A Common Blue
Another in my series of butterfly walks drawn from David Newland's wonderful Where to see butterflies in Britain. Today's target species was the Grayling, which I have never seen.
I parked on the north side of Greenham Heath and set off along the path highlighted in Newland's map. There are of course lots of small paths heading in every direction, but I was pleased to successfully follow it in a wide arc through woods, eventually emerging in a large open area, at one end of the former runway. By this stage, a few forays into sunny areas just outside the wood had yielded sightings of Speckled Wood, Small Copper, Meadow Brown, a pair of Green Veined Whites mating, Small Heath and some as yet unidentified Blues.
In the open, I was surprised and thrilled to almost immediately see a lone migrant Clouded Yellow. I pursued it in search of a photo but it rapidly disappeared.
After a further inconclusive prowl around this area, I followed the path south across the Heath to emerge in a field just north of the busy A339. I had seen nothing more, the sun had gone in and feeling a bit discouraged, I headed back to the runway are.
Now the sun reappeared and to my delight a pair of Grayling displayed their distinctive gliding flight. I can see now how to distinguish them from a Meadow Brown with its wings closed; they are also I thought a bit bigger. No luck with a photo, but at least a clear sighting!
Then fairly nearby on grass stalks I found the male Common Blue above seemingly having settled down for the evening. On the same clump were two similar but much smaller butterflies, also with their wings resolutely shut. Everything points to these being Brown Argus. There is certainly no clear white fringe to the wings, as a female Common Blue would have.
I decided it was time to go home at this point, but it had been a very enjoyable and absorbing afternoon, and my mission had been accomplished.
Conditions: hot and sunny again, some cloud.
Map: Explorer 158 (Newbury and Hungerford).
Distance: 3 miles, but much of it small circles.
Rating: four stars.