Friday Forecast

It’s July and the butterflies have made it! They had an early emergence and are going to have a late disappearance. Absolutely wonderful news considering the awful weather we have had over most of June. They have definitely surprised me this year.

A brief update on today and then on to pictures.

My first Large Blue sighting of the day occurred at 9:50am, at the bottom of the Eastern Glade. My second, third and fourth Large Blue sighting were around the quarry area, around 11:00am. From then on only a handful more were sighted. Then, bands of rain followed by blinks of sunshine occurred. So, after showing visitors around the site, I stopped looking for butterflies in the wind and rain and started Ragwort pulling with other NT members that were already on site.

(Please do not pull up ragwort if you are going to leave it on site, because it sweetens and becomes more attractive, yet more toxic to animals. If you wanted to get involved with pulling ragwort to help maintain Collard Hill and other NT sites, get in touch with head office, or email me at largeblueranger@gmail.com thank you.)

Pictures as promised, firstly from today, then more from visitors who have visited the site in the last week or so and then todays identification challenge to you:

Common Green Grasshopper

Common Green Grasshopper

Helophilus pendulus (common hover-fly)

Hover-fly (Helophilus pendulus)

Sloe Bug

Sloe Bug

 

Identification Challenge #1:

Some say this is a Rhodicilla orchid, but some say otherwise. What do you think?

 

Identification Challenge #2:

 

I would love to see your ideas, so please do comment below.
Abbi

 

 

An Eventful Day

When arriving on sight to the sun warming my face, the bird’s singing away, and a gentle breeze on through my hair, it was just so peaceful. I then came across some early birds who had traveled from Hampshire and Kent to see the Large Blue butterflies. After a quick chat, I put up the flag and prepared for my day. Then it was time for me to go to Ivythorn Car Park (by the YHA) where I was to meet and greet some National Trust Somerset Rangers and Volunteers.

It was great fun showing them about, teaching them about the site and talking about the Large Blue with them. When arriving on site with them, within 10 minutes we had spotted some visitors that had collected just off of the pathway -always a good indicator that a Large Blue is at their feet. So as a group we crept up to see the Large Blue in all its glory.

I then walked the transect route with them sharing knowledge of hotspots for Large Blues and for specific plant species, such as the wasp and bee orchids (although most of them are no longer in pristine condition).

Within the Quarry we saw a freshly emerged Large Blue with its wings still crumpled and curled. It was beautiful! Other visitors today spoke of similar sightings at different parts of the site, meaning the Large Blues could be around for an extended period of time. We shall just have to wait and see.

Here are some images from today, including some challenges for you to try and help me identify:

6-spot burnet moth

6-Spot Burnet Moth

C.Restharrow with unidentified bug

Challenge: What is this bug?

Common Restharrow

Common Restharrow

Field Mushroom

Field Mushroom

Scarlet Tiger Moth...

Challenge: Is this a Scarlet Tiger Moth

Unidentified bg

Challenge: What is this bug (2nd picture)?

I also found what I thought was a Pied Shieldbug and another unidentifiable bug, but these proved more difficult to snap up a picture.
Any ideas on the identification of the bug and the moth is welcome.
Abbi

 

Monday & Tuesday Site Catch Up

Over the last two days Becky Woodgate has been standing in for me. As previously mentioned she is the appointed Polden Landscape Champion for Butterfly Conservation, so any questions about this role are welcome. She has been sending me notes about her two days on site so that I can fill you all in on the days that I have missed.

27th June, Monday:

“The day started quite cloudy but the sunny spells allowed for a decent transect and I counted 7 adults along with meadow browns, small heaths and marbled whites.  The skies cleared just after lunch but I had to dash off to New hill and Tannager, further along the Polden ridge, to walk the transect there as the weather isn’t looking great for the rest of the week.

I came back mid afternoon whilst the sun was still shining (although was pretty breezy) and I recorded 6 adults along with meadow browns, small heaths, marbled whites, ringlets and large skippers.  I enjoyed meeting the visitors and chatting to them.  I hope that I was helpful and also my local knowledge of the Poldens and surrounding area useful for visitors wanting to experience other good sites for butterflies.” [Becky Woodgate]

Here are some of the images that she had taken for Monday:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

28th Tuesday

“I only did the morning transect as the weather took a turn for the worst.  Although windy, the slopes further down were better and quite warm and I recorded 10 adult large blues (6 on section 1).

I watched the weather closing in, coming across the levels and so packed up at about 1pm. Before the rain arrived I stood and watched a Kestrel hunting (my favourite bird of prey).  I noticed it about yesterday too.  Today I managed to get a couple of photos with my battered old bridge camera.” [Becky Woodgate]

Here are those wonderful photo’s that Becky captured, taken on Tuesday:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Again, any questions please do ask.
Abbi.

