Thursday, 8 August 2013


 Each year, if i'm lucky, I manage to see just one Clouded Yellow butterfly, usually flying past at a rate of knots and definitely not stopping for a photograph. So I was very impressed to read that Terry Laws had seen no less than twenty five of these enigmatic little migrants at Cliffe Pools during the week. With some time to spare today I contacted Terry to get directions and details of where he had seen them. It turned out that he was going back today so we arranged to meet in the RSPB car park at Cliffe. My hopes were high that I would finally get to see more than one and hopefully get some pictures of them. 

 Incredibly, we saw no less than one hundred and three! They rose up out of the grass as we headed east, in warm sunshine along the sea wall, just about all looking in absolute pristine condition. Luckily they were almost all inclined to travel west, meaning that we were fairly sure of not counting individuals more than once, one hundred and three was a conservative count.  

 As the day progressed they seemed more inclined to nectar on the Yellow Ragwort that was growing profusely among the grasses, giving some better photo opportunities. Not until the yellow flowers disappeared did the steady stream of yellow butterflies diminish. Only a handful of specimens were seen outside of this specific area of the site.

As has been the case in most places this year, there were plenty of other species on the wing. These included Common Blues, (probably even more prolific than the Clouded Yellows), Peacocks, Commas, Skippers, Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers, a single Painted Lady and various white species including the Green-veined below were all seen.

Several Silver Y moths (above) were also nectaring on the Ragwort. Like the Clouded Yellows, these are migrants probably bought here by the warm southerly winds of late.

There are several drainage ditches that criss cross the Cliffe Pools site and some of these contain Emerald damselflies. A very elegant species which typically rest with their wings held at forty five degrees to their abdomens.

We spent some time trying to get pictures of these which may be Scarce Emeralds given the apparent curvature of the anal appendages. But as ever i'll stand corrected.

While we filled our boots and cameras with these little beauties we were stunned to see what looked like a Black Darter alight on the end of a dead reed stem in the small pool. We both saw it at the same time but I was nearest and managed to fire off a couple of quick shots before it disappeared. 

This is one of the shots, showing that it was indeed a Black Darter. This is the first ever for both of us in Kent, most probably a migrant as I don't think they occur naturally here any more. I don't know what i'm most pleased about really, 103 Clouded Yellows or just one Black Darter. I think the Black Darter just about edges it. Or maybe not. What do you think?


Marc Heath said...

There is no question whether it edges it or not, a brilliant record, well done. A great trip by all accounts.

Mike H said...

Sounds like a great day out. I was pleased with one Clouded Yellow up on Queendown Warren today. The Black Darter is a clear winner though Phil.

Greenie said...

Phil ,
Starting from the top , What a wonderful sight to see all those Clouded Yellows , I was well pleased with less than 10 .
Surprised you only had 'several' Silver Y , they are all over at HE.
I would say your Emeralds are Scarce , the blue prunescence covering one and a half segments .
And finally that incredible Black Darter record . As a species of acidic habitat , Hothfield Common is about the only place that would suit , but I don't think they have been recorded there . Very well spotted .

Alan Pavey said...

Brilliant stuff Phil, what a fantastic day, i would have been pleased with any one part of it, as Greenie says the Black Darter definitely tops :-)

Jason K said...

Nice shots Phil...I can only dream of seeing that sort of number of Clouded Yellows!

I did see on locally (in Worcs) last week but it was just a single

Warren Baker said...

Black Darter does it for me Phil :-) 103 Clouded yellows though - Wow!

Lou Mary said...

Great set of photos. I have seen fairly good numbers of clouded yellows in the last few weeks down at Oare Marshes, but nowhere near 103! Fantastic!