Tuesday, 30 June 2015

30 Days Wild | Day 30 - Marbled White discovery!

For the final day of 30 Days Wild, I was once again pondering what I might do, not having planned anything specific. However I needn't have worried - as so often happens, nature swooped in to inspire me out of the blue!

I've blogged quite a lot during 30 Days Wild about my commute along the canal towpath from Selly Oak to Birmingham University. I've walked this way since August last year so have really enjoyed seeing the seasons unfold along this route day by day. There are some really nice bits of grassland and scrubby habitat, only small fragments, but as far as I can tell they are undisturbed - I don't think they are ever mowed, due to their inaccessibility. One such fragment is this slope beneath the canal where it crosses a road:

Steep grassy slope, viewed from the canal towpath (that's the railway on the other bridge).
I've often thought this slope looked like it might be a good spot for butterflies, and indeed this year have already spotted a few Common Blues and Large Skippers on it. However, when I peered over onto the slope in passing during this morning's commute, I thought I must have been mistaken - there were two Marbled Whites chasing each other through the grass! Throwing all thoughts of punctuality out of the window, I stopped, leaning over the bridge railings to get a good look and make sure my eyes were not deceiving me.Yep - Marbled Whites they were! I knew that there were only a handful of sites in the West Midlands where they had been recorded (the Rowley Hills being the best) so I was pretty excited at the thought that this could potentially be a previously unknown colony. I contacted EcoRecord once I'd got to work, and they confirmed that they had no records of Marbled White from this site previously - the nearest they had was Woodgate Valley. I couldn't wait to get out for a proper look on my lunch break.

At lunchtime I tried to count the Marbled Whites. I saw a maximum of four on the wing at any one time, there were probably a few more hiding in the grass too. As my camera is very old and a bit rubbish, and the slope itself is not accessible, I couldn't get any good photos of the butterflies, and although I did try to see if I could capture them on video, this was unsuccessful! But here is a Marbled White photo that I took on Saturday in the Rowley Hills :o)

Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) butterfly.
As well as on the slope, the Marbled Whites were also using the grassland at the top of the slope, behind a fence.

Grassland at the top of the slope.

Grassland at the top of the slope.
I'm going to keep checking back every day - can't believe I can see Marbled Whites five minutes from my office! Hopefully their numbers will increase over the next week or two - their peak flight period is mid-July. I'll try and get some better photos too with my other camera. What a great end to my 30 Days Wild!

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