P.s. A big thank you to Becky and all of the other volunteers that have stood in for me!

 

Visitor Knowledge

This morning I thought it would be a wet day, but I took the journey to Collard Hill to be more optimistic. The wet weather held off until 2pm, but this didn’t automatically mean it was the weather for butterflies.

There was hardly any sightings of wildlife, other than birds and bees. So I said to visitors I would show them Bee and Wasp orchids whilst hoping a Large Blue would float our way. Well it worked, I showed visitors through the quarry and towards the orchids and cutting right across our path was a Large Blue. It landed long enough for everyone to get a good look at it – some for the first time, others had seen one before. Then we headed on to the orchids, which again, some visitors had never seen before.

It’s great to show visitors new things and even more wonderful if I get to learn something from visitors too. Today I learnt what this was:

Robins Pin Cushion.jpg

Robin’s Pincushion

It is a Robin’s Pincushion. This may be a well known fact amongst readers, but I had never laid eyes on one before (of which I could remember). It had a very fibrous texture and so I asked a visitor what he thought it could be and he knew straight away ofcourse and he explained to me that it is a Bedeguar Gall caused by the larvae of Dipoloepis rosae, gall wasp. These baby wasps, if you like, feed on the plant it is attached to throughout the winter months ready to emerge in spring as adults. Something so simple, but I would never have thought it was a wasp gall.

It’s a great feeling when I get to share excitement and joy with visitors; this is why I like you to email in photographs from your visit to Collard (at largeblueranger@gmail.com) and why I like to read the comments you make in the visitors book (only out when it is not raining).

Now for a quick reminder; Glastonbury and the surrounding areas will be overcrowded with transport tomorrow, so if you are travelling to Collard Hill by bus or by car try to check for traffic warnings for your route.
Abbi

P.s. Information on Robin’s Pincushions can be found following this link: http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/species/robins-pincushion

Wicked Westerly Winds

I woke up this morning to treacherous rainfall flooding the garden path. “Oh no, there is no way my waterproofs are going to survive that!” I thought to myself and laughed.

I got on site around 12 today – once the rain had passed and the day looked brighter and warmer – only to feel a strong Westerly wind (reaching around 8mph). “Well no butterflies are going to want to fly in this wind.” I thought. However, I was proved wrong as some were zipping past me. But there were others clinging on to any vegetation they could whilst some were battling with the wind when trying to feed or oviposit.

If only the wind had died down, I am sure there could have been many more sightings than the 20 I recorded this afternoon. Although, the visitors all seemed to have seen an average of 6 today which is fantastic news! Most also managed to get great open winged and closed winged photographs of the Large Blues.

Here are some images from visitors, including Becky Woodgate (who will be standing in as the Large Blue Volunteer Ranger this Monday and Tuesday). Becky has also been nominated as the Polden Landscape Champion for Butterfly Conservation this year, so please do feel free to ask her questions about butterflies, what the PLC role involves and about the LBVR role too.

Don’t forget to write in the visitor’s book about your own Collard Hill experiences.
Abbi

Wet & Windy Weather

When stepping foot on site, at 9am this morning, there were already a few keen, excited and enthusiastic visitors searching for Large Blues. (One of them being Martin, who I’d like to thank for pointing me in the direction of the well trained Ringlets!)

 

Collard Hill today saw most of the many forms of British weather; sun, rain, gales, thunder, cloud and blue sky. This unfortunately proved difficult to conduct a full transect for the day. However, in the morning the average visitor saw around 6 Large Blues on the Eastern Glade and I managed to record 14 Large Blues across the Eastern side of the site in just half an hour – before the thundery downpour soaked me through and through. (All good fun!)

Passingby thunderstorm

I also managed to photographs these delights, but wasn’t sure if I had identified them properly;

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Plus, here are some visitor photos from around the YHA carpark and on Collard Hill itself:

Thank you to visitors sending in their images to us, they really are lovely to see!
Abbi

What a “wow” day!

Walking on the site like most mornings, I did not expect to see as many butterflies as I had done today. Coming off of site and looking at my charts, it really was a “wow” day!

I reckon the Large Blues are set to peak this week or the next looking at my sightings from today’s transects. The morning transect saw 13 Large Blues, whereas the afternoon transect saw 29 Large Blues! Wow!

