Wednesday 15th June – Buffeted Butterflies

Hi all, Christine here after a surprisingly good day at Collard yesterday. It started off with a very unpromising morning, dull and blustery with no sun to be seen. Despite this it was warm and I was hopeful there may be some movement later in the day. One of the first visitors and I had a wander round the scrub edges of the slope above the main track before 10am, and lo and behold found two Large Blues roosting in the Gorse. There wasn’t much sign of butterfly action until after 11.30am, when some weak sun escaped the cloud bank and immediately two Large Blues were seen flying on the main track.

Hiding amongst the spikes - Christine Tansey June 2011

The sun came out partway through the morning transect and I managed to record 9 Large Blues, with 5 in the Quarry area alone. Some cloud returned in the middle of the day, but by  2.30 it was warm enough to watch a couple of Large Blues being buffeted in the wind as they attempted to nectar on Wild Thyme on the slope above the gravel track. For the afternoon transect the cloud had blown over and we basked in a warm sunny spell. By this time there was definitely enough blue in the sky to make a ‘Dutch sailor a pair of trousers’, a saying that cropped up in several conversations today!

I saw 12 individuals on my afternoon route, half of which were in the Quarry, definitely the sheltered hotspot of the day. There continued to be Large Blue activity until after 4pm, by which time heavy cloud had returned and spots of rain started appearing. On a late afternoon walk around I met some visitors in what we christened ‘Butterfly Alley’. Whilst chatting, 7 or 8 passed us by, it was quite a thoroughfare! The ‘Alley’ is above and slightly along from the Quarry, and forms a corridor of grassland towards the slopes in-between the lower ridge path and the main gravel track.

There were other enjoyable diversions at Collard today, Swallows were swooping over the slopes and our Kestral was back hovering over the hill. As I’d been away from the site for a couple of days it was great to see a Painted Lady and Small Tortoiseshell on my walks around, they are both frequent but not abundant visitors to Collard. A glimpse of bright red and I saw my first flying Burnet moth of the year, and later a very orange day-flying moth that may have been a Barred Hook-tip.

Broomrape - Christine Tansey June 2011

Any dragonfly or damselfly enthusiasts please keep your eyes open when you’re at Collard, as we see a few around and today I watched a blue damselfly for a few minutes but couldn’t identify it. Do let me know if you see any on site as we’re very grateful for the records. Thanks to the visitors who pointed out some Common Broomrape near the ridge along the top of the hill, it’s a new record for this parasitic species at Collard.

Collard Hill has been featured in a couple of articles in the last few days. You can read about our hopes for high numbers of Large Blues on the BBC website, and the hill got a little mention in the Guardian too. Some more brilliant photos of this year’s Large Blues have come in, thanks to Chris Atkinson, Mike Dimery and Tony Rogers for the beautiful pictures below. Do remember to check the Photos tab for more!

A beautiful open wing shot - Chris Atkinson June 2011

Female and egg on Wild Thyme - Chris Atkinson June 2011

Mating pair - Mike Dimery June 2011

Female Large Blue ovipositing on Thyme - Mike Dimery June 2011

Large Blue on grass - Tony Rogers June 2011

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