valezina, Bucknell Wood

My inclination with regularly occurring wildlife has always been to wait until I come across an example rather than to visit known hotspots. Sometimes this approach requires years of patience before less common taxa are seen, and this year I decided to stop waiting for valezina Silver-washed Fritillary to come my way. So today I visited Bucknell Wood in Northants. which is a regular site (and where there have been recent sightings).

I arrived at about 08.00, and set off along the main track. Lots of White Admirals, Purple Hairstreaks and Silver-washed Fritillaries were followed by two Purple Emperors and a Wood White. Yet by 10.00 of valezina there was still no sign. Soon afterwards I met another visitor who had photographed valezina along another path, so I followed his directions to a glade where there were numerous Silver-washed Fritillaries, and waited. After an hour or so to my relief and great pleasure valezina appeared on some brambles. She fed actively without settling in one spot for very long, then disappeared. Her understated yet beautiful colours are unique amongst British butterflies and more than justified the journey.

I have discussed the scientific name previously here: https://rutlandbutterflies.wordpress.com/tag/valezina/ At that time I wrote: My suggestion is that it comes from a ‘Latinisation’ of a Greek verb ‛υαλιζω (which might be ‘Latinised’ as valizo) meaning ‘to be green like glass’. I can’t prove it, but it’s sufficiently close in formation and relevant in meaning to be a plausible explanation. Now that I have seen one I have no doubt that this explanation is correct – the blue-green ‘glaze’ on the wing looks just like old opaque glass, which would have been used more widely when the taxon was named.

Purple Hairstreak, Bucknell Wood

Wood White, Bucknell Wood

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Silver-washed Fritillary, Bedford Purlieus

The longest day and soaring temperatures, combined with a quiet period for birds, have brought opportunities to look at other wildlife.

Visits to the ancient woodland at Bedford Purlieus have been rewarded with sightings of Fly Orchid, Black and White-letter Hairstreaks (see Twitter feed for images), and Silver-washed Fritillary. In Rutland, I have seen Dark Green Fritillary at one new site (Clipsham Park Wood) but as yet have not found any Purple Emperors this year.

It has been a productive period for orchids: a Lizard Orchid in Leicestershire has been followed by numerous Bee Orchids, including belgarum and chlorantha varieties and so-called ‘flavescens’.

An apparently new colony of Marbled Whites in Leicestershire provides a reminder of how little we know even about relatively conspicuous local wildlife.

Painted Lady, Rutland

Goshawk, Berlin

Another

When I last visited Berlin, the wall was still standing and it was not a good place to be. Now the wall has gone; the regeneration of the city is impressive, though like other European cities Berlin has its share of homeless people who sleep in public spaces.

I had heard the hype about Berlin’s Goshawks without knowing how much to believe. For once experience matched the stories: during our short stay I saw Goshawk on three occasions in different areas of the Tiergarten (male, at least two juveniles, and female). German attitudes to birds of prey are clearly more enlightened than those in Britain.

Icterine Warbler, Berlin

Mandarin, Berlin

Other birds seen in and around the city and parks included Serin, Icterine Warbler, Black Redstart, Redstart, Nightingale, Spotted Flycatcher and Mandarin (which has established a significant population). The only LWHG I saw well looked like a Caspian x Herring hybrid.

No visit to Berlin would be complete without a visit to the Museum of Natural History. Like others of its kind it is in the process of reinventing itself, and only part of the collection is open, but some of the taxidermy and especially fossils are outstanding (Archaeopteryx to name just one).

Fossil dragonfly, Museum of Natural History, Berlin – very similar to those flying today

Even when worn, Green Hairstreaks are exquisite

Yesterday and today I have had the opportunity to catch up with some of Rutland’s spring butterflies and other wildlife. Scarcer species have included Dingy Skippers at Ketton, Grizzled Skippers at Ketton and Essendine, and Green Hairstreak at Essendine. Also at Essendine I saw the scarce Four-spotted moth (below).

Bee Orchids are just coming into flower, whilst many of our breeding birds are feeding young. Grey Partridges have become hard to find in Rutland, so I was pleased to see one at Pickworth today.

Four-spotted, Essendine

Chequered Skipper, Argyll

I have posted about Chequered Skippers previously: https://rutlandbutterflies.wordpress.com/2012/09/01/englands-last-chequered-skipper/ and https://rutlandbutterflies.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/chequered-skipper/

Now there is an exciting project involving Roots of Rockingham, led by Butterfly Conservation, which will be re-introducing the Chequered Skipper to England this spring. Re-introducing some of our lost butterflies is a step towards reversing the tragic loss of diversity in our countryside, and will give people in the East Midlands the opportunity to see this species again once it becomes established.

You can follow what is happening with the project by following @NatureBftB and @savebutterflies who will be posting about it from tomorrow.

It’s got rarity written all over it: Corn Bunting, Aberdeenshire

A few days with relatives on the north Aberdeenshire coast gave me an opportunity to see some things which are scarce both in Rutland and in Shetland. Most notable were this Corn Bunting – now lost from Rutland – and several Carrion x Hooded Crows (Aberdour beach is a regular site).

Also numerous Pink-footed Geese and Long-tailed Ducks, and less happily six dead Guillemots along a short stretch of beach at Crovie on 28 March.

Carrion x Hooded Crow, Aberdeenshire

Blackbird and gorse

 

Fallow Deer tempted from the woods by spring shoots; note the attendant Magpie

Nothing quite matches those days in early spring when the sun warms the soil and the first hibernators emerge. In comparison with recent years this spring has been slow, but today I saw both Brimstone (in just ten degrees – cooler than normal for this species) and Small Tortoiseshell. Mammals were also in evidence: Fallow and Muntjac Deer, and a Red Fox taking a break from its den.

In recent days the most obvious migrant has been Osprey (a series of birds at RW and EBR, probably all from translocation projects). To date I have seen just one presumed migrant Chiffchaff, but the birds are moving north and soon I must follow.

Vixen Red Fox, Rutland