Sunday, 20 July 2014

Butterfly Foray - Grayling.

Mid morning today I joined a small band of searchers on Chobham Common, the largest National Nature Reserve in south-east England covering an area of 574 hectares of lowland heath. The expanses of heather are broken up by deep valley bogs, isolated pines and patches of grassland, gorse and silver birch that provide a wildlife rich, patchwork of bio-diverse habitats. The main purpose of this field trip was to hopefully locate our most cryptically camouflaged butterfly, the Grayling.
For the first hour or so the conditions were fairly cool, with the sun hidden behind a total cloud blanket and certainly not ideal, so my expectations were very muted although I had already disturbed a Ringlet and Gatekeeper during a brief stroll around the car park perimeter.

With the lack of sunshine and no butterflies on the wing our attention turned to other winged inhabitants of this lowland heathland.

It didn't take long to pick up the calls of a Stonechat (image on left) and then a brief sighting of a Dartford Warbler as it flew low across the landscape.

We subsequently had slightly better views of another Dartford further into our walk and although too far away for my lens I was finally able to add this heathland specialist to my year list.

While three of us did have an initial encounter with a Grayling (Hipparchia semele) that perched very briefly on one of my fellow walkers before rapidly flying away it was another hour before the temperatures improved and my camera finally locked on to one resting on the bare ground, just presenting its mottled-brown underwing that provides excellent camouflage against most predators.

At rest the forewings are usually tucked behind the hind wings, concealing the eyespots and making the butterfly appear smaller but if you are quick enough when an individual first lands then sometimes the eyespot on the fore wing remains visible (see images below).

In total I logged five individual Grayling during this walk plus Little and Large Skipper, Green-veined White, Peacock, Speckled Wood, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Small Heath and Six-spot Burnet. FAB.


  1. pretty butterfly but i like the stonechat, too!

  2. Very lovely photos, and excellent captures with your lens! I saved the life of a caterpillar today, he was lost in the sand at the beach playground with lots of busy little feet and fingers, and I lifted him to safety! Funny how little ones think it's just an icky bug, they have no idea what a caterpillar becomes!

  3. Cudowne fotografie jak 3D :D
    Pozdrawiam Serdecznie ! :)
    Photopassion :)

  4. Je hebt de vlinders er wel heel mooi opstaan ondanks dat hij haast niet opviel.

  5. HI Frank Well that was a great morning you had with lots of Butterflies and the lovely Stonechat.

  6. Oh my, so delicate and beautiful. I often think there is nothing we can "manufacture" that comes close to the beauty found in wildlife.


  7. Przyrodniczo interesujący teren, fajne ułożenie terenu i roślinność :)

    Pozdrawiam ;) Greets :)

  8. I shall have to put some petrol in the car and start following you around Frank.


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