My companions for today's visit to Chambers Farm Wood were David Newby and Mike Pickwell. The weather forecast was good with sunny spells predicted. What the weather forecaster's did forget to mention though was that the sunny spells would not appear until at least lunch time. My rant about the weather forecaster's for today done with.
David and myself picked Mike up from his house and we made the forty five minute journey to the wood catching up on things and generally having a good natter as we travelled. On arrival at the wood it was quite overcast and misty but it did look as though the sun wouldn't be long before it broke through. With quite a bit of walking involved today and the promise of bright conditions I chose to use the Canon 100mm lens rather than lug the tripod around all day for the Sigma 150mm lens.
We did hope to find Brown Hairstreak butterflies today, I had visited Chambers Wood the previous week and not found any so was hoping for better luck today. As we made our way to the area where the Hairstreak butterflies are known to frequent the sun did make a few very brief appearances (blink and you missed them) so we didn't really expect to see any Hairstreak's in the coolish conditions. Arriving at the area mentioned we were most surprised to find a Purple Hairstreak. This one was sat quite low down in an oak tree but in a very awkward spot to photograph with very little light reaching it either. I tried for a photograph but even with the ISO on the camera pushed up to 1000 to get the shutter speed up I still didn't get an acceptable photograph.
We decided to concentrate our efforts on other insects until the sun came out and then hopefully the Hairstreak's would show as well. There were a few Common Darter's, and the odd Migrant and Southern Hawker dragonflies but even in the cool conditions they were very flighty. After much trying I did manage a nice photograph of a Common Darter.
There were a few butterflies about, these included Small Skipper, Ringlet, Meadow Brown and Brown Argus. The Ringlet's Meadow Brown's and Skipper's were pretty much on the tatty side as they come to the end of their season. The Brown Argus however were second brood insects and were in pristine condition. The dull conditions worked in our favour with these as they were pretty approachable.
The weather conditions didn't improve, in fact they worsened with skies darkening and a little very light rain. Lunch time soon arrived so it was out with the plastic bags to sit on as seating at Chambers Wood is very sparse to say the least. After lunch it did start to brighten and the rain stopped, although it was around one thirty before the sun did actually break through. Despite extensive searching in the now much warmer conditions no Brown Hairstreak's were found. A common Lizard did show quite nicely though, basking in the sun on a concrete post.
Migrant Hawker dragonflies were present in great numbers. In fact I can't ever recall seeing as many as we saw today. They were very flighty though and if they did land it was only momentarily before they were off again. The next subject for the camera was an Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillar. I had just about given up hope of coming across one of these superb caterpillars this season as I have normally seen several by this time of the year. The Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillar feeds on the Rosebay Willowherb plant and true to form this one was found on the Willowherb. This caterpillar has a trunk-like snout, when it feels threatened it draws this snout in towards its body. This has the effect of inflating its head which features four large eye markings to warn off predators. I have never managed to photograph this caterpillar with it's snout extended until today. The two photographs below show the caterpillar with the snout extended and the snout drawn in.
Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillar with snout extended
Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillar with snout drawn in
As we made our way back to the car in readiness for the journey home we were checking all the spots where it would be most likely to see a Grass snake. We were in luck but not in luck if you see what I mean. We found a grass snake basking on a pile of logs. We were unable to get any photographs though as it quickly disappeared as soon as it realised we were there. The butterfly garden at Chambers Wood is always worth a look and as we entered the garden we were informed by another photographer that grass snakes had been seen on the compost heap at the bottom of the garden not long ago. We went to look and we did see a couple of grass snakes but only fleeting glimpses with no chance of photographs. A painted Lady butterfly was seen in the garden, a first of the year for me.
Before we set off for home we went back to the spot where we had previously seen the grass snake on the logs. It was there again but as before very quickly made it's exit as we approached. Despite waiting very quietly for about fifteen minutes it didn't show again. Back to the car to pack the gear up and make our way home. No Brown Hairstreak photographs again, but nonetheless a very enjoyable day in great company with some very nice photographs .