Butterfly Hunting


It took a while for the butterflies to materialise when we carried out a survey in the 130-acre Reffley Wood late this morning, Saturday, June 17th.

Despite the hot temperature, around 28ºC, we didn’t encounter any butterflies until we were nearly half way round the ancient wood, which is owned by the Woodland Trust. We were beginning to get concerned. A wren singing helped brighten the mood.

Then, in section four of our mapped out route and more deeply into the wood, we came across a speckled wood, two red admirals and what we thought was a white wave moth.

In the main clearing the four of us had a brief glimpse of a bright orange comma.

A lot of the butterflies did not settle and teased us by flying in and out of the sunlight, their shapes disappearing very quickly among the leaves of the trees or plants.

By the end of our 0ne-and-three-quarter-hour walk, we had noted 16 butterflies, made up of five species – the others being ringlets and meadow browns. Perhaps the butterflies need a few days of good weather to get going again. We’ve had a lot of strong winds lately and they don’t like those conditions.

During our journey, I was also very pleased to hear a blackcap singing – the first time this year for me.

And I was pleasantly surprised when the bright blue wings of a banded demoiselle fluttered into view down one of the woodland rides. It didn’t stay long and was last seen disappearing amongst the leaves of a tree. The demoiselles, a type of damselfly, have a very butterfly-like flight. I think I also glimpsed a large, red damselfly and a dainty green lacewing.

An orange ladybird and a harlequin were also seen in various parts of the wood. I’ve seen very few ladybirds recently.

We noted a honeysuckle in flower along a sandy path – this could be good for white admiral butterflies which should be around very soon.

Reffley Wood has a number of veteran oak trees and the leader of our group advised us that we ought to be able to find purple hairsteaks, the problem being that this species likes to spend time high in the canopy! The purple hairstreak’s flight season is from late June to early September. The leader will send the results of our morning’s efforts through to Butterfly Conservation.

Sadly, I didn’t manage to get many photos. I borrowed my husband’s new compact camera and was doing ok until I accidentally put it on to the wrong setting and could not find a way to change it! The one picture I got of a butterfly would be a good entry for the “spectacular failure” section organised by “Springwatch Unsprung”, since it shows about half the insect! Mind you, in its favour you can say that you can at least see the markings of a ringlet! Oh well, practice makes perfect!

Can you spot the butterfly?
The markings are those of a ringlet.

Anyway, it’s impossible not to enjoy a wander round this lovely woodland.









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