Dark Green Fritillaries

July 01, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

Over the last couple of weeks I've made several visits to Cleeve Hill - mainly the Masts Reserve - in search of the stunning Dark Green Fritillary butterfly. On each and every occasion I've arrived in an optimistic mood and on each and every occasion I've returned home dejected. I'll be honest, the last few visits have suggested I've been a little early, despite my target being reported elsewhere in the UK. My indicators have been the amount of Knapweed in flower (not a lot) and the number of Marbled Whites seen (hardly any). These factors have made me wonder if the location I'm pinning my hopes on is a little behind. Well, this morning, at the crack of dawn, I was up on the hill again and this time I found stacks of Marbled Whites and a lot more Knapweed flowering. Both good signs. Not so good was the weather. AGAIN. The breeze was very strong indeed and as soon as I arrived my heart sank as I knew there'd be no shelter given the direction of the wind and even if I did find anything worthwhile shooting, photography would be a nightmare. Still, I was here so made the best of things with a good look around and my fingers and toes crossed.

As mentioned, what really jumped out was the number of Marbled White butterflies found roosting. They were everywhere, though as usual, pretty much all of them were males. I had a thorough search for fritillaries on the upper half of the reserve before dropping down to the lower slopes. I was soon very cold and the wind was showing no sign of letting up. I did find a pair of Marbled Whites roosting up together which would've made for a very nice shot but they were being blown left right and centre. I honestly think I'd have had more success trying to photograph one of my own farts. A couple of very smart bee orchids lifted the spirits before I headed back up to the top half of the reserve. The sun was now climbing higher and this was good news in a way as it meant a good number of butterflies were beginning to open their wings and bask. If there were any Dark Green Fritillaries in the vicinity then I had a good chance of spotting them, with their very bright and sizeable orange wings likely to stand out in the grasses.

It hadn't been long before I struck gold orange! In amongst some long grass, wings wide open, was my first Dark Green Fritillary of the year. I got a massive buzz seeing this beauty and on closer inspection it looked very fresh indeed. On even closer inspection it wasn't alone! Just a few inches away on a dead flowerhead was another pristine individual at roost. My assumption is they had recently emerged together. I wasted no time in getting set up and opted for the roosting butterfly first as it was in a pretty good position. The bugger was, predictably, the wind. What a pain! It was just non-stop and photography was immensely frustrating so I really was shooting in the hope that a few frames would be salvageable. Thankfully they were, with a couple below. Same butterfly, same position, with some variance in lighting (one taken in the sun, one in shadow)

Dark Green FritillaryDark Green Fritillary Dark Green FritillaryDark Green Fritillary

These are without doubt one of my favourite butterflies. Beautiful things. I think the elusiveness of them makes them even more special as they are often so hard to find.

The first butterfly I'd found had sadly moved on so no open wing shots but the one I was shooting seemed quite docile so I very carefully moved it onto a nearby knapweed flowehead for something a bit different.

Dark Green FritillaryDark Green Fritillary

The sun was surprisingly warm now and my subject soon took to the air and flew powerfully away before settling again low down and opening its wings to heat up. I watched it for a few minutes before noticing another fritillary basking close by and this one was a little higher up and easier to photograph. It was getting a buffeting from the wind but posed long enough for a few shots before it moved on to a more sheltered spot lower down in the grass.

Dark Green FritillaryDark Green Fritillary

Another early alarm call that had paid off and I returned home very happy to have got off the mark but also quite frustrated that the weather had been such a hindrance. It looks like things will be calmer later on in the week so I shall be back for more and will hopefully get another go at shooting these awesome butterflies at close quarters!


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