Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Nature is beautiful AND brutal.

When I go out somewhere locally for one of my regular 'strolls' it is often without any pre-planned objective and indeed I just let my legs take me wherever they want. Whilst I enjoy company when watching wildlife; having another pair of eyes is always helpful; I'm also very comfortable in my own company with my own thoughts. If something takes my interest I will stand or sit for ages and just soak up the atmosphere around me. Today was no exception when I headed out to Bookham Common late morning with still a hint of rain in the air but hopeful of some sunshine and decided to walk into Hill House Wood which would provide overhead leafy cover from either of these elements. I was not expecting to see much avian activity now that many species are feeding young, often well hidden, but there was the occasional call from a Nuthatch, Wren and Blackbird that interupted the near silence. 
Initial fluttering activity both high above and around my feet was from White Admiral, Ringlet, Speckled Wood, many Meadow Browns and then I spotted a recently emerged male Silver-washed Fritillary, a speciality of large broadleaf woodlands in southern UK feeding on a Bramble, its favourite food source.

Walking slowly into one of the open glades my attention was drawn to some more frantic orange fluttering activity and using the bins I located three Silver-washed Fritillary about 50 yards away and two of them appeared to be settling together on a bare stem.

I carefully stalked a little closer to capture a pair copulating and took one quick shot (below) that I have cropped before starting to creep closer for a better shot....BUT.... 

...neither I or the camera were ready for the next saga....a blue predator dashed in and grabbed both butterflies, dragging them into the grass. 

My reactions and the camera settings where a little too slow but I watched the predator fly off with one Fritillary, the other one was initially motionless beneath my feet but after a few moments fluttered awkwardly to another area about 30 yards away.

I relocated this individual, a female, and you can clearly see damage to one of its antenna and much more noticeable is the lack of its abdomen, obviously torn away in that brief but catastrophic encounter. I have no idea how much longer this lady will mate is already dead.....
.....nature is often beautiful but sometimes very brutal.

I eventually located the predator, Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) hidding in the grass. Not the best picture as this individual didn't like me getting very close.....presumably in case I could ID him! 

For more close-ups of the Silver-washed Fritillary please go to the post on my FABirding blog..FAB. 


  1. It is a brutal universe out there. Yet, it is nature's way. I've never seen a dragon take out a butterfly before.

    I got a few posts behind, I cannot believe how much good stuff I missed.

  2. WE do look at things through rosey glasses...seeing the beauty and not the beast.....You have captured with your camera something of nature that we might otherwise not have noticed or realized!!! Excellent photos!!!

  3. Yikes! Life as a butterfly is not carefree, is it? Great capture.

  4. Frank, your photos as usual are simply stunning! You are able to capture such interesting images in the most beautiful way. I loved the little drama you were able to convey in this post through words and pictures.

  5. A most interesting encounter and your photos document it all. I went over to the other blog to look at the photos there and they are beautiful.

  6. Frank, what can I say beautiful but so harsh. I know these things happen, and of course, all creatures need to eat to survive.

    I was so captivated by the butterflies, that I was not expecting the next stage......

    Wonderful captures showing us all just how cruel nature can be.......

  7. Amazing encounter Frank, and great shots of it all too. Like you say, nature can be very brutal at times.
    I think as humans, we don't realise how lucky we are at times.

  8. Wow Frank,
    What a moment you witnessed.... yeh you know life is hard there and they have to fight every day for their survival... This is just life.. Meanwhile you got a to photograph a beautiful nature sequence..

  9. Thats a great shame Frank as that species is not that common and I have only seen one once. I think a spot of Capital Punishment may have been in order for the dragon.

  10. Absolutely brilliant.
    Have never seen this before and like Cheryl, I never saw it coming.

  11. I didn't see it coming either Frank, despite your very apt title. Very sad but the way of Nature, something my overly tender heart still struggles to accept however much my head accepts the reasoning...

    I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time catching up with your holiday posts. You saw so many lovely things. I have never seen an Avocet or a Bearded Tit (I really envy that sighting) apart from in books etc.

    It was lovely to see the close ups of the Skylark and yes, those hind claws were long!

    The encounter with the Pheasant and the Pigeon was very amusing as was the Cygnet with 'parasol' and what a marvellous experience you had with the Nightjars, that must have been very special.

    Great posts Frank and beautiful photos.

  12. Gosh, Frank! What an encounter. I think it would have upset me as I'm rather squeemish. However, you did nrilliantly to capture it all in pictures.

  13. What a great bit of wildlife action to witness Frank!

  14. Amazing to watch this encounter let alone photograph it! You must've had mixed feelings Frank, I know I would have in your place. I've obviously 'lost' a few of your recent posts judging by other comments, so I best go and catch up! (-:

  15. This is what I love about nature - the finely balanced dance between predator and prey. I am very passionate about the conservation of the less cuddly members of the animal Kingdom because without them the healthy of the populations of the 'cuddly' ones would suffer.

    I saw my first Emperor Dragonfly last Saturday - they are quite size!

  16. Well captured life and death drama enacted on a small stage - evokes the pathos of Tennyson's "Who trusted God was love indeed
    And love Creation’s final law–
    Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw..."

  17. Hi Everyone. Thanks for all your visits and appreciative messages.

    Wildlife often produces the most unexpected moments and I have to admit to being totally transfixed (for a moment or two) at this brief and brutal encounter. Only thanks to digital technology could I share this magical moment, let's hope there are many more to come. FAB.

  18. Enjoyed these images and the blog wehich is great.Have added to your follow list and blogs i follow.If you get a chance to browse mine it is

  19. Cheers Anthony. I have reciprocated and will drop in for a longer look very soon.

  20. Nice sequence, Frank. Little dramas mirror our own.

  21. Hi Rick. Appreciate your visit and comments.

  22. I got goosebumps reading this post! I did not know that a dragon would take a butterfly - especially a large one like a Fritillary. What an amazing set of events - and that you caught it with your camera is even more amazing!!

  23. Hi Kerri. learn something new every day. It was slightly unnerving but that is the fun of nature watching.


I hope you enjoyed your visit and I always appreciate your comments and feedback.


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