up surprisingly easily and with coffee and food packed I was on the road in no time. The drive was uneventful with the exception of a suicidal Wood Pigeon which lost its battle with my bumper. The resulting cloud of feathers filled me guilt but there was little I could do. By 6am, I was parked up and ready to begin looking, and my view when exiting the car park was a cracker.
Crossing the road, I immediately began scanning the grass for roosting butterflies. It didn't take me long to find my first Dor beetles, with plenty of frog-hoppers also resting up on the grasses. I was tempted to get some photos of both species but decided to focus my efforts and time looking for my main target. The rain was falling, though it wasn't too heavy and the temperature was just about right. I spent a good hour looking around with no joy and was starting to feel a little worried that today wasn't going to go to plan but I reminded myself I had the whole day. A Smooth Newt in amongst some short grass made me smile but it retreated when I moved in for a closer look. I carried on walking and was trying to check both sides of one of the main paths so was moving forwards very slowly. Then I hit the jackpot. A larger than expected orange shape on some grass caught my eye and it took me a few seconds to process that I had just found my first Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary of the year and it was an absolute beauty, looking pristine. I wasted no time in getting my camera gear ready and my macro lens was soon earning its keep. Throughout the next few hours I had an absolutely brilliant session with a few more butterflies found. The long drive had thankfully paid off and I felt extremely satisfied as a result and am really pleased with the images I left with.
Towards lunch time the sun was trying to break through and the butterflies were a lot easier to spot, obviously responding to the increase in temperature. A few Common Blues and Large Skippers were noted, as was a very obliging fritillary.
The early start had paid dividends, as had the long drive. I was also pleased I'd committed to this visit despite the forecast as in the past I would probably have decided to stay closer to home. As well as some pleasing images I'd come home with a more focused and determined attitude so a few more further a field trips may be to come! Talking of trips, I'm super excited as Dad and I have a week in Dordogne to look forward to at the end of June. Butterflies are the main target though I'm looking forward to some interesting birds too.
Now, where are those Large Blues hiding...
Keywords: Butterflies, Butterfly photography, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, Macro, Macro photography, Nature, Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Somerset, Wildlife, Wood White
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