Local butterflies and other goodies (continued)
On the last weekend in June we took a couple of family outings to local butterfly hotspots to see what was around. First, we took a visit to my favourite local area for macro photography, the meadow and railway cutting at Hook Norton Cutting BBOWT reserve, between Banbury and Chipping Norton. This trip didn’t produce any particularly worthwhile photography, but was notable for my first sightings for the year of Meadow Brown and Marbled White.
The following day we all went off to Whitecross Green Wood between Bicester and Oxford to look again for Black Hairstreak. This time I was without my camera, but knew that I’d be able to make a solo return visit. Thankfully, in a brief 10-minute stop in one of the hotspots, we saw at least 4 individuals, though none were particularly willing to sit around for the photographers there then. Another new butterfly for the year was Ringlet, along with a possible Silver-washed Fritillary pointed out to us, though none of us saw it very well.
We also saw a number of different Damselflies, Darters, and Hawkers.
Armed with further local site info, I went back the following day with all my camera gear.
Black Hairstreaks have an annoying tendency to be pretty secretive and difficult to spot, even when you do know you’re in the right place at the right time.
They are nationally very scarce, have a very short flight period, and very particular habitat requirements. They live solely in expanses of Blackthorn in sheltered but sunny areas in ancient woodland, and are reluctant to travel at all far from their colonies. One would suppose that their relatively bright orange-brown appearance would make them stand out well among the greens of the blackthorn, but their colour is in fact perfectly matched to that of dried and decaying leaves. Furthermore, though in exceptional conditions it seems that they can be very tame and can come down to eye level or lower, in overcast weather they appear to prefer to stay in the tops of the Blackthorn. All this makes seeing any, let alone photographing them well, something of a challenge; it seems that only multiple visits to the best sites in the best weather can hold out any hope of success.
Anyway, I went armed with two different systems: first, my standard macro setup (D800E + 200f4 etc.), and also my D3S with 300f4 and 1.4 teleconverter: the macro setup to be used particularly if my luck was in for closeups, and the D3s for snapped record-shots if it wasn’t.
As it happened, it didn’t quite work out like this, and I ended up using both systems in pretty much the same way. Though, once again, at the same site, I managed to see four individuals, none of them came below eye level. The one that was good enough to pose for a few minutes did so several meters above the ground at the top of a bush. So I ended up using both systems the same way, and cropping in for record shots; the shorter focal length of the 200f4 was offset by the significantly larger sensor on the D800, but getting focus accurate using manual at a distance was pretty tricky.
So, the outing was a qualified success, producing the two record shots below. The first was taken with the D3S combo, and the second with the D800E. The longish upward-pointing tail suggests that this is a female.