Monday, 22 June 2015
WHITE AND BLACK
One day last week I decided to go out and see if I could find one of the UK’s rarer butterflies…the WOOD WHITE (Leptidea sinapis)..a UK priority species, as this extract taken from the UK Butterflies website explains.
Despite relatively short-term increases, the long-term view is that this butterfly is in decline and is therefore a priority species for conservation efforts. This butterfly has suffered due to a change in woodland management and, in particular, the reduction in coppicing that allows new woodland clearings to develop that provides the conditions suitable for this species. Even improvements in habitat management will not guarantee that the species will reappear from areas where it has been lost, since it is not a very mobile species and may not, therefore, be able to recolonise naturally.
I knew that some had been seen in a wood in the south of Northamptonshire, about an hours drive from home.
A weak sun in a hazy blue sky was doing it’s best to live up to the weather forecasters promise of a sunny and warm day as I set of from home at just after 7am. I was a little worried that my journey was going to be in vain as when I arrived the sun had been replaced by grey clouds and a decidedly chilly breeze, not good conditions for butterfly hunting!
As I’d made the effort I decided to have a wonder anyway and see what I could find and, to my amazement, less than 200yards from the car park I saw my first butterfly…and it was a Wood White!
After taking a few photographs, and feeling rather chuffed at finding my target species in such a short time, I decided to carry on along the track, it looked like good bug hunting territory!, to see what I could find. After about a mile and 2 hours of slow progress (lots of bug photos!) I saw two more of my target butterflies.
Nearly 4 hours had elapsed by the time I arrived back at the car and by now the clouds had disappeared and it was a sunny and warm 20°. After a drink and a quick bite to eat I went ‘exploring’ along another track that led off in the opposite direction and within minutes I’d hit a Wood White hotspot, I walked along the track for about 3/4 of a mile and stopped counting them when I got to 30, they seemed to be everywhere, slowly flitting along the track edge and occasionally having a little aerobatic tussle with a rival, or two!
I was also lucky to see a pair start to engage in a courtship display, unfortunately they where ‘bombed’ by another rival and all three flew off in different directions.
Again taken from the UK Butterflies website…The courtship of this butterfly is an amazing spectacle. Male and female face each other with wings closed and intermittently flash open their wings. At the same time, the male waves his proboscis and white-tipped antennae either side of the female's head. If the female is receptive to these signals, the female bends her abdomen toward the male and the pair mate, staying coupled for around 30 minutes.
Despite missing out on the full courtship display it turned out to be a very successful day, the ironic thing is that about thirteen years ago I actually lived about ten minutes walk from this site and during my regular walks and mountain bike rides around the area I never knowingly saw one of these butterflies!
A couple of days later I went in search of my second target species, this time a day flying moth called the CHIMNEY SWEEPER (Odezia atrata). It was dull, overcast and windy for most of the day but at around 2.30pm the clouds parted and the sun began to shine and I made a spur of the moment decision to go out and see if I could find any. It was a thirty minute drive to the site where I’d seen them last year and when I arrived it was sunny and 19°. Again my luck was in as I soon spotted a couple perched low down in the grass, unfortunately it was still quite windy and they were staying well down and only occasionally making short, low flights. After a few failed attempts I managed to get a few decent images…
It turned out to be not a bad week in the end!