I had thought about venturing a bit further afield today, maybe over to Anglesey, but weekends are never good for travelling any distances in this popular holiday location, and the North Wales Expressway (the A55) is the route to and from the ferry port of Holyhead too, so unless you leave early you can end up spending an uncomfortably long time in your car. So I decided on Bryn Euryn instead, where I was hoping to get a glimpse of a particularly lovely butterfly.
There were people picnicking in the field, so I headed straight for the top of the hill today, half expecting to find more people up there too, but there was no one at all. Most people head for the beach when its this hot. The view from here is always amazing as I’ve said so many times before and today’s gives an overview of the progress of summer. So, queen of the castle for a short while, I surveyed the land below and around me. There was a bit of a haze over the horizon, hay has been cut, dried out and rolled into big shredded-wheats ( for those who are wondering, that’s a British breakfast cereal), grass meadows are turning brown in the dry heat, wheat is ripening and trees and hedges add shape and texture to the landscape in a myriad shades of green. You also get a good view of the express-way from up here: I was so glad I wasn’t on it, it was very busy.
There are not many wildflowers that can survive the dry rocky summer conditions on this edge of the hill, where the rockroses bloomed so prolifically a few weeks ago, but one that can is the strangely attractive Carline Thistle, which looks as though it’s going to seed, but in fact its flowers are brown. This species of thistle is found in several locations locally, but is a biennial and a bit unpredictable in its appearances.
There were Small Tortoishell butterflies flitting about up here, basking briefly on rocks before disappearing over the cliff edge. Looking down I could see a number of them, maybe a dozen or so, very restless and taunting and chasing each other; at one point a group of seven of them flew up in a flurry, whirling around like mad things.
Scabious is beginning to put forward much-needed flowers; their nectar and pollen is always gratefully received by butterflies and bees.
As I was peering over the edge of the cliff to watch the butterflies, I sudddenly realised someone was looking up at me; a fox, panting in the heat couldn’t decide if I was a threat or not so dived back into its den just to be sure.
I couldn’t decide if it was a young animal or an adult, but either way it was not looking good. Apart from dealing with the heat it looked thin and its rear end and tail were devoid of fur, poor thing. Does it have some horrible condition like mange?
I moved on a little further back from the edge to where the grass is long and some ‘scrubby’ wild plants have been left to grow, perfect habitat for insects.
And lo and behold, the first butterfly to catch my eye was the one I had been hoping to see, a gorgeous Dark Green Fritillary, drawn by nothing more exotic than red valerian flowers.
There were two of the beautiful insects flying around; these are fast, powerful fliers that can cover a large area in a short time. They don’t tend to leave their breeding areas, so once you know where to find them, providing conditions are good, you will more than likely see them there again. I didn’t see any last year, so was delighted to see some today and it was a bonus that they were ‘new’ and perfect.
The butterflies were very mobile, and with no need to bask, not staying anywhere for long. I had no time for considered portraits, these were very much opportunities grabbed, but I was more than happy just to watch them.
Hogweed is continuing to show me new visitors to its flowers:
A ‘new’ hoverfly for my collection, which I hope I have identified correctly
and two little sulphur beetles, Britain’s only yellow beetle and another new one for me.
There were a lot of Meadow Brown butterflies in this area, and also Small Heath’s flitting along the pathways and low amongst the grass stems.
Lovely blue harebells
I headed towards the proper summit of the hill and as luck would have it, was followed by a cute little dog and its owner, so took a diversion on a very narrow path around the rocks that I wouldn’t normally have done. My reward was another lovely butterfly; this one not so colourful but a master, or mistress of camouflage, a Grayling.
Part two to follow….
How lovely, they are beautiful creatures when they’re fit and healthy, which the one I saw clearly wasn’t. Perhaps it darted off because it thought you were reaching for a gun!
The dog and I came face to face with a fox one morning last week – there was a short silent stand-off while we all decided what to do, but just as I tried to extricate my camera from my pocket, the fox decided he wasn’t hanging around for a photo shoot. One of those magic moments.
Patricia Tilton said:
Beautiful photos of the nature preserve. Love the view from the top!
Thank you Pat, lovely to hear from you. I love that view too and the fact that it changes, sometimes only subtly, but others more dramatically according to the weather and the season. Hope your summer is going well-we’re experiencing quite a heatwave here at the moment, a total contrast to the rain we had last year.
I know Oedemera nobilis as the False Oil Beetle – but I prefer ‘swollen-thighed’ – better to be called by something you are than something you’re not! Apparently it’s just the males that have big thighs – I guess that’s where the name comes from – ‘noble oedema’!
Ha, ha – yes you’re probably right that a male would be thought noble with swollen thighs. If it had been the female doubtless it would have been something more derogatory!
Emily Heath said:
Poor little fox, it has such a sweet face. I see lots of those hover flies on the hogweed.
I know, I felt really sorry for it, it was clearly hot and uncomfortable. I hope it gets better.