2021: The Year So Far
I can't believe it's the nearly the end of May and this is my first post. Despite how quiet things may seem here, I have been enjoying a little more time out and about recently, mainly due to a slight upturn in the weather.
Before the butterfly season gets into gear, I'm always excited to see those first migrant bird species arrive on our shores and it's been a good start to the year in that respect. Highlights include good numbers of Wheatear, some cracking Whinchat, a few Ring Ouzels and a very close Grasshopper Warbler! That said, getting these birds on camera has proved a lot harder than hoped, with only the Wheatear showing well enough for photos during a few visits to Blakehill Nature Reserve.
A few early morning visits to Shorncote were fantastic with warblers galore around. A Barn Owl put in an appearance too, but a close encounter with a Grasshopper Warbler was a real standout moment. It favoured a patch of dried vegetation just a few feet from the main track and was only visible when it moved, despite it reeling away with the volume maxed up! My best effort was a shot through the foliage. A great bird!
On the butterfly front, I'd seen plenty of Brimstone, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Orange Tips on the wing during occasional lunchtime walks but finding anything roosting up hadn't happened until the end of last when I found a very fresh female Orange Tip on a dandelion head. I managed to coax it onto an emerging daisy just to show how diminutive they can appear when perched up.
This had fired my butterfly mojo up big time and I was determined to make a bit of an effort at the weekend, despite a potentially poor forecast. Mid-morning Saturday saw me head to Cirencester Park in search of Pearl-bordered Fritillaries - one of my favourite species. I'd heard they were out so I set off feeling full of excitement. Upon arriving at the usual spot, I was disheartened to see the main layby was now a no parking area so I had an annoying trek back from a spot further down the road. By the time I was ready to go, the cloud had thickened and rain began to fall, but this didn't dampen my spirits. I was soon in the favoured compartment scanning high and (not so much) low and after a good 45 minutes of looking, I hadn't found a single butterfly. The sun then decided to break through the clouds and it was like a switch had been clicked, with a super fresh looking fritillary basking at waist height on a plant I'd walked past just minutes before. I then saw another three or four more in flight around me. The sun had clearly done the job of energising the colony as I was soon into double figures. A few minutes later, the cloud again rolled in, causing the butterflies to alight on nearby vegetation. Two took the high road and landed on an immature Beech tree with the others disappearing from view. I didn't have to try hard this time though as most of the fritillaries had chosen to roost temporarily on various plants with no effort to hide. Over the next few hours the sun would come out for a short period bringing the glade to life with orange wings seemingly everywhere. It was absolute bliss and I was able to find three different pairs mating which was a real treat. Below are a few of my favourite images from a brilliant few hours of butterflying.
The forecast over the next few weeks looks much improved so fingers crossed the butterfly season starts to really pick up! I will hopefully post another update soon so until then, thank you for reading!
Keywords: Bird Photography, Blakehill, Butterflies, Butterfly, Butterfly Photography, Cirencester, Dave Collins, Gloucestershire, Macro, Nature, Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Photography, Wheatear
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