Collard Hill

Collard Hill

Large Skippers, Small Whites, Ringlets, Common Blues, Painted Ladies, Small Tortoise Shells, Marbled Whites, Meadow Browns and Small Heath were also seen today in their numbers. That’s 10 species of butterfly in 1 overcast, but bright, day!

Small White

Small White

LB

Large Blues were mainly open winged in these warm and overcast conditions.

Large Skipper

Large Skipper

Identification challenge for today:

Moth....

Can you identify this moth?

Happy cameras all round!

Abbi

Glastonbury Festival Fun!

Today’s traffic was madness; it reminded me of ‘Operation Stack’ back home in Dover! Complete gridlock.

After waiting around for a long time at the bus station, I jumped on the first one that was seen that morning. I then endured a walk from Street in the rain and when arriving on site hoped it would have brightened up or to be greeted by butterflies or visitors. Instead, there was quiet, not even the busy road nearby had many cars whizzing down it. It was rather eerie. Just the rain, the birds, the bugs and me.

I paced the first transect of the day at 11:30am, when the rain had stopped and was around 20ºC, there was hardly any wind and so I expected to see a lot of butterflies. However, this wasn’t the case. The clock hit 12:40 and I had only seen a few Meadow Browns. At this time I was in the Quarry, the Western side of the site, the sun had just started to peek through the dark clouds when I saw BLUE! Blue wings were fluttering by! At the end of the transect I had logged 13 sightings of Large Blues.

 

LBlue.jpg

Large Blue

Around 2pm, there was a huge sunny hole in the clouds, this was when I was having a late lunch and managed to count roughly 5 Large Blues, Meadow Browns, Small Heaths and at 2 Marbled Whites. So I thought I would get on with pacing my second transect of the day, by the time I had finished it was 4pm, the wind had picked up, but it was now 30ºC. I had sighted 11 Large Blues, 2 Common Blues, 2 Small Tortoiseshells, 3 Marbled Whites, 31 Meadow Browns and 9 Small Heaths. Overall, a good day was had (even if I had started the getting soggy socks).

Common Blue.jpg

Common Blue

Also, some identification challenges of some other wildlife on site:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If anyone knows there mushrooms I would be grateful if you could confirm the above species for me.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If anyone is good with plants, moths and grasshoppers then please let me know about the above images.

Thanks,
Abbi

 

Open Day on Father’s Day

What success! The weather may have been a let down once again, but the day as a whole certainly was not.

The experts Dave Simcox (who helped with researching and introducing the Large Blue butterfly to Collard Hill) and Sarah Meredith (a former Volunteer Large Blue Ranger) were on site to guide the tour. What a fantastic help they were too! We all saw Marbled Whites, Large Blue butterfly eggs nestled in Wild Thyme and 5 Large Blues in total on Collard Hill (despite the rain and lack of sunshine). We also pointed out the Wasp, Bee and Pyramidal Orchids nearer the bottom of the Hill.

Ruby Simcox - Open Day (10yrs old).jpg

Ruby Simcox pointing out her favourite butterfly species; the Large Blue. Her second Large Blue sighting of the year. Happy Father’s Day Dave!

Overall everyone seemed delighted at the end of the Collard Hill tour and had already gained very respectable images for the first half of the Open Day. Next tour for the day was Green Down with another expert Matt Green, accompanied by Dave and Sarah.

Plus my day started with a walk around the YHA where I found these:

20160619_143812 (2)

Not sure what Orchid this is – any guesses?

20160619_143836 (2)

Orchid Flowers

Six-Spot Burnet Moth

Six-Spot Burnet Moth

Abbi

 

 

 

On the wing…

This morning the weather forecast was looking bright. However, not long after arriving on site around 9am, the weather took a bad turn – not as bad as previous days mind – no rain but also no sunshine. There was even a period of time when nothing was buzzing around and all fell silent in anticipation.

Around 2pm is when the sunshine started to break through and the sightings of Large Blue (some were spotted mating) increased dramatically. Blues were seen amongst a freshly emerged Small Tortoiseshell butterfly, Marbled Whites and Painted Ladies. (The visitor image below is from yesterday, but it is a similar photo to what I have seen today.)

John Beaven (1).jpg

John Beaven

Another visitor had the best seat in the house today, as a Large Blue decided to land right in front of her and oviposit!

We were also graced with the pleasure of seeing, what I believed to be, a Silver-Spotted (updated to: Large) Skipper!

Silver-spotted skipper.JPG

Large Skipper

Let’s hope the weather forecast for tomorrow changes for the better as it is our Open Day! More information about the open day can be found on the link below:
http://www.somersetwildlife.org/Large_Blue_Open_Day.html

I look forward to meeting more visitors willing to share their images with us!
Abbi