An Icy Blast From The Past….

Update Number 6

Male Orange Tip showing underwing markings…
Photo by Richard M. Jeffery

Just when you thought winter had retreated and gone into dormancy, it has awoken from its slumbers and reminded us that it’s not quite time for bed yet. Needless to say, butterfly sightings have been non-existant over the last couple of days. The back end of last week and the weekend did prove fruitful to those who ventured out. Sunny days accompanied by a keen northerly wind meant numbers were low, but a few sightings did come in.

Lyn Bull reported 3 Green-veined White from Blaby on the 18th, and the following day she was ‘buzzed’ by a low-flying Holly Blue. On the same day (19th) Toby Carter encountered his first Holly Blue of the year whilst on ‘Peregrine Watch’ at Leicester Cathedral (not a bad afternoon in my humble opinion…). Also on the 19th, Matthew Harpin paid a visit to Cloud Wood and noted a couple each of Orange Tip and Peacock.

Steve Lee ventured out onto Croft Quarry Nature Trail on the 19th where he recorded 6 different species…..namely, Speckled Wood, Green-veined White, Holly Blue, Orange Tip, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell.

Up until the last few days, it has been a good spring for Orange Tip butterflies. Lady’s Smock (or Cuckoo Flower) seems to be fairly abundant this spring, and the Orange Tip seem to be taking full advantage. Croft Quarry has good numbers of Lady’s Smock this year, and over 50 Orange Tip have been recorded in the last 3 weeks on the butterfly transect (I counted 24 this Sunday 23rd)……especially lower down by the boardwalks. It appears that it is not just Leicestershire that is experiencing this…..having checked with the County Recorder for Northamptonshire, it would seem that they are getting similar numbers. I just hope that this cold snap doesn’t bring about a premature  end to their flight period. I’ll keep you posted.

It would appear that Green Hairstreaks have been enjoying the early spring sunshine too, with over 10 individuals being recorded by Matthew Harpin on Warren Hills on the 22nd. This site has always been a stronghold for this delightful butterfly, but there must be other sites in the county where the butterfly is (or should be….) present. Please keep an eye out on sites where Bird’s Foot Trefoil is abundant, and also where there is plenty of Gorse. You never know, you may spot one of these little emerald jewels.

I looks like the cold spell will be with us for a few more days and then temperatures will gradually become more ‘spring-like’. Please continue to send in your butterfly sightings through the usual channels, either directly by email (to winrich168@btinternet.com) or via the Facebook page (Butterflies and Moths of Leicestershire and Rutland), and I’ll keep you posted on what’s happening.

Until then, wrap up warm…..

 

Nottinghamshire Flutterings – Sandy Banks LNR and a Painted Lady

Toni Lachetta has emailed me:

On the whole another bleak week.
Last spring now has a reputation for poor numbers of butterflies but I find this spring even worse. However, this Sunday’s counts suggests that the cause is the cold dull days of this April rather than the number of butterflies.
There was a hint of things to come on Saturday when a place that was completely barren when I had passed half an hour earlier now had 4 tortoiseshells, 3 commas and a peacock gambolling about with 3 speckled woods soon joining in.
I don’t know what caused the explosion in butterfly numbers on Sunday afternoon. It was sunny but the temperature, 16 C in the shade in my back garden, hadn’t improved particularly. The nettle beds were now full of tortoiseshells but the most extraordinary phenomenon were the speckled woods. I have never seen so many. I had only been there a couple of minutes when I had 5 in a glade they like to hang out in. It was the same everywhere I went. Along the tree lines, in sunny coves between the shrubs, 2 or 3 together.
The result was an exceptionally high count that I doubt will be equalled again. A painted lady turned up, nearly got counted as another tortoiseshell.

