Spring Scenes

The photographs that follow were taken this spring and show what is available right now. Get out and enjoy our wildlife!

The Purple Hairstreak caterpillars are busy feeding on fresh oak leaves and oak catkins, before the tree manages to pump tannin into the leaves, making them unpalatable. The availability of nitrogen is highest in oak leaves in spring, which is a further factor for early feeding by the caterpillars of the Brown Hairstreak, Winter Moth and Brindled Green Moth, among others.
This female Orange-tip has perched on the flowerhead of Cow Parsley, a favourite resting place. Her mossy undersides blend seamlessly with the frothy green and white mass, making her surprisingly hard to find. This butterfly will feed on Common Dandelion and other spring flowers but will lay her eggs on various crucifers, especially Cuckoo Flower. However, this female will not find it easy to find Cuckoo Flowers locally, as many of her fields have been sprayed with herbicide.
A male Orange-tip, showing why the butterfly is so-called. He is one of our most attractive spring butterflies, bringing the purest of delights as one sees his burning orange tips contrasted with the ice-white of the basal area of his forewing uppersides. He will be seen patrolling hedgerows from April to early July in search of a mate.
This newly emerged female Holly Blue is basking with opened wings during weak sunlight. Unfortunately, her uppersides are rarely seen in bright light, when they look exquisite, gleaming a deeper lilac-blue rather than powder blue as seen here. She will soon be scouring hedges for female Common Holly, which she uses as a key breeding plant, laying her eggs singly on embryonic berries.
This male Speckled Wood is basking on a Hogweed leaf. When warm enough, the male will patrol his territory, ejecting other males and pursuing females.
A female Brimstone laying on Alder Buckthorn. She is laying on a stem near the base of an unfurled leaf.
Here is a female Smooth Newt, busy breeding in weedy ponds on neutral and base-rich soils. She lays her eggs singly, inserting them into vegetation and securing them by glueing the aquatic vegetation around the soft, edible egg for protection.
Unimproved grassland on mildly alkaline/neutral soil, showing mass flowering of nectar-rich Common Dandelions, a favourite for all spring butterflies and bees.
Early Bumblebee on Common Dandelion. This bee will nest in old bird’s nests and rodent burrows. She has one yellow band on the thorax, one yellow band on the front of her abdomen and a reddish tip on her abdomen.
A Wall Brown pupa on fescue grass. This endangered butterfly has two or three generations each year, with the first emerging from April to June, arising from caterpillars that developed over the winter and earlier in spring. This pupa is about one month old. Shortly before the butterfly emerges, the wing colours can be seen through the wing cases.
This tiny Small Copper butterfly has just hatched and is holding his territory that extends from a farm gate, along a hedge to the corner of the field about 30 metres away. He hopes that a female will fly into his patch, attracted by the warm, sheltered conditions and nectar sources.

All photographs copyright J. Harding.