Neil Freeman

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Neil Freeman
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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Neil Freeman » Fri Aug 04, 2017 7:36 pm

Thanks Trevor and Wurzel, if either of you do make it up there one day I would highly recommend staying 2 or 3 days to do the area justice.

Cheers Pete. Over the past few years I have found that the last few days of July and first couple of August are consistent in providing good condition examples of both sexes. I have been there a little earlier and found only males flying and leaving it later means that most are starting to look past their best.

Hi Bugboy, I remember your report from last year...I bet it won't be long before you are tempted back :wink:

Hi David, glad you liked the report :D

Arnside Knott – July 31st

Faded Fritillaries.

As mentioned in my previous report I returned to Arnside Knott on the afternoon of Monday 31st July and this time spent some time checking out the lower clearings for both Dark Green and High Brown Fritillaries. Both of these species can often still be found flying here at this time although being late in their flight period the examples seen are often well past their best.
Speaking to our hosts in our B&B and also a couple of locals that I bumped into on the Knott it appears that this part of the country had a decent spring and early summer although it had been nowhere near as warm and dry as down south. Also, like back home, the past month or so had been very wet and windy.
Apparently, despite a lot of local habitat management focused on High Brown Fritillaries, numbers have suffered around here in the past couple of years due to some bad summers. On my visits here in previous years I had never failed to see at least a couple of High Browns, so with this in mind I was interested to see it I would find any this time and if I did, what condition they would be in.

From the car park I made my way down the path through to the lower clearings and had just seen a couple of Gatekeepers when a large faded orange butterfly flew across in front of me and settled on a patch of bracken just as a large cloud came over. This enabled me to sneak up and confirm it as my first High Brown of this visit. With a bit of sun peeking out from the clouds occasionally, the HBF fluttered about a bit but didn't warm up enough to go far and kept settling again which gave me the chance to get a few photos.

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High Brown Fritillary - Arnside Knott 31.07.2017


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High Brown Fritillary - Arnside Knott 31.07.2017


I then carried on down the path through the trees to the lowest clearing where I have seen both High Browns and Dark Greens in previous year but without any luck this time. I then retraced my steps and had just come back out of the trees when I spotted an orange butterfly come down in the grass between patches of bracken. Creeping up to the spot where I saw it land I found it was a High Brown which had landed next to another more ragged looking one.

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High Brown Fritillaries - Arnside Knott 31.07.2017


They both took to the air and went in opposite directions but luckily I managed to track both of them to where they settled again. As mentioned above, one of them was a faded and tatty looking individual but the other one was in better condition albeit still worn. I watched the better looking one for quite a while hoping for an underwing shot but it would not play ball and kept flitting about between basking and occasional nectaring on the many low growing wildflowers.

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High Brown Fritillary - Arnside Knott 31.07.2017


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High Brown Fritillary - Arnside Knott 31.07.2017


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High Brown Fritillary - Arnside Knott 31.07.2017


I then headed back up the path and wandered towards the path down towards Heathwaite, this being another spot where I have previously seen both DGF and HBF. Moving slowly through the first meadow along the path I spotted a Fritillary which at first I thought was a male Dark Green but looking more closely at the photo afterwards reckoned is a female High Brown.

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High Brown Fritillary - Arnside Knott 31.07.2017


A little further along this path I found another High Brown, again looking like it had seen much better days.

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High Brown Fritillary - Arnside Knott 31.07.2017


In my wanderings I also spotted a couple more fritillaries in different spots but couldn't get close enough to confirm their ID.

So then, I managed to get photos of five different High Browns and saw another couple of unidentified Fritillaries scattered around the Knott. I cannot say for certain what the other two were but given that the ones I photographed were all High Browns, I reckon that on balance there is a good chance these were also, which meant that for the second year running I had not seen a Dark Green Fritillary here at this time of year.

Bye for now,

Neil.
Last edited by Neil Freeman on Sat Aug 05, 2017 8:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby kevling » Sat Aug 05, 2017 5:57 am

Neil,

I enjoyed your report and photos from Arnside Knott. I particularly like the females, whose white spots seem more pronounced to me. Very beautiful. Also good that the HBF were still hanging on for you too.
I should have been there myself last week as we had a holiday booked for the Lake District. Unfortunately family issues dictated a cancellation. Your report has made my even more determined to hang on to that dream and get there as soon as I can. Although I have seen them abroad, the Argus and HBF are still on my list of lifers for the UK.

Regards Kev

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Goldie M » Sun Aug 06, 2017 1:53 pm

Hi! Neil, great shots of the SA and Frit's , I was up there myself yesterday and on the lower slopes the SA were plentiful, they were even on the slopes near the path through the trees near to the car park, no need to climb, that was of course after the Sun came out. :lol:
I find them very hard to photograth but did my best they seemed to land in the grass all the time because of the weather :D Your right about them flying when the weather is bad, it was bad when I got to the Knot but took up after wards.

I was also lucky like you with the HBF but their weathered a bit now.
I took shots of Dark Green Fritillary on the Knott on the 22nd of June so that's probably why you didn't see any, they like the slope near the small gate which goes into the meadow, not the meadow where you exit the car Park the other one where you've to go through two large gates and there's a small bench. hope that's helpful Goldie :D

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Neil Freeman
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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Neil Freeman » Sun Aug 06, 2017 6:00 pm

Hi Kev, Thanks for your comments, I am sorry to hear that you had to cancel your holiday, I hope things are ok.

Cheers Goldie, the Fritillaries are always a bonus when I visit at this time of year, to catch them at their best a month earlier would be better time to visit. Mind you this year I was seeing them in the Heddon Valley around that time so I can't really complain :wink:

Arnside/Silverdale - July 30th to August 1st

Shades of Brown.

Apart from the Scotch Argus which were the most numerous butterfly seen on some parts of Arnside Knott, the next most commonly encountered butterfly species was the Gatekeeper. These were seen in good numbers all over the Knott itself and in all the lower meadows and also in smaller numbers at Trowbarrow nature reserve and Gait Barrows. Strange as it may seem to some who are used to seeing this species all over the place down south, it is a relatively recent arrival in this part of the world having spread into the Morecambe Bay area in the 1980s and continuing to expand since then. It is still not as ubiquitous as it is in the southern counties but at some sites such as Arnside Knott it is now one of the commonest butterflies in late July and August.

I have previously found that the Gatekeeper population on Arnside Knott contains a large variation, not only in the size and number of spots on individuals but also in size with some of the males here in particular being the smallest I have seen anywhere. On the other hand some of the females are impressively large examples of the species. Unfortunately, size doesn't really come across in photos.

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Gatekeeper female - Arnside Knott 31.07.2017


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Gatekeeper female - Arnside Knott 31.07.2017


In one of the lower clearings at Arnside, I spotted a male Gatekeeper that stood out as having one hindwing a paler colour. I think I have read that this kind of aberration is caused by temperature fluctuations whilst in the pupa.

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Gatekeeper male - Arnside Knott 31.07.2017


A few minutes later I spotted a female with one forewing that had a large white patch.

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Gatekeeper female - Arnside Knott 31.07.2017


It was interesting to note that both of these individuals were seen in the same corner of the same clearing.

As well as Gatekeepers there were plenty of Meadow Browns about although up on Arnside Knott itself the Scotch Argus seem to replace them as the common butterfly in the grassy areas.
During the past few years I have been seeing quite a few female Meadow Browns with increased areas of orange on all four of their wings, mostly further south but I found just such an individual on Arnside Knott.

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Meadow Brown female - Arnside Knott 01.08.2017


Having already found and took photos of Scotch Argus and High Brown Fritillaries on my visit to the Knott on the Sunday and Monday, I spent more time on my visit on Tuesday looking around the scree slopes which are the usual spots favoured by Graylings here and which I had not yet seen this year. These areas are more exposed than the more sheltered spots and there was a blustery breeze blowing but nevertheless I found a few, mostly worn examples, and managed a few photos.

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Grayling - Arnside Knott 01.08.2017


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Grayling - Arnside Knott 31.07.2017


Numerous Speckled Woods were seen at just about every place we went to...every lane and bit of hedgerow seemed to have one or two in residence.

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Speckled Wood male - Arnside Knott 30.07.2017


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Two male Speckled Wood - Arnside Knott 31.07.2017


There were also some Ringlets still hanging around, mostly looking well past their best. The one below with reduced underside eyelets – not sure if this qualifies as ab. arete? - was seen on Arnside Knott on the Sunday afternoon.

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Ringlet - Arnside Knott 30.07.2017


Some nice fresh summer vanessids were also flying...

To be continued,

Neil

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby trevor » Sun Aug 06, 2017 6:31 pm

Great to see your High Browns. Presumably the High Brown and Scotch Argus emergence
is such that it is not possible to find fresh specimens of both species in one visit, or in one holiday.
As I said before I must make the pilgrimage one day.

Trevor.

