Tag Archive: Holly Blue

April goes out with a bang

While England are suffering torrential downpours and floods (sadly claiming the life of a driver today – my heartfelt sympathies), Northern Ireland had a scorcher today and I had a walk in the park. A dander up the road to my old primary school, Forth River, produced a Holly Blue – very nice indeed – along with the usual Orange-tips and Varicose Veins (!) patrolling the verge.

With no camera I had to make field sketches of some tiny moths, only 5mm long, that I found in Glencairn Park a while later. Happy to say my Art GCSE served me well – the drawings were good enough for me to be able to identify them as three Grapholita jungiella (Vetch Piercer). A very pretty moth (as well as a new tick) that I will be keeping an eye out for next time I’m there with a camera!

Grapholita jungiella brings my 2012 list to 9
and my British life list to 139



Hillsborough Forest Lake

Hillsborough Forest Lake

Our family took a trip to the County Down village of Hillsborough today, taking advantage of the sunny weather. Nobody told the northerly breeze it was supposed to be a nice day, but despite its best efforts the wind couldn’t suppress a few butterflies – a Small Tort fluttered vigorously past as we started a brisk walk through the trees around the lake.

American Skunk-Cabbage (Lysichiton americanus), Hillsborough Forest Lake, 12 Apr 2012

American Skunk-Cabbage (Lysichiton americanus). Apparently it smells pretty bad close up.

A patch of bright yellow American Skunk-cabbage flowers by the lake caught our attention as the path made a bend. But further out I saw what I thought was a duck sitting on its nest. The bird had a red-brown head. Wigeon maybe? Pochard?

Nesting Great Crested Grebe, Hillsborough Forest Lake, 12 Apr 2012

The mystery 'duck'

But as I squinted through the binoculars the mystery duck raised and turned its head to reveal the unmistakable, unforgettable face of a –

“Great Crested Grebe!” I gasped.

(At this point I will have to enlist the halp of Jack, one of my contacts on Flickr and a much better photographer than I am…)

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) © Purple Centipede~Jack on Flickr

I’ve never seen this bird before – and I wasn’t expecting to see it any time soon! Moreover, I wouldn’t have dreamed of finding one sitting on its nest!

We completed our circuit of the lake, and after returning to the toilets at the Fort where we had earlier discovered Jackdaws nesting in a tree on the lawn…

Nesting Jackdaws, Hillsborough Fort, 12 Apr 2012


…we had lunch in town. I renewed my love of sundried tomatoes, revived my hate of burnt red onion marmalade, and had the worst milkshake I have ever had at a cafe in town which shall remain nameless.

We dandered down Main Street to look for an entrance to the other lake in the town. A foray into the play park was unsuccessful in finding a gate (the lake was probably in the private grounds of Hillsborough Castle) but very successful in another way. A pale blue shape fluttered in the sunshine and landed on a fresh chestnut leaf lobe – my first Holly Blue of the year. It opened its wings to bask, showing the broad black borders that identified it as a female.

Holly Blue female, Hillsborough, 12 Apr 2012

Hiya Celastrina!

And then we returned home for dinner and wallpaper stripping. 🙂

2012 BIRDS
Great Crested Grebe takes my year list to 80
and my British life list to 114

Holly Blue takes my year list to


Well, I arrived back from Virginia nearly a week ago. On my trip I saw new birds (I LOVE the grackles!!!), new butterflies (12 species, woop woop) and new people (best thing of all!!)

I was at the caravan at the weekend – saw my first-of-year Small Coppers and Réal’s Wood Whites in Murlough on Sunday, then on Monday my first-of-year Large Whites and Holly Blues in Donard Forest – and the highlight: one Green Hairstreak, which I’ve never seen before. That’s my 22nd NI species!

And I’ve got GCSEs over the next few months so I’ll sign off now unless something else fantastic happens. I’ll upload more luvverly butterfly photos this summer.