Update Number 11
I would have to say that this summer has been, to say the least a tad unpredictable…..’crazy days’ indeed. Periods of rain, sometimes heavy, interspersed with gloriously sunny spells, followed by warm days with high humidity (continuing into the night just recently) have meant that finding the ‘right’ time to spot butterflies has been a little haphazard. Lots of records have come in either from casual sightings or through dedicated butterfly transects. I have tried to cover as much as I can from the past couple of weeks or so, but have not been able to include every reported sighting, so if I have missed out your sightings information from this update then please accept my apologies but rest assured your records are still important.
Since the last Update, 14 species have been added to the county list, so I will deal with these in chronological order.
Species number 21 for the county was the first reported, or should I say only reported (so far) Clouded Yellow, seen by Colin Green at Brascote Gravel Pits on the 5th of June. A couple of individuals were seen here last year too and I have included one of Colin’s photographs from last year with this Update. One of the stalwarts of summer, namely the Meadow Brown takes position number 22 with the first reported sighting being sent in by Richard Penson on the 5th of June from Ketton Quarry. The diminuitive Skippers began their summer shift with the Large Skipper (23) putting in its first appearance on the 10th of June with sightings coming in from Pick Triangle Wood (Andy Large) and also from Melton Country Park (Paul Ruddoch), and Small Skippers (24) joining in on the 21st of June with the first reported sighting notified by Phil Dyer at Hicks Lodge. Another of summers star performers is the Ringlet (25), one of our most prolific butterflies. The first reported sighting was sent in by Paul Ruddoch on the 25th June from Melton C.P. Ringlets always produce the highest single species numbers on our butterfly transects,. I recorded 88 at Croft Quarry Nature Trail on the 4th of July, and Sallie Corfield noted 77 individuals at Sence Valley on the 13th, but these numbers were eclipsed when Andy Large counted 162 at Pick Triangle Wood on the 18th.
The first of the summer Fritillaries was reported by Andrew Harrop on the 18th of June when he saw a couple of fresh Dark Green Fritillaries (species number 26) at Bloody Oaks Quarry (LRWT). Further Dark Green Fritillary sightings came in from David Scott and Rod Baker who saw 5, also at Bloody Oaks Quarry on the 30th of June, Tim Burke with another 4, (also at Bloody Oaks), on the 7th July and by Sarah Proud at Ketton Quarry on the 25th of June, where she also encountered the first of our Marbled Whites (27). On the same day Carl Baggott also encountered Marbled White in Shawell. The Dark Green Fritillary seems to be restricted to a few sites in Rutland, whereas the Marbled White appears to be expanding its range in Leicestershire and Rutland. David and Rod recorded over 40 Marbled White at Bloody Oaks Quarry, one of its strongholds in Rutland, on the 30th of June. On the 3rd of July Adey Baker noted 4 individuals at Croft Quarry Nature Trail, and at the same site on the following day I counted 7. On the 5th of July Eliot Taylor recorded 9 at Bagworth Heath Woods and this was echoed on the 8th of July when 13 were seen at the same spot. Steve Lee and Joe Bodycote encountered another 2 on the transect at Croft the 13th July and, on the same day David Scott recorded a singleton on his transect at Great Glen (a first reported sighting for this site). The last reported sighting was on the 20th of July where one individual was seen at Croft Hill by yours truly (Richard Jeffery). Weather permitting, there should be another 2 or 3 weeks of the flight period of the Marbled White, so please keep your eyes peeled and let us know if you manage to see any more.
The last of our Skippers to emerge is the Essex Skipper. The first reported sighting this year was seen at Hicks Lodge during the ‘Wild at Heart’ Bioblitz on the 6th of July, bringing us up to 28 species for the year. The most common comment I am getting from recorders at the moment is that the hot weather has meant that most Skippers are highly active making identification extremely difficult. Essex Skipper numbers are relatively low so far, but this could purely be down to the fact that the little fellas are not settling to allow for a positive I.D. The number of ‘unidentified skippers’, however has gone through the roof. Species number 29 was noted on the 8th of July when Geof and Margaret Adams encountered the first Gatekeeper in their Broughton Astley garden.
White-letter Hairstreaks (30) are a summer specialist that tend to concentrate their flight period to the month of July. Andrew Harrop reported the first of the season from Ketton on the 10th of July. Cloud Wood in the North-west of the county has been one of the key sites for these small aerial butterflies who tend to spend most of their time in tree-tops (at least that’s where I’ve always seen them). Matthew Harpin noted 2 individuals here on the 17th of July and when I visited on the 19th, I spotted 3 duelling high up in an Ash tree (making photography a tad difficult). Occupying similar territories to the White-letter Hairstreak is the Silver-washed Fritillary; one of our largest butterflies it is often seen flying down from the tree-tops in an almost ‘lazy’ fashion. I have been hooked on these majestic creatures for several years now and eagerly await my ‘first’ of the season. Our first reported Silver-washed Fritillary (making it species number 31) also comes from Andrew Harrop on the 10th of July, where he encountered 2 in Ketton Quarry. Matthew Harpin noted a singleton in Cloud Wood on the 17th and two days later, when I paid a visit to Cloud Wood, I counted a maximum number of 8 (although there could have been more as the males were constantly on the move). Also on the 19th, Andrew Harrop noted 4 individuals at Pickworth Great Wood. Heloise Horton reports a further 2 at Cloud Wood on the 23rd of July. More ‘woodlanders’ make up the remainder of our new sightings, and I have probably saved the best until last. The Purple Hairstreak (32) was seen on the 19th of July in Stretton Wood and also in Pickworth Great Wood, both by Andrew Harrop. These Oak dwellers are usually on the wing until mid-August so there is still time to catch a glimpse of one. A significant sighting of a Purple Emperor (33) was also made by Andrew whilst in Stretton Wood. I believe more sightings have been made here since then, but I am still awaiting confirmation. The 19th of July has become perhaps the most significant day of our summer with our 34th species being recorded. Geof Adams paid a return visit to Owston Woods (SK795066) in search of the elusive White Admiral. I put out an appeal last year for information on potential sites that could be home to this woodland ‘glider’. Owston Woods holds a record for one of the last reported sightings of the White Admiral several years ago. It favours areas with Wild Honeysuckle and there is a fair amount present here. Geof’s patience was rewarded with a sighting of one individual flitting around the aforementioned Honeysuckle (although not resting long enough for a photo-shoot). Other sites that have historically been frequented by White Admiral or could possibly host them, and that are consequently worth investigating, are Stoke Dry Wood, Wardley Wood, Prior’s Coppice, Launde Big Wood and Great Merrible Wood. If any of you are up to the challenge then please contact me for further information.
To bring this Update to a close, information of new broods of Red Admiral, Comma, Holly Blue and Small Copper has started to filter through, so keep your eyes peeled for any of these……and by the way, does anyone else feel that numbers of Small and Large Whites have gone up this year……there’s loads of them around here.
Many thanks for your continued support and for sending in your sightings information, and photographs. Feel free to email me direct (firstname.lastname@example.org) or use our Facebook Group (Butterflies and Moths of Leicestershire and Rutland).