Out and About – Prestbury Hill

It’s taken me over a week to write this latest post, partly because I’ve kept getting side-tracked by things in the garden and partly because we’ve had friends staying – so I had to spend time tidying the house (although I doubt they could tell that) and drinking Prosecco! But over a week ago now, Chris and I headed down to Prestbury Hill, near Cheltenham in search of the Chalkhill Blue and Dark Green Fritillary butterflies. Prestbury Hill is, as its name suggests, high up, with stunning views over Cheltenham racecourse.

View 1

The reserve is run by Butterfly Conservation and consists of 2 areas of limestone grassland. The sloping grasslands are full of wildflowers and insects and would be a lovely place to walk even if you weren’t into butterflies. I particularly liked these Cotton Thistles, with their huge spiralling flower heads.

Thistle

Thistle 2

Although we went looking for butterflies, the first insect of interest we spotted was this beautiful Brassy Longhorn moth – I’ve no idea how they manage to fly with such long antennae?

Brassy Longhorn moth

Although on these walks we tend to be looking down, or at least across for butterflies, Chris did look up long enough to spot this Red Kite soaring above us. Not a great photo as it was difficult to do against the bright sky. There were buzzards too, but as we see those fairly regularly at home, the kite got all the attention.

 

Kite 2

We followed the paths for quite a while, spotting lots of Marbled Whites and Large Skippers, while we searched for the blues and fritillaries.

Marbled White

Large Skipper

Eventually though we found the first prize of the day – a Dark Green Fritillary. It then took about 20 minutes of chasing about to get a photo to confirm that it was indeed our target photo. And then longer still to get another photo of it with its wings open, but it was well worth the hunt as it is a gorgeous butterfly.

Dark Green fritillary

Dark Green fritillary open 2

The reserve is divided into 2 sections, so having “bagged” our fritillary we headed over to the other half to look for the Chalkhill Blues. Turns out though our researcher (i.e. me) had got a bit ahead of herself as we were apparently a couple of weeks too early for these. Fortunately we met some butterfly enthusiasts who put us right before we spent hours pointlessly searching for them.

We did see some more fritillaries though, which we initially assumed were more of the Dark Green ones. It was only when we got back and downloaded the photos, that we realised these ones were actually Silver Washed Fritillaries. They look very similar when they’re flying around.

Silverwashed fritillary 2

Silverwashed fritillary

One final treat was finding several Small Heath butterflies. This had been a new species for us a few weeks ago and now they’re popping up everywhere!

Small Heath

So another great day out and another butterfly species ticked off the list. We will hopefully make it back to Prestbury sometime soon to see the Chalkhill Blues – so watch this space!

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