Today, Tom decided he wanted to go somewhere he’d not been before. We agreed we’d go after butterflies rather than birds, so I suggested we walk the public footpath between Ramsay and Hintlesham woods – a path I’d never taken further than the entrance to Hintlesham Wood which was where I did some bird surveys this year (and discovered my first Golden Oriole – not sure if I’ve mentioned that before on this blog, but don’t worry as I’ll be reminding you all about it on a regular basis).
We spent two hours on this path, and amazingly got SIXTEEN different species! When we got home, there was a seventeenth waiting for us in the garden. All the photographs on this blog were taken today, and for a change I’m actually pretty pleased with a couple of them, including this Essex Skipper which we found on the approach to the woods.
The commonest butterfly by far was the Ringlet. The male is almost completely black on the top of the wings, but the female has dark spots with a paler ring around them. They both have spots on the underneath of their wing though. At this time of year, if you see a dark butterfly flitting along below waist-height and near farmland/woodland, it’ll probably be a Ringlet.
I think the white butterfly family is greatly under-rated – when you see them up close they can be just as stunning as many of the more brightly coloured species. The Large White in particular is very impressive when seen up close – they really do live up to the first part of their name!
The other two common white species are the Small White (we have plenty of these in the garden) and the slightly harder to find Green-veined White:
But there were two butterflies we were really hoping to see – the first of these was the Silver-washed Fritillary which is an absolute stunner. We’ve seen a few before, but there must have been at least fifteen of these along a fairly short section of path, and we also caught them mating (often with a third trying to get in on the action).
The second target species was one we actually saw at Minsmere last weekend, and was also around at Stour Wood when I joined the Wednesday work-party last week to help tidy up some paths. There were only a couple in Ramsey Wood, and both were quite tatty unfortunately – the White Admiral:
And in case you were wondering – yes, we did see the Red Admiral too!
Back to the browns and oranges now – Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and Comma were all present, although there were very few of the latter two species.
We had to wait until almost the point at which we turned to retrace our steps before we got any blues or purples, but then we had a real surprise. A large butterfly floated over my head and landed around 3 metres off the ground at the end of a twig so that I could see up and through its wings. Initially I thought it was a large White Admiral, but when I got my binoculars onto it, I could see the outlines of two eyes on each wing. It was in silhouette, so everything was just shades of black and white. It then flew and I lost it, but Tom got on to it shortly afterwards and immediately started jumping up and down yelling “Purple Emperor! Purple Emperor!” It then disappeared and although we waited for over half an hour for it to return, that was the last we saw of it. I am still only about 90% convinced, but I think we may well have added to our life list of butterflies today! We shall have to return with something smelly next weekend, and see if we can tempt it down to the ground.
At the same spot, we also managed to find what we are pretty sure were Purple Hairstreaks high in an Oak, and a Holly Blue which did come down low enough for a quick record shot.
For those who have been totting up the totals as you go along – the remaining two butterflies were a Peacock and a Speckled Wood.
Although we already have a large pond, Tom recently saw an RSPB suggestion about making your own tiny pond in the garden by simply digging a hole and putting an old washing-up bowl in it. So that is what he did! Jess and Tom filled it with water from the main pond and put a few pond plants in, and within a couple of weeks we already had wildlife using it. We now have a new list to keep – animals seen drinking from Tom’s pond. The list is currently:
- Painted Lady
Below is a picture of the latter – clearly with an injured wing, which might explain why she was sitting on the weed in the pond right next to us for several minutes. I’m using “she” as the pronoun (I know its a pronoun because I occasionally help Tom with his English homework (which is also how I know how to spell “occasionally” now)) because it seems wrong to call a Painted Lady a “he”. Or maybe not, now I think about what century we are living in …