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

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

 

 

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:

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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

New arrivals

Again, a very overcast day with a bit of drizzle, but around 4pm it brightened up a little. This was about the time when one of my colleagues saw a Small Tortoise Shell!

Earlier on in the day, we had seen – what we believed to have been – a Dingy Skipper (please do say otherwise if it’s not ☆updated to Silver Y Moth☆). Plus, we most definitely saw the Painted Lady that a few visitors had called to me about a few days before but I still hadn’t laid my own eyes on it until today.

According to my colleague’s identification guide, some entomologists believe the Dingy Skipper to be an evolutionary link between moths and butterflies.

We also found Wasp Orchids today (a hybrid of Bee Orchids: they have a longer, and more pointed “bee”).

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Wasp Orchid

On the 9th of June, a lovely couple pointed out these Small Eggar Moth Caterpillars! I went back to show my colleague today and there was a big difference, so I believe we shall be seeing the adults pretty soon.

I also thought, some of you may be interested in Rock Rose. It comes from the family Cistaceae; of which most species originated from the Mediterranean and can have a healthy relationship with root fungi.

Rock Rose

Rock Rose

Have a lovely weekend!
Abbi

(Rock rose information: http://garden.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Rock_Rose)

Raindrops!

This morning it felt colder than previous days and I still had gloomy clouds over my head. The met office forecast was set for showers throughout the day, but this was not the case on Collard Hill. For at 3pm – what felt like – a bath full of water was chucked out of the clouds, lasting around an hour! A few of the visitors optimistically waited for the downpour to stop, and were rewarded with a few sightings of Meadow Brown, Small Heath, Painted Lady and (drum roll please) Large Blue butterflies. I am so glad, as a large proportion of visitors on site today had travelled for over an hour to see the showstopper, but were downhearted with the weather upon arrival.

Shout out to Bart, who was on site at 9am and spotted this beauty just 5 minutes later/ (Unfortunately, it did open it’s wings shortly after you left the site. Also, thank you for leaving a comment in the Visitor Book!)

6 spotted burnett moth caterpillar

6 Spotted Burnet Moth Caterpillar

On the 8th of June, I photographed this 6 Spotted Burnet Moth Caterpillar, and today was the first I had seen an adult one on site! Excellent news, as now we have bright red wings colouring our view.

Pyramidal Orchid

I also stumbled across this Orchid, in which I believe to be a Pyramidal, but please do correct me if you think differently.

(SPIDER WARNING!)

Spider in web in hole in ground after rain

This Ground Spider’s Home

When the rain had stopped, spider webs became more prominent across the ground and this little fella thought he would say Hello before I left for home.

Now for a challenge possibly… does anyone know who this belongs too (in image below)?

ID ME!

Challenge

Final note from me: I advise you all to look at the weather forecast for Street, (Somerset, UK) before travelling long distances.

Abbi

 

No Large Blues – But plenty of others!

Today started out looking extremely bleak – rain showers and thick clouds. Fortunately it picked up after about an hour and we were treated to bright sun and blue skies for the rest of the day. Lucy and I were treated to quite a few butterfly species we’d never seen before – many of them too fast for me to get pictures of though.

By the end of the day we’d recorded; Common Blues, Meadow Browns, Small Heaths, Small Coppers (which I just about got a picture of!), Brown Argus and Grizzled Skipper.

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Here’s a fun one – Brown Argus or Common Blue (female)? Answers in the comments!

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The sun once again brought with it a fair number of visitors in search of the Large Blue. No Large Blue meant they had to settle for the amazing view, searching for orchids and for the other butterflies out on the wing – not too bad a consolation prize at all.

The majority of Thyme still seems to be in its early stages – perhaps a sign that we may still be waiting a little while until the Large Blues emerge. One thing working with the Large Blue teaches you is patience.

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There’s still plenty to keep anyone interested around the site;
Running around trying to photograph little critters like this:

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Finding unexpected cool things while looking for butterflies – not too sure what species this belongs to.

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Around noon I spent some time sat in the quarry, (the wooded area on your right as you enter the site) watching many of the enigmatic bird species on the site. Chaffinches and Goldfinches were numerous and raucous, while a small family of Coal Tits flitted between the conifers, I’d never seen the birds so active and it’s a wonderful sight to behold.

Also while on my way home through Ivythorn Woods today, I saw evidence that a Thrush had been at work. Fascinating:

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So yes, still no Large Blue at Collard just yet, but plenty to find if you do come and visit! (Saturday’s weather is looking absolutely awful though, so I’d give it a miss until after it’s cleared up)

Jono, The Large Blue Ranger

P.S I am absolutely tasting my new sunhat.

