Tag Archive for: summer

Butterflies on the slopes of Mount Parnassos

Back in the summer, I led another Butterflies of Greece tour for Greenwings Wildlife Holidays. This was a repeat of last year’s tour which centres round the Gulf of Corinth and in particular, Mount Parnassos and Mount Chelmos which are both home to some rare endemic species as well as a whole host of lovely things that we don’t see in Britain. This time, I flew out a day ahead of the group purely because I couldn’t get on the same flight as them. I stayed in a great Airbnb just down the road from the airport and was able to acclimatise a little and get a good nights sleep before meeting everyone at the airport the following afternoon. It also meant that I had already organised my minibus when they arrived and so we were soon heading out to the waiting vehicles. We spotted our first butterflies in the carpark on the way where a small patch of Birdsfoot Trefoil sported several Common Blues.

The first part of the journey took us down the rather less scenic motorways skirting the city but we made a brief stop at a service station on the way where a Scarce Swallowtail flew low over the buses as we parked. Once we left these faster roads we were able to spot a few species on our way too. The butterflies we were able to identify whilst moving included Cleopatra, Painted Lady and Clouded Yellow. A number of birds were spotted including a raptor which was probably a Short-toed Eagle, an abundance of Swifts, Swallows, House Martins and Crag Martins. Hooded Crow and Collared Dove were also noted. We also enjoyed an abundance of Clematis scrambling over the low shrubs on the dry hillsides and admired the purple profusion of flowering Vitex agnus-castus, known by some as the Chaste tree, and which has flowers superficially similar to those of Buddleia.

We arrived in the pretty town of Delphi on the lower slopes of Mount Parnassos in the early evening and, having found our hotel, we settled in with our hosts before a quick introductory meeting and a walk out to a local restaurant for dinner. 

The following morning dawned bright and, after a pleasant breakfast, we set off up Mount Parnassos to begin our exploration of the many meadows that grace its slopes. Our first stop was beyond the village of Kalivia Arachovas at a damp meadow beside the road. There was a large puddle on one side of the road but despite the appealing thought of mud-puddling butterflies and although there were no bee hives visible in the vicinity, there seemed to be rather more bees than lepidoptera. Not to be put off by this, we continued our exploration and found that although the area didn’t look particularly flowery there were some nice plants to be found including buds of Rusty Foxglove and plenty of endemic Astragalus thracicus spp. parnassi forming low growing hummocks of dense leaves studded with thorns and covered in clumps of delicate pink flowers.

Of course there were butterflies to be found too, the most numerous seemed to be Silver-studded Blues and Painted Ladies but there were also Small and Essex Skippers, Large and Small Whites, Common Blue, Clouded Yellow, plus Small and Sooty Coppers. A lovely female Adonis Blue was admired for a while and the identity of an Amanda’s Blue was puzzled over for a moment or two. All the while Hoopoe and Serin called nearby.

Just as we were about to get back in the vehicles a Field Cricket was caught to photograph and we were able to show this beautiful insect to the group. It is somewhat of a rarity in Britain and looks  distinctly unlike many of its counterparts. Here they seem reasonably widespread and common but are a joy to see nevertheless.

 

Field Cricket

 

We were soon moving on to a spot where Dwarf Elder, often known as Danewort, grew beside the road and the opposite bank boasted masses of Dorycnium graecum covered in small white flowers.  We began wandering up the bank to explore and almost immediately there were  several new species of butterflies seen including Ilex Hairstreak, Lang’s Short Tailed Blue, Escher’s Blue and a pale Helice form of the female Clouded Yellow. There was another Adonis Blue here too and quite a bit of a blue flower which initially appears rather like a bulb but is in fact Asyneuma limonifolium, a member of the bellflower family.

After a few minutes exploring there was a call to look back towards the road where a Large Tortoiseshell was spotted sailing along just below the tree tops and shortly after this some great excitement from one of our guests who had reached the patch of Danewort growing behind the crash barrier and found all sorts of lovely insects nectaring. Among them, many more Ilex Hairstreak, Hungarian Skipper, Silver Washed Fritillary, Heath Fritillary and several Burnet moths.

 

Heath Fritillary

 

There were also a huge number of clearwing moths and more Painted Ladies plus an interesting bee-fly with black wings, Hemipenthes morio.

 

Bee-fly, Hemipenthes morio

 

A particularly large Horsefly landed on another guest’s camera, which turned out to be Philipomyia graeca.

