An early start today for a visit to Chambers Farm Wood in Lincolnshire. Chamber's is a forestry commission site and is an excellent place for many forms of insect life, butterflies being particularly good.
The early start was because I was hoping I might come across a grass snake that was docile enough to photograph before the heat of the day warmed them up too much. the forecast was for good sunny spells with temperatures up to 23 degrees c, for a change they got it spot on.
I left home at 05:50 to make the journey to the wood arriving at 06:40 as traffic was light and I made good time. Unsurprisingly there was no one else there at that time in the morning. The Canon 100mm lens with the speedlite flash and diffuser mounted was my weapon of choice today. The more I use the Canon 100mm lens the more I like it, and with the bright conditions today hand holding it would be no problem.
I also had high hopes of photographing Brown Hairstreak butterflies. I have a couple of photographs of them from a couple of years back but nothing as good as I would like. When I did photograph them a couple of years ago I was a little on the late side towards the end of August and some of them I saw were on the tatty side, so this year an earlier attempt was in order. Setting off along the path through the woods it soon became apparent that unless I came across a grass snake or even an adder I was going to get little else for the first couple of hours as the sun was not high enough in the sky to get onto the rides through the woods. Despite extensive searching in the spot the grass snakes are known to frequent no snakes were seen.
Undaunted as by now the sun was higher and it was beginning to warm up nicely I continued to make my way to the area where the Brown Hairstreak butterflies breed. Brown Hairstreak's live in colonies and stay in the same area year after year so my chances of finding them were pretty good as long as it was warm enough for them to venture down from high up in the oak trees where they spend much of the time feeding on honeydew. The females lay there eggs on Blackthorn bushes and it is when they venture down to do this a photographic opportunity can arise. Also if honeydew is in short supply they will come down to take nectar from flowers.
On my way to this area several other photo opportunities came my way. Common Darter, Southern Hawker and Migrant Hawker dragonflies were on the wing. As it was still relatively cool as far as dragonflies are concerned the Common Darter's were fairly obliging.
Butterflies were about in good numbers with Peacock's being the most common. It was good to see so many of these fabulous looking butterflies as last season they were nowhere near as numerous. Meadow Brown, Ringlet and Small Skipper butterflies were also present.
By the time I arrived at the area where I was hoping to find Brown Hairstreak it was very warm. I searched the oak trees and realised I should have brought my binoculars with me as picking anything out as small as a butterfly in the oak canopy was going to be difficult with the naked eye. However before long I did spot some movement fairly low down in one of the oak trees and to the edge of the tree. I thought it was a butterfly but couldn't make out what species. Then a stroke of luck, I saw a butterfly land very low down in the oak and I was almost sure it was a Hairstreak. it was in an accessible if somewhat awkward position to get a photograph. I did manage a couple of shots though before it flew off. On reviewing them on the camera lcd screen I was almost certain this was a Purple not Brown Hairstreak. I have only ever seen one Purple Hairstreak in my life before and that one was in an open winged position where this one was in a closed wing position, hence my slight doubts on the ID. The photographs were not as good as I would have liked due to the awkward position it was in but were acceptable.
During the next hour or so I saw several more Purple Hairstreak's but none of them came low enough down the oak tree to allow me to photograph them. I carried on searching for the Brown Hairstreak's with no luck. It was exceptionally warm now as the area I was in was sheltered from the slight breeze and was in full sun. I managed to find a spot with a little shade to eat my lunch and take on much needed liquid refreshment. Migrant Hawker dragonflies were on the wing in good numbers and whilst I was having lunch I noticed an area where they seemed to be perching for a short period before taking to the wing again. I moved closer to this area and was able to get a few nice photographs of them as they perched momentarily.
Despite searching for the Brown Hairstreak's for another couple of hours after lunch I saw none and can only assume I was a little too early in the season and they have not emerged as yet. Another visit in a week or so will definitely be on the cards. I slowly made my way back to the car, and spotted a lovely lizard sunning itself on a low concrete plinth. This little male was most obliging and didn't have any problem with me getting close up and personal with him.
Well I hadn't seen or photographed a Brown Hairstreak or a grass snake, but a Purple Hairstreak was just as good and at least I got a reptile with the lizard. It was 16:00 by the time I arrived home tired from all the walking I had done, but nonetheless very happy with my efforts for the day.