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Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Another Leg

Clouded Yellow
Today we walked from Compass Point Bude to Trevose View Widemouth Bay, adding another section to our South West Coast Path Walk.  We took the opportunity of a circular walk by returning via the Kingfisher Walk and Bude Canal for lunch at the Falcon.

Small Copper
Along the cliff top, we were overtaken by many swallows all flying south - summer is coming to and end.  I recorded a couple of Clouded Yellow butterflies and managed my first photograph  They seem so different when feeding with closed wings pale yellow whereas when flying they are a starling yellow and black..  They do seem to prefer the cliff edges on the coastal fringe.

Other butterflies were present, particularly amongst the scrubby thistle patches.  Dodder was also in flower but only in one small area near to Philip's Point, Cornwall Wildlife Trust's smallest reserve.

Along the Kingfisher walk, most butterfly species were represented, but in much fewer numbers than last week.  It was warm and sunny, but fairly breezy and getting later in the year too.
Common Darter

The canal was very quiet, but it was afterall lunchtime.  We were delighted by a close encounter with a Kingfisher which "buzzed" us as it flew across the water.  I have never seen so many Common Darter dragonflies.  We were almost into double figures just west of Rodd's Bridge.  The Bird Hide pond was particularly favoured with three pairs  in tandem ovipositing in the open water.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Butterfly Walk

Bee with orange pollen sac
I determined to repeat last year’s walk along the From the Weir, along the canal to the Boardwalk signed by The Weir as the Kingfisher walk until I reached coast then headed south along the South West Coast Path to beyond the Bay View before heading back to the Weir via their Rabbit walk through farmland.
Small Totroiseshell

In August 2013, on parts of this walk, I was impressed by the numbers and species of butterflies that we recorded.  Being 3 weeks later I was not sure what to expect.  The part of the walk that had attracted most butterflies was where there were brambles in flower.  This year, the brambles had produced blackberries and I was concerned we were too late.  However, my fears were unfounded, as the abundant flowers of Willow Herb Epilobium sp. and Common Fleabane Pulicaria dysenterica were proving just as attractive.
It was interesting to note the bees busily gathering Fleabane pollen.  Their pollen sacs were not the usual bright yellow, but showing a very strong orange.

Small Copper
In the short 20 minutes section of this walk, I counted 29 butterflies of 14 different species.  .  Species List for 2014

Common Blue
Cinnabar caterpillar, Clouded Yellow, Common  Blue, Gatekeeper, Green-veined White, Meadow Brown, Peacock, Red Admiral, Ringlet, Small Copper, Small Heath, Small Tortoiseshell, Small White, Speckled Wood,

This year we missed the Comma and Large White, but added Clouded Yellow, Small Heath and Ringlet,

Further on around the walk in the farmland area I saw further proof that summer was drawing to a close.  Hay had been gathered in and flocks of Carrion Crow, Woodpigeons and Linnets were gleaning the stubble.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Cabbage Whites and Frenchies

Wall Butterfly

When I was a child in the Midlands, identification of butterflies was easy.  There were only two different species – if they were white then they were Cabbage Whites  and all the rest which, being any colour other than white, were termed Frenchies.  Why this was, I do not know but it made life so simple.

Small Tortoiseshell
What I do know is that since growing much older and looking into wild life much deeper, it has suddenly become much more complicated.  Here in Cornwall there are 37 resident species and 3 regular migrants (Clouded Yellow, Painted Lady and Red Admiral). I have been fortunate to see around 24 of these.

Speckled Wood
This year for example, with all the good weather, the regulars are appearing at their allotted times.  It is interesting to see the overwintering Red Admirals appear in mid-winter when the sun comes out, then the early ones such as Orange Tip followed by Ringlet and Gatekeeper and just this last week, Wall and Silver-washed Fritillaries are making an appearance.

I have been most fortunate to add two new species to my total this year both recorded on my garden – a Green Hairstreak and Holly Blues.

My “Frenchie” count is increasing and I am becoming more confident in identification of these coloured butterflies.  What still eludes me is the sure-fire way of differentiating the “Cabbage Whites”.  I know now that there are 5 species of white.  Orange Tip which are comparatively easy if they are males with their distinctive orange tipped wings.  The females fall into the more difficult category where the underwings are diagnostic.  Orange Tips have the checkered pattern whereas Green-Veined Whites have distinctive dark veining on the underwings.  Wood White and Marbled White are uncommon and fairly easy to distinguish. 

After all these years, it is those Large and Small “Cabbage” Whites that remain so difficult.