23/04/2017 Sandy Banks LNR Small Tortoiseshell 19
Painted Lady 1
Peacock 2
Comma 1
Speckled Wood 24
Orange-tip 4
Small White 7
Brimstone 1
Large White 1

Sandy Banks in a small LNR in Bestwood, Nottingham

——-

In addition to the Painted Lady I have received
2 Grizzled Skipper records (North of Kilvington 1 Mathew Harpin and Staunton Quarry 2 Ian Hurst)
3 Green Hairstreak records from Toton Sidings including 7 seen by Mark Searle
and sightings of Brimstone, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Orange-tip, Small Copper, Holly Blue, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Comma and Speckled Wood.

 

RR

Nottinghamshire Flutterings – Small Copper

Mark Searle found our first Small Copper (2) along his River Leen Cutting transect near King’s Meadow yesterday (April 19th).

That brings us up to 15 species for the year.

Also yesterday,  four Green Hairstreak at Toton Sidings yesterday seen by Brian Johnson and Richard Smyth.

Intriguingly one of these was some 300 yards away from their ‘known’ area. Are they expanding??   If so HS2 will put pay to that!

And another good count of Orange-tip, this time of 20+ by Stan Darling on a walk near Tollerton (also 5 Peacock and 8 SmT)

RR

Nottinghamshire Flutterings – Green Hairstreak

Another new species for the year: Two Green Hairstreak at Toton Sidings yesterday (18th April). Thanks to Iris & Derek Martin.

Also yesterday a good count of 19 Orange-tip from Russell Martin along the path from Clifton Grove (near Clifton) to Branshill Woods.

RR

Butterfly Bank at Moira Furnace

Update Number 5.

Moira Furnace lies in the heart of the new National Forest, in the west of the county, bordering Derbyshire. Monitoring flora and fauna is one of the keystones to the development of the National Forest and will directly influence future action plans as and when the need arises. As far as Lepidoptera are concerned, we already have butterfly transects set up at Hicks Lodge, Sarah’s Wood, Pick Triangle, Donisthorpe Woodland Park and Willesley Wood, so we should be able to build up an accurate picture of the status of our butterflies and moths in the Leicestershire section of the Forest. So why, then, do we need a Butterfly Bank?

Butterfly Banks can be regarded as an ‘all-in-one’ butterfly habitat, providing places to bask in the sunshine, and to provide both nectar and larval food plants. Stepping stones in the natural landscape. Moira Furnace adjoins the site of one of our existing transects, namely the one at Donisthorpe. One of the key species we hope to attract to the Butterfly Bank is the Dingy Skipper, and this has been recorded on the transect at Donisthorpe, a mere half a kilometre away. It is no great leap of faith to expect the Dingy Skipper to appear at Moira Furnace.

The Project was a joint venture between East Midlands Butterfly Conservation, the National Forest (Black to Green Project), OPAL (Open Air Laboratories) of Nottingham and the Ashby and Coalville Lions. Work began in March when the construction process took place.

Removal of the existing Topsoil

I would say the simplest way to describe the process of constructing the Butterfly Bank is to think of gardening ‘in reverse’. Normally you would expect to have the nutrient rich soil on the top and poorer subsoil below. To give the wildflower plants the conditions they need to grow in, these have to be reversed. Too much nutrient would give lush, rich growth that would succumb to pest and disease attack, and also result in fewer flowers. Low nutrient levels mean tighter, more compact plants and greater flower production and seed set. Once the topsoil had been removed and stacked, a trench in the shape of a large ‘C’ or ‘armchair’ was taken out and the subsoil set to one side.

Topsoil being placed in the bottom of the trench

The topsoil that had been removed was then placed in the bottom of the trench and covered with the subsoil forming a ridge approximately 75 cms (30 inches) high. The ridge was higher in the centre (forming the back of the ‘armchair’) and tapering to about 40 cms (16 inches) on the ‘arms’. Once the soil had been shaped the whole Bank was covered with TWO layers of stone. The first layer was of crushed limestone (similar to Type 1 roadstone). Calcareous stone is most suitable for Butterfly Bank construction, but in this case there was far too much fine material (almost dust) and the fear was that under heavy rains this would compact and become impenetrable to plant roots. It was also a concern that the action of winter rains and frosts would cause further fragmentation. The decision was taken to add a layer of harder ‘drainage’ stone (granite) to cover this layer, giving protection from the harsher elements whilst still allowing moisture through to the plant roots below, and to provide a rough surface for plants like Bird’s Foot Trefoil and Creeping Cinquefoil to scramble through. This layer was also more aesthetically pleasing, taking into consideration that the site will be subject to considerable passing foot-flow.

