Monday, 13 July 2015

The week that was hot... Swettenham Meadows

‘Swettenham meadows’, a Cheshire Wildlife Trust reserve in the village of Swettenham, is another local spot I sometimes visit for macro photography, just down the road from the Quinta arboretum and reserve I have mentioned in previous blog posts. It is known for its variety of invertebrate life, in particular its butterflies, my photos below were from visits on the 29th June and 1st July. 

Crossing the stile from the road and into the first meadow, the sound I was first struck by was that of grasshoppers. Their 'song' is produced by stridulation - 'pegs' along the inside of the hind legs are rubbed against the adjacent forewing, producing their characteristic sound. As with birds, grasshopper songs are generally performed by the males and species can be told apart by the different sounding songs they make. A pretty green and salmon pink individual I found sat on a colourful (and well chewed!) leaf, I think this is a Common Green grasshopper though as ever, please correct the ID if I’ve got that wrong.

Common Green grasshopper
Stumbling about amongst the grasses were Garden Chafers, fairly similar in look to  Cockchafers (or May bugs), though considerably smaller at just under 1cm long. They are another insect with a rather slow and clumsy gait - I watched this individual as s/he clambered around amongst grass seed heads losing and then regaining a footing.

Hanging on... a Garden Chafer beetle
Common? Spotted-orchid
The meadows also have an interesting mix of wildflowers, as well as many more common species there were several perhaps less familiar species such as beautiful Ragged robin, Yarrow, the distinctive purple and yellow flowers of Woody nightshade (of the same family, though quite different in appearance to Deadly nightshade), also wild orchids which I think are probably Common spotted-orchids. 

Woody Nightshade flowers

Odonata (the order of carnivorous insects which includes dragonflies and damselflies) were represented by a single male Banded Demoiselle (though a little far away for me to be able to photograph this beautiful insect unfortunately), and the stunning female Southern Hawker which I mentioned in my last post.

The meadows lived up to their reputation for being a good place to spot butterflies, the ones seen included Ringlet, Common Blue, Small Copper, Gatekeeper and Meadow Brown as well as Brimstone and some White butterflies (I didn't see the latter closely enough to be sure of which). The Ringlets in particular I was pleased to see - they have a wide distribution though their populations seem to be quite localised. These butterflies have one generation of adults typically seen on the wing in July and early August. Common Blues and the tiny Small Copper butterflies have at least two broods of adults each year, appearing in pulses from spring through to autumn.

As I write the weather has taken a distinct turn for the worse, so it is back to playing the waiting game for the summer sun to return and then searching out our beautiful invertebrate life will continue...
Female Common Blue on Bramble
Small Copper and friend


  1. Lovely captures Jan! All very beautiful images. The meadows proved a great place to do some macro work. I love the Ringlet, very handsome butterfly with its circle and spot markings on the wings. I certainly see why it carries that name. And the Common Blue on the bramble is a delight. Butterflies amaze me with the way each side of their wings are different many times in color and pattern. The capture of the Common Blue exemplifies that very nicely. Gorgeous wildflower shots as well. I love the bursts of colors that wildflowers give to the landscape, and they do quite well at drawing in plenty of subjects for macro photography. :-) And it is always wonderful to see what you have found over there. I had heard that it got pretty hot over there for a while. I hope that it has cooled some. Now we are getting our hot spell here finally.

    1. Thanks loads Greg! :) The meadows are wonderful for macro, though what I didn't mention in the post was how absolutely sweltering it was when I visited. Some places in the UK were getting close to 40C that week which is pretty exceptional in itself, but the high humidity makes it more like a sauna!!! I ended up getting so hot as well as harassed by biting Cleg flies on one visit I ended up cutting it short which was a first!!! It is back to being considerably cooler (and quite breezy) now, hope you are enjoying the warmer weather there now!
      As you say with the butterflies the differences between the upper and undersides of the wings can be striking - with many of the butterflies here, it is often easier to distinguish between types (like some of the whites, blues and fritillaries) by the undersides more than the upper! :)

  2. Excellent images and interesting information as always Jan.
    Keep up the great work.
    I managed an hour down at my local meadow today. I found three clegs and they were all males, how unusual! :-)

    1. Thanks very much Dougie :) You know, I've never knowingly seen a male cleg fly still, it's always the ladies, and they always find me first! Still waiting for the sun to return here, we had a few hours on Friday when I managed more macro photography just in the garden than during the rest of the week put together, but apart from that pretty cool, dull, grey and miserable - I've been wanting to put the heating on but as it's supposedly mid-summer I'm holding out and refusing to do so!!!! :)