As mentioned in my previous post, I'd been getting increasingly frustrated by the lack of opportunity to get out with my camera as a result of the depressing weather we've been experiencing of late, so on Saturday morning of the weekend just gone I vowed to get out whilst I could and went off in search of Large Blues at Daneway Banks in Gloucestershire. This is a very special place thanks to the tremendous efforts by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and I've spent countless hours here over the years and have always thoroughly enjoyed time spent on the reserve as there is always something to see. The drive there was nice and dry, but predictably, as soon as I arrived the heavens opened. The breeze was also strong so I forgot about photography and instead decided to stretch my legs, clear my head and see what I could find, ignoring the inclement weather as best I could. Unsurprisingly, all was quiet although after a pretty thorough search I did manage to find one Large Blue roosting in some long grass. It was tucked away nicely so I didn't get any photos but it looked absolutely pristine and seeing it gave me the motivation I needed to come back when conditions were more favorable. I bumped into a few familiar faces doing survey work as I was leaving and after pointing out the location of the single butterfly I'd found, was surprised to hear that the Large Blues had been seen a few weeks before. I thought I was early this year but seemingly not!
A change of plans on the following Wednesday evening saw me decide to have another recce with a pre-work session planned for Thursday morning. I'd packed my camera gear so took it with me just in case I found anything good. The weather was ideal - cloudy but not dull, with very little breeze - boding well for photography. I found a few fresh Marbled Whites a bit further into the reserve and decided to focus my search on a couple of areas that have yielded good results over the last few years. I spent about 40 minutes looking before I found my first Large Blue and I was pleased to find it was another fresh looking individual. I was even more pleased that it co-operated for a few photos. I'd taken a number of shots when I plane flew low directly overhead. I couldn't help but look up and watched it roar away before returning to my obliging subject. Only it had vanished! I couldn't re-find it so decided to move on. Below is one of the few images I got before I was rudely distracted.
It wasn't long before I found a few more Large Blues, all located within a relatively small area, with a couple found within a few feet of each other. Given I'd not been looking too hard I hoped this was an encouraging sign that they'll have another good year in 2019. I counted at least 6 individuals, all found within about 10 minutes of looking, and focussed my efforts on those on the most appealing perches, though a couple were very low down and getting a clear background was impossible. Below are a couple of my favourites from the session.
As I was packing up to leave, the last butterfly I'd photographed (above) flew a short distance and settled on a piece of grass. I took a few shots and mentally marked where this one was with the hope that it would still be in the vicinity in the morning!
I headed home feeling a little more refreshed and reinvigorated than I did when I arrived. Images were moved onto the laptop, clothes were sorted for the morning and batteries were put on charge. I then set my alarm for 4.45am (!) and hit the sack.
Morning dawned bright and still, with a bit of coolness in the air and after getting packed up and a coffee sorted for the drive, I was off and on my way. I always feel a buzz of excitement when getting up so early for photography thanks to the anticipation about what'll be in store. Arriving on site, I was greeted by a dew-covered outlook and was optimistic about what lay ahead. A roe deer made a brief appearance in the long grass before bounding off for cover and there were also a couple of squawking Jays and a Green Woodpecker around, the latter no doubt about to embark on a day of feasting on the contents of the many ant hills around. I made my way first to where I'd left the roosting Large Blue the evening before and initially thought it had gone but I soon relocated it, a short distance away. As hoped, it was covered in dew and I was quick to get set up before it dried out.
I then had a search around to see if any of the other butterflies found the evening before and I was fortunate to find a few, though they may well have been different ones. By now the sun was up and was illuminating the grassland, covered in various flowers, many of them yellow, so I did my recently found trick of shading the butterfly and overexposing. Below are two shots of the same butterfly, the second a closer version of the first.
I then found a another super fresh Large Blue in an unflattering position and it took no encouragement to climb onto a more accessible flowerhead so I made the most of the opportunity and fired away. The sun was really warming things up by now and I was desperately hoping for that elusive open wing shot that has evaded me for years. Alas, it wasn't meant to be but I couldn't complain as I'd had a great couple of hours in a magical place with some amazing butterflies. I still get a real surge of excitement when I see a Large Blue, given the work that has gone into reintroducing them, and I don't think that feeling will ever fade. They are a very special butterfly.
I'm not sure I'll be able to resist another visit and the desire to get an open wing shot will no doubt be enough to pull me back for more over the next few weeks. I'm hoping to get out at least once over the weekend in search of Dark Green Fritillaries but all is quiet on the report front so far on my usual patch but fingers crossed they're now on the wing and not as elusive as they have been before. Incidentally, I've updated my butterfly gallery and now split this into a number of sub-galleries as it was getting a bit cluttered, so if you want to see more of my butterfly photos, they can be found here.
As always, thank you for reading and please leave a comment if you like as I've no idea how often or even if my posts get read!
Keywords: Butterflies, Butterfly, Butterfly Photography, Daneway Banks, Gloucestershire, Large Blue, Large Blue Butterfly, Lepidoptera, Macro, Nature, Photography, Wildlife
Brilliant blog post and fantastic pictures, look forward to reading some more :)
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