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Still on the lookout

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This morning, I threw open the curtains at 6am to clear blue skies and blaring sunshine. This HAD to be the day…

Unfortunately the glorious weather didn’t stick around for long, and we haven’t seen any Large Blues just yet. The sunny weather held for a good few hours but was accompanied by a fierce wind, keeping everything hunkered down underground or deep in the vegetation, after which the clouds closed in.

Today I was joined by one of our new volunteers, Lucy, who helped me in our search for the ever-elusive Large Blue. We found a few butterflies on the wing, with Lucy’s brilliant eye for Common Blues:

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Full points to anyone who can comment with the identity of this mystery creature.

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Or who can identify this caterpillar!

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Today saw the first few visitors trickling into the site, and although there were no large blues there were plenty of other interesting points to guide them towards, the Bee Orchids are still putting on a particularly impressive show! I don’t think a single day will go by at this site without me finding something new – today’s discoveries:

This particularly spectacular field mushroom (around half a ft. in diameter) amongst the pines,

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This clump of fungi alongside one of the muddy paths in the eastern glade,

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And a newly flowering Pyramidal Orchid – this should look amazing when it’s in full bloom.

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Seeing people coming to the site interested and enthused about the natural world is one of the best things.

We’ll keep on searching, and we’ll keep you all posted!

Thanks for reading,

Jono, The Large Blue Ranger

2014 Large Blue Training Day

At the start of every Blue season here at Collard, the conservation team gets together for what we call the Large Blue ‘Training Day’. The training day is really important for teaching all of the National Trust’s (amazing) volunteers the basics for surveying the Large Blue populations and understanding the basic ecology of the site.

The weather was not kind to us. Traditionally we’d be walking the transect routes with the exciting prospect of actually seeing a Large Blue, which wasn’t going to happen in today’s pouring rain! We still got stuck into learning the vegetation around the site.

Dave Simcox showing the team areas of thyme

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Getting the basics of the butterfly transect was helped along by Sarah’s excellent Large Blue impression.

Charactoristics of a female Large Blue

Despite the weary weather, it was an excellent chance to find some of the rare plant species which are out on collard at the moment, such as this super cool bee orchid. This unique orchid is not only shaped to mimic the female bee, but also produces a scent similar to that of the female bee in order to attract the male for pollination.

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Every now and then the sun shone through the clouds, allowing me to try out my fantastic shiny new macro lens. On some of the slopes we found a few Common Blues drying themselves along with a (fantastically named) Grizzled Skipper.

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For me, today was all about meeting some amazing new people; some amazing experienced conservationists and some incredible volunteers who are willing to give up their valuable time to help us out.  A special mention has to go out to Dave Simcox (who led the training day and has been involved in the reintroduction of the large blue since the very start). He is like a walking tome of knowledge.

Tomorrow’s forecast is looking really really positive, and the conditions in the sward look perfect for the Large Blue to start emerging, some thyme flowers have just started to show their colours. Tomorrow could be the day!

I’ll keep you all updated! Thanks for reading

Jono, The Large Blue Ranger

P.S. Some of you might be interested to know that the ants I posted about aren’t nest building, but it’s likely they’re actually engaging in aphid farming (you can just about make out one of the aphids in the picture I posted yesterday) and you can read more about the process here if you’re as interested in ants as I am!

Friday 21.6.13

Large Blue Collard 21 June 2013 copy

Large Blue taken by Sarah Meredith

The best day so far for the Large Blues which are steadily emerging!

There were at least 5 different sightings in the gorse in the middle of the site and on the Eastern Glade slope.

The forecast for the weekend is rather mixed but it should be worth a visit for the photo opportunities when the sun does come out in between showers.

The site was very busy today with many visitors including a visit from the West Dorset National Trust team whom it was a pleasure to meet.

NT ranger West orset visit to collard

More Orchids are also starting to pop up on the site. During the afternoon i was very grateful to have met a visitor who discovered a couple of Wasp Orchids in the meadow at the bottom of the path down from the blue rope. Photos Below.P1020801

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There are also a couple of Bee Orchids in the quarry area which are still looking quite good.

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Next week should be brightening up so there should be good numbers of Large Blues flying but do remember that Glastonbury festival starts on Wednesday which will most likely cause traffic problems so plan your route carefully.

-Steve, Large Blue Ranger 2013