Saturday 11th June – The Circle of Life

Hello everyone, Christine here. It was a good day at Collard, with lots of activity on the slopes during a bright morning and early afternoon, and plenty of visitors throughout the day. There were already people about when I arrived at 9am, and the early sun meant the butterflies were starting to appear, particularly along the scrub line above the main gravel path. Along the main track we stumbled upon a mating pair of Meadow Browns to kick start a day that covered many stages of a butterfly life cycle.

Mating Meadow Browns - Christine Tansey June 2011

The morning transect sighted nine Large Blues, five of which were at the bottom of the Eastern Glade, which was buzzing with activity during the sunny spells of the morning. The main gravel track also saw a lot of Large Blues in flight, as they frequently fly along from the upper slopes, utilising the warm bank above the path, which supports some large flowering patches of Wild Thyme.

The slope above the track is proving an excellent area for Large Blue spotting, and today saw roosting, newly emerged and flying individuals, nectaring and egg laying. It became a rather social area too as lots of visitors were able to point each other in the direction of the best views. Overall people at Collard today seemed to be getting at least 7-8 views of Large Blues, as they were taking their chance in the sun.

Large Blues mating - Christine Tansey June 2011

Thanks go to the visitors who pointed out a mating pair of Large Blues just off the main track at lunchtime today, they turned into the stars of the their very own saga. I was particularly pleased to get some good views of this pair, as up until now I’ve missed any sightings, always arriving ten minutes too late! This couple got a lot of attention and certainly were not camera shy. They remained in their gorse boudoir for close on two hours, but towards the end of the day it became apparent all was not well…

The spider weaves a web - Christine Tansey June 2011

Their leisurely coupling had led to an opportunistic spider weaving a web of silk all over our Blue’s wings and their prickly perch. And so we watched the final stage of the male’s life, as he was well and truly caught up. As they eventually decoupled, the female was freed and flew off to hopefully lay another day. Sadly it was probably the end of the male’s time in the sun, and so the circle of life was complete for the day!

A crumpled Large Blue emerging - Christine Tansey June 2011

Butterfly activity tailed off somewhat in the afternoon, as it clouded over and cooled. Five Large Blues were recoded on our transect walk and afternoon sightings were mainly of resting individuals, and the occasional flutter with a break in the cloud. The rather crumpled butterfly above was found below the ridge track, and its wings failed to inflate over the course of the afternoon, so it may be another casualty of the day.

It was a day of mortality and mating, and the whole range of activity an adult Large Blue experiences. All life is at Collard! And we hope to see you soon, for our butterflies, orchids and today, Bullfinches too.

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3 thoughts on “Saturday 11th June – The Circle of Life

  1. It was good to see the mating pair of Large Blues on the gorse bush yesterday. Today I looked up the Large Blue in my copy of the book “British Butterflies” by Robert Goodden, published back in 1978, and it says:
    “The Cotswold race preferred open fields and rough hillsides where wild thyme grows amongst anthills. On the north coasts of Cornwall and Devon heather and gorse were required in addition….”
    So it looks like gorse might be important as well as thyme and ants.

    • Hi Geoff,
      Thanks for that, very interesting to hear about a possible requirement for gorse, as there are many sightings of the Large Blues utilising the gorse on-site at Collard. They certainly seem to use it for roosting frequently. Glad to hear you enjoyed meeting our ill-fated couple yesterday!
      Christine

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