Thursday, 20 July 2017

Passing Time Away in Blue Skies...

What is it about Saturdays? Smack bang in the middle of the weekend, no school in the morning so time to get out and enjoy the day and no worries about being late home.

I had planned my trip a while back and was hoping my friend Chris was going to join me but his father had been taken ill while on holiday so he had more pressing matters to deal with abroad. I sent him my best and hopped onto the hovercraft in Southsea for a day trip to The Isle of Wight.

I landed at Ryde with the view looking back towards Portsmouth.
I timed the waiting bus just over the bridge to perfection and I was off to my destination in Ventnor on the south of the island. Top deck, front seat just like in my youth. I was a happy boy and it was only 9am.
45 minutes later after an enjoyable trip I was here. The Ventnor Winter Gardens, recently renovated, stood resplendent as I walked down the esplanade. The tall spikes of the echium flowers were buzzing with bees in the gardens below. We have these growing in our garden. The perfect nectar bar for bees. and boy, can they grow tall.They do well here in the warm micro climate but don't tolerate cold winters as our good friend Jezzie knows all too well. I must remember to send her some more seeds!

Looking west the sea looked so inviting for a swim but I didn't pack my cossie, so I declined.
The main reason for my excursion today was to try and see yet another rare butterfly and just enjoy another day out walking. Not another butterfly I hear you cry!?
It was the focus of my trip but everything else makes the journey so worthwhile, especially on this treasure of an island.
Last year it took me a good while to encounter my quarry. Today it popped up before me almost instantly. The Glanville Fritillary... Apart from a very rare year on the mainland this is the only place you will find this stunner in the British Isles.

Literally on the first patch of green space one showed itself briefly. Then it was off but I was safe in the knowledge of many more sightings to come.
The view down to Wheelers Bay is always a pleasure. The green sloping cliffs being the perfect habitat for the Glanville.

The steep cliff path descends past the occasional wooden bench. If you are lucky you may find a basking Common Lizard....

Looking back down into the harbour a cheeky Herring Gull was hitching a ride whilst waiting for a tasty morsel to appear...
In the distance a Brittany Ferry was leaving Portsmouth and steadily slipped towards France
My concentration focused back on the lush green tumbling cliffs filled with Red Valerian flowers.
I reached the foot of the cliffs for the long slow wavy walk along to Wheelers Bay.
Nature is held dear here. A beautiful mosaic of the Common lizard shone through beneath the cliffs to emphasize this fact.
Out of the corner of my eye next to a small car parking area another Glanville Fritillary flew low around my feet and settled on the tarmac.
I got down on all fours for some up close and personal shots.
Just next to this area beneath the cliffs was a sandy scrubby place. I encountered some more Common Lizards.

My little Glanville friend kept close and clearly loved posing for my camera. This is a female. She is a little lighter coloured than the male with a very slight difference to the wing pattern. 

I left her and carried on...

I had reached the beginning of Wheelers Bay. Forests of Red Valerian spilled down the cliff side. I hopped over the wooden wall in search of some gems. I immediately kicked up many Fritillaries.

Six Spot Burnet Moths abound here and I found some just emerging from their chrysalis.

The view up the chalk cliffs from the path gives a great variation in colour and texture...

Swifts patrolled the cliff faces, maybe they nest here somewhere?
The light along the south coast path reminds me of St Ives in Cornwall due to it's position on the coast. The white chalk cliffs throw a luminescent glow over the area working in tandom with the light reflection of the sea and on a virtually cloudless day as today it made for a perfect bright backdrop.

Apart from The Glanvilles', the odd Common Blue flashed by. This must be an early brood and fading in colour.
Plenty of Thick Kneed Beetles patrolled the flowers too. I love their bulbous legs as though they have been down the gym too long! Only the males have these exuberant appendages, no surprise there then?
More newly emerged Six Spot Burnet Moths
and then I found a Weevil beetle feeding on a flower

I haven't doctored these photos of the Valerian. They were so reminiscent of summer I felt it an injustice to highlight their grandiosity any further.
Apparently the Red Valerian is a native to the Mediterranean region and although I knew it to be a garden escape I wasn't aware it is quite edible. Both it's leaves and roots can be eaten in salads and also boiled for use in soups.   
The Glanville Fritillaries knew this fact as they nectared on the bounty around them.

The Green Shield bugs didn't miss out on it either

This is a male. Much darker on the wing pattern

More Six Spot Burnet fed hungrily on the flowers.
Their iridescence shone through as the turned in the light while they fed.

I encountered a Six Spot Burnet Chrysalis as I hunted the Glanvilles through the valerian jungle..
All the while above me a Kestrel patrolled the cliffs in search of an unsuspecting rodent or three.

Whilst below me, the Glanvilles' got ever inebriated on the never ending nectar. This individual had a difficult time perching upright !

They take time working their way over the flower head.

I found what looked like some form of Saxifrage flower but couldn't identify any further. If anyone knows, I'd be glad to find out.

