Bramble-proof trousers?

I’m Fiona, the face behind birdguides.com, and avid Rohanist for many years. As well as making sure our website is running smoothly and bird news is being beamed to the nation, I’m truly lucky to get out-and-about filming the natural history of these green and pleasant isles.

This year has seen the culmination of an amazing project to film all of the butterflies of Britain and Ireland in High Definition. Not as easy as it might sound! It’s not all hanging about Buddleia bushes on sunny days.

Some of our sixty-or-so lepidopteran inhabitants spend their entire lives at altitudes of over 1500′ (Mountain Ringlet), and others exist almost solely on the Isle of Wight (Glanville Fritillary), or won’t come down from the tops of overgrown and prickly Blackthorn bushes (Black Hairstreaks). Filming them needs grit and determination (and the right clothes – more of which later).

I’ve had ticks, carried a suppurating dead rabbit around for days to tempt Purple Emperors, scaled Honister carrying heavy camera gear and chased Clouded Yellows for literally miles. What is undoubtedly true is that filming them takes you to interesting and generally lovely places.

This was certainly the case earlier this summer, when I set out to bag one of the countries rarest and most endangered butterflies. With the help of friends from Butterfly Conservation, we sortied on Dartmoor to find the beautiful High Brown Fritillary. These charming butterflies need livestock-grazed, sheltered slopes with patches of bramble in stands of bracken to thrive. The bracken shouldn’t be allowed to become too thick, as light is required to ensure the availability of violets – the caterpillar’s food-plant.

We were blessed; the weather was perfect and the bracken was gradually speckled with a few bright-orange, basking butterflies, gathering enough heat to allow them to fly. They are challenging to film, nervous of disturbance, and easily spooked. The day was spent criss-crossing the slope in search of the perfect shot. The day drew to a close with a full can of glorious footage, skinless and bleeding shins and a pair of Rohan’s finest lightweight trousers completely shredded by pursuing butterflies through brambles.

High Brown Fritillary showing it's characteristic underwing. Photo: Neil Hulme, Butterfly Conservation

I’m sure that the results are worth the loss of my much-loved trousers (the DVD will be available on birdguides.com around Christmas – shameless plug). Now if only Rohan would make special butterflying trousers out of the same indestructible material as their Countrywide jacket….

Fiona Barclay birdguides.com

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