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Wurzel » Sun Aug 06, 2017 8:59 pm

Two or three days butterflying :shock: On the trot :shock: I don't think that would go down very well with Mrs Wurzel :oops: :lol:
Mind you the chance to rack up Scotch Argus and HBF...
Nice set of excessa there including one with 'pathological' paling :mrgreen:

Have a goodun

Wurzel

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby David M » Sun Aug 06, 2017 11:34 pm

Arnside Knott simply has to be the best buttefly location north of the Midlands. It has an incredible array of species compared to all others at this latitude in the UK and, of course, iconic species such as Scotch Argus, High Brown Fritillary and NBA.

It's interesting that the other site for aethiops, Smardale Gill, which isn't that far away, lacks Hedge Browns, but I daresay they'll arrive there in due course given their recent history of expansion.

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Goldie M » Mon Aug 07, 2017 9:31 am

Hi! Neil, for got to mention I also saw Purple Hair Streak at Arnside in the Oak Tree just after the second gate, they didn't come down for a shot though although we waited for ages. :D Goldie :D

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Neil Freeman
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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Neil Freeman » Mon Aug 07, 2017 8:13 pm

Hi Trevor, I believe the High Browns are usually at their best in early to mid July at Arnside with the Scotch Argus starting towards the end of July. A few years ago I found fairly good condition (but not fresh) High Browns still there in the last few days in July and the Scotch Argus had just started although I only found male SAs on that visit. I suppose a few days around the third week of July might possibly get you a fresh High Brown and an early Scotch Argus but it would be chancing it.

Cheers Wurzel, a nice B&B for a few days and going out for a meal each night while we are there keeps Jane content as long as I don't disappear for too long :wink:

Hi David, I believe that Gatekeepers (Hedge Browns) have extended their range northwards along the coast here and have not got so far north further inland - yet.

Cheers Goldie, I didn't see any Purple Hairstreaks myself but it was a bit blustery most of the time whilst I was there and they were probably tucked up out of the wind.

Arnside/Silverdale - July 30th to August 1st part 4.

As well as the Scotch Argus, High Brown Fritillaries and 'Browns' already mentioned in my previous reports from Arnside, I also saw some nice fresh looking Peacocks, Commas and Red Admirals.
The Commas were scattered about over most of Arnside Knott and I saw one or two on each of my three visits there, mostly fresh looking 'standard' types but also one or two hutchinsoni.

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Comma - Arnside Knott - 30.07.2017


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Comma - Arnside Knott - 31.07.2017


On my visit to the Knott on the Monday (31st July) I wandered down the path to Heathwaite and found half or dozen or so fresh looking Peacocks in one of the meadows down there. These were flitting around a couple of small straggly buddleias on which they were alternating between feeding on and basking on some nearby logs. Curiously enough I did not see any Peacocks anywhere else around the Knott and this reminded me of when I saw some Peacocks a couple of weeks previously at one of my local sites where they were concentrated on some thistles in one corner of a field with none anywhere else at that site.

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Peacock - Arnside Knott - 31.07.2017


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Peacock - Arnside Knott - 31.07.2017


During my wanderings over the Knott I also saw a few Red Admirals but these were flypasts that didn't settle anywhere near me.

On the Tuesday afternoon I went round to Gait barrows for an hour or so on the off chance that I might find a Brown Hairstreak following reports that these are now being sighted there. I wasn't really very hopeful of finding a Brown Hairstreak as it was the wrong time of day really and I hadn't got a clue where to look but I did find another half a dozen or so Peacocks there along with a couple more Red Admirals and another couple of Commas.

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Peacock - Gait Barrows 01.08.2017


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Peacock - Gait Barrows 01.08.2017


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Peacock - Gait Barrows 01.08.2017


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Red Admiral - Gait Barrows 01.08.2017


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Red Admiral - Gait Barrows 01.08.2017


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Red Admiral - Gait Barrows 01.08.2017


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Comma- Gait Barrows 01.08.2017


One more part to come to wrap up the various odds and sods...

Neil.
Last edited by Neil Freeman on Tue Aug 08, 2017 7:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby David M » Mon Aug 07, 2017 8:23 pm

It's always wonderful to welcome back the spring aristocrats, Neil, but it is tempered by the knowledge that the season is drawing to its close.

Make the most of the Peacocks whilst they're about - by late August most will have disappeared and we'll be moving into the final phase of the natural calendar!

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby trevor » Mon Aug 07, 2017 8:32 pm

Stunning Peacocks, Neil. I've often wondered what sort of crowds they would draw,
if they were as rare and elusive as some of our other species.
Fortunately there's plenty of these beauties for everyone !.

Trevor.

PS. Thanks for the Arnside info.

