Butterfly No. 41!

May finished in fine style with a trip to the Wyre Forest and the hunt for another new (to us) species of butterfly. We were joined by our friend Anna who was visiting from Scotland and didn’t mind being dragged out into the woods in search of butterflies. Not only did she not mind, but she is a photographer, who is generous enough with her expertise to give us lots of tips and hints (not that they all went in!)

We parked in the usual spot at the end of Dry Mill Lane and headed off down the old railway track. First stop was an ornately carved bench with a lovely gentleman and his robin friend, who he fed with mealworms regularly.

After a brief chat, we headed on down the track towards a long open area with banks either side –  looked like perfect butterfly ground!

Our primary target was the Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary which should be out at the end of May/early June. We all got very excited by the first fritillary type butterfly we found, but then realised it was a Pearl-Bordered, not a Small Pearl-Bordered. The former are coming to the end of their season, but there were still a few about. It was still a beautiful butterfly all the same.

We saw lots of the Pearl-Bordered Fritillaries last year (more photos of those on a previous blog post https://toolazytoweed.uk/2016/05/18/out-and-about-wyre-forest/), so we continued with our hunt for the small ones.

The sun came out about 3pm and suddenly the Small PBFs all started flying. It was hard to count as they don’t really stay still or all show themselves at the same time, but there were probably at least half a dozen. Eventually a few slowed down enough to get some pics.

They are beautiful bright orange little butterflies. To be honest we weren’t totally sure we were seeing both species, although the presence of black marks resembling “730” is supposed be diagnostic of the small ones – see close up photo below.

Thankfully the good people on Butterfly Conservation West Midlands Facebook page confirmed we’d got both species.

We had hoped to get photos of the underside of the Small PBF wings, which are beautifully marked like stained glass windows, but they wouldn’t oblige and settle with wings  up. The best we managed was this shot taken while crouching down lower than the butterfly – it gives a glimpse of the underside, but is far from ideal.

Heading back to the car, we spotted a couple of Large Skippers (or possibly one that was just following us!) The Large Skippers were a bit more obliging than the fritillaries and posed on some bird’s foot trefoil flowers.

The Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary is the 41st species of British butterfly we’ve managed to see since we started butterfly spotting. It is the 3rd “new” species that we’ve found in the Wyre Forest, highlighting what a fantastic place the Wyre is for butterflies!

Out and About – Wyre Forest

The sun was still shining on the righteous at the weekend, so we decided to make the most of it and headed up to the Wyre Forest in search of the Pearl Bordered Fritillaries. We took a slightly circuitous route, via one of our favourite pubs – The Live and Let Live on Bringsty Common. Fabulous pub with great food and lots of wildlife around. Lots of bees and butterflies (Small Copper, Orange Tip, fast flying and therefore unidentifiable whites!) and birds, but only this little wren paused long enough to get its photo taken.

Live & Let Live

Wren at Live & Let Live2 Wren at Live & Let Live1

Suitably fuelled we headed off to the Wyre Forest. The Pearly Bordered Fritillaries were our main butterfly target of the day as the Wyre Forest is one of their strongholds in the West Midlands. The Wyre is managed by the Forestry Commission and Butterfly Conservation to restore a diverse woodland environment, providing the right habitats for many butterflies. It’s not only good for butterflies, but is a lovely place to just go for a walk.

Within minutes walking along the old railway track, we’d reached a gateway to a more open area where we’d seen the fritillaries last year. Sure enough, just yards from the gate we spotted our first one.

PB Fritillary

Needless to say it didn’t hang around to get many photos, so we went back to the track and headed along to an area with sunny sheltered banks. Here there were numerous Pearl Bordered Fritillaries fluttering in the sunshine. We were really chuffed initially to get these distant shots of a pair getting down to business.

Pearl Bordered Fritillaries (6) Pearl Bordered Fritillaries (5) Pearl Bordered Fritillaries (2)

But then Chris spotted a pair clearly too engrossed in what they were about to be bothered by us taking photos! He managed to get a whole series of them together. In the photos you can clearly see how pearlescent the central white spot in particular is. I love the underside of their wings – like beautiful stained glass windows.

Pearl Bordered Fritillary mating

Pearl Bordered Fritillary mating 2

Of course although the fritillaries were the highlight, there was lots to see besides the butterflies. Spring flowers were abundant, attracting a variety of insects. I’m not too hot on wildflower ID, but I’m fairly sure the following are Greater Stitchwort, Jack-by-the-Hedge (aka Garlic Mustard) and Yellow Deadnettle.

Greater stitchwort

Jack by the hedge

Yellow Deadnettle

There were also a few day flying moths about, two of which we’d not seen before. The Small Purple-barred (Phytometra viridaria) was a new one, but was thankfully easy to identify.

Small Purple-barred

The other two required help from the good people of the Facebook West Midlands Butterfly (and moth obviously) Group. The Common Carpet (Epirrhoe alternata) I had seen before, but never holding its wings at this angle, which flummoxed my attempts at ID.

Common Carpet (1)

The final moth was just too darn small for my puny ID skills, but is apparently Micropterix calthella (not sure if it’s got a common name) and unusually for a moth, feeds on pollen.

Micropterix calthella (1)

So all in all a very good day out. The Wyre Forest is definitely worth a visit for anyone wanting to see the beautiful Pearl Bordered Fritillaries.

Pearl Bordered Fritillaries (10)