Saturday, 16 May 2015

Finally meeting the Duke

Ten years ago, I was involved in a big project to secure Totternhoe Quarry near Dunstable, Beds, as a nature reserve. One of the top species we were hoping to save by getting hold of the quarry (for the Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs and Northants) was the tiny little Duke of Burgundy butterfly. Ironically, having raised the money to save the site, I never did actually manage to see the Duke, despite several attempts. However, it was a good project and the Dukes are still doing well.

Today, Sol and me got the chance to hook up with Rich and Dan and try not just for Dukes, but Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, two butterflies I have never seen. Even Sol was excited! First things first, however, and we had change to spend at the Bishy Infants school summer fair, which didn't take Sol long. Then off we went for a rendezvous on a garage forecourt before heading off to the site for the Pearls. The weather was ideal, with a chilly westerly breeze blowing, creating sunny spells that just chivvied the temperature up to the magic 14 degrees, but never warming sufficiently to properly activate our little sunbathers. On site, Dan quickly picked up the first Pearls and we delighted in some great close views as they basked on the bracken, to soak up the spring sunshine. Corking! Some very nice Early Purple Orchids nearby too.

On to our second site, and a fleeting Green Hairstreak was the only butterfly noted before we finished our hike to the Duke of Burgundy site. The Dukes here are laying on Primrose leaves, unlike the Totternhoe gang which make use of Cowslips. Dan quickly spotted the first individual resting on a bramble leaf and after a bit, four or five were found in the same area, enlivened by the warm rays of the sun cutting through the brisk wind. I had heard Dukes were small, but they really were tiny and when flying kept low down. When the wings were folded they became very difficult to spot so I wasn't surprised I had struggled to find them previously. So, thanks to Rich and Dan, I had finally got to meet the Duke! The top three photos below are of a female (I think!) and the bottom two of a darker male (again, I think!).

Had a fine pint of Helmsley Brewery's Yorkshire Legend to celebrate, and enjoyed watching a pair of Spotted Flycatchers in the pub garden too. A top couple of hours for Sol and me with top company.

Sol leading Rich and Dan astray...

No comments: