I recently decided to dedicate a bit of my free time to photographing Adonis Blue butterflies (Polyommatus Bellargus) that can be found at a number of sites locally and opted for an evening walk around the wonderful Barnsley Warren SSSI in the Cotswolds; a location I've been to a few times before but always later on in the butterfly season for Chalkhill Blues. With the weather relatively calm (albeit very warm) I was hoping to find these beautiful butterflies going to roost with the aim of taking advantage of the final moments of light as the sun set. I arrived at around 7pm and almost immediately observed a couple of adult hares and a younger individual, feeding along the field margins ahead of me. They soon disappeared for cover as I made my way towards the main slopes of the reserve. Yellowhammers and Skylarks filled the air with their song and with very little traffic noise from the nearby Fosse Way, the atmosphere was very peaceful indeed. A Red Kite drifted effortlessly through the valley at head height, though soon ascended and banked away, with another hare darting across the track in front of me. I don't know why I'd not made a visit here sooner as it's a wonderful place with an abundance of wildlife.
Before long, I was making my way down a gradual slope and began scanning the grasses and flowerheads for butterflies. Within a few minutes I found a very fresh female Adonis Blue roosting low to the ground. Great to see so soon and this provided reassurance that I was in the right place. Over the course of the next hour or so, I found in the region of ten males and three female Adonis Blues, along with a single Common Blue and a handful of Small Heaths. There was a bit of a breeze by now but I managed to get a number of shots, though only the females remained in situ, with the males very skittish. It was a lot warmer than I was expecting, so the butterflies clearly had enough energy to remain active, even as the sun began to set.
As the light began to fade, the colour of the background grasses changed from a yellow hue to a more orange tone, providing the following images with a little more warmth.
I wanted to get a few backlit images too with the following the best of the bunch. This female was found on a piece of Salad Burnet and was angled in such a way that was shooting upwards (with a slope above me in the background), allowing me to avoid the background vegetation and achieve a clutter free bokeh that takes my eye.
I enjoyed a slow walk back to car and enjoyed a brilliant sunset which painted the sky a pastel pink.
I decided to return first thing the following morning with the aim of getting some shots of the males and given the position of the sun as it rises across the reserve, I was hopeful of some decent images and as importantly, a few hours of serene peace.
My alarm was set for 5am but I was somehow wide awake by 4:35 so wasted no time in grabbing my kit and heading out. The drive was super quick, with not a single car seen and I arrived just as the sun climbed over the horizon. I'm by no means a landscape photographer but couldn't resist a few photos using my phone to capture the scene.
The hares were present again though were, unsurprisingly, rather timid and departed at speed when they became aware of my presence. The ever present Yellowhammers and Skylarks were in full voice and I felt as if I hadn't been away.
The butterflies were relatively easy to find (I told myself I had my eye in now) and I was set up and shooting away in no time, though the light wasn't yet quite right for the shots I had in mind. Whilst I waited for the sun to illuminate the slopes opposite me, a mewing Buzzard made its way towards me at very low altitude. I was expecting it to notice me and move away but instead it dropped a little lower and glided directly overhead, giving me incredible views as it gave me a good once over. Stunning and something that would of course never happen when the big lens is out!
The light that followed was absolutely brilliant and just what I was hoping for. With the slopes bathed in early morning golden light and very little wind, I was able to have a good play around with settings to optimise things and was very pleased with the results. I moved along one of the main paths that disects the bank and found plenty of butterflies in nice positions and my favourites are below:
Once the sun had crested the top of the slope I was on, the butterflies took almost immediate advantage of the heat and opened their wings to warm up. Sadly the males were off before I was able to get close but a female Adonis Blue did stay still long enough for me to get an opened-wing shot.
A very enjoyable few hours but by this point it was already feeling very hot and with a rumbling stomach and a need for caffeine, I made my way home feeling revitalised thanks to the natural world.
Keywords: Adonis Blue, Barnsley Warren SSSI, Butterflies, Butterfly, Butterfly Photography, Cotswolds, Dave Collins, Dave Collins Photography, Gloucestershire, Macro, Macro Photography, Nature, Photography, Wildlife
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