25/07/2017 Devils Dyke, Cambridgeshire

Chalkhill Blue: (male) One of the perks of getting sent away to survey in Norfolk is the ability to stop at some great places to see some great wildlife!
Chalkhill Blue: (female) So when I got asked to assist in some invertebrate surveys in Norfolk I made plans to visit the famous Devils Dyke right opposite Newmarket Racecourse.
Devils Dyke is an ancient monument that stretches for seven and a half miles, and reaches a daunting 10m (33ft) in height.

This archaeological treasure is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as it is a haven for wildflowers, butterflies and a range of grassland insects come spring and summer.
(female underwing) The area sits between two very different ecosystems, one a rich peaty fenland and the other a chalk escarpment. The chalk and clay earth make a unique habitat for wildlife, including flowers, birds and butterflies, including the Chalkhill Blue.
(male underwing) Almost as soon as I arrived on the ridge I was confronted by dozens of blues of which almost all were Chalkhill Blues fluttering about the wildflowers.

These butterflies are part of the genus (Lycaenidas) which includes the Blues, Coppers, Hairstreaks of which the blues are particularly difficult to identify at times especially as the females tend to be brown!

Here is a classic textbook specimen with the pale blue wings going to black just before the white fringes. These can almost look white or chalky blue in bright sunlight when they are fresh which gives these stunning little butterflies their name.....the Chalkhill Blue.

Common Blue: (male) Another blue butterfly which was fluttering about on the ridge was the Common Blue.

(common blue male underwing) Although these butterflies are similar to the Chalkhill Blue you can see the darker blue of the common in flight, which catches your eye.

Once settled and sowing it's underwing you can see that the Common Blue as darker underwing, more pearls and a darker spot inside its underside forwing cell.

Chalkhill Blue: As I left the site and the sun came out and temperatures went up, even more blues were on the wing and I saw plenty of Chalkhill Blues mating on the tops of the flowers and grasses that carpet this ancient and excellent little place to visit.

22/07/2017 Arnside Knott,

Broad-leaved Helleborine: (Epipactis helleborine) There is always a perk having family-in-laws who live up in Carnforth, it means I can sneak off and go wildlife spotting up nearby Arneside Knott!
This is precisely what I did after dropping Dawn off at her dads, I headed up the knott in the heavy summer downpours. And despite the rain and the grey clouds Arnside knott was stunning.

Soon the rain eased off and then disappeared leaving way to warm weather and sunshine, then Arnside Knot looked even better. I had such an enjoyable time up there.
My main aim was to see the Broad-leaved Helleborine and Dark Red Helleborine that were both in flower somewhere on the knott.
I was also hoping to see a few decent butterflies but didn't hold out too much hope as the weather was so poor when I arrived.

It didn't take me long to find the Broad-leaved Helleborine, which was strikingly standing out on the edge of the woodland.

The most common of the Helleborines and preferring a shady location these Orchids get their name from base leaves, which are broad and rounded as the leaves develop up the spire they tend to get longer and narrower. The flowers also develop from the bottom upwards.

These unassuming plants are brilliant, just take a look at their tongue like flower petels known as the Labellum.

High Brown Fritillary: I needn't have worried about not seeing a decent butterfly - as soon as the rain stopped (and for a while I didn't think it would) they all came fluttering out.
The one I was keen to see was the High Brown, a first for me. They frequent flowery meadows, woodland edges and uplands basically the similar habitats the Pearl-boarded Fritillary and easily mistaken for Dark Green Fritillary.
The two species are most easily distinguished by their undersides, where the High Brown Fritillary has a row of brown spots known as pearls between the outer margin and the silver spangles, which are missing in the Dark Green Fritillary.
A less-reliable identification guide is that, as its name suggests, the High Brown Fritillary has a predominately brown hue to the underside, whereas the Dark Green Fritillary is predominately green.

In either case I was thrilled to see my first High Brown!

Gatekeeper: As I was heading back to the car I thought I would give the steeper slopes of the knott another going over in search of the Dark Red Helleborine and although I couldn't find it I was happy to spend a few moments watching this Gatekeeper.
With it's vibrant colours I would surmise this is a newly emerged individual who was setting up a territory and chasing away any other butterflies who fluttered past.

09/09/2017 Edge Hill University, Ormskirk

Dune Helleborine: (Epipactis dunensis) Amazing to see such a rare and unassuming wild orchid in such a strange place, a grassy verge on the edge of a park in a University!

I've never visited Edge Hill before and strck gold by choosing a Sunday to go, good parking and no one acost me. The uni is a lovley place, with a ornimental pond full of Mallard and lost of manicured garden style areas.

Really good to catch a rare glimpse of a threatened species of orchid, the Dune Helleborine which was discovered back in 2014 were there was fewer than 10 plants, in 2016 this had increased to 86 and this year 2017 the count is at shot up to amazing 198.

This species is nationally scarce with fewer than 100 hectad records for the species.
These unassuming spires rare orchids often occur only in dune slacks at places such as Formby and Sandscale Haws, where it can be present in the hundreds on the dune sides rather than the floor of the slack.

It's flowers are small, yellowish-green and washed pink, with the epichile triangular, broader than long and folded back at the tip.
The leaves are small, yellow-green and arranged in two rows up the stem, typically 30 - 35 cm tall and difficult to spot.
I've read that the best time to see Dune Helleborine and when its generally at its best is around the second and third weeks of July.

Thanks to Joshua Styles for sharing his images and reporting his sightings on his Twitter pages, top lad.

30/08/2017 Fermyn Woods Country Park, Kettering

Silver-washed Fritillary: Fermyn woods is one of the places I have recently heard about and have been dead keen to go visit. It's a famous place for butterflies, including the rarer ones such as black hairstreak, purple emperor, white admiral and white letter hairstreak.
Fermyn Woods are an ancient woodlands containing semi-natural oak and ash woods, along with conifer plantations. Situated in the heart of the Rockingham Forest, the park offers access to fantastic woodlands, meadows, thickets, marshes and ponds to explore.
I took the opportunity to make the small diversion on my way to Essex to see my mum and very glad I did as I managed to see almost all my target butterflies.
Purple Emperor: Number one was this beauty, the very large and very tricky to see Purple Emperor or Britain's "rock star butterfly."
They are Britain’s second largest butterfly, with a wingspan of more than 8cm and they are very elusive, flying high in the tree tops of woodlands to feed on aphid honey dew and tree sap.

I saw plenty of large butterflies flying above the tree canopy but never had a decent enough view to spot the emperor, I was about to give up when this stunning female landed right in front of me, affording me some excellent views.

Silver-washed Fritillary: The woods were awash with all sorts of bugs, birds and butterflies and it was deep in the woods where I saw the largest populations of Fritillaries.

This butterfly is our largest fritillary and gets it's name from the beautiful streaks of silver found on the underside of the wings, look close here and you will see no 'pearls' but silvery steaks.

White Admiral: Another new butterfly to add to my list was this, the White Admiral, another woodland species and a delight to behold as it literally glides along forest rides, flying from tree to forest floor and back up with only a few effortless wing beats.
For this reason, some of its closest relatives on the continent are known as "gliders".

I could have spent all day here, not just because it was miles away and took me ages to get to but it is a brilliant little place. It was a shame I had to leave to complete my journey to Southend.
Marbled White: In the middle of the park, between the visitor centre and woodlands there is a small raised area which contains a wild flower meadow.
Spend some time here and you will see the marvellous marbles White butterfly.
The word awesome is sometimes an overused and overrated word.....but in the case of Fermyn Woods Country Park, the word awesome is very apt!

The place was full of fluttering butterflies.