 

Horsefly, Philipomyia graeca

 

A Red Helleborine was also found flowering behind the crash barrier and while some were photographing it, the Parnassos subspecies of Mazarine Blue was spotted.

 

Parnassos Mazarine Blue

 

Meanwhile, Great Banded Grayling and Wood White were seen and another guest enjoyed finding Mediterranean Shieldbugs gathering on a plant near the buses. 

It was only a short drive to the next stop where yet more Danewort and a lovely little meadow full of vetches would prove to be full of butterflies. Great Banded Graylings and beautiful metallic green Rose Chafers shared the Danewort by the bus with a hornet mimicking hoverfly.

 

Hornet Hoverfly, Volucella inanis

 

Meanwhile a gorgeous male Grecian Copper was spotted nectaring at the bottom of the sloping meadow.

 

Male Grecian Copper

 

My co-guide, Dan got to see his first Black-veined White and along with it, Meadow Brown, Idas Blue, Red Admiral, Cleopatra, Green Hairstreak, Osiris Blue, Brimstone, Balkan Zephyr Blue and Dingy Skipper were all new additions to our ever expanding list. We also noted Clouded Yellow, Adonis Blue, Wood White, Large White and both Small and Essex Skipper here which we had already seen previously, not to mention Painted Ladies which were by far the most numerous species of the trip, seen at almost every site we visited during the week and in vast numbers as we drove over the mountains. 

On our way back towards the road up to the Parnassos Ski Centre, we paused briefly at a lovely spot where Red Valerian grows in clumps along a steep rocky bank on the roadside. Our visit paid off as we we able to watch both Hummingbird Hawkmoth and Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth nectaring together on the flowers alongside Large Skipper, Large Wall, and Mountain Small White plus the ubiquitous Painted Lady and the odd Large White too.  

 

Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth

 

Heading on up the mountain, we stopped for lunch in a lovely flowery meadow surrounded by pine forest and with a mostly dry stream bed running through it.  Having eaten, we took our time wandering through the meadow at leisure and discovering the natural treasures it held. Those of us that ventured into the woodland saw Speckled Wood and there were one or two Orange Tips around too.

The meadow itself was full of lovely flowers including Campanula sparsa, Cut-leaved Selfheal, Nottingham Catchfly, Tassel Hyacinth and some gorgeous pink Dianthus. Both Red and Sword-leaved Helleborines were flowering in the shadier spots and there were plenty of butterflies to be seen. Clouded Yellow was joined by Greek Clouded Yellow, distinguishable by its deeper orange colouring, and Clouded Apollo were found here too. Small Heath, Meadow Brown and Brimstone were among some of the more familiar species to be seen but there were also Queen of Spain, Black-veined White and Camberwell Beauty flitting around. A dark form of Small Copper caused a little  confusion until it was explained that this is often an altitudinal variation. A number of small cicadas were spotted hanging on longer grass stems while a Large Tortoiseshell was seen to perch on a lower branch of a fir tree.  In the stream bed, an Olive Skipper was found puddling with several other butterflies and elsewhere, Heath Fritillary and Mazarine Blue were added to the list.

 

Mazarine Blue

 

Having had our fill in the meadow, we moved on uphill with amazing numbers of Painted Ladies round every corner, seeming to fall like autumn leaves fluttering in a gentle breeze. An impromptu stop was made near the top of the mountain where a particularly flowery verge looked resplendent in the sun and the migrating butterflies were making the most of the nectar. Among others, there were several plants of particular interest here which are endemic to the area including Astragalus angusitfolius ssp. erinaceus, Daphne oleoides and  Linaria peloponnesiaca.

 

Painted Lady

 

Having made it up the last little stretch to the ski centre, a stiff breeze made for a welcome relief from the heat of the sun. A flock of Alpine Chough wheeled overhead, a Citril Finch was heard calling and a family of Northern Wheatears entertained us from the top of some nearby rocks. Butterflies were altogether harder to see as the accessible areas with vegetation were very steep but Clouded Apollo, Great Banded Grayling and yet more Painted Ladies graced us with their presence. Euphorbia myrsinites grew in the gravel and a Cranesbill which might have been Geranium thessalum was found in flower. It was decided not to stay too long here as it was very exposed in the sun and we were soon moving on back down the mountain.

