Large Blue update- 14th June

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Gorgeous open-winged Large Blue

Hello everyone,

I have to apologise as I have been experiencing major laptop malfunctions, making it difficult to update the blog in good time. Nevertheless, today has been a beautiful day at Collard Hill in many respects and so much was to be seen.
This morning, the air was calm for the first time and, even at the path at the top of the hill, the strong winds were replaced with a cool breeze. The sun was already hot when I arrived on site at 9am and the area was buzzing with wildlife and people.

I counted around three Large Blues today in my afternoon transect alone, and saw around five more if counting those that zip past without settling. I was glad to see that many visitors were able to get some fantastic shots of the Large Blues today and most of the people I spoke to had seen one.
There was an interesting range of behaviour seen in them today, with reports of another copulation at the top of the slope near the entrance (Ivythorn car park side) to a very immobile LB that some observant visitors spotted. We agreed that it could be a newly emerged adult inflating its wings ready for flight.

To add to this exciting activity, we had our first sightings of the Marbled Whites at Collard Hill today! A couple of visitors had spotted one around the Eastern Glade and I had three sightings of the striking butterfly within the space of half an hour. In fact, probably thanks to the weather today, most butterfly species that had been spotted at Collard this season were represented in my transects today, including the Large Skipper!

So, all in all, a fantastic day and I look forward to seeing what tomorrow has to offer.

– Gabrielle

Large Blue update- 11th June

Hello all,

Today has been a fabulous day for the Large Blues. First, a huge thank you to the team that worked clearing scrub fencing, overgrown thistle and ragwort and left Collard looking all the more beautiful. Also, thank you to the scorching afternoon we had, because several groups of visitors were at last able to see the Large Blues! Overall, we had three sightings today, and with many having travelled a long way I was delighted that they were able see this rare butterfly and to take some beautiful photographs. We also saw our first mating pair on Collard which was a very encouraging sign.

Myself and a couple of visitors spotted this one on the path near the bottom of the wooden steps. It flitted from Thyme to Salad Burnett before resting on this Thistle. We waited a while nearby for it to open its wings and the below photo was caught in the few seconds that the breeze died down enough for it to bask. This very one was then amazingly scouted by a male LB and they began to copulate!

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Large Blue

I passed on some knowledge that one of the Large Blue experts, David Simcox, shared on a training day, and that is male LBs often zig- zag from the bottom of the slope, where unmated females instinctively congregate, to the top where females are newly emerged from the red ants nests in the search for a mate. This led me to believe the above is a female…

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Mating pair of Large Blues on thistle

David also passed on tips for identifying the Large Blue against the Common Blue (which are present at Collard Hill as well) at a distance. Not only can you look out for the orange spots on the underwing that Large Blues do not have, but Common Blues are much more likely to land on yellow flowers as opposed to Large Blues which more often land on purple ones. Hope that comes in handy to any future visitors!

Other volunteer rangers will be filling in for me until Tuesday but the weather is looking to be sunny in Street tomorrow (Monday) for anyone planning a visit. Remember to write in the comments book about your experience as we’d love to hear from you!

Until Wednesday,

 

– Gabrielle

Wildflower appreciation

Hi folks,

Today I got in to another day of south westerly winds strong enough that it’s a struggle to walk in a straight line on the hilltop. Straight to the shelter of the lower areas I go!

Wildflowers have really come in to bloom these last few days and the difference in floral diversity from when I started my post June 1st is remarkable. Much of the Thyme is still in its early stages but is also becoming more obvious in discrete purple patches, so if you visit please make sure you look out for it when walking off path or across ant hills!

The quarry is particularly diverse right now,  especially as the Yellow Wort has begun to flower. The Bird’s Foot Trefoil is a particular favourite of mine as the flowers range from red to orange to yellow in colour as they mature. Today I knelt down to photograph a patch of it poking out of an ant’s nest and found a very fat- looking caterpillar clinging (very successfully) to the delicate flower stems! Some very knowledgeable visitors identified it as a Burnet moth caterpillar.

