One of the best things about butterfly hunting is that it takes you to beautiful places that you might otherwise never visit. Draycott Sleighs is one of them. Having been told that it was a good place for chalkhill blues, which were high on my ‘to see’ list, I decided to make to most of a sunny Sunday and see if I could find them.
Severe weather warnings had forced me to postpone a dormouse survey the previous day so, in an effort to keep up to date, I persuaded my daughter to help me with a ‘quick’ check in Towerhouse Wood. The plan was to have a one o’clock lunch and go to Draycott in the afternoon. As ‘Towerhouse’ dormice tend to be few and far between, I was taken by surprise when a mum and three babies turned up in one of the nest boxes. My daughter, who had never seen a baby dormouse, was delighted, but by the time we had finished the survey it was nearly half past two and I wondered if I was going to get to Draycott after all.
As it was still hot and sunny when we had finished lunch I decided it was worth having a look, even if it was just a recce for a longer visit,
Tracking down a ‘new’ butterfly can involve a fair bit of effort. In April I spent all day hiking over Fontmell Down with my long suffering husband, looking for Adonis blues. They eluded us, but we did find a marsh fritillary which was totally unexpected and well worth the journey.
At other times it can seem almost too easy. I had my first encounter with the legendary, and much sought after, purple emperor when I noticed one attacking the car bonnet as I made my way back from the ladies within a minute or so of arriving at Savernake Forest.
Sunday was one of the easy days. Almost as soon as I left the car and walked through the gate into the Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve, I saw several pale, milky blue, butterflies shimmering in the sunlight. The more I looked the more I saw, along with common blues, marbled whites and other grassland species. When I could finally drag myself away, I joined David and the dog for a walk to the top of the steep, flower studded, slope overlooking the Somerset Levels. The view, from Glastonbury Tor to the sea, was stunning. Our visit would have been worthwhile for that alone, but I will always remember Draycott Sleights for my magical first experience of what must be one of our prettiest native butterflies.