Friday 3rd June – Flight season takes off

Hello all, Christine the new Large Blue ranger here, for my very first blog post.

I’ll be on site Wednesday to Sunday over the next month or so, alongside the other dedicated volunteers. If you’re planning a visit to Collard Hill, do come and chat to us, we’ll have up-to-date information on what the Blues are doing each day, and are keen to hear how anyone on site gets on. I’d particularly like encourage any photographers who’d like to share their pictures to get in touch. The stunning photos taken by Sarah Meredith and many visitors last year have set the bar high, and I’d love to see this year’s Blues shared on the blog.

Open wings on 2nd June – Christine Tansey June 2011

I arrived in Somerset on Tuesday, travelling down from the wild South Pennines ready to start my Large Blue adventure. To my delight, on my first site visit on 1st June, Rob Holden and I saw our first Large Blues of the season. It was so exciting to get a sighting earlier than any recorded in previous years. This may be in part a consequence of the warm weather, and reflect the staggered emergence of a larger population at Collard Hill. It got even better, as the training day offered an unexpected chance to get an open wing shot (above) during an overcast morning.

Today I didn’t get onto site until around 2pm, and during the mid-afternoon heat few Large Blues were flying, they had a long and sensible siesta, only starting to reappear towards 5pm. Matthew Oates, the National Trust’s butterfly expert was also on the hill, and we spent some time watching a female near the top of the Eastern Glade go through the motions of egg-laying, but on later inspection of the wild thyme found she had not left any. This is common behaviour according to David Simcox, and Large Blue females frequently lay the day after mating.

Just going through the motions – Christine Tansey June 2011

Several visitors reported that they’d sighted 12-15 Large Blues flying earlier in the day, spread across the ridge and in the Eastern Glade, showing the butterflies are still well distributed on Collard. Yesterday the first Marbled White was seen on site, and today several visitors and I also sighted this species, another early emergence. Two Painted Ladies were also seen at the top of the Eastern Glade and on the ridge, and a Red Kite was reported over Collard’s slopes. Sadly I missed it, too busy focussing on ‘getting my eye in’ for Large Blue flutters among the Common Blues.

The first transect was conducted today, but during the high heat of the day only a couple of Large Blues were sighted. Happily some stationary delights were visible, a Bee Orchid in the Eastern Glade and 15-20 spikes of Pyramidal Orchid along the bottom of the Lynchets. The prospects for the weekend are promising, with a warm sunny day tomorrow Large Blues should be flying. The possibility of rain on Sunday would be much appreciated by the Myrmica sabuleti ants and the plants, including Wild Thyme, that are starting to look drought stressed at Collard. Keep your eyes on the blog for more updates, and I’ll see you on the hill soon!

Pyramidal Orchid in the Lynchets - Christine Tansey June 2011

A Bee Orchid looking dry - Christine Tansey June 2011

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4 thoughts on “Friday 3rd June – Flight season takes off

  1. Having read your latest, it would appear that a day with some level of cloud and not too hot would be best for photographing large blues. The middle of a hot day doesn’t seem great! Is this the case? I must now plan my trip and will have to take all this into account when checking out the weather forecasts!
    From past experience, would you expect numbers to be good by around 9th/10th? I love photographing butterflies and want to do my mammoth trip when my chances are best!
    Hope to be with you soon!

    • Hi Maggie,
      You’re right to say that the middle of a hot day is often not the best time for photographing the Blues. Many visitors will come for the morning, stay until lunch and then head off site to cool down before returning around 4 or 5 for a couple of hours. A day with mixed sun and cloud should give you a better chance of both underwing and open wing shots, but with patience you should find nectaring individuals and egg laying females on bright sunny days as well. Numbers should certainly be good by the 9th/10th, many visitors saw over a dozen individuals over the day today, and by next week there should be plenty more flying. Do check back here for updates as I’ll try to give an indication of their emergence each day. Good luck planning your trip and I look forward to meeting you soon!
      Christine

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