The word that several butterfly sites use to describe the Large Blue (someone, I fear, has been copying from someone else) is “enigmatic”. The word I would use is “tricksy”. After an increasingly desperate search of Daneway Banks in Gloucestershire, one of the stronghold sites of this rare species, I finally captured shots of two different individuals this afternoon, but none of the photos is going to get me my ‘A’: this butterfly has an almost supernatural ability to disappear into thin air while you’re tracking it, and when you do see it land it’s usually crouching deep in foliage, glowering at you and looking for its next opportunity to dematerialise in front of your eyes. This is the pick of my images, despite the fact that the butterfly (which I think from its colouring is a male) was at a slight angle to the focal plane; I was edging around him, snapping as I went, and almost had him side-on to the lens…. when – poof! – he was gone.
I very nearly went to Daneway yesterday, but then plumped for Rodborough Common, just up the road (where I had a great time, of course – even if I did get chewed half to death). If I’d made the alternative decision, I would probably have been in the company of Hillyblips when she took this lovely photo, but as it was, I did my usual trick of trotting along in her wake like a lost spaniel, and had to search this quite large site on my own. After an hour and a half of trailing up and down the banks I was doubting that I would ever find a Large Blue – despite the presence of a lot of other butterflies (which I was ignoring), including Large Skippers, Marbled Whites, Meadow Browns, Common Blues, a Small Heath and a Brown Argus – and I cracked and texted HB for advice, which when it pinged back to me told me that I was, in fact, in the right bit of the reserve, and should concentrate on the clumps of wild thyme that are the larval food plant of this species.
Stiffening my sinews, I trudged on, and was eventually rewarded with the sight of a flash of blue that was fluttering in a way that seemed unlike any of the smaller blue species; and when I did eventually manage a photo – even though it wasn’t the coveted basking shot – the underwing markings told me that I’d found my quarry. Now that I know exactly what I’m looking for, I will try to get back to Daneway Banks within the next couple of weeks in the hope of a portrait that pleases me more; but in case I run out of time during the very short flight season of the Large Blue, I’m posting this over some other, better photos, to mark the day I ticked another British butterfly species off my list.