Sandhouse Lane Nature Reserve

On Sunday, Carol introduced me to one of the sites that she and her colleagues at the Greensand Trust look after, the Sandhouse Lane Nature Reserve. The reserve is a relatively small area surrounding a disused sand pit and is sandwiched, some might say hidden, between Heath and Reach and the A5. Much of the trust’s conservation work somewhat perversely seems to involve pulling plants up and/or cutting trees down. However, it also seems to be effective. Almost as soon as we had entered the reserve, we came across an area seething with Lepidoptera. I had to content myself with looking since I was unfortunately without a camera.

Yesterday, having first busied myself with an arduous job replacing one of the towing electrical sockets on our car, I corrected my original oversight and returned to Sandhouse Lane in the late afternoon camera-in-hand. Well, camera-in-rucksack actually but you get my drift. Butterflies like sun as much as I do and, since there was little in evidence, I wasn’t certain that my intended subjects would cooperate but cooperate they did.

Comma butterfly Gatekeeper/Hedge Brown Right inside the gate I ended up stalking a Comma butterfly (left), albeit slightly the worse for wear (which I noticed only after returning to process the shots). It didn’t settle for long before it zoomed off to tussle with an intruder, presumably hence its wear. Incidentally, it’s called a Comma because there is a tiny white mark in the shape of a comma – on the underside. Next up was a brown (right); brown butterflies are many and various and can be difficult to identify in the heat of battle, as it were. Photos help greatly; they may not be quite as effective as an ether jar and a magnifying glass but the pants weather damages populations quite enough without over-zealous collectors imposing further reductions. This one is a Gatekeeper, a.k.a. Hedge Brown.

Common Blue - topside Common Blue - underside Small Copper In this summer (I can’t believe I said that – this, a summer?) of Painted Ladies, Sandhouse Lane had what looked like more than its fair share but, having snapped a Painted Lady on our buddleia recently, I was more interested in other quarry. [Aside: good Lord, stalking quarry in a quarry, what a silly language!] On our first excursion I’d seen an unidentified blue and what I suspected was a Small Copper. I was hoping they’d reappear and sure enough they did. Blues are a little perverse, sometimes closing and sometimes opening their wings. Frequently so-called blue butterflies are so perverse that they are brown. This blue (left) was actually blue, however, and turned out to be a Common Blue (well, of course). Considering my amateur’s lens together with their small size and nervous disposition, I was pretty pleased with the result. The Small Copper (right) isn’t quite such a clear shot but it’s worth a look and will do me for now.

IMG_2378 Six-spot Burnets having fun Six-spot Burnet The thistles were doing the main work of attracting many of the critters. I managed to grab an even smaller butterfly that I think is a Small Skipper (left) and a striking moth called a Six-spot Burnet (right). The shot where I seem to have gate crashed two Six-spot Burnets having some fun together shows all six spots more clearly. Well, alright, all twelve spots since there are two of them. It looks as though there may soon be a lot more Burnets – far too many spots to count. 🙂

I must return if we ever get another dry day.

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