Friday, 26 August 2016

Almost autumn at Yoesden

I recently wrote about a very special place called Yoesden and some of the wonderful wildlife that can be found there at this time of year. I was lucky enough to have it included in Autumn, an anthology for the changing seasons, which was published yesterday.

To celebrate I decided to visit this afternoon and see what treasures I could find. It was hot and very sunny, so thankfully felt more like summer than autumn (I not quite ready to give up on summer yet!) Although, the signs were all around though that autumn is well on it's way. The bank looked dry and parched, with the lush green of spring replaced by crispy browns and yellows.

The hedgerows were full of juicy blackberries and sloes ...

 ... and the dwarf thistles had literally exploded all over the slope, covering it in a fluffy carpet of thistledown.
Thistledown was eerywhere

A lot of the summer flowers had faded, giving the autumn blooms a chance to shine. The twinkly purple stars of gentian were opening along the slope and beautiful devil's bit scabious has started to turn its hide-away in the 'Hole in the Woods' into a sea of purple.

Devil's bit scabious

The butterflies never disappoint at Yoesden, especially the little blue ones. We saw common blues, one holly blue, chalkhill blues, brown arguses and the fabulous Adonis blue today.

The male adonis blue is a brighter, more electric blue than the common blue and it has black lines crossing through the white fringes to the wings. These are very rare and we are incredibly lucky to have a thriving colony at Yoesden.

Adonis blue male

The chalkhill blues are not quite as rare as the Adonis blues, but still have very specific requirements so can only be found in a few locations in the South of England. The males are fairly easy to identify as they are a powder blue with smoky grey edges to the wings.

Male chalkhill blue, looking a bit tatty
The females are much harder to identify. Both the female Adonis and chalkhill blue is mostly brown, with black lines cutting through the white fringes to their wings.

From underneath this could be either a female Adonis or chalkhill blue
When you look from above, the female adonis blue has silvery blue scales near its body and silvery blue scales around the outer edge of the spots on its hind wings. In the female chalkhill blue these scales around the spots are silvery white.

Still not 100% sure whether this is a female Adonis or chalkhill blue
Just to add to the confusion, there were brown argus butterflies flying as well. These are lovely little chocolate brown 'blues' that look a lot like the female common blue.

Best way to tell your looking at a brown argus is to look at the underwing and check for no spots near the body on the forewing. The blues can get a bit confusing and you can get a bit carried away counting spots and trying to identify what's what. Best thing to do is just enjoy seeing them, as they're all beautiful!
Brown argus
We also saw one painted lady flitting around the devil's bit scabious in the 'Hole in the Woods'. It only settled for a few seconds at a time, so I chased it around for a while trying to get a decent photo, but it was much too hot to stick at it for too long.

We also saw speckled woods, meadow browns, brimstones, one small heath and one small tortoiseshell. No sign of any small coppers and I would have expected to see far more small tortoiseshells, as well as red admirals and peacocks.


Small tortoiseshell
The crickets and grasshoppers were pinging around in the grass, but we didn't see any great green bush crickets today (Bug Mad Girl's favourite). They seemed to be enjoying sunbathing on the baked chalk of the paths.

Red Kites soared over the bank, a green woodpecker flew down the edge of the trees at the top of the slope and a family of long-tailed tits flitted through the bushes by the gate as we were leaving.
Red kite
When I was there at the end of May I found a roe deer that had recently died. I had a quick look to see what was left of it and found a few bones, including this vertebra, which I brought home to add to our collection. It's amazing that it had only taken three months for the entire animal to be almost gone.

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