Stonepit Field is possibly the premier insect site in Milton Keynes, but not only that it has a colony of Small Blue butterfly, a butterfly I have not photographed before as part of my Butterflies of Milton Keynes project, so today I planned a circular walk to take in this special field. Hey combining my passion for walking and nature photography can’t be bad.
Canal Side Walking
After sitting around for an hour waiting for my camera batteries to fully recharge (yeah I know stupidly forgot to charge them overnight), I eventually stepped out into the beautiful sunshine of a June morning, the sun already hot at a little after 9 am. I headed quickly down to the Grand Union Canal beside the Galleon in Old Wolverton where I planned to start my walk “proper”.
For once I chose to walk with purpose, and quickly powered my way along the canal, and soon found myself at the Secret Garden, a public garden between Wolverton and New Bradwell, constructed on the site of old Victorian villas. I didn’t dally here though and was soon back walking along the canal.
After a short way I hit the Railway Walk, a footpath the follows (or replaced) the old railway line that ran between Newport Pagnell and Wolverton, evidence of the old railway can still be seen with a couple of platforms still in place.
|Old Platform at New Bradwell, part of the Railway Walk in Milton Keynes|
Just as you approach the turning to Stantonbury, the estate I grew up in, off to your left a wild flower meadow stretches off to Wolverton Road, in my youth this was a farmers field, regularly filled with wheat through the summer, and set fore to way too often as I recall. Where once the wheat burnt, now butterflies and Dragonflies of various types spend the summer months on the wing, feeding on the array of wild flowers or hunting over the two small ponds.
In Search of Small Blue
Having arrived at my target location I began strolling through the long grass, every step seemed to kick up a flurry of activity from Burnet Companion moths, the field was alive with them, these small day flying moths, vary from brown to bright orange, so every one had me double checking in case they were something new.
Electric blue damselflies darted from grass stalk to grass stalk, chasing small flies or trying to catch the eye of watchful females. These were a mixture of 3 different species, Azure, Common Blue and the paler White-legged damselfly.
|Common Blue Damselfly|
Large, sky blue, butterflies (Common Blue) fluttered around the fields, searching out the small, bright yellow flowers of birds foot trefoil or Kidney Vetch, or spiralling into the air as they dance with their duller coloured, female, companions. Never settling for very long, always on the look out for the next location.
|Common Blue Butterfly (female)|
Stunning Small Blues
Eventually I found the small, rocky area, where the Small Blue colony can be found, spotting my first of these tiny butterflies, much smaller, and darker than their larger cousins, fluttering around the rocks. Taking your eyes off them it is easy to lose them once more. I followed as many as I could trying to capture the distinct underwing patterns, or catch one resting in the sun wings open, showing off the dark metallic blue wings, a feat that proved way more tricky than one would imagine.
These stunning little blighters have a habit of sitting without spreading their wings fully, a half spread almost and one that is not particularly photogenic. Eventually after much chasing I managed to capture an image or two I was happy with, but not before getting slightly muddy at the edge of one of the ponds.
|Small Blue spread wings at Stonepit Fields|
|Small Blue Butterfly Underwing markings|
Other Nature at Stonepit Fields
Hidden in the wild flowers I counted at least 5 Bee Orchids, these stunning bright pink orchids always thrill me to see, I’m not sure if they are rarer than other plants (although most orchids are not common) but the striking colours are always exciting to find.
While eating my lunch I sat looking out over the water of one of the ponds, and watched as a huge Emperor Dragonfly hawked over the water, patrolling his area and chasing off any interloper, from other Emperors to the Black-Tailed Skimmer that tried to hunt the same waters.
Banded Demoiselle and Red-Eyed Damselfly hunted low to the water, using the lilies and other water plants as resting locations. A Russel from the grasses alerted me to a Broad Bodied chaser, as it sprang out of its hiding place, before spotting a second, female, hanging tight to the closer grass, and allowing me a very close approach.
|Female Broad-Bodied Chaser|
The Walk Home from Stonepit Fields
Heading back along the canal once more I enjoyed some lovely views over St Peters church, before once again finding myself walking at pace through New Bradwell and Wolverton, the sun still hot and high in the sky, the shade of the crab apple trees along the waterway offering blessed relief. It wasn’t long before I was back at the car park in Old Wolverton, 6.67 miles walked (not including rambling around in Stonepit Fields themselves).
Today was Day 1 of 30 Days Wild.
|Mating Azure Damselfly|
|Common Blue Damselfly|
|Another Small Blue|
|Small Blue Butterfly|
|Face on Broad Bodied Chaser|
|Broad-Bodied Chaser (female)|
If you enjoyed this post, and the walk, then check out my Milton Keynes Walks page, for loads more walks in the area.