Thursday, 12 July 2012

Summer Butterflies in Beckley Woods

White Admiral
The Sun came out. Only for a day or so, but it came out and lo, it was warm. So, into Beckley Woods I went, in search of two of our most beautiful woodland butterflies.

One particular ride has colonies of both of these aerobatic creatures, so I went straight there and within minutes I saw my first White Admiral of the year. This delightful butterfly has, in my opinion, the most graceful flight of all the English species. Occasional flaps of the wings are followed by long, straight glides. At this time of year it is quite difficult to photograph as the males don't rest for long. The picture here is one I took on a visit another year.

We are very lucky to have this species on our doorstep; it is resident in many (if not all) of the Oak woodlands in Sussex, but much more scarce elsewhere in the country.

Silver-washed Fritillary (male)
The second species I encountered is the only large fritillary of woodland, the Silver-washed Fritillary. This creature is a strong flyer and patrols the ride for some distance in each direction.The underside of the wings are 'washed' with silver, hence the name which is not obvious when you first see it float past.

On this visit I saw four individuals, which these days is quite a treat. It is particularly striking when you look back to reports from the end of the 19th Century when they were abundant, no more so than in the New Forest where "as soon as the Sun appeared, their numbers resembled a shower of falling autumn leaves" as they descended from the trees.

Sadly, the summer monsoons have returned but if the the weather warms up again, you have a good chance of seeing either of these gorgeous butterflies on a trip to Beckley Woods.

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