On the evening of Friday 21st June I went over to Stroud to visit my parents and wish my Dad a very happy birthday. After dinner we decided to go for a walk around Swift's Hill, near Slad. This is a little gem of a place with some stunning views down the valley into Stroud and it also happens to be a great place for wildlife, with wildflowers and butterflies in abundance. We parked in the main layby and walked along the lower slopes before entering the wood at the end and coming back out across the top of the reserve. It was a brilliant few hours with lots seen, and the main highlight being the number of Marbled White butterflies seen. We found a couple of relatively large groups with one of these containing 11 individuals all nectoring on a some bramble flowers. It wasn't a large bush either and was therefore a very impressive sight. We also saw plenty of Common and Small Blues, a few Brown Argus, Meadow Browns, Large Skippers and Small Heaths. An Emperor Dragonfly also came to investigate us, gliding around at close quarters before disappearing.
By the time we'd reached the top of the reserve the sun had lost its strength and the butterflies were settling down to roost. This was when we should've counted as there were so many Marbled Whites on the long grasses, some alone, others in groups of 3 or 4. They were all extremely fresh too with the vast majority males. The breeze was a bit of a pain as it made photography very difficult but we did manage to find a few very impressive looking females, one of which was particularly obliging. Dad kindly cast a shadow over the butterfly to bring out more details which would otherwise have been lost in the still harsh sunlight.
Dad and I continued back down towards the car where the number of butterflies dropped but it had been a very pleasant few hours. We always have a good time together and it's great that we have a shared passion for nature. Dad is the one who got me into wildlife when I was little so it's him I have to thank for opening up the natural world to me.
The following morning, I decided to get up super early and spend a few hours on Cleeve Hill, with my second main target of the summer in my sights. The Dark Green Fritillary. I arrived just before 6am and it was a stunning morning. Clear skies and a very light breeze. To cut a long story short my search for fritillaries ended in failure, despite covering a lot of ground, but I did think I was probably a week or so early. I didn't leave until the sun was well up, and plenty of butterflies were on the wing, so if they had been out I'm confident I would've at least caught a glimpse of them zipping about at break-neck speed. One thing that did surprise me (given the previous evening) was the lack of Marbled Whites, with only a few males found roosting. They did pose nicely but I would've expected more by now. Perhaps a little early for this site? Hopefully that as opposed to them having a bad year but I'm sure that will become clearer over the coming weeks. Below are a few images of the males found.
As always, good to get out but not quite what I was after so more searching needed over the coming weeks. Fingers crossed one of these visits pays off! Watch this space!
Keywords: Butterflies, Butterfly, Butterfly Conservation, Butterfly Photography, Gloucestershire, Macro, Marbled White, Nature, Photography
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