Sunday, 5 June 2016

Fenny Compton Tunnels and Bucknell Wood: Wood White & Grizzled Skipper butterflies

Today started off cool and murky - sunshine was forecast by mid-morning - so I stuck with my plan to visit Bucknell Wood near Silverstone (Northants), one our best local woodlands for butterflies and a very good place to find Wood White at this time of year.  It is also a really large site - around 250 hectares are managed by the Forestry Commission - and has much natural history interest.
Arriving about half eight I knew it would be a little while before the weather improved so I focused on getting to know the site and had a good stomp around the rides and footpaths.  A cuckoo was calling, quite a rare sound in Banburyshire these days (and though technically Bucknell is just outside Banburyshire, I don't think they are faring much better in neighbouring areas).  A Roe Deer buck then walked into view, quite close, but not too nervous.  Further on, I added Spotted Flycatcher and Green Woodpecker to my bird list, but no butterflies thus far.  The path got muddier but passed alongside a block of scrub-stage woodland and full of warblers - Garden Warbler Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler.  Then I spotted a butterfly.  Of course it had to be a Wood White.  Perched very still in the grass beside the path.
Wood White
I took some photos but got a bit too close and it fluttered across the ride and settled onto a grass stalk, where it was more relaxed and allowed me to take a few more pics.
Wood White
I moved on, thinking maybe I'd see some more (often counts are in double figures) but I didn't.  Pulling out of the car park at 11am of course the sun finally shone through.

Later in the afternoon, I made a short trip into Warwickshire to visit the Fenny Compton Tunnels nature reserve, a recent collaboration between Butterfly Conservation and the Canal and River Trust.
Butterfly Conservation have already made huge progress, removing large areas of encroaching scrub from the surviving areas of flowery grassland.  They have also put an excellent information board at the entrance showing what you can see and when. They are running a guided walk there next Saturday.
I had a slow wander around and managed to find a small colony of the Grizzled Skipper, one of the rarer butterflies found here, but not the Small Blue, the other speciality. 
Grizzled Skipper
Lots of Common Blue, plus single Small Copper, Brimstone, Green-veined White, Small White, Speckled Wood and Painted Lady.
Painted Lady
This added up to a nice variety after my single butterfly at Bucknell in the morning.

Meanwhile, in the back garden, less than a week after fledging four chicks from their nest, our pair of blackbirds are starting their third nesting of the year, having already raised two broods.  The female who only yesterday was busy feeding the chicks all day was now preoccupied building a new nest in the same patch of ivy-covered wall.
One of the brood of four (three surviving as of today), needing to find its own food. 

Last weekend, thanks to some very helpful guidance from John Friendship-Taylor, I was able to connect with my first Duke of Burgundy Fritillaries (at Rodborough Common) and my first English Marsh Fritillaries (at Stawberry Bank). 
Duke of Burgundy Fritillary
Marsh Fritillary
Marsh Fritillaries mating
Small Blue, Rodborough Common
Both these sites are near Stroud in Gloucestershire and well worth a visit.  More details can be found on John's blog and the Gloucestershire Butterfly Conservation website.

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