Sunday, 22 July 2012

Pamber Forest

The main drive through Pamber Forest

The first nice sunny day for a while and I thought it would do me good to see some butterflies. I looked at D E Newland's excellent Discover butterflies in Britain, but the nearest really promising site was about 45 minutes away. Then I remembered that I had downloaded a leaflet from the Wild Life Trusts website called Great places to see woodland butterflies (one of a series which also includes dragonflies, birds of prey, wildflowers and others). I was staggered to find a site only 9 miles from home at Pamber Forest, near Tadley, promising Silver-washed Fritillaries and White Admirals in the wide sunny woodland rides. It sounded ideal.

A look at the map revealed a long track from northwest to southeast and I developed the simple plan of walking up it. I parked on the edge of Pamber Heath and followed a track at the edge of the village to turn south towards the entrance to the Berks, Buck and Oxon Wildlife Trust reserve. At this point there was a good view across to the Hannington TV and radio mast, a well-known landmark.

The entrance is marked by a barrier and initially there is a gravel track through newly coppiced woodland. Soon you cross an inviting little stream.

And almost immediately I saw the first of many Silver-washed Fritillaries gliding and circling around a clearing to the side of the main track. Yes!!

A bit further on the track became grassy rather than gravelled and I saw a young deer nosing around.

I carried on heading southeast and saw many Fritillaries, Meadow Browns, Ringlets, Large Skippers and a few whites and Red Admirals. But it was not until I was deeper into the forest that the first White Admirals began to appear, mainly keeping fairly high in the trees.

Towards the end of the main track I turned off into a side track into a clearing which was especially butterfly-rich.

At the of the track - a bit over a mile, which had taken about an hour - I essentially retraced my steps. At the upper end I took a right and a left through deeper woodland to return to the car, but the denser woodland meant almost no further butterflies.

Conditions: warm and sunny; muddy in shady places in the woods.

Distance: a bit over 3 miles.

Map: Explorer 159 (Reading, Wokingham and Pamgbourne)

Rating: three and a half stars. Uplifting. There is little to beat a wood or a field full of butterflies on a sunny day. Well done to the Wild Life Trusts for an excellent resource.

Butterflies of the day

A reasonable collection of sightings: Silver-Washed Fritillary, White Admiral, Red Admiral, Marbled White, Large White, Meadow Brown, Small Skipper, Speckled Wood, Ringlet, plus a few dragon flies.

To be honest, I am a bit disappointed with my efforts at photographing today's butterflies - I really must get to grips with my new monopod. Here are the best ones.

A Large Skipper ...

... a Ringlet ...

... and, of course, a Silver-Washed Fritillary.

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