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Common Rock Rose

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Yellow Wort

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Burnet moth amongst Bird’s Foot Trefoil

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Hawkweed

The clouds were fairly dense around the time of my morning butterfly transect, so the only butterfly life about were a couple of Small Heaths in the hay meadow. But, by the beginning of the afternoon the sun came out in full stead and, despite the ongoing windy conditions, out came 3 more Small Heaths, 5 Meadow Browns (2 doing a mating dance), 2 Speckled Woods and a gorgeous Small Tortoiseshell (which lives in the sheltered quarry near the pine trees) that I’m determined get a decent photograph of by the end of my post.

Despite the fact that there were four sightings of LBs yesterday (but who’s counting?) it is still early in the season and the high wind speeds continue, so if you plan on travelling from afar to visit Collard Hill I would definitely recommend checking the forecast first or waiting until a little later in June when historically the flight season is truly under way. Of course, any sightings will be recorded daily on this blog, but you can also contact me- the Large Blue Ranger- on 07824820193.

Thanks for reading!

Gabrielle – Volunteer Ranger

Those cheeky butterflies!

Good morning all,

What a beautiful day we had up at Collard yesterday- the sun was out most of the day and I met lots of keen and lovely visitors to share my Large Blue hunt with. Unfortunately, the recurring strong winds didn’t create the ideal conditions for us, so I carried out my morning and afternoon transects recording a striking Small Tortoiseshell in the pine tree woods (the ‘Quarry’) and a few of my favourite Common Blues.

BUT, at half 3, as soon as I finished my afternoon transect, the wind decided to die down, creating the perfect t-shirt weather in the sheltered areas. So, I sat in the Eastern Glade with my binoculars and tah da! I was treated to four sightings of our mischievous Large Blues darting across the top and bottom of the slope, occasionally landing on some Wild Thyme and other pink/ purple flowers.

I managed to snap a few quick photos of this one before it took off again; they were very active.

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A great Wild Thyme resource with a matrix of opened and semi- opened flowers.

Luckily, it looks like the weather is holding out today, as well, and I look forward to seeing many more friendly faces this weekend.

-Gabrielle

Windy and wonderful

Hello all.

Strong winds and rainy spells today didn’t prove ideal for butterfly watching and that unfortunately includes Large Blues today. But, Collard Hill never disappoints, so I took shelter at the bottom of the hill at the ‘Eastern Glade’ where the trees and scrub effectively block the wind and kept my eyes peeled. This area, pictured below, is where our solo Large Blue sighting took place on Wednesday!

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The ‘Eastern Glade’; the South- Eastern area of Collard Hill.

Soon enough, it was visited by a Meadow Brown darting above the bushes and then a lovely Small Heath disturbed off the path I was walking. A Speckled Wood usually makes an appearance around the vegetation at the bottom of the wooden steps and this one settled just long enough for me to get a photo.

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Speckled Wood

When the morning rain passed, it was still overcast but you only needed to look a little closer to find hidden treasures glistening in its after- effects:

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Glistening Dog Rose

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Curious spider web opening up to a tunnel into the ground.

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Any fungi experts?

Fortunately, tomorrow is looking to be a little more sunny for our L.Blues!

– Gabrielle

Welcome!

Hello, fellow butterfly enthusiasts,

I’d like to quickly introduce myself as the new Large Blue volunteer ranger for 2017. My name is Gabrielle and I’ve just finished my Ecology degree at the University of Sussex. I’ve been lucky enough to get the chance to monitor the Large Blues at the beautiful Collard Hill this summer and I look forward to learning more about everything this site has to offer, from butterflies to birds to wild flowers… and more!

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My role as the new volunteer ranger is to carry out regular butterfly transects around the site to monitor the Large Blue population, but I will also be more than happy to answer any questions and guide visitors around throughout my post. I look forward very much to meeting and learning from you all and shall be on- site Wednesdays to Sundays for the next five weeks (there will also be other lovely volunteers present Monday- Tuesday to cover my days off).

This blog will be updated often to keep you all in the know about news of the Large Blue butterflies and photos of some of the many other extraordinary butterflies and species we have here. Having said that, I’m happy to announce that today we had a gorgeous sunny (but windy!) day here at Collard and recorded the first Large Blue of the season, photo below.

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2017’s first Large Blue!

