Wednesday, 8 June 2011


I've been promising myself a visit to RSPB Dungeness and until 07.30 this morning that's what I had in mind for today. Then I saw the local forecast giving 20mph SW winds, which doesn't sound much I know, but what I also know is how that translates at Dungeness, a gale. So I switched to plan B.....B for Blean. I've seen a few blogs recently sporting nice pictures of Heath Fritillaries at Blean Woods, so I thought i'd give it a look, especially as i've never seen one.

I left home under blue skies and arrived at Blean under heavy grey ones, it didn't look good. While putting my boots on I was treated to the depressing sound of a woman bellowing at her dogs, which of course were off the lead, out of control and somewhere in the 'no dogs allowed' area, which is where I saw most dogs today. I felt a bit grumpy now.

I walked for maybe half an hour and saw nothing, I knew I wouldn't see much in the way of birds, but I was thinking that i'd chosen the wrong day for butterflies. Then I saw a nice sheltered forest ride heading off the waymarked path, so I decided to take it and wait to see if the sun would come out. Which it did, and within seconds I saw my first two Heath Fritillaries, the little beauties.

The camera was going like a machine gun, well I didn't know if I would see any more did I. I shouldn't have worried, even though the sun was sporadic and there were a few drops of rain, I found literally dozens more as I made my way along the track for a mile or two. I believe one of their food plants is Common Cow Wheat, I think the plant below could be just that but i'm not absolutely sure.

Between the sunny spells they rested, and this gave me the opportunity to see and take photos of their fantastic underwings, the black edged small panels remind me of stained glass windows for some reason.

The next three pictures are of a pair, presumably doing their bit to help ensure the continuation of this very rare species.

The intermittent sunshine helped to bring out a few other winged creatures like the Speckled Yellow moth below, which I think is a bit worn judging by the colour.

Just one Common Lizard was seen, this dark coloured specimen was basking on some coppiced logs on the side of the track.

I was surprised and pleased to find my first Emperor Dragonflies of the year, patrolling up and down one specific stretch of the ride, presumably there was some water nearby but I didn't see any.

You certainly wouldn't want to sit down anywhere on the ground at Blean woods, there are countless millions of Wood Ants, everywhere. The picture below is one of their nests, it's the best part of four feet high and is a seething mass of ants.

I found just one Skipper today, a Large male I think judging by the markings and the dark sex brands on the forewings.

And finally one more butterfly species to end the walk in the shape of this Meadow Brown. Not such a looker as the Heath Fritillary but much more common at least.


Greenie said...

Phil ,
Glad the HFs performed for you today , great little butterflies , and you got some great shots of them .
Yes , that is the Common Cow-wheat that you posted .
Don't be surprised finding Odonata a long way from water . They only return to water to mate , spending the rest of the time feeding in woodland rides , meadows and the like .
Positive male Lge. Skipper .

Alan Pavey said...

Hi Phil, lovely shots of the Fritillaries, I must get there soon!!

Mike Attwood said...

Not quite my scene Phil, but I can appreciate that was a good day.

ShySongbird said...

I agree, definitely stained glass Phil! Such a beautiful butterfly and you got some lovely photos. I have never seen one and know that being one of our rarest butterflies I probably never will. I am very envious, I do love butterflies and always miss them in the Winter.

I have seen very few butterflies or Odonata so far this time but we have had persistent high winds for weeks now which doesn't help at all.

Marianne said...

Lovely shots of the Heath Frits and other insects, Phil :) Blean can be bad for badly behaved humans. I once saw a woman walking through the wood with an unleashed dog, AND she was carrying a load of wild flowers that she had picked! Grrr.

Warren Baker said...

Good to see some more photo's of the HF's Phil, they are spectacular :-)

Good Emperor photo's too mate !

Ken. said...

Hi Phil.
Glad you finally got to go to Blean Wood RSPB Reserve.
Nice photo's of the Heath Fritillary.