Sunday, 28 June 2015

27th June - Bentley Wood and Stockbridge Down

A sunny morning with a little bit of cloud and a light wind.  Early summer means more butterflies, so after breakfast Helen and I set off for Bentley Wood a site I had heard about but one I had never visited.  

We arrived and parked in the car park, this is a good place to see Purple Emperor, and there were old B-AN-NANA skins on the notice board to attract them, but there was no sign of any, and it probably is just a little too early yet.

From the car park we headed back down the track and then through to a clearing.  Almost immediately we were surrounded by butterflies, Marbled Whites busy in the grass.


To start with the brown butterflies were Meadow Browns but then a darker version flew by and revealed itself to be my first Ringlet of the year.


It wasn't long before I found the butterflies I was hoping to find here.  A first for us, the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary.  An exquisitely marked butterfly with chequered black marks on light orange, and lovely creamy white spots at the end of the wings which give it the name pearl bordered.


As quickly as one appeared it was joined by another that sat in a better position for me.


Another orange butterfly flew past, but this time it was a lot smaller and one I have seen before, this was a Large Skipper and it was attracted to the emerging bramble flowers.


It was a lovely open area here, with the main wood away in the distance, this coupled with the sun and blue sky made it a very pleasant wander amongst the grasses and butterflies.


As we walked we could hear bees and the singing crickets, every so often a cricket would launch itself in front of us, and sometimes like this Rosel's Bush-cricket land where we could see it.


A pair of Small White Butterflies were caught in a compromising position.


They would fly together the female, the white butterfly carrying the male as they flew to different flowers.

The Bracken and Bramble was a big attraction to the butterflies, and with the lovely greens created some very nice scenes.


As well as the Bracken and Brambles there was also a lot of Horsetails growing.  They grow in segments sending out spindly leaves, and where these appear the area is marked with darker covers that look like they have been tattooed onto the stem.


We made our way back to the main road, and then walked on past the car park.  The road was flanked on both sides by a wide verge that was covered in more bracken.  An orange butterfly flew past but when it stopped we could see it was a Comma and not the hoped for Fritillary.


Speckled Woods were around in good numbers where the sunshine was dappled on the bracken and grasses.


A large butterfly high in the trees stopped us, but it turned out to be a Red Admiral.


Where we could see through the trees the sunshine filtering through the branches was producing a silvery shimmering look to the bracken growing under the trees.


After realising we had missed the turn, and then realising I hadn't put the sat nav away we walked back to the car park.  Just before we reached it a large orange butterfly appeared once again, but this time it was a Silver-washed Fritillary, but as is often the case with newly emerged large butterflies it would not settle.  We stood and watched it fly around, and around and then finally away over the trees and out of sight.

Having sorted everything out and checked again for the Emperor we set off back down the trail, and then along the right turn.  On the path in front of us was a Small Tortoiseshell.


We were looking to find a spot for White-letter Hairstreak, but to start with we were looking in completely the wrong place.  There was though more Ringlets and Meadow Browns, and Helen saw a Roe Deer with kids.  When we realised that we were in the wrong place we made our way back, but unfortunately there was nothing showing.  The Elms though did look a little worse for wear.

We continued our walk along the track, and stopped a an Ash tree that seemed to be full of Speckled Woods, there was at least fifty of them all displaying and up to no good.

The path wound around through the wood and eventually back onto the main path.  As we passed one of the information signs another Silver-washed Fritillary appeared, at one popint I thought it was going to settle on its picture on the sign, but it just kept going and was soon out of sight.

We made our way back towards the car park, but stopped briefly to visit a small pond.  Here there were several Damselflies about.  These large Red Damselflies were in the process of looking for a suitable site to lay eggs.  Here the male is having to flap its wings to keep the female upright.


While this pair found something to hang on to while they got the job done!


A male Broad-bodied Chaser was circling the pond, pausing on the same stem every so often.


While under my feet Azure Damselflies were searching for a mate.


Another orange butterfly set the heart racing again, but when it settled we could see it was another Comma.


We walked back to the path, and back to the car.  An interesting spot with lots of potential, hopefully we can be back for the Emperors late in the month.

From Bentley we made our way back, but decided to stop at Stockbridge Down.  Last week I missed out on Dark Green Fritillary, but there had been reports of them here in the week.

We crossed from the car park and walked along the bottom of the Down.  There were a few flowers about, predominantly Knapweed, but the dominant plant was the grasses.  As was to be expected the grass was busy with Marbled Whites, and they would seek out the Knapweed flowers.


More Marbled Whites passed us along with Meadow Browns, Ringlets and Large Skippers, then from nowhere an orange butterfly that was flying strongly into the wind.  It was a Dark Green Fritillary.


Unfortunately it didn't stay long, and did not show the lovely green wash on the underneath of the rear wings, but it was still lovely to see this butterfly.

We carried on, and at least three more flew past us, not stopping though.  We also saw a blue butterfly that from size and colour was probably a Common Blue.  There were also Small Skippers about that teased me and avoided the camera.

Where the Knapweed was in good number so were the Marbled Whites, settling on the flower heads.


The path takes you around the boundary of the reserve through a patch of Hawthorn and Blackthorn, and even some small Elm trees.  In one of these spots I saw my first Gatekeeper of the year, and another late Brimstone.


The path heads up hill to a lovely vantage point that has lovely views looking back towards the south.


Having reached the top the path winds its way down, and back towards the car park.  Looking north one of the fields in the distance was blood red from poppies, the first full field of them we have seen this year.


We made our way back to the car with nothing new seen as we walked down the hill.  The mid June doldrums are beginning to come to an end, and hopefully the summer butterflies will be about in some good numbers soon.

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