The sun continues and the heat has intensified, it is now the weather for shorts and sun tan oil. I went on a butterfly counting trip in the Blewbury-Aston Upthorpe area and although I had little luck in catching them on camera there were quite a few around: Brimstone, Grizzled skipper, Comma, Peacock, Large white, Green Veined White and Green Hairstreak; all rather encouraging, considering the recent cool, damp weather.
Ground ivy was one of the most conspicuous flowers and one patch had a lot of solitary bees feeding on it.
The dry conditions had forced a number of slugs and snails out into the open in full sun as they desperately sought food.
We walked up a chalk valley running south into the downs.
On the side of the valley was an enclosure where conservationists were trying to protect a colony of Pasque flowers. Mesh had been placed around the plants to keep the rabbits and deer off. They are very rare in the wild and restricted to a few location so this re-introduction to chalk downland may help re-establish these lovely flowers .
Here is the only shot I took which you can vaguely see a butterfly clearly, it is a Comma (Polygonia c-album). We also saw a Common Heath moth, and this is unusual to see on chalk downs.
Many of the trees were bursting into leaf, a quite rapid change over the last few days. The silver leafed Whitebeam was one of the more dramatic.
There were only one or two butterflies and moths in flight (but including the Common Heath moth). There were many cowslips, and with other wild flowers still in bud, including milkwort with electric blue buds.
I also spotted these rich coloured seed-heads.
We then returned back to Reading, and I decided with the sunny weather scheduled to end I ought to explore the local Sulham woods and see if the orchids I had seen last year were in flower. In fact the day turned out to be ideal for seeing bluebells.
Black bryony (Tamus communis) was beginning to grow rapidly with its dark green glossy leaves
Just when I thought I must have missed the Early Purple Orchids (Orchis mascula) I found them again. They cover only a small area (about 5 square metres), I could not see any others close by. The flowers were just beginning to open out.
However, it was the mass of bluebells which was the real attraction. At a few places in Sulham Woods they are there in their thousands, more in one place than I have ever seen before.
This time last year I saw quite a few Yellow Archangels (Lamiastrum galeobdolon) in flower. This year they were mainly in bud, I only spotted one clump out yet.
The evening light was beginning to fade and I offer one more bluebell picture in a darker section of the woods, the weaker sun makes the blue seem deeper.
As Sulham Woods are primarily noted as beech woodlands, I thought I would end on some beech trees just coming into leaf.