The cliffs looked so amazing. At the base of these I encountered so many butterflies whizzing around. A rough count of Glanvilles' totalled around 40. The previous week had been very windy and a count I had read prior to this, listed at least 140. After such a terrible year last year for Butterflies it seems 2017 maybe a better one for them. In the south at least it seems so.

I spent some final moments with the Glanvilles' until my gaze will alight upon them next year with any luck. It over winters as a caterpillar and feeds on Ribwort Plantain that is profuse around the undercliff here. Hopefully the winter will be kind on the exposed coastline.

A fading male Common Blue and a Red Tailed Bumblebee sped me on my way up the cliff path.

Another mosaic proclaiming the revere the Glanville is held upon on the island.

I sat and had lunch just before my gradual climb up the cliff to gather my thoughts and energise my body for the ascent in front of me. I had walked this path last year, so I knew what was to come.
As I sat, Kes put in another appearance literally right above me. Was I it's next victim?
I hurried on to the church of St Boniface to seek solace and forgiveness in case I was predated.
I was lucky, this time I got away....

Many blue plaques adorn the houses around here. Some I know, others I am unaware of.
As I wound my way up the precipitous paths and roads, more sights opened up before me. A lovely Speckled Wood in the sunlight ...
Cobbled walls, festooned with shrubs and flowers that wouldn't look out of place in the Mediterranean...

My halfway house and a little gem tucked away in the side streets. Top ale and food with accommodation to boot.

After some fine sustenance I ventured onwards past some more Echiums
I gathered a fine feline friend along the way. After much fuss, he followed me a little further.

He led me to something I was hoping to see. I had a brief glimpse down by the shore but this time the Hummingbird Hawkmoth stayed long enough to capture it on film.

A migrant from the continent, I have never seen this unearthly creature at rest. I'm sure it must do and I'd love to see that day.

The Red Admiral. Another migrant and occasionally over winters as an adult too. I saw one laying eggs on our stinging nettles in the garden the other day.

As I walked the coastal path I came across a rather down trodden Pyramidal Orchid beneath one of the steps, clinging onto life until the next walking boot stomped along.
Fortunately many others were growing around me.

There was a lot of landslips here. Many plants would no doubt have been smothered were as some have been released to grow well. 
I saw quite a few Tree Bumbles too. These have spread only in the last few years from the continent and seemed to have found a niche here. They use flowers and habitats that other bumblebees don't. If you have a bird box attached to your house or outbuilding and have seen bees making a home there, it could well be a Tree Bumble as they nest quite regularly there.
The path continued and got ever steeper. I rested in a clearing for a breather and a drink of water. I could hear the calls of Long Tailed Tits and Wrens around me. It was a pair of adults with their recently fledged offspring and they showed well for me in the light through the trees.

After a much needed break, I carried on , ever upwards !
I crossed the main road onto Bonchurch Down and began my final leg back west towards Ventnor once more.

Crickets, grasshoppers and Meadow Browns butterflies surrounded me as I negotiated the hillside.
Along with more washed out Common Blues. I know how they felt after such a long climb. It was all downhill from now however!
As I negotiated the path I spotted a Field Vole before me. It wasn't scurrying off like it should, so clearly something was wrong. I managed to get so close I stroked it. It's fur was soft and smooth as it looks and it emitted the occasional high pitched squeek. It's back legs were giving it problems and not properly formed it seemed and it would fall over onto it's back quite often. There wasn't much I could do for it. I felt bad but there will be hundreds here and this will give a predator the chance of surviving so I left it alone and ventured on. Oh so cute though...

Ventnor hoved into view before me as I descended
This is a British Primitive Goat and considered a rare breed. Also known as the British Native Goat, Old British Goat or Landrace Goat, it descends from the earliest goats brought to the region in the Neolithic era. They only number around 1200 individuals, so quite rare indeed and used to graze the area it seems.
I watched this individual use it's fabulous longs horns to scratch it's back as it's doing here. Neat little trick, wish I could do that.

One of the last Dingy Skipper butterflies settled before me as I trod the path and  at least three Small Tortoiseshells too but they didn't  fancy their photo taken today and sped off.

Last year at this spot was when the sun began to shine through once again after a cloudy hill walk and as of last year a Buzzard circled around me, Groundhog Day it seemed..?

Another Common Blue, a female this time, or at least so I thought. It's so worn it could be a Brown Argus.
The coastguard was busy either out on a drill or a real sortee. They are based just near me and can be heard flying most days.
I had reached the end of Bonchurch Down and was entering Boniface Down and the steep path through the trees to the bus stop.
I caught sight of Jays doing their usual best at being elusive through the trees ...

The last blue plaque of the day was a very inspiring one as I made the bus stop. I had just missed the bus this time but it gave me a break to sit and drink the last of my green tea whilst looking back up to the down I had just walked and reflect on another wonderful day well spent.
I do have a soft spot for this beautiful little island. The weather had been kind again too. Hopefully I'll return again very soon...?

The Title of this post is a lyric taken from the song 'Living on an Island' by Status Quo