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Beauties On The Wing

1st of October 2010

The dry weather is now finally over and the sheep are no longer bleating at me begging for green grass. My lovely wild flower patch is over but goldfinches did take the opportunity to come in to eat the seeds of the knapweeds. They made a lovely tinkling sound as they chattered to one another. There are at least six in the ‘charm’, the collective name for a group of goldfinches, but they are hard to count as they flutter about from plant to plant. I had been trying to get them on to my feeders with Niger seeds for several years, but a bit of ‘real’ food did the trick!
In spite of the dryness a patch of annual flower seeds sown in my veg garden provided me with a wonderful supply of cut flowers. Little blue butterflies were busy there and I was able to get a couple of good photographs of them. So, for once, I am able to say that these were definitely common blues as they have a clear white fringe on the outer edge of both their wings. Taking a picture is so much better than sticking a pin through one as the Victorians did!
I was just going back into the kitchen when something much more interesting flew by…. a silver washed fritillary! I set off in pursuit and got a couple of smashing shots of it, it was not camera shy at all. This one was the plainer brown female, but a couple of days before we had seen the deep orange male in Scatterdells Woods. They are called silver washed as they have four silver streaks on the undersides of their wings and are a woodland butterfly. They are the largest fritillary that we get in this country, more common in the West Country and Wales than this area. We saw it here last year, so maybe they are on the increase. They are only on the wing for a month or so in July and August when they feed on nectar from bramble flowers. Most of the time they are caterpillars that feed on violets.
We have been lucky this year; we were really surprised to see a White Admiral feeding on bramble flowers in Scatterdells Wood. This is an unmistakable butterfly with a dark, almost black background, and a broad white band across both wings. Another woodland butterfly which I had only seen once before and for that we made a 100 mile round trip! I wished I had had my camera as it let us get really close, but you can’t win them all! Wendy Bathurst

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