We made another brief impromptu stop at a small but pleasantly flowery roadside glade found last year. Here we added Balkan Zephyr Blue to the list and also noted Clouded Apollo, Osiris Blue, Cleopatra and Clouded Yellow, not to mention a steady stream of Painted Ladies.

 

Balkan Zephyr Blue

 

Continuing on down the mountainside we stopped at a shrubby meadow just below where we had had lunch earlier. There were more small fir trees and an endemic Hawthorn, Crataegus pycnoloba, growing here. Birdsong was noticeable here with Robin, Great Tit and Chaffinch calling as we wandered in to explore. Ground Pine, Ajuga chamaepitys and several Thymes were growing among the grass. Meadow Brown, Small Heath, Great Banded Grayling and Balkan Zephyr Blue were noted. A pale Brimstone with slightly different markings prompted a debate about the characteristics and range of Powdered Brimstone though it was eventually decided to err on the side of caution and leave it off the list. Oberthur’s Grizzled Skipper was found here and there were good views to be had of Oriental Meadow Brown.

Our final stop on the way back was at the top of the Arachova pass. We didn’t spend long here but admired the view over the valley below and the plateau behind us. We took in the pink cushions of Pterocephalus perennis flowering on the rock face by the road and marvelled at the tiny flower perfection of Herniaria hirsuta. Balkan Marbled White was seen and there were a number of chubby looking Parnassos Stone Grasshoppers which blended in wonderfully with their gravelly surroundings.

 

Parnassos Stone Grasshopper

Parnassos Stone Grasshopper, Glyphanus obtusus

 

I was particularly pleased to find a stunning male Ladybird Spider (I may have done a little happy dance!) and was able to show it to a few of the group before it took refuge in the depths of a plant. 

 

Male Ladybird Spider

 

While our first day had been a full one, everyone agreed that it had been very enjoyable with lots seen. We returned to the hotel to have a relaxing drink while we updated our trip list and then walked down into the town to have a delightful dinner in a restaurant with a fabulous view over the valley.

The next morning dawned bright and clear. Several of the group went for a pre-breakfast wander up the hill and reported that there were already butterflies on the wing. We ate and gathered our packed lunches ready for the day ahead but our first stop was only a few minutes drive away. We pulled up in a shaded lay-by beyond the entrance to the ancient site of Delphi and walked back along the roadside to make our way in. A beautiful Great Green Bush Cricket was spotted as we passed a spring and a little further on, a Lattice Brown was admired. 

Having got our tickets we made our way inside and gathered to set our plans for the morning. A Hoopoe was calling throughout the morning while Crag Martins swooped high overhead and noisy Rock Nuthatches entertained us as we climbed towards the treasuries.

 

Rock Nuthatch

 

A little way above them a Marginated Tortoise was spotted making a meal of the only green leaf in its immediate surroundings. 

 

Marginated Tortoise

 

Moving on beyond the Temple, where a few small flowers of Campanula topaliana  ssp. delphica were spotted nestled among the enormous stonework, we came across several very large Robberflies, one of which used a guest’s hat (while still on her head!) as a hunting perch.

 

Robberfly, Stenopogon coracinus

 

Climbing above the Amphitheatre we found a number of very large predatory bush crickets and on a bend beneath a tree we came across a large Spider Hunting Wasp subduing and dragging away an equally impressive Tarantula Wolf Spider in the middle of the path! I have since learnt that it was this species of spider that gave Tarantulas their name – it was named having been discovered near the Italian city of Taranto.

 

Spider Hunting Wasp (Cryptocheilus alternatus) with Tarantula Wolf Spider (Lycosa tarantula) prey

 

As per usual, I pointed out Squirting Cucumber plants which eject their fruit with explosive force, spreading their seeds far and wide. There were also Round Headed leek growing here and a Jay flew over. Among the butterflies seen were Meadow Brown, Large White, Cleopatra, Balkan Marbled White and Southern White Admiral though many were only glimpsed brief in the heat of the morning.

 

Balkan Marbled White

 

With most of the group having made it to the top to admire the stadium, we reconvened near the entrance in the shade of some large pines and then made our way back to the vehicles. We had lunch in a nearby dry spring where we sat beneath Oriental Plane and Olive trees to eat. Having devoured our packed lunches we set off up the mountain once more, following the same route as the previous day and stopping in a large wet meadow just above where we had enjoyed our lunch the day before. We drove up a track a short way and walked back down it towards the road. Along the way were plenty of lovely things to admire.