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Neil Freeman
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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Neil Freeman » Tue Aug 08, 2017 7:24 pm

Thanks David, from reports that I have been seeing it seems that Peacocks have already mostly disappeared into hibernation around the midlands, can't say I blame them with the weather here this week.

Cheers Trevor, lets hope that there continues to be plenty, although they have been a bit scarce around parts of the midlands this summer.

Arnside/Silverdale – July 30th to August 1st part 5.

Everything else.

In total, I saw sixteen species of butterfly whilst up in the Arnside and Silverdale area, ten of which I have included in my reports so far. The remaining six species included good numbers of mostly ‘unidentified whites’ which were usually seen from a distance patrolling the hedgerows, but which occasionally came close enough to identify at least a couple each of Large, Small and Green-veined Whites.

A single Brimstone was seen at Gait Barrows sharing some Large stands of Hemp Agrimony with Red Admirals and Peacocks.

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Brimstone - Gait Barrows 01.08.2017


Small Skippers were seen at Arnside, Trowbarrow and Gait Barrows and also a few were braving the blustery wind at Warton Crag on the Sunday when we briefly stopped there.

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Small Skipper - Arnside 01.08.2017


In previous years I have seen good numbers of Common Blues at a number of sites around this area but this year they were in short supply. The few that I did see, one at Arnside along the Heathewaite path, one at Gait Barrows, Two at Trowbarrow and one at Warton Crag by the car park, were all males in new or nearly new condition. This indicated that perhaps they were only just getting going here, possibly held back a bit by the cool and wet weather they had been having for a few weeks around here.

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Common Blue - Gait Barrows 01.08.2017


I had a good look for salmacis Northern Brown Argus but without success, not surprised really as this species usually peaks around the end of June around here with some individuals occasionally lasting to the end of July. I have seen a few before in the last week of July, at Gait Barrows and Arnside Knott but have never yet seen one in August.

The butterflies here are obviously my primary reason for visiting this area but we often also visit RSPB Leighton Moss when were here and this time was no exception. With the weather being a bit unsettled on the morning of the Monday (31st July), we decided to go to the hides which overlook Morecambe Bay. Despite visiting Leighton Moss a few times in the past, we had never been to these hides before as they are a little way from the main reserve and we had simply just not got around to them before. There are two hides along the path here, the Allen hide and the Eric Morecambe hide, both of which afforded good views of numerous gulls and waders including Black-tailed Godwits, Redshanks and Greenshanks (I think I have got these right but happy to be corrected). There were also a few Oystercatchers and a couple of Avocets occasionally waded through.

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Waders seen from the Allen Hide - 31.07.2017


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Avocet and juvenile in amongst the rest.


At one point something spooked all these birds and I got a quick glimpse of a small Hawk or Falcon flashing through the flock. One of the other guys in the hide who was equipped with a large scope and camera fitted with a massive lens managed to get a photo of this and declared the bird to be a Merlin which he had specifically been trying to photograph for the past couple of hours.

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Spooked flock with Heysham nuclear power station in the background


We returned to Leighton Moss on Tuesday morning and this time went to the main reserve and the public hide on the causeway hoping to see the Marsh Harriers which are one of the stars attraction here. We were soon rewarded with good views of two individuals soaring across the reed beds albeit too distant to get any decent photos with my Lumix FZ200.

One thing I did notice was that the water level on the main reserve was much higher than I have seen it in previous years and I also noticed the rivers and streams in the area were all running high. Talking to our hosts at the B&B and a few other locals around and about revealed that they have had a lot of rain here again this year, and not just in the previous few weeks. Although they seem to have had a fairly good spring and early summer, apparently it was nowhere near as warm and dry as the south of the country. This indicates that there seems to have been a definite north-west/south -east split in the weather again this year with the driest and hottest weather very much in the south-east. I know this split is fairly normal for this country but over the past few years it seems to becoming more pronounced.

A couple of scenery shots to finish off with.

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Looking north over Arnside from the Knott.


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Looking south from the Knott over Silverdale and Morecambe Bay with Heysham power station in the far distance.


So that’s it then…another few days in one of my favourite parts of the country and one I hope to return to many times.

Bye for now,

Neil.

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby bugboy » Tue Aug 08, 2017 8:10 pm

You're right Neil, I am tempted to go back again, perhaps next year :)
Some addictions are good for the soul!

