Large blues entended season

Hi all, Lottie here.

I spoke to Sarah Meredith today and heard that the Large blues were still flying on Sunday. However, they were tatty individuals so the season is likely to be nearing an end. What a long season it has been though! Last year the flight period was until July 10th and here we are on July 17th.

I hope plenty of you have been able to see the Large blues this flight season. I will put an update once it has been clarified that the season is offically over.

Here is a great picture sent in by visitor Geoff  Hiscocks of a Large blue egg on Wild thyme spotted on Collard on 20th June. I also heard that there are plenty of caterpillars and eggs being found on the surveys being carried out. All good signs for the Large Blue butterfly population.

Large Blue egg on thyme bud. Taken by Geoff Hiscocks 2012

Visitors’ photos of Large Blues, other butterflies and orchids this season.

This season at Collard, despite the inclement weather alot of vistors managed to take great shots of the butterflies and orchids. Thanks for sending them in!

The open wing shot! Taken by Steve Blandford 2012.

A cheeky upside down Large Blue taken by Steve Blandford June 2012.

Pairing Large Blues taken by Steve Blandford June 2012.

Large Blue happily feeding on the Wild thyme. Taken by Neil Avery 2012.

Common Blue taken by Neil Avery 2012.

Lovely open wing shot! Large Blue by Neil Avery 2012.

Small Tortoiseshell by Neil Avery 2012.

One of the many Bee Orchids growing at Collard this season. Taken by John Green 2012.

A Meadow Brown by John Green 2012.

A most obliging Marbled White butterfly. Taken by John Green 2012.

Large Blue Butterfly amongst the grass. Taken by John Green 2012.

Pyrimidal Orchid. Taken by John Green 2012.

A Large blue looking a little tatty from a week at least of flying. Taken by David Williams, 2012.

Side view of Large blue. Taken by David Williams, 2012.

Large blue. Taken by Brian and”Tom” Haylock. 2012.

Large blue feeding on Wild thyme. Taken by Brian and “Tom” Haylock 2012.

 

Large Blue update

Hi all, Lottie here.

The people on site at Collard today could happily report better weather than earlier in the week which I hear was a complete washout!

This morning, 2 Large Blues were seen at the bottom of the steps and 4 were seen this morning. At about 1.30pm there was sunshine and the butterflies seen were a mix of pristine and tatty so they are likely to be flying for a little while yet.

I’ll put an update when the season has been deemed over.

 

A beautiful last day for a butterfly ranger.

So today was my last day as resident ranger at Collard hill for the Large blue. Although there was a brief shower, overall it was one of the sunnier and calmer days. In fact by 4pm the sunshine was positively beaming in the fashion of a real summertime!

The good weather seemed to bring alot of families to the hill today and we wen’t Large blue egg hunting. On our third try we managed to find a clump of Wild thyme with eggs on whilst wandering up the (dry for once) mud track from the Eastern Glade. Throughout the day though myself and visitors found eggs on alot the site, all good omens for this years’ butterfly season.

Eastern glade slope, quite a vista.

First thing this morning, I found myself sitting amongst the quaking grass and really looking at the amount of scrub and trees on Collard. The structure of the habitat on the hill is so varied and I feel that now I have learnt almost all the nooks and crannies but I am sure there are still more to find. The orchids seems to be past their best now but the large Wasp and Bee that have been there all the time I have been working at Collard, are still going strong despite being a tad dishevelled.

The Large blues were really out on show today. Many of us just had to stand at the bottom of the Eastern glade slope and we could watch them flying past as well as the fresh Ringlets and Large Skippers. I have learnt an awful lot about butterflies and the ecology of a restored calcaereous grassland during this role, that is for sure.

Like so many people, I will long to see the Large blue again and be hynotised by their flight which you can’t help but stop and watch as they fly past and the same goes for other butterflies seen at Collard.

A common blue (Taken by C Faulkner on 1st July)

I am afraid that is not all from me however. There will be other rangers and people at the hill monitoring the Large blue for the rest of the flight period. This is likely to continue for a few weeks yet, particularly as there have been so many freshly emerged ones this week. I shall be keeping in touch, finding out the news and posting updates on the blog until the end of the flight season- although not as regularly.

Thanks to everyone at the National Trust, Dave Simcox, Sarah Meredith and everyone involved for helping me learn my role as a Large Blue ranger and for making the Large blue not an extinct species but a successful member of the UK ecosystem. Here is a picture of just some of the people involved, taken on the training day I wen’t on during my 1st few days at Green Down.

