Monday, 15 July 2013

Butterflies and Wild Things Along The Itchen Navigation

Yesterday afternoon we went for a walk through the water meadows that lie between Shawford, Twyford and Winchester. These are ancient places, old route-ways leading from the outlying villages into the ancient cathedral city of Winchester. We followed the River Itchen, known in these parts as the Itchen Navigation, an important canal system that connected Winchester to the sea at Southampton for the best part of 150 years. An act of Parliament authorised improvements to the River in 1665, so it isn't really a canal in the strict sense of the word. 

There were too many people along the more accessible stretches where it's possible to swim in the river, mostly groups of older teenagers posing and preening. They all seemed to have improbably perfect hair and sculpted bodies that were tanned to an unlikely and uniform level of perfection. I'm pretty sure I never looked like that at that age (well, let's face it, I've never looked like that full stop). They seemed oddly out of place in such a rural environment and were faintly intimidating in an en masse sort of way. There were some families with younger children and wet dogs there too, whom Ted was pleased to see, and a dad teaching his two boys how to Kayak, which looked fun. M was keen to jump in the river but I'm not great with crowds and tend to feel grumpy that other people are spoiling the peacefulness, so I was desperate to get past all of that and out into the country proper, which we did.

I think my visit to the tropical butterfly farm yesterday must have unblocked my previously stagnant butterfly energy because there were loads of butterflies in the thistles along the river bank and look! I managed to take photographs. Real Wild UK Butterflies, STAYING STILL!!!.......

 Three Meadow Browns & A Small Heath

A Tortoiseshell

A Ringlet


Small Heath

Meadow Brown

What these pictures don't suggest is the way I had to at times battle through extremely long thick scratchy grasses and over boggy soggy shoe-sucking areas to contort myself into shapes bits of me have still not completely untangled from in order to get the pictures. Talk about suffering for your art, but I think it was worth it. After yesterday I am now Feeling More Positive About Butterflies Again And Consider Them Once More My Friends, which is good.

Further along the path there were loads of damsels swooping about in the grasses beside the river and I managed to get this shot which intrigued me. Is this supper? I'm guessing it is. It looks suspiciously like a moth.... :-(

There were lots of beautiful grasses, thistles and flowers lining the path, which explains the abundance of insect life. M and I had an interesting discussion about what different people see when they walk through the same places. I, for example, home in on the plants and insects, while M, as a geographer, tends to notice the wider setting of landscape and geology. His brother P and cousin C (both arboriculturalists) home in on trees whenever we walk together. I am interested to see if and how my sense of the places we go to changes while I'm studying ecology. I'm expecting to get a "wider picture" view, M suggests I would probably be seeing with eyes tuned more towards conservation and land management. It'll be interesting to see.

Here are a selection of the Wild Things from our walk.....

Common Orchid

Purple Loosestrife


Fluffy Thistle Down

Grasses By The River

An Overly Hot Ted Cooling Down In The River

Mummy Moorhen Feeding Her Very Small Child

Bumble. Not sure which one- Lou may know?
Update- Lou (font of all bumble knowledge) says this is a Female Worker Carder Bee

Cardinal Beetles
Correction, Red-Tipped Soldier Beetles 
(fab name, and again I am indebted to Lou for the correction)

Bridge Over The Itchen Navigation

The River Near Shawford

A Willow In The Distance

Right, off now to process the Moth Box which was out last night and has trapped several hundred by the look of them! Just before I go I'm going to add a pic of a Yellow Tail from a couple of days ago for Martin from martinsmoths 

 Yellow Tail Moth

Till next time, CT :-)


  1. Beautiful photos :) - well done on all those great butterfly pictures! Like the Yellow Tail Moth - never trapped one of those.

    Looks a great place to walk - so glad you managed to escape the crowds!

    1. The Yellow Tail was really funny. I looked it up and thought "Oh, odd name" given at that moment all I could see was a white moth, then the tail suddenly stuck up and I realised why it's called a yellow tail! Two tigers in the box today- a scarlet and a garden. Never had those before :-) Will put pics up later x

  2. Hi CT Lovely selection of shots from your walk in the meadows. Loved the baby Moorhen being fed and all the butterflies and moth. Margaret

  3. What a gorgeous place. Butterflies at last! I managed one today too but am saving it to publish until I've got a better haul. One is just embarrassing. Love the last moth too.

    1. Thank goodness for the warm weather, butterflies are everywhere at last! Looking forward to seeing your collection in due course :-)

  4. Delighted your butterfly chi is back! I really love the 4 meadow browns image. The Yellow Tail is amazing and so furry-I like them like that. I hate crowds too and get very grumpy when they are milling about everywhere-I'm even worse in the supermarket! Lovely pictures of the river and the Weeping Willow.

    1. I get our shopping delivered for that very reason :-)

      Glad you liked the Yellow Tail, I'll try and find some more furries to put on the blog for you. There is something rather adorable about all that fluff.

  5. This sounds like a lovely walk; it looks beautiful there. You did get some terrific photos of the butterflies, especially the four Meadow Browns together. I loved those gorgeous tropical butterflies on your last post, too.

    1. Old rural landscapes that haven't changed much through the centuries are always special places I think. I couldn't believe I went from serious butterfly frustration to snapping 4 of them in one shot! Glad you enjoyed the previous ones too, I thought they were amazing, so colourful.

  6. Now all of those exotic tropical butterflies are truly beautiful, but the evolution of beauty all around us, is rooted in the plants and the insects that call them home! I especially enjoy your pictures of native moths, butterflies, birds and other wildlife. You are getting rich, rich, rich and richer! :) And then there is mamma moorhen. Wonderful shots.

    1. Always wise words Mark. I'm glad you like the pics. I always love looking at your photos too. I'm going to keep nudging you about Canadian moths as well... :-)

  7. I am flattered that you thought I may be able to ID the bumble :) I did a little research and I think it is carder bee (Bombus pascuorum). This particular one is a worker because she has a full pollen basket and the males don't have pollen baskets :) I used our trusty insect book then this website

    Also I'm not 100% but I think the red beetles are possibly red-tipped Soldier beetles rather than cardinals :) I also photographed some the other day!

    MY next blog post I will need you to advise me on a moth ID :)

    So glad you managed to photograph some butterflies, and great photos they are at that!

    1. Brilliant! Thanks Lou. You see? I was right to think you'd know :-) Thanks also for the beetle correction, I confess I was lazy and didn't check! Red-Tipped Soldier Beetle- what a fab name to have!

      This is what I love about blogging- being able to tap into such a huge pool of knowledge and helping one another out. Looking forward to seeing your moth. BTW- with this current hot weather now would be a great time to do the white sheet and torch in the garden after dark (if you haven't already). You'd get masses of moths :-) Our youngest (usually very sniffy about moths in general) is now desperate to go out and try it! Even a light on outside will bring lots of them right now.

    2. Glad I could help :) It is also why I love blogging!

      Might try and do that one night this week then... better find some little pots I could put them in to observe!

  8. Fear not! The damsel fly was eating a bacon baguette. I know this for a fact. No moths were harmed in the making of this baguette. A pig, however, was.

    1. Bacon and Brie with cranberry jelly I expect, this being Winchester :-)

  9. Blessed in the cathedral, to boot!

  10. Your battle through scratchy grass was worth it. The butterfly pictures are wonderful.
    Sarah x

    1. Thanks Sarah :-)

      It's so lovely to see so many out and about with this warmer weather x


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them. CT.