Tuesday, 19 February 2019
Wooden butterflies and some Hawfinches
On the edge of Ranmore Common, at the very bottom of Denbigh's Hillside, you will find this charming wooden carving. It depicts the life cycle of the rare Adonis Blue butterfly, a species that can be readily found on the chalky slopes above. It was created by local artist Iain Hamilton Crafer, from a two tonne piece of felled oak. Below is a detail from the sculpture of an ant tending a caterpillar. On chalk downland it is usually the Red Ant that 'looks after' the caterpillar, offering it protection from predators in return for a fix of honeydew that is secreted by the larvae.
If you would like to see the butterfly for real - and not just a giant wooden facsimile - go along on a warm day in May when the first brood should be on the wing. The food plant of the caterpillar is Horseshoe Vetch, so you will often see the adult butterflies flying around this flower which is easily found across the open grassland.
It was a good day to be out. Despite a bit of a breeze it was not enough to sedate the warmth of the sun. At one point I had to strip off a couple of layers of clothing, although walking up and down the steep slopes of Juniper Top/Bottom and Ranmore Common would create enough body warmth to necessitate doing so even on a cold winter's day.
Highlights were two Hawfinch flocks (two and six at Juniper Top/Bottom) and a Goshawk at a site in the 'greater' Ranmore area.