Calcareous sub-layer  

 

Granite Top layer     

Once the bank was covered it was left for a couple of weeks to allow for settlement prior to planting.

The completed Bank prior to planting.

The wildflower plug plants duly arrived and with the help of the Lions and the local Scout group, planting took place on an overcast but dry morning (perfect conditions, I’d say….). The areas adjoining the bank and directly opposite were also to be planted to create wildflower meadows to compliment the Bank. Plant species were selected to attract some key species of butterfly. Bird’s Foot Trefoil was planted specifically for the Dingy Skipper; Sheeps Sorrell for the Small Copper and Common Rock Rose for the Brown Argus. Perhaps more ambitiously, or even optimistically, Creeping Cinquefoil was planted to attract the elusive Grizzled Skipper. The latter species may never appear here, but ‘you never know’. The meadows were planted with a host of nectar and larval food plants for butterflies and moths, and also by default, bumblebees.

Healthy wildflower plug plants sourced locally from Naturescape in Notts.

 

Local Scouts planting on and around the Bank.

 

….and in the Wildflower meadow…

The measure of success of the Butterfly Bank will only become clear as we monitor the butterflies and moths that move in over the coming months and years. To ascertain this, a program has been set up to record the Bank throughout the season. Visits will be made on a fortnightly basis to record species using the bank and neighbouring meadows. Should the Bank prove successful, plans are afoot to create another in neighbouring Donisthorpe Woodland Park, and subsequently in other key sites in the National Forest, creating ‘stepping-stones’ for our region’s butterflies and moths and aiding their survival and potential expansion of territory.

I will keep you updated on the progress of the Bank and on the species recorded on and around it……..and should a Dingy Skipper appear, you’ll be the first to know.

 

Nottinghamshire Flutterings 17/4/2017 Common Blue

A mainly cold eight days so not many records.

One new species for the year: Common Blue on 15th April.

The earliest sighting in the Notts records is 11/04/2012.

 

Some recently submitted records which include some Transect records (hence the section numbers):

Brimstone Elton-on-the-Hill 5 Bajcar, Mick
Ssharps Hills 3 Wright, Lewis
Beeston Sidings – S3 2 Birkett, Graham
Small White Beeston Sidings – S3 2 Birkett, Graham
Beeston Sidings – S1 2 Birkett, Graham
Wollaton Martins pond to Claypits pond 2 Russell, Martin
Green-veined White Misson Carr NWT 5 Lee, Phil
Orange-tip Misson Carr NWT 7 Lee, Phil
Treswell Wood 4 Lee, Phil
Beeston Sidings – S2 4 Birkett, Graham
Common Blue Alexandra Plantation Bramcote Hills – S1 1 Rogers, Richard
Red Admiral Elton-on-the-Hill 1 Bajcar, Mick
Small Tortoiseshell Sandy Banks LNR Bestwood – S1 11 Lachetta, Toni
Beeston Sidings – S2 4 Birkett, Graham
Alexandra Plantation Bramcote Hills – S1 4 Rogers, Richard
Peacock Misson Carr NWT 3 Lee, Phil
Treswell Wood 2 Lee, Phil
Comma Beeston Sidings – S3 2 Birkett, Graham
Speckled Wood Sandy Banks LNR Bestwood – S1 4 Lachetta, Toni
Wollaton Hall Park – S5 4 Smyth, Richard

 

RR

A Wonderful Weekend……

Update Number 4

Speckled Wood  Photo by Richard M. Jeffery

I don’t know about you, but I am finding it increasingly more difficult to understand and predict our weather patterns. The weekend of the 8th and 9th of April brought us almost summer-like conditions with warm sunshine and blue skies, albeit accompanied by keen cool breezes, yet a few days later temperatures had dropped by almost 10 degrees, reminding us that we have only just left winter behind us. Looking ahead, we can expect a few sunny days and maybe even a few frosty nights. How the county Lepidoptera cope with these fluctuations is beyond me………but cope they certainly do.

