Butterfly walk

Despite a forecast of mostly cloudy weather, on Saturday I decided to take a walk around the Rifle Range nature reserve, just a 20-minute walk or so from where I live in Bewdley, Worcestershire. Rifle Range is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest by Natural England, and is a large area of mostly heathland, with some wooded areas around its periphery.

I’ve visited a number of times over the past couple of years, and when the weather’s good, it’s a great place for a bit of butterfly spotting. I have to admit however, I wondered whether I might have been wasting my sweet time, given how overcast it was when I set out. But by late morning, gaps in the clouds had started to appear, and before long the sky was almost completely clear.

The tricky thing about photographing butterflies I’ve found, is that you tend to see a lot more of them when the sun’s out (which is a good thing), but they’re usually a little more skittish. Because they rely on the sun and the warm weather to give them the energy they need to fly, when it’s a hot, bright day, it doesn’t take them long to absorb that energy. So they’ll settle somewhere, soak up the sun, and they’re off again before you know it. When there’s not so much sunshine, they often take a little longer to “charge their batteries”, giving you a bit more time to sneak up on the little blighters, and to get close enough to compose and take your shot. However, the downside of this is that you see fewer of them when it’s overcast. Just an observation, mind you… I’m no expert.

So, it turned out to be a very hot day. To begin with there were the usual suspects – Speckled Woods, Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns, that sort of thing – and although attractive enough, they’re not uncommon and I’ve photographed these species many times before. Further into my walk, after negotiating a rather overgrown path where I inevitably sustained more than a modicum of scratches and stings from the overabundance of gorse, I emerged into a sunny glade, filled in every direction with a surfeit of broom and hawkweed. Soon there was a flicker of bright white up ahead of me as a pair of Large Whites, danced and spiralled above the blackberries. Moments later a gorgeous Painted Lady appeared like a blaze of pale amber shining in the midday sun – a butterfly I’ve not seen in the wild for some time. This was a flighty little creature that barely settled for more than a few seconds in any one place. She eventually came to rest on the dry, grassy path long enough for me to approach, as slowly and as cautiously as I could, and take a couple of shots.

Click the thumbnail images for a larger view.

After a while I made my way out onto the open heathland, painted with great swathes of vivid purple heather, at its best at this time of year. More Large Whites and the occasional, richly-hued Small Tortoiseshell flitted here and there. Then a momentary flash of azure blue caught my eye; disguised amongst the harebells was a tiny Common Blue. This may be my first sighting of this attractive little insect – although I have very vague recollections of seeing some of these, when I was very young and holidaying on the North Wales coast with Mum and Dad, but that could easily have been another species. Nevertheless, this was an exciting moment. It was a male – plainer, but much prettier to my mind than the more patterned female of the species. He was flighty and nervous, and despite my best efforts I squandered a couple of potential opportunities, and just couldn’t get close enough without him taking fright! My disappointment was soon allayed somewhat at the sight of another, winking and shimmering as it rode the gentle breeze; a female this time, distinct from the male by the orange and black spots near the margins of its wings. She seemed a little more docile than the male – or perhaps my ninja skills had improved by the time I spotted her, and I was able to approach with a little more stealth!

Click the thumbnail images for a larger view.

I spent about three hours wandering around altogether, and covered some five or six miles, I think. I’ve posted a selection of some of the best photographs from my walk here, all taken with an iPhone 6, and as much furtiveness as I could muster (click on the thumbnails for a larger view). I’m pretty happy with how these came out, all things considered – that is to say that I only had the iPhone at my disposal, and (given its limitations) that I was mere inches away from my subject most of the time. Having said that, perhaps it’s time I invested in that DSLR with the wicked macro lens, that I’ve been promising myself!

Click the thumbnail images for a larger view.

2 Replies to “Butterfly walk”

  1. Amazing! Such clear photos too. Those blue ones are so pretty. They look like they’re made out of sugar paper.

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