Another glorious day out on the hill meant there was plenty on the wing today – but for the second day running, I’m sorry to say, no Large Blues.
The morning was dominated by Marbled Whites, Meadow Browns and (perhaps surprisingly) Ringlets! Plenty of others put in an appearance; Small Heath, Small Skippers, Small Whites and Small Tortoiseshells (a lot of butterflies have small in their name don’t they?). I saw the first Painted Lady I’ve seen in a week or so, which was nice, and the Common Blue’s second brood is definitely in full swing.
Yesterday saw the site’s first sighting of a Dark Green Fritillary this year, which is definitely one to look out for! No sign of our Long-tailed Blue unfortunately, these are extremely strong flyers so it’s hardly surprising it got away, but it would have been fantastic if some more of us could have seen it eh? It may be worth mentioning the possibility that this individual didn’t arrive naturally, and may have been released, as no similar sightings have been made in Somerset (to my knowledge).
The afternoon saw the cloud thicken and the wind pick up so most things hunkered down. After the weather closed in there wasn’t too much going on across Collard simply because the wind was so fierce. Though I was treated to some awesome aerobatics as a Kestrel streaked across the sky, chasing down its airborne prey with incredible agility. Quite something to behold.
One of our visitors, Chris Janet, has sent in this cracking picture of a pair of mating six-belted clearwings. Despite their wasp-like appearance, clearwings are actually a type of day-flying moth. This relatively rare species is often found on calcareous soils, where its main foodplants are Bird’s-foot Trefoil and Kidney Vetch. Keep your eyes peeled for these incredible little creatures if you’re on site!
Speaking of Bird’s-foot Trefoil, embarrassingly, I never actually realised where its name came from until today, when I saw its seed pods.
So, still no Large Blues. It’s possible we could have reached the end of the season already, although it’s still a little early to call that verdict definitively. The end of the period arriving so quickly has come as a bit of a shock. With their (late) emergence on the 14th, we imagined that we’d just be at the tail-end of their peak now in early July.
Butterflies are an inherently changeable species, so sometimes no matter how perfectly you manage for them, the climate can conspire against you. This is year two of declining numbers, but it’s extremely likely they will bounce back fairly shortly.
Our egg count tomorrow may begin to shed light on just how quickly…
Thanks for reading,
Jono – The Large Blue Ranger.