The forecast is quite mixed for the rest of the week but tomorrow it’s looking dry from noon, so I’ll be keeping a very keen eye out in the hope of reporting many more sightings. Make sure you check the forecast for Street, Somerset before you head over.

For now, here are just a few images of the amazing wildlife we have here:

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Can anyone identify this beetle? *EDIT*: Thank you, it’s a Cockchafer, or ‘May bug’.

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Female Common Blue

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Large Blues pairing at a nearby site

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Large skipper

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Bee orchid

Until tomorrow!

Gabrielle

Farewell

I have watched the crops grow golden, the Large Blues come and go and the sun rising and falling in Somerset since the 30th of May. What a wonderful experience it has been, but all good things must come to an end. Therefore, it is time to say goodbye to Collard Hill and all of it’s inhabitants. A new chapter of adventure awaits me.

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Here are a few images I have taken over the course of my time on Collard Hill which I did not manage to put on the blog posts:

Goodluck to the 2017 Large Blue Butterfly Volunteer Ranger. May the Large Blues be another success in your presence!

Abbi

Newbies!

 

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Sunny Collard Hill

What a great day today turned out to be. There was sunshine, there were new butterflies and there were visitors to keep me company. But there were no Large Blue butterfly appearances, instead I was graced with the presence of another beautiful butterfly; a Peacock butterfly.

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Peacock Butterfly

It was also a great day for Cloud Busting! Can anyone else see a Poodle in the clouds?

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Cloud Busting

I also saw these, but wasn’t sure on what they were exactly, can anyone help?

Silver Y moth

Silver Y Moth again?

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Bee or Wasp?

It is getting closer and closer for the end of my time at Collard Hill, even with the extra week I still do not want to leave. It is a gorgeous site and no-one should under-appreciate it for a moment.

Abbi

Mid-Week Wonder

We are nearing the end of the second week of July now and sadly there have not been any more sightings of Large Blues. I believe there to still be some on site but with compromising weather conditions they just don’t want to show themselves.

I will still be walking the transect route twice a day for this week, when the weather conditions feel right and I will still be updating the blog, until further notice, with photographs I have taken from each day when searching for the remaining Large Blues on Collard Hill.

There will always be a lot to see on Collard Hill, from the wildflowers in the meadow to the Red Devon cattle in the fields (and of course the unforgettable view of the Levels). So please do come along and help in the search for the last Large Blues of 2016.

Here are some photographs from today, including a photograph of a Cinnabar Moth taken by a National Trust volunteer and a photograph of the Caterpillar:

Bumble Bee

Bumble Bee

Cinnabar Moth Caterpillar

Cinnabar Moth Caterpillar

Ronnie Harkness

NT Volunteer: Ronnie Harkness

Ox Eye Daisies

Ox Eye Daisies

Silver Y Moth..

Silver Y Moth

I had a guess that the above was a Silver Y Moth, but if not then please do correct me.
Enjoy the rest of your week!

Abbi

Common Blues are back!

Well I never! Today I saw a very fresh Common Blue. So, as the Large Blues are dwindling their way into the second week of July, the Common Blues are returning.

Common Blues have orange on their underwings, have no black spots on the upperwings, do not have a thick border and are a sky blue colour. Large Blues – as you all should know by now – have no orange on their wings, have prominent black spots on their upperwings, do have a thick black border and are a deep shade of blue (when in flight the colour blends with the purple shades of selfheal).

Common Blue in flight

Common Blue in Flight

Common Blue

Pristine Common Blue

Large Blue

Today’s Large Blue

The weather today was cloudy with few sunny spells, very windy and a little rainy towards the end of my shift today. All in all, I saw just the one Large Blue a few times and that was in the space of 20 minutes. It was fluttering about the sign that directs visitors onto the Eastern Glade or down the slope towards the bottom of the site.

Here is what else I found on site today, any ideas on the moth identification would be wonderful:

Skipper

Skipper

Pied Shield Bugs

Pied Shield Bugs

Moth id me

Moth

Plus some visitor images of their time at Collard Hill this year:

Both Graham and I would love to know what caterpillar is in his photograph – the caterpillar and parasitic wasp.

Abbi