Saturday 8th April 2017 – Extraordinary scenes….
Still a bit early for the likes of Grizzled Skipper and Green Hairstreak here in south Wales, so I thought I’d pay a visit to the dunes at Whiteford Burrows on the north west Gower coast to see if any Small Coppers were about.
Sadly, I saw none, and in fact I was a bit disheartened in the hour or so I spent combing the coastal gullies as I probably saw fewer than 20 butterflies in total, although I did get my first audience with a female Orange Tip for the year:
This Peacock basking on the warm sand also proved irresistible, and is in excellent nick given it is probably at least 9 months old:
By 1pm, I was heading back to my car with a view to checking out Kilvey Hill again, when suddenly I saw a White come down on the copious blackthorn blossom near the path. This turned out to be my first definite Green Veined White of 2017:
I had noticed three or four Holly Blues pottering about by the entrance to the dunes, which I thought was unusual, and after taking the GVW image, I noticed another Holly Blue buzzing around the blackthorn. I trudged through the spiky undergrowth and suddenly I was in a different world.
This area was in a warm dip and the woodland management team had obviously done recent clearance work. The result was spring butterfly heaven:
My Green Veined White took my UK tally to 11 for the year, but I could have saved myself time and trouble because ALL ELEVEN were present in this one small area. The most notable was Holly Blue. This is, for me at least, a butterfly that you usually see in small numbers, but there were dozens of them in this spot. There were often four or five in the air at once above this stretch of blackthorn, and all those seen nectaring appeared to be males:
I looked beyond this area to try to comprehend what was going on, and it became clear that the evergreen in this image was their focal point:
There were serious numbers tumbling about this tree, and on the other side there were even more flying about, often making sorties close to the ground, bringing them into contact with the dozens of Speckled Woods also present in this clearing:
Two Commas and two Red Admirals were seen in this spot, unsurprising given the lush nettle cover:
Eventually, I just went back to the blackthorn stand, and spent a good hour watching all these species interact with one another. The Brimstones didn’t settle, but Orange Tips did:
Overall numbers were:
Holly Blue 40-60
Speckled Wood 40-60
Orange Tip 30-40
Large White 2
Green Veined White 2
Red Admiral 2
Small Tortoiseshell 2
Small White 1
Without doubt, it was the finest concentration of spring species I’ve ever witnessed, and most certainly the best Holly Blue hotspot I’ve ever come across.