There was a wonderful forest to our right as we walked downhill, dominated by the Grecian Fir. Beneath the trees Broad-leaved, Red and Narrow-leaved Helleborines flowered and there were pale yellowish green leaves and seed pods of Hellebores seeming to almost glow in the dark understory. Puddling Small Whites were among the first butterflies to be seen, although some dark butterflies which flew up from the track as we drove up were likely to have been Nettle Tree butterflies. A Common Wall Lizard basked on a stone beside the track as we wandered past too.

 

Common Wall Lizard

 

Goldcrests sang from the woods as we continued and Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Common Blue and Speckled Wood were swiftly added to the tally here. Cleopatra and Clouded Yellow followed suit along with Balkan Zephyr Blue and Parnassos Mazarine Blue. Southern Comma flitted past, Orange Tip was spotted along with Great Banded Grayling. I found a Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth in a puddle and with Dan’s help managed to revive it.  Elsewhere Chapman’s Blue, Large White, Mazarine Blue, Small Copper, Comma and Large Tortoiseshell were noted along with Cream Spot Tiger Moth. In a drier section of meadow near the road, Dan found a particularly obliging Clouded Apollo and had good views of a Camberwell Beauty. Heath Fritillaries zipped from flower to flower and I had a brief glimpse of a Lang’s Short-tailed Blue before it flew off. I also found a Common Malachite Beetle which posed nicely on a grass flower.

 

Common Malachite Beetle, Malachius bipustulatus

 

Heading back through the damp meadow we found it to be full of gorgeous Gladiolus imbricatus. There were some Beautiful Demoiselles hanging among the long grasses and both Pyramidal and Loose Flowered Orchids were found flowering. Common Blue, Turquoise Blue, Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Meadow Brown were also noted here. 

 

Common Blue on Camapanula sparsa

 

Among the long grasses, I came across an intriguing green spider, Araniella opisthographa.

 

Araniella opisthographa

 

A few of the group walked up to investigate the small chapel beyond the vehicles before we made our way back down the mountain. On our way home, we spotted a gully that we were keen to investigate just beside the main road from Arachova to Delphi and we made an impromptu stop. There was not a lot to be seen as it was only a small area but nevertheless we found Ilex Hairstreak, appropriately on its food plant Kermes Oak, along with a very large Bush Cricket, some lovely Balkan Marbled Whites and Convolvulus oleifolius.

 

Convolvulus oleifolius

 

Most interestingly though, we found an aberration of Blue Argus which caused quite a bit of discussion. For those of you less familiar with the term, an aberration is when a butterfly has a variation in colour or pattern which differentiates it from the typical form of that species. Sometimes it can be tricky to know what it is an aberration of, particularly when the variations between species can be very slight.

We returned to the hotel to freshen up before dinner in the same restaurant as the previous evening. The following morning was a little different as the day had come to leave the slopes of Mount Parnassos and move to our second base for the holiday and so, after breakfast we packed up the minibuses. Just as we were about to leave an obliging Southern Comma settled on the pavement outside the hotel affording the whole group excellent views before we moved out. I’ll continue the story in another post though as this one is getting a bit long!

 

British Swallowtails: A Norfolk delight

It’s been a while since my last post because I’ve had so much going on lately but I want to tell you about a couple of short tours I led for Greenwings alongside author and journalist, Patrick Barkham. We spent two consecutive long weekends in Wroxham, the heart of the Norfolk Broads, searching out a particular butterfly; British Swallowtails. This blousy butterfly is a separate subspecies from the occasional European vagrant that graces our southern shores in summer and only occurs in the Broads these days.

Both weekends followed roughly the same course with some allowance for the good old British weather (!) so I’m combining them into a single post but will share images from both weekends. On both occasions we were joined by guests from a variety of backgrounds and with wide ranging interests, but the first of the two was particularly interesting to me as we had with us a coleopterist (beetle expert) who was keen to look at his specialist subject alongside the butterflies that we were there to find. If you know me by now, you’ll know that I’m forever finding small things to photograph and am interested in all aspects of the natural world. Beetles are such a huge group of insects – they represent more species than any other group on the planet – that while I know a few of the larger or more distinctive species, there are a great many which I’m less familiar with and so this also provided me with a good opportunity to learn a few things too.

We met on Friday afternoon in Wroxham and, having made our introductions, ventured out for a walk along the river bank before dinner. There were warblers singing in the willow trees and a Kingfisher zipped silently past for one of our groups, only a foot or so above the water. We found Marsh Valerian flowering in a damp spot and marvelled at how quickly one escaped the hubbub of the village centre.

