Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Butterfly Hot-Spot

A visit to Hawthorn Hive on the Durham coast at the weekend coincided with the recent emergence of several butterfly species, including this pristine male common blue and .....
.... and its rather more muted female consort.
The raised beach at Hawthorn Hive - a legacy of past colliery waste dumping - is covered with large patches of bird's foot trefoil, food for common blue and dingy skipper caterpillars, so this sheltered bay is a great spot to find both species - and also several others. The cliffs provide shelter from the wind, unless it's blowing from the East - and the prevailing wind is mostly south-westerley. Paradoxically, it's only the raised beach - produced by past industral activity - that protects this wonderful site for flowers and insects from being inundated by the waves. It's slowly being eroded and once it has gone the waves will be able to reach the base of the cliffs where.....

..... this green-veined whire was collecting nectar from bloody crane'sbill flowers...

...... while this large skipper basked on the same plant's foliage....
... and another .... amongst the grasses.
On the cliff tops above small heaths were flying in the grassland. They have a very distinctive way of sunbathing. Most butterflies orientate themselves with their back to the sun and open their wings to absorb the heat - like the common blues and large skipper above. Small heaths keep their wings folded but turn their whole body at 90 degrees to the sun's rays, so the underside of the wings on one side of the body only faces the sun.


  1. Beautiful butterflies and photos! I hope that it will be many years before the site is completely eroded. I found your blog through "Wildlife Photography Blogs", and will definitely be coming back to learn more:-)

  2. Lovely shots Phil. Especially like that first Large Skipper.
    It looks a great place to spend a few hours, or more.

  3. Wonderful photos Phil. The first time we visited Hawthorn Hive, I took a photograph of the Common Blue. It must have been a male (though I didn't know it then) as it was that gorgeous blue. My piccy isn't nearly as good as yours though. :O)

    What a shame the beach is being eroded!

  4. Great close photos Phil. My local flutters always seem to be on the move.

  5. Butterflies are so good at finding sites for a spot of sunbathing! Great pictures Phil.

  6. Hi Erica, Thanks for visiting. best wishes, Phil

  7. Hi Lesely, it looks like a wave from a high tide must have breached the barrier at the southern end of the beach - a lot of the plants were damaged there last year

  8. Hi John, I'm beginning to suffer from 'photgraphers' knee' fro all the kneeling on hard surfaces, trying to photograph them...

  9. Hi Threadspider, this site sems to suit them really well - it holds a large number of butterflies in a very confined area. It's easy to spend hours there, trying to photograph them..


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