I had been waiting for a respite in the awful weather to visit Red Hill for a while and finally on Saturday the 7th July the forecast was for sunny spells with temperatures up to 20 degrees centigrade. My good friend Mike was going with me today and the main purpose of our visit was to photograph the Marbled White butterfly.
Red Hill is an old Quarry workings with a large grass meadow as well. The quarry was a Red Chalk quarry hence the name "Red Hill". Red Hill is managed by the Lincolnshire Wildlife trust. Marbled White butterflies like chalk or limestone as well as unimproved grassland so Red Hill provides a perfect environment for them. They also have a preference for purple flowers such as Scabious, Thistle and Knapweed. All of these can be found in abundance at Red Hill.
I left home at 07:00 to pick Mike up by 07:30. It was foggy when I left home and I had my doubts about the weather forecast as no mention of fog was made when I watched the forecast on the Friday evening. However shortly before reaching Mike's house the fog gave way to sunshine. We made the half hour journey to Red Hill in pleasant conditions.
Which lens to use today. Having photographed Marbled White butterflies before I knew they could be flighty but as the car was going to be very near to where we were photographing I knew I could easily go back and exchange lenses if needed. I decided to start off with the Sigma 150mm on the tripod as I would not have to get as close to them as I would with the Canon 100mm. After searching for around half an hour with no sign of Marbled White I did begin to wonder if we had timed our visit a few days to early in the season. There were other butterflies on the wing. Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Common Blue, Brown Argus and Small Heath so we knew it was warm enough.
I was beginning to think we would not see any when Mike spotted one. It was very flighty and led us a merry dance before we managed to get any photographs at all.
Where there is one there are usually more but it was at least another twenty minutes before we spotted another, just as flighty as the first one as well. The terrain as you can image in an old quarry is very steep and undulating and it was very hard work trying to follow an individual butterfly to see where it landed and get a photograph. With perseverance we did manage to get some photographs. There were several other species of butterfly on the wing and I did manage a photograph of a pair of Small Heath butterflies mating which I was pleased with.
Mating pair of Small Heat butterflies
The shots that I was managing with the Sigma 150mm on the tripod were good enough but I was missing many opportunities as by the time I had got the tripod positioned the butterfly had taken flight. I decided to to swap the 150mm for the Canon 100m and hand hold. This proved to be the better option as I got far more opportunities and the bright conditions gave me a fast enough shutter speed to hand hold.
Orchids were also out in good numbers and I was rather pleased with the shot shown below of a Pyrimidal Orchid that I took hand holding the Canon 100mm lens.
The Marbled White's were certainly a bit thin on the ground and I don't think we saw any more than five individual butterflies. However the ones we did see were in pristine condition, suggesting they were very recently emerged, so maybe our visit was a few days early and there will be more emerging over the next week. I was hoping to get some closed wing shots as the Marbled White will often feed with wings closed. The Knapweed and Thistle plants were mainly still in bud with only the odd flower fully open so weather permitting I will return next week sometime and hopefully get the closed wing shots.
Marbled White butterfly.
By 11:30 both Mike and myself were pretty exhausted from our efforts and it was plain to see any closed wing shots were not going to be feasible today. We had both managed photographs we were happy with so we called it a day. I will probably combine a visit here next week with a visit to Southrey Wood to look for White Admiral butterflies, another challenging species to photograph. For once our weather forecaster's had got it right resulting in a great morning at this nice reserve on the the Lincolnshire Wolds.