A small but enthusiastic group of club members met at 5.45am at Clattinger Farm to photograph one of Wiltshire’s wildflower spectacles, the snake’s head fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris). These charming flowers are nationally rare and most of the British population is found in the Thames flood plain of north Wiltshire. Flowering in mid-April, fritillaries have to survive spring frosts. The excursion was scheduled to coincide with clear skies and the likelihood of a ground frost. We found a good number of fritillaries in flower at Bridge Field, one of the ancient wildflower meadows at Clattinger Farm managed by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.
Each flower was encased in tiny ice crystals, making its survival through the night seem almost miraculous.
The even light reflected from the sky before sunrise enabled some good pictures using a telephoto lens to separate the flower from its surroundings and give a pleasingly diffuse background. As the sun cleared the horizon and began to illuminate the fritillaries, we experimented with front lit, back lit and side lit shots. Backlighting was particularly effective on the small proportion of plants that have white flowers, which are translucent to light. The frost quickly melted and when we left Bridge Field at 8.15am we were confident we had enjoyed the best conditions of the day for photography.
One further wildlife treat remained at a wildlife hide on the reserve – watching a pair of foxes frolicking on the narrow bank between Cottage Lake and Swallow Pool. RH
Images - Top left: Snake's Head Fritillary Frosted before Dawn by Robert Harvey ARPS EFIAP Right: Back Lit Snake's Head Fritillary by Kevin Ferris LRPS