Saturday 8th April:

Orange Tip butterflies took advantage of this sunny spell and were reported by Adey Baker (Burbage), Alison Rhodes (Anstey), Eliot Taylor (4 @ Glenfield), David Scott (3 @ Great Glen) and Toby Carter (Leicester). More Holly Blues took to the wing as recorded by Adey Baker (4@ Burbage), Alison Rhodes (Anstey), Eliot Taylor (Glenfield) and Craig Howat (Oakham). Speckled Wood sightings are beginning to increase, and Adey Baker trumped everyone with over 20 specimens noted on his Burbage visit. Other sightings came in from Eliot Taylor (3@ Glenfield) and from David Scott (Great Glen).

This day also brought sightings of Peacock (Adey Baker, Alison Rhodes, Lyn Bull (Barnsdale Gardens), and David Scott (5)), Brimstone (Adey Baker, Alison Rhodes (2), Lyn Bull, Eliot Taylor and David Scott (6)) and Small Tortoiseshell (Adey Baker, Alison Rhodes and David Scott (5)). A solitary Comma was noted by Adey Baker at Burbage.

Sunday 9th April:

A glorious day that wouldn’t have been out of place in early summer, and a day that encouraged more of us out into the great outdoors. Orange Tips were noted by Vanessa Parkinson (Leicester), Claire Install (2@ Mountsorrel), Toby Carter (2@ Leicester), Lyn Bull (Kirby Muxloe) and Stephen Rawlinson (Aylestone Meadows). Brimstones continued to be seen as reported by Claire Install, Toby Carter (3), Lyn Bull and Paul Walsh (2@ Huncote). Holly Blue were seen by Claire Install, Lyn Bull (2), Mark Tricker (Wigston) and Stephen Rawlinson. Small Tortoiseshell sightings came in from Claire Install, Toby Carter (3) and Mark Tricker. Only a couple of Peacocks were reported on this day, by Claire Install and Toby Carter.

This day also brought more ‘firsts’ for the county. Stephen Rawlinson noted the full set of ‘whites’, including the first reported Large White (species number 12), along with 4 Green-veined White and a solitary Small White. Matthew Harpin reported the first Green Hairstreak (13) of the season, with 4 individuals being seen on Warren Hills.

Only one more report of Brimstone has come in since this weekend and this came from Adey Baker who spotted several at Croft Hill on the 10th. Speckled Wood were noted by Ben Devine on the 11th (Moira Furnace) and John Hopkins on the 13th (Burroughs Wood). AJ Cann recorded an Orange Tip on the 13th at Lucas’ Marsh.

Steve Lee visited a Narborough garden on the 14th and recorded Orange Tip, Speckled Wood, Peacock and Holly Blue.

Only a single Red Admiral sighting has been reported, and that came in this morning (16th) when Derek Spicer spotted a solitary specimen on his nursery in South Kilworth.

 

The latest ‘First Sightings’ list is as follows (and includes a slight amendment to last weeks list):

10. Small White – David Foulds – Brocks Hill C.P. – 3rd April

11. Speckled Wood  – Various  – Various  – 5th April

12. Large White – Stephen Rawlinson – Aylestone Meadow – 9th April

13. Green Hairstreak – Matthew Harpin – Warren Hills – 9th April

 

Please continue to send in your sightings information via the usual channels (either directly by email or the Facebook page ‘Butterflies and Moths of Leicestershire and Rutland’), and I’ll keep you posted. Watch this space……