The Saturday morning of the first weekend was rather a soggy one but we still made it to a couple of local reserves where we found a variety of things to look at and one of our keen-eyed guests spotted a very small Vapourer moth caterpillar.

 

 

After lunch, we visited Hickling Broad and took a boat trip out onto the broad to access a couple of hides which are otherwise not open to the public. The weather was still rather gloomy but we had some nice views of Avocets, Shelducks with young and Marsh Harriers. The most amazing thing to me was the sheer volume of House Martins, Sand Martins, Swallows and Swifts hawking low over the water for insects. When seen from a small boat at water height it made for quite the memorable experience and interestingly, the following week the weather was better and they were flying much higher and in seemingly smaller numbers, presumably because there was more food available elsewhere. We also had lovely views of a Mute Swan pair with 5 small cygnets – the photo below I actually took with my phone!

 

 

 

The Sunday was the best day of the first weekend and we spent all morning at Strumpshaw Fen which is an RSPB reserve. We saw our first Swallowtail of the day just outside the visitor centre as we arrived. It flew off over the reedbeds and so we began by walking down the track to the Doctor’s House on the way to which a particularly fresh Speckled Wood caught my eye.

 

 

There were two more beautiful British Swallowtails nectaring on the Sweet Williams in the garden as we approached the house. Having joined several keen photographers in enjoying them, we moved on to a meadow beyond where we encountered several more along with Mullein moth caterpillars feasting on… you guessed it, Mullein leaves. 

 

 

I had seen these stunning butterflies before but not had much opportunity to photograph them and to be honest, it was no easy task this time either. They are large and flighty which means that approaching them is tricky at best. However, I had two weekends to hone my skills and for a first attempt I wasn’t too displeased with this image above which nicely shows how they are a darker yellow with much more black marking than their continental counterparts.

On a section of boardwalk further round the reserve we paused to look for Swallowtail eggs on the Milk Parsley. We didn’t find any unfortunately but our keen-eyed guest spotted something else; the empty shell of a Drinker Moth Caterpillar which had been parasitised. The hole in it shows where the adult parasite – likely some type of wasp – emerged, having feasted on it first!

 

 

 

Nearby, I also came across a lovely female Common Lizard in the undergrowth. She kept a wary eye on me but didn’t mind staying put for a picture.


 

With the sun shining today, we were also pleased to see quite a number of Dragonflies and Damselflies including both Azure Damselfly and male Black Tailed Skimmer.

 

 

There were also quite a few Nursery Web Spiders around which made for some nice shots.

 

 

We came across a large number of Red Admirals gathering at a sap run on a willow tree too.

 

 

We heard a Grasshopper Warbler reeling in the depths of a reedbed along with Sedge and Reed Warblers. I was also able to find our visiting coleopterist a splendid Golden-Bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle with fabulous stripes antennae and some tiny tiny weevils which he later identified as a new record for the reserve.

 

 

We had clocked up 18 Swallowtail sightings in a morning and having had a lovely picnic, we then had a short drive to our afternoon stop; Sutton Fen. This is an RSPB reserve but is not open to the public and is not managed for birds but rather for flora and invertebrates. We were shown around by Ian Robinson, the RSPB’s Regional Manager for the Broads. I found it to be an utterly beguiling place, there was so much to take in. From the smell of Water Mint underfoot, the sound of birdsong in every direction and sight of Southern Marsh Orchids in the meadows…

 

 

…to the magic of “the hover” where you walk on a floating dense mat of vegetation which feels rather like a waterbed underfoot. Here there is a proliferation of rare species including an Orchid which I hadn’t seen before, the diminutive but no less beautiful Fen Orchid.

 

 

Having spent some time taking in as much as we could, we headed back to base and enjoyed our evening meal. The following morning, we convened in Patrick’s garden to empty a large moth trap and discover what delights it held. We saved an Elephant Hawkmoth in a tub full of foliage for him to show his daughter when she got home from school, marvelled at the camouflage of the twig-like Buff-Tip and mostly failed at photographing any of the others before they fluttered away from the daylight. With one exception, the Garden Carpet allowed me a quick photo on some Cow Parsley before disappearing to a shady nook for the day.

