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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

Butterflies...& impressive thighs!


Sunday was a breezy, up and down sort of day, but warm. Butterflies don’t really like overcast, windy days, but I thought it was worth risking a visit to Chinn Brook Meadows, another glorious haven for wildlife that is within walking distance of my home. Those unfamiliar with Birmingham don’t associate it with nature, yet it is full of wonderful gems such as this.

Chinn Brook Meadows is a nature reserve where the meadows are only mown annually, in late summer, to encourage the growth of native wildflower species. The result is wonderful. River Water Crowsfoot, Birds Foot Trefoil, Ox Eye Daisies, Scabious, and all manner of grasses thrive, and birds, insects, and mammals enjoy the habitat. Cutting through the area is the babbling Chinn Brook itself.

When I arrived, a seagull was flying overhead, while below, a Meadow Brown shyly greeted me before disappearing once more into the long grasses, after being buffeted by a blast of wind. The Grasshoppers didn’t mind the breeze though. They remained sheltered in the long grasses, hidden from sight as they rattled away, trying to find a mate.

The large Crow that sauntered along the mown pathways would no doubt have liked to find one to munch on, but it had no luck while I was watching, anyway.

When the breeze died down, the butterflies took their chances. Suddenly the air would fill with Small Tortoiseshell, Ringlets, and Large and Small Skippers. Large White butterflies also flew around me; far more than I have seen in Highbury Park this year, where there seems to have been a real dearth. A Gatekeeper made a brief appearance – again, I think numbers are down this year on last.

On I walked. On the wind the occasional smell of wild garlic wafted by from somewhere.

A flash of orange flying into a nettle patch caught my eye. Had it been a Comma? I couldn’t be sure, but given the location (ie, a nettle patch) the chances were high. Although last time I was here I saw a Fritillary of similar colouring, and had been hoping to capture it on camera this time. Sadly, I had no luck though.

The Comma has a strong, fast, crazily erratic flight path. Another one flew by me, flashing past, flitting speedily around me, then back in the direction it had originated from. Watching it almost made me giddy. It is hard to believe something that flies like that can then settle down so innocuously amongst leaves.

Coming out of the meadow, I continued along Milkstream Walkway, crossed the road, and plunged back into this other section of Chinn Brook Nature Reserve. The weather seemed to be getting worse. Clouds darkened the sky ominously, threatening rain. I wondered if perhaps I should turn back, memories fresh in my mind still of the last time I had visited this place, the previous week. That time, I had been caught in a thunderstorm, and Scamp and I had got soaked to the skin; I wasn’t too keen to repeat the experience. As I reached Billesley Common, I decided to head for home...then the sun came out, like a sign that maybe I ought to press on a little bit further. Easily persuaded, I did just that.

Swifts high in the sky above me seemed to praise my decision. The sun grew stronger by the minute as I left the main path and plunged into the less well-trodden areas by the meadows. As a reward, it seemed, a brightly-coloured day-flying moth flew past me, its wings a blur of hurried movement. Luckily, it landed fairly close to me, and I was able to identify it as the Five Spot Burnet moth. Its black forewings have a metallic sheen that can sometimes seem to glint almost a deep green in the sunlight, but it is the bright red spots that catch the eye the most. The underwing is bright red, but tends to be hidden when the moth is resting on a flower, feeding. Look out for it in flight though, as it is as beautiful as any butterfly.

A tiny something glinting on a flower in the sunlight made me pause. The iridescent, bottle green body, long antennae, and magnificent thighs identified it as Oedeneta Nobilis. That is the fancy name, but I prefer the more colloquial Swollen-Thighed Beetle (it is also known as the False Oil Beetle, and Thick-Legged Flower Beetle). One look at its picture, and you will understand why two of its names concentrate on its legs, and thanks to them there is no mistaking it for any other bug in Britain. It was busy feeding on pollen and nectar, and I watched it for some time.

I was distracted by something else flitting by, though. A white butterfly… A Marbled White, in fact. It perched atop a bloom and posed for me, its beautiful wings outstretched so that I could fully appreciate their stunning pattern of black tracery across the white. I tried to find it with my camera, but somehow couldn’t locate it. Frustrated, I looked up again – just in time to see it flit away. It was heartbreaking watching it leave. Slowly, I followed it, going back in the direction of home.

Finally, I got lucky, one settled again. Although it had its wings closed, I could see its more delicately markings on the underneath of its wings. I still didn't get lucky, though. I did manage this snap of a Green-Veined White, though, and I'm sure you'll agree that the markings on the underneath of its wings are beautiful, too. With a smile on my face, I went home.

#chinnbrookmeadows #meadowbrown #grasshoper #Crow #smalltortoiseshell #ringlet #largeskipperbutterfly #smallskipper #largewhitebutterfly #gatekeeper #comma #burnetmoth #oedenetanobilis #swollenthighedbeetle #marbledwhite #greenveinedwhitebutterfly

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