Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Week 26: Purple & Gold Celebration

I am slightly distracted this week by the prospect of being one of a handful of “unofficial photographers” at my friend’s wedding this weekend. I did tell her that I hadn’t done any indoor photography (unless you count Swallows in a barn?!) and that if you haven’t got feathers or antennae, I’ve little idea as to how to go about capturing your best side. Bizarrely this didn’t put her off!

With a busy week ahead, Monday was the only day I was going to be able to get out around Box Moor. At Dellfield, I could hear the family of Kestrels were still around and, up at the Old Barn, the young Swallows were still squirming in their nest*. Making my way into Hay Wood, I could hear a Green Woodpecker, likely a fledgling, constantly calling to a parent. The highlights at the revitalised bird feeders were a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay and plenty of Coal Tits, with Nuthatches calling close by.  Emerging from the cool, shady woods I caught sight of a Buzzard circling overhead and then walked back down towards the Oak. I guess this week’s photograph is all about the rare expanse of blue sky.


Late afternoon, on the back of a warm, sunny day, I thought the Brickworks might be a good place to explore. I was hoping for a new moth or butterfly to mark the six month point of this project. In fact, the first “new find” was a Cinnabar moth caterpillar, followed closely by what I later learned was the remains of a Burnet moth chrysalis. There were a couple of fresh-looking 6-spot Burnets in the area so it had perhaps been home to one of those. The scrub really was alive with butterflies but two finds in particular made my heart skip a beat.

Cinnabar moth caterpillar

    Marbled White
    Burnet moth chrysalis remains

Firstly, this week’s new moth and my “celebration” for reaching the 6 month mark in Project 2014 was a tiny but beautiful Common Purple and Gold moth (Pyrausta purpuralis). It’s not fussy as to when it flies, day or night, and prefers dry grassland and chalky downland habitats. The larval foodplants are corn mint (Mentha arvensis) and thyme (Thymus). Most importantly, it was new to me and a real joy to discover. My photograph doesn't do it justice.


Unfortunately, my new friend was rather flighty and didn’t settle for long before I lost it. However, whilst I was trying to relocate it, I came across my second exciting find of the day. It seemed strangely fitting that after the last 2 weeks of developing affection for the little orange Skipper species, that this week I should run into a mating pair of Small Skippers. Unlike some species, which are easily disturbed, this pair were apparently welded to the flower head! Strong gusts of wind didn’t shift them nor did my carefully and strategically manoeuvring the stem slightly so as to be set against a predominantly dark backdrop. Sitting on the ground, photographing a pair of relaxed, mating butterflies; warmed by the sunshine and, behind me in the bushes, the sighing of Bullfinches. The picture of contentment.


More than satisfied with the day's exploring, I headed home for a cuppa.

Ben and the moth trapping team have continued their nighttime endeavours. Last week's reward at the Brickworks was a superb Scarlet Tiger moth. This is an extremely rare moth in Hertfordshire and therefore a highly significant find for the site. Take a look at Ben’s great blog for a photograph and a more detailed report of the evening.

Finally, I’ve added a new tab at the top entitled “The Oak: Week by Week”. This is the series of 26 photographs charting the Oak over the last 6 months. It’s a visual summary and, if you click on a photograph, it’ll take you to that week’s blog post.

Right, pre-wedding photography angst is kicking back in. I’m not sure who is going to be more nervous on Saturday. The bride or those of us who have the responsibility to record the day for posterity! Wish me luck!

* a quick visit to check on the Swallows this afternoon revealed an empty nest and a quiet barn.

3 comments:

Bennyboymothman said...

Wow, nice pictures again as always.
The Pyrausta purpuralis is a lovely moth isn't it.
Bovingdon seems to have a healthy population of them, I hope to see them tomorrow night as we are trapping at Roughdown Common again.
I hope you are keeping well and good luck with the wedding photography!
Take care now.

Boxmoor, naturally... said...

Thanks Ben :-)
Yes, the little purple and gold was lovely. A Shaded broad bar nearby too, which I like.
Good luck tonight at Roughdown. I'll look forward to reading how you get on.

Martin Parr said...

Nice one Lucy - I get Pyrausta purpuralis in my garden regularly - on my mint of course!

Good luck with the wedding!

Cheers, Martin