It's perhaps a bit early to talk about an annual treat when this year was only my second time, but Penny and I had a wonderful pilgrimage to the Adonis Blues of Yoesden Bank nature reserve yesterday. When I reported my inaugural day out there last August, I called the little jewel of a butterfly perhaps the most beautiful in the UK. I hold to that; and visiting it is a much more enjoyable experience than hanging around in Bernwood Forest waiting for Purple Emperors to deign to come down from their treetop home.
The reserve is a steep hillside opposite the village of Radnage and only a short walk from the peaceful oasis of the local church. On a sunny day at this time of year, you encounter the Adonis Blues almost as soon as you come through the gate at the top of the hill on the foopath down from Bledlow Ridge. They like the short turf studded with the rare (but not here) Chiltern Gentian, pictured left. As the bank descends, the grass gets longer and thicker, with Cornflowers and Scabious in rich clumps. There are still plenty of butterflies but few if any Adonises.
Sunshine was rare yesterday but luckily accompanied our first 20 minutes in the reserve when I took the pictures above. The clouds then closed in until late afternoon, when we were well away on a circular walk after pork pie, hard-boiled eggs and other delights in the churchyard.
The effect of the change of the weather was fascinating to see, however, because the blues simply shut up shop and closed their wings. They were still easy to find on flowerheads and we spent ages watching two of them and willing them to give us another glimpse of that exquisite blue. They just wouldn't. So in the end, we put the iPhone on video and tickled the butterflies with grass, to record them flitting briefly away. Here's a composite film of three of them - with titles too, an exciting first for Martin's Moths:
I've also made a composite of snatch shots from the film which, though blurred, perhaps give an idea of the wonderful experience of seeing these butterflies. Yoesden is the most northerly point of their UK range but perhaps this will gradually increase in the years to come.
The bank is also the home of Chalkhill Blues, another very pretty chalkland butterfly, and Small Blues, though we didn't see any of those. Here are a couple of Chalkhills, a male (topwing and underwing) and a female. As so often with moths, the missus gets the poorer deal.
And to round things off, here are a couple of Yoesden grasshoppers, of whiuch there were scores leaping about.