Everyone at this years Large Blue training day at Green down, May 2012.

Watch this space for pictures taken this season and some more chit chat about whats happening at Collard.

All the best, Lottie LB ranger

My penultimate few days- and a first sighting of a Large Blue caterpillar!

Today has been mainly sunny and absolutely beautiful despite a breeze. Makes a change after all the rain this June. I am extremely excited to report that this morning when I arrived on site, I met with Sarah Meredith and we found the first Large Blue caterpillar for Collard this season and my first ever!

Look in the centre of the flower to the left of the pencil tip and you can see a “pink tube” which is the Large Blue caterpillar found at Collard today by Sarah Meredith (Taken by C Faulkner 30th June 2012)

I then spent the rest of the day running up and down the hill with visitors in the search of Large blue adults.  The first visit to the sheltered areas between the gorse above the main track was successful and we saw adults flying but later in the day there were fewer there- perhaps hiding from the brief shower. Using the binoculars of one member of a visiting family, we checked out the eggs on the Wild thyme here by turning the binoculars upside down. After a month at Collard and with Sarah’s help I have learnt to identify the Large blue eggs between the Wild thyme buds.

Later on today, myself and a few determined ladies carried on from this sheltered area back towards the Eastern glade. We saw one Large blue above the track and then another at the base of the Eastern glade(the area beneath the blue rope). A few of the Large blues looked really fresh. Some seemed very flighty up on the higher slopes but at the bottom of the Eastern Glade (See map at the top of the this blog) they seemed very calm and confiding- perhaps as they were the lady blues. I have been told that the females are much dopier than the males- poor things.

Large Blue resting on (possibly Couch) grass (Taken by C.Faulkner 2012)

In other news at Collard, today and yesterday the first Ringlets were popping up and I am having to make sure I don’t confuse them with Meadow browns- which I will no doubt be seeing in my sleep as they have been so constant this season!  Also, this afternoon, we saw what I assume to be a Small skipper rather than an Essex at the bottom of the Eastern glade slope too.

Small skipper found in the Eastern glade this saturday (30th June) Taken by C Faulkner 2012

Yesterday too there were some more dragonflies about. Myself and some visitors watched a Common darter resting on a Hawthorn for some time and near the area where the orchids grow a 4-spot chaser was flying:

Not a great picture but good enough to ID as a 4-spot chaser correct me if I am wrong. Taken at Collard 29th June 2012 (C.Faulkner)

Also, here is the Greater yellow rattle from the side where the horses and cattle are now living (until the blues stop flying). This is a new record for the site and looks different from ordinary rattle as there is purple on the top lip of the flower which I looked up in Rose (2006).

Greater yellow rattle, Rhianthus angustifolius (Taken by C Faulkner June 2012)

So, I am sad to say I shall be finishing as the Large blue ranger at Collard tomorrow (as it has just been a short contract with the National Trust) but I shall be updating the blog for a week more at least so when the Large blue finishes flying the word can get out. There will be other volunteer rangers on duty most days in the next few weeks though to help you find the blues.

I am really sad to be leaving my post as I have really enjoyed leaping about the hill showing people as much of the site as possible- in fact I doubt I will manage to stay away for long!

For those that have sent pictures in, I will be doing another blog post this week with your pictures in. as soon as I can. However, I graduate on Wednesday from Reading uni so I can’t say when exactly. Thank you for sending them in and keep them coming to collard.hill@gmail.com

Lottie- LB ranger

27th and 28th June- lots going on at Collard.

Within the last few days, there have been many Large Blue butterflies flying at Collard. On Wednesday there was in fact a newly emerged butterfly which seemed a bit dopey – perhaps as it was just adjusting to the world above the Myrmica sabuleti nest it will have come from. This guarantees the flight season to extend for another week at least as the butterflies live for around a week (plus or minus a few days depending on the weather or the risk of being eaten) as adults.

Yesterday, after I returned from the National Trust office, I saw Large blues mainly along the Eastern Glade slope but also along the paths (leading from the Ivythorn gate entrance to the bench and blue rope). As it wasn’t too windy until late afternoon the butterflies seemed to be able to visit the Wild thyme on the higher slopes too and still a few are flying around the “Quarry area”. Here too, I noticed Hedge bindweed, Calystegia sepium is starting to flower.