 

 

The following weekend I did it all again but this time with less rain! Hickling was a Saturday morning affair in glorious sunshine. There were wonderful British Swallowtails everywhere from the moment we arrived at the boat jetty and we enjoyed lovely views over the Broad as we cruised towards the first hide.

 

 

From within we were treated to a flock of Black-Tailed Godwits which hadn’t been there the previous week and we enjoyed watching them forage, preen and snooze in the sun.

 

 

While we watched, a Chinese Water Deer walked nonchalantly out of the reedbed opposite, had a scratch and wandered along the far bank. Considering that these are usually quite shy, retiring animals it was a particularly special moment.

 

 

Moving on, we had fantastic views of Bearded Tits, more than I’ve ever seen before including a group of newly fledged youngsters, of which this was one.

 

 

We enjoyed a picnic by the visitor centre before heading to How Hill for the afternoon. There were sadly no Swallowtails to be seen here but having already spotted 31 in a single morning we were not unhappy! Instead, we enjoyed a walk that took in all manner of other invertebrates and other wildlife. I was pleased to find 2 species of Reed Beetle, a group that we had looked for the previous weekend but seen little of.

 

 

We also came across a large variety of damselflies including Common Blue, Variable and Azure, the latter two of which are pictured in respective order below.

 

 

 

Another delightful insect that we found in some numbers was the diminutive but beautiful Yellow-Barred Longhorn Micromoth, Nemophora degeerella.

 

 

Painted Lady butterflies were also whizzing past seemingly every few seconds in what was to be the largest influx of this migratory butterfly since 2009. We counted a staggering 154 that day but there must have been many more that bypassed us!

 

 

The next morning we followed the same pattern as the previous week with a visit to Strumpshaw Fen in the morning. The first Swallowtails were waiting for us in the Doctor’s Garden where they nectared on the Sweet Williams.  The meadow beyond was positively brimming with life and we found both male and female Thick-Legged Flower Beetles, the male of which displays the thunderous thighs that their common name suggests.

 

There were quite a few beetles around in fact, including rather a fine looking Click Beetle which posed beautifully for me on a Bramble flower bud.

 

On the boardwalk beyond we once again scoured every patch of Milk Parsley for Swallowtail eggs but found none. Yet the boardwalk itself had become a basking spot for dragonflies and Common Lizards as they warmed up for the day.

 

 

We came across a couple of impressively large Drinker Moth caterpillars in the vegetation beside the path.

 

 

We admired yet more Painted Ladies as they flew ever onwards overhead or nectared on the Brambles around us.

 

 

At times they were joined by Small Tortoiseshells, another of our more colourful butterfly species in the UK.

 

 

Bumblebees were also making the most of the nectar-rich flowers. This one is a Buff-Tailed Bumblebee, one of the larger and more common British species.

 

 

Then, on a particularly sunny corner where there were lots of Brambles in bloom, a Swallowtail flew directly over our heads and began to feed only feet away. We had seen plenty flying past at high speed but not many had settled in any spot for long and so this was perfect as a picture opportunity.

 

 

Swallowtail

 

Further round, I also photographed a rather lovely bumblebee-mimicking hoverfly (Volucella bombylans) feeding on a thistle flower.

 

 

I found another Red-Headed Cardinal Beetle to photograph too. I have taken many images of these striking insects but I never tire of them.

 

 

I have also started to try and learn a bit more about some of our hoverflies and so I noted a couple of species as we walked around. It’s trickier than I realised and the only one I’ve been able to conclusively identify so far is below, Eristalis horticola. Not to be put off though, I’ll keep plugging away when I see more.

 

 

Once again we took our guests to Sutton Fen in the afternoon and introduced them to this magical place and to Ian who taught us some of it’s secrets. I decided to go without a camera this time and just soak up the atmosphere of the place. I kicked myself when an obliging Swallowtail came to nectar on a Marsh Thistle in the middle of our path but actually, being able to watch and observe this magnificent insect was just as rewarding as capturing an image of it.

The next morning we returned to Patrick’s garden to see what delights lay waiting in the moth trap. We were not disappointed with the variety that it held nor the number, including over 40 Heart and Dart moths! He proudly showed us the Brimstone caterpillars that he was so thrilled to discover had moved in and we were soon ready to part ways.

 

 

This second weekend we had racked up 39 Swallowtail sightings, a new record for the trip and over 220 Painted Ladies as well. Needless to say both weekends were thoroughly enjoyed by all and this corner of England is more treasured by us all for the memories we made. I can’t wait to do it all again next year!