I’m in a state of high excitement at  my discovery around the fringes of Bale wood.

here about eight years ago this wet corner of a field was sown with a conservation mixture to encourage birds and insects. since then it has been almost untouched, with a changing population of wild flowers including thistle and ragwort.

it used to be cultivated, with a very wet fringe along the edge of a section of the wood which is really an overgrown watermeadow. A complete neolithic axehead was found here, perhaps a deposit as an offering to the place.

now agrimony and fleabane grow alongside knapweed (hardheads) and woundwort,

providing a rich diet for insects

the fleabane – yellow daisy-type of flower – is a resistant plant that pops up in many places alongside the wetland of this tiny valley which eventually feeds into the Stiffkey, one of our North Norfolk chalk streams.

I’ve never seen a fritillary before, so imagine my surprise to find one, at first on the brambley hedge on the other side of the green lane, then in this watermeadow-woodland environment

such a handsome butterfly, the male with streaks and spots

the female an eye-catching spotted pattern rather like leopard-print, and the hairs on her thorax an iridescent green.

some of them rather beaten up, perhaps by the windy weather we’ve had this week.

this morning I counted at least fifteen

along the edge of the wood where there are thistles as well as in the fleabane and knapweed

 

and on the cut grass around the edge. these silver-washed fritillaries need woodland and open flowery rides, the woodland must have common dog violet, which the caterpillars feed on, and open leaf litter; the eggs are laid on tree trunks, in the bark (smooth barked trees are no good), the larva hatch out in a few weeks, and then enter hibernation, only waking to feed in the spring. you can read about them in more detail here

it seems to be a good year for butterflies, despite the cold spring. I have read that they may need a colder winter to reproduce successfully.

there are plenty of red admiral around,

 

speckled woods,

and I found this very smart comma feeding alongside the fritillaries,

with a painted lady.

turn around from the rich habitat of the wood and the weedlands, and you have successful monoculture, all trace of weed, disease and insect and birdlife gone or invisible.

my beautiful spanish dog enjoys all the views,

the little vixen that crossed our path here the other morning,

the muntjacs in Cakes lane,

and hares that cross our path, willy-nilly.

she was very patient with my butterfly observing this morning; week by week she grows calmer.

(also I think I saw a small pearl-bordered fritillary, much rarer …)