Monday, 16 May 2011

Butterflies in North West Devon

Just back from a week in North Devon with my wife, chilling out, walking and doing some photography. My pre-visit research indicated that it would be a good area for butterflies and orchids, although we were probably there a couple of weeks too early for the full splendour of either.

I visited Volehouse Moor twice in search of marsh fritillary to no avail but did manage to photograph some of the more common species. The weather was pretty good all week except for the wind, which was rarely below 20mph, making close-up work very tricky.

Volehouse Moor

Common blue

My first encounter was a small flash of blue in the long grass on a more sheltered side of the reserve. I tracked it for about 10 minutes, with it flying away just as I got near every time. Eventually it settled low down in some vegetation (I'm not sure if it was tired out or just took pitty on me). The first thing I noticed was that its undersides were a beautiful speckled brown and white, in contrast to the pale blue upper wing. The second thing I noticed was how small it was - about the size of a postage stamp. I managed to get in closer and closer with my 100mm macro lens and amazingly it obliged, allowing me to get perpendicular to its body plane and shoot at a number of different apertures.

[click any image to see at 1024px resolution]

Male common blue. 1/160s; f/5.6; ISO 800
I was keen to get some shots of it with its wings open but this individual failed to oblige - he'd given me a good run and I was happy with what I got. About an hour later I located another one further up the field that was feeding on a buttercup. He was swaying in the wind but I manged a few half-decent shots. Some were taken with a 50D/70-200 f/2.8 II combination and a 12mm extension tube (to allow me to get in a bit closer than the 1.5m minimum focal distance). With this rig I could photograph from a bit further away than with the macro lens but image quality is not as good.

70-200; 1/250s; f/6.3 ISO 400

100mm macro; 1/400s; f/8; ISO 800
Green-veined white

Also at Volehouse was a medium sized white butterfly that grabbed my attention. I did not know what it was so had to check it out when I got back. The underside was the biggest aid to its identification although I failed to photograph that aspect.

70-200; 1/500th; f/9; ISO 400
Small copper

Small copper; just a record shot as the grass head swayed in the wind
 Small pearl-dordered fritillary

I also visited Marsland reserve where I saw a few speckled woods and a small pearl-bordered fritillary. Both  were too active to photograph effectively about 20 minutes to get these two record shots.

Speckled wood; 100mm macro; 1/125s; f5.6; ISO 400

Small pearl-bordered fritillary; 100mm macro; 1/800s; f/5.6; ISO 400
I got a real buzz from seeing and photographing these fabulous creatures and look forward to getting out locally in East Kent to get some of the specialties native to this area.

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