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

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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

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;

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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

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!

Thanks for the photos guys!

Thanks to those that have sent us photos from the last few days, they are really great photos! Nick has kindly sent us a photo of the Pole Cat that unfortunately died yesterday.

 

Taken by Nick Edge

Taken by Nick Edge

Taken by Nick Edge

Taken by Nick Edge

Taken by Nick Edge

Taken by Bryan Williams

Taken by Bryan Williams

 

Taken by Bryan Williams

Taken by Bryan Williams

 

Taken by Brian Arnold

Taken by Brian Arnold

These are all really great and we will continue to try and upload as many as we can onto the blog.

Hayley Dorrington – Ranger for the Mendip and Polden Hills