Based on observation, the Marbled whites are increasing in number and the Meadow browns and Small heaths are still in high numbers. The 6-spot burnet moths are everywhere too. Although I didn’t have my camera on me, myself and some visitors spotted a caterpillar in the process of weaving a cocoon. I did get some pictures of a caterpillar and an adult later that day though.

Image

6-spot burnet moth caterpillar- Taken by C.Faulkner 2012

Image

6-spot Burnet moth adult on Field or Small scabious (plant leaves not noted at the time but both listed as growing on site). Taken by C.Faulkner 2012

The orchids are also doing well perhaps due to the rain. No doubt the Pyramidals especially will do very well this season with all the day flying moths and butterfly activity ensuring pollination (Harrap & Harrap 2005).

The main excitement for me in the last few days was that I realised that within the grassland on the other side of the fence, there is Greater yellow rattle, Rhianthus angustifolius  due to the purple tip on the top lip of the yellow flower (Rose 2006). I will get a picture today if I can. A visitor also pointed out to me the Restharrow, Ononis repens’ pink pea-like flowers that have recently come out. The wide diversity of flowers at Collard are yet another example of how the management for the Large blue benefits the wider ecosystem.

Large blues will be flying for a few more weeks yet.

Hi all,

So having popped to Collard in the last few days during other activites, I know from speaking to the volunteers on duty and with my own eyes, that the Large Blues are still very much around!

Yesterday, myself and a group of students from Strode college actually sat halfway up the bank of the Eastern Glade (not on any Wild Thyme of course) and saw a few flying on the lower half of the slope. This morning, behind the gorse I saw 4 flying and volunteers Roger and Barry saw at least 12 during the day today.

Having spoken to Dave Simox it is likely that the Large Blues will be flying at Collard for at least another two weeks but diminishing in numbers so it will still be worth visiting to see the Large Blues until around mid July. I shall put a notice on here once the flight season has been deemed over.

Lottie-LB ranger

23rd and 24th June- A weekend of more sunshine than usual plus a few confused Large Blues.

Evening all, Lottie here.

I am going to wrap up the weekend a bit.

So yesterday, a Large blue was not only seen attempting to lay eggs on self heal but also drinking nectar from a pink pyramidal orchid. Therefore, they are either utilising the other purplish plants nearby or being very confused I assume. Now that much of the grass around the Wild thyme has been pulled (thanks all you took part in that activity), they should be finding it ok to lay eggs on.

A seemingly confused Large Blue feeding on a Pink pyramidal orchid. (Taken by Charlotte Faulkner 2012)

Today was indeed a glorious day for butterflies as the sun was shining from roughly 11am onwards. Thankfully this meant that the muddy paths were dry by this afternoon although I did increase by about 1cm in height from mud on my shoes this morning on my way down the Eastern glade!

Throughout the weekend, I saw around 4 very tatty individuals, more brown than blue. This may be because they emerged earlier in the week and are now nearing the end of their lives, having completed a successful lifecycle I hope. In the “Quarry” area, a mating pair of Large blues actually flew together up the slope very briefly which was amazing to see. I also saw a female egg laying in the Eastern glade. These and some others were not too tatty in appearance so chances are that more emerged today and the season will elongate for a few weeks yet. Certainly today Hayley and I counted 14 on the afternoon survey.

Yesterday, a visitor wrote that there was a cream spot tiger moth on site which I did not see unfortunately. Today, a large dragonfly (unsure of the species) and lots of Marbled whites were flying out in the open. The Meadow browns appear to still be going strong but the Small heaths appear to be reducing in number, but 6-spot burnet adult moths are out now and some cinnabar moth caterpillars.

Adult 6 spot burnet moth (Taken by Charlotte Faulkner 2012)

Cinnaber moth caterpillars on ragwort (Taken by Charlotte Faulkner 2012)

Although I shall be on site briefly tomorrow to give a talk to some students from Strode College, I shall be away for most of the next two days on my time off. I intend to return to Shapwick heath as I have been going there to see barn owls, marsh harriers, bitterns amongst others in the last few weeks. I am not sure if I will see the great white egrets again but I did see them a few weeks back so not to worry. The only bird news at Collard today were the resounding calls of the Long tailed tits. The swallows and swifts were a little less numerous at Collard today but no doubt this is because the stormy skies are a bit clearer for a change!