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Wurzel » Tue Aug 08, 2017 9:05 pm

Great set of shots Neil - plenty of Redshanks and Godwits and I think I could make out a Greenshank :D That final Comma from a previous post is really dark particularly on the hind wings :D

Have a goodun

Wurzel

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby millerd » Wed Aug 09, 2017 2:36 pm

What a brilliant few days you had up at Arnside, Neil. :mrgreen: I had hoped to visit there on 2nd en route to York, but the weather was so poor I decided not to risk the long detour. I now wish I'd rearranged things to fit in a visit on the way back back, but the schedule didn't allow for it! Never mind - your Scotch Argus shots are excellent and an insight into what was missed. :) Good you got to see High Browns as well - ideally, one should spend the month of July up there and see NBA and fresh HBF and DGF as well as the Scotch Argus at the end. :)

Dave

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Neil Freeman
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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Neil Freeman » Mon Aug 14, 2017 6:46 pm

Hi Bugboy, with a bit of luck I will be back again next year :D

Cheers Wurzel, that Comma looked nice and fresh too which made it really stand out.

Thanks Dave, we drove back down on the morning of the 2nd and it was raining when we left and a wet and murky drive all the way down the M6.

Sunday 13th August.

Since returning from Arnside, a combination of work, scabby weather and family stuff has meant that I had not been out anywhere to see any butterflies, the only ones seen being a few Speckled Woods and various whites occasionally in the garden.

With a bit of reasonable weather on Sunday afternoon, I finally managed to get out for couple of hours to pay a visit to my local patch at Castle Hills near Solihull to see what was about.
After a warm and sunny morning, the clouds had built up by the afternoon as they so often seem to do these days, but it was still feeling quite warm and for once there was not much of a breeze and so it felt very pleasant as I wandered along the paths here.

A short distance along the first path are a number of wild growing buddleias and these were playing host to at least four Peacocks that were alternating between feeding and basking on the ground nearby.

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Peacock - Castle Hills 13.08.2017


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Peacock - Castle Hills 13.08.2017


Further along, where the path passes through a couple grassy fields, my eye was quickly drawn to a number of male Common Blues chasing each other about. Some of these were quite worn but there were also some fresher looking examples.

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Common Blue - Castle Hills 13.08.2017


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Common Blue - Castle Hills 13.08.2017


There were also some females which varied from very brown to very blue,

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Common Blue - Castle Hills 13.08.2017


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Common Blue - Castle Hills 13.08.2017


I was also pleased to see at least a dozen or so Small Heath. I have mentioned before that there is concern over this species in Warwickshire with numbers falling quite drastically in recent years so whereas in the past I may have taken these for granted a bit, I am always on the lookout for them now.

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Small Heath - Castle Hills 13.08.2017


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Small Heath - Castle Hills 13.08.2017


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Small Heath - Castle Hills 13.08.2017


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Small Heath - Castle Hills 13.08.2017


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Small Heath - Castle Hills 13.08.2017


Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers were still very much in evidence but most were looking well past their best now.

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Gatekeeper - Castle Hills 13.08.2017


Other species seen were all three 'common' whites and some fresh Speckled Woods.

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Speckled Wood - Castle Hills 13.08.2017


All in all, not great numbers of anything and with no late season specialities around my local patch it had a definite winding down feel but nevertheless it was an enjoyable couple of hours.

Bye foe now,

Neil.

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Wurzel » Mon Aug 14, 2017 9:37 pm

Nice to see the variation in spotting on those Small Heaths Neil :D Really nice fresh Common Blues as well :D :mrgreen:

Have a goodun

Wurzel

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby millerd » Mon Aug 14, 2017 9:45 pm

Very nice Small Heaths, Neil. You have a similar variety as I have on my local patch, but yours are fresher! :) The Gatekeepers have all disappeared here now and the Blues are getting quite faded.

Dave

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Goldie M » Tue Aug 15, 2017 9:17 am

Hi! Neil, great shots from my part of the world, :D I'm hoping to visit Gait Barrow if the weather get's better this weekend, the Brown Hair Streak has taken up residence there now which you know already ,( fingers crossed ) Goldie :D

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Neil Freeman » Tue Aug 15, 2017 6:36 pm

Cheers Wurzel, like a lot of our butterflies, they can be surprisingly variable when looked at closely.

Thanks Dave, I have noticed before that your local patch seems to run a week or two ahead of mine, surprising the difference just a couple of hours up the M40 can make.

Yes Goldie, I did visit Gait Barrows but only for a couple of hours and didn't find any Brown Hairstreaks. I have since seen a couple of photos on twitter taken there during the past week or so.


One thing I forgot to mention in my previous post was that there were also a few each of Small and Essex Skippers still buzzing about, maybe half a dozen or so of each and all looking worse for wear now.

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Essex Skipper male - Castle Hills 13.08.2017


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Essex Skipper male - Castle Hills 13.08.2017


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Small Skipper female - Castle Hills 13.08.2017


Cheers,

Neil.


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