Thursday, 18 July 2013

Prestbury Hill

The entrance to the Bill Smyllie reserve

En route to visit one of my daughters in Gloucester, I decided to continue my butterfly sites project: I have been recently to Martin Down and Noar Hill. David Newlands's excellent Where to see butterflies in England lists only this in Gloucestershire, so it was an automatic choice. It is run by Butterfly Conservation and the information panel you can see in the photo is reproduced here. The precise location is on the Cleeve Hill escarpment, overlooking Cheltenham Racecourse, at map reference S0 993 244. I had already walked through the bottom of the reserve as part of the

The main part of the is a grassy limestone hill known as the Bill Smyllie Reserve. My "walk" consisted of a slow meander down the hill and a slightly quicker one back up again. I was especially hoping to see some Dark Green Fritillaries. I knew within seconds of parking the car, even before I entered the reserve, that this was going to be a good day as I could immediately see lots of butterflies fluttering in and just above the long grass.

I saw my first Dark Green Fritillaries within moments and was struck by the massive number of Marbled Whites everywhere. It quickly became clear that there were also lots of Meadow Browns, Ringlets, Small Blues, Small Heaths and Skippers. I also saw just a couple of Large Whites, one of which seemed to be being chased away by a much smaller Marbled White.

I have read that Dark Green Fritillaries can be hard to photograph, as the males are constantly in flight and the females hide in the grass, so I was thrilled to quickly have this photo opportunity once i spotted a clump of Greater Knapweed.

Soon a second DGF offered me a clear view of its upper wings.

And another provided a good view of the green-washed underwings which give it its name.

There were any amount of chances to capture the beautiful patterning of the underwings of the Marbled White. This is a female.

And this, rather more unusual, sight of the butterfly with its wings open photographed from below. This is the darker male.

Later I became aware of a number of Six Spot Burnet Moths, mostly to be found, like this one, on Scabious.

Towards the bottom of the hill, there were some scattered orchids and this exquisite Yellow Wort.

Distance: about a mile!

Conditions: sunny and hot.

Map: Explorer 179 (Gloucester, Cheltenham and Stroud).

Rating: four and half stars.

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