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…..

 

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 recent sightings as of 2/3/17 corrected

Correction

Seven records received since last update on 17th Feb including first Comma for the Notts year.

Red Admiral 17/02/2017 Netherfield Lagoons 1 Jack Dennison
Red Admiral 19/02/2017 Aspley 2 Ken Acton
Peacock 18/02/2017 Lound 1 Phil Cadman
Comma 21/02/2017 Collingham Gravel Pits 1 Doug Aston
Red Admiral 20/02/2017 Nottingham University Main Campus 1 Mark Searle
Brimstone 26/02/2017 Kilvington Rail 1 Mark Searle
Brimstone 26/02/2017 Cotham 1 John Green

 

I have included the species this time!

RR

 

Nottinghamshire Flutterings 17th Feb 2017 – Brimstone Day

Three separate records of Brimstone today though not the first for the Notts year.

Records received since 2nd Feb:

Brimstone 03/02/2017 Hoveringham Railway Pit 1 Andrew Prezslak
Peacock 04/02/2017 Toton 1 Brian Parkes
Red Admiral 04/02/2017 Calverton 1 Sue Jones
Brimstone 17/02/2017 Colwick 1 Michael Walker
Brimstone 17/02/2017 Cotgrave 1 Neil Pinder
Brimstone 17/02/2017 Burton Joyce 1 Bob and Glenis Beck

 

RR

When Skies Are Grey?

Update Number 1.

Small Tortoiseshell.                                     Photograph by Richard M. Jeffery

Sunny skies have been few and far between this winter. Well, they have certainly been outnumbered by the grey ones in my experience. It goes without saying, therefore, that butterfly sightings are a bit of a rarity in the county so far. The honour of reporting the first sighting of the year (to my knowledge) goes to Rhys Dandy who spotted a solitary Small Tortoiseshell sunning itself in the precinct at Coalville on the 2nd of January. What happened to the poor little creature after that is anyone’s guess. Since then, 2 more Small Tortoiseshells have been seen by Pete Leonard in Scalford on the 20th January, and today (7th February) Margaret Adams saw a Red Admiral in her garden in Broughton Astley. We could certainly do with a few more sunny and crisp days to tempt some more out to play.

 

Exciting plans are afoot to create 2 new butterfly banks in the heart of the National Forest. East Midlands Butterfly Conservation, in conjunction with the Black to Green Project and other sponsors hope to have the butterfly banks in position by the end of winter, or early spring at the very latest. One will be situated at Moira Furnace alongside a recently planted wildflower meadow, and the other will be located in nearby Donisthorpe Woodland Park. It is hoped that with the correct siting and suitable planting, the Dingy Skipper may move in. A Dingy Skipper was recorded on the butterfly transect at DWP in 2015 so there is a distinct possibility that this may happen. Work is due to commence over the next two or three weeks and I’ll keep you updated on progress in future posts. If anyone wishes to help ‘hands-on’ then please feel free to get in touch.

 

The new butterfly transect season will soon be upon us. We are actively looking for new volunteers in the county to become part of the recording teams. We may even be able to set up new transects. All visits are carried out on a rota basis so, depending on how many are in a team, your commitment could be to walk your route once every three or four weeks, hopefully in decent spring or summer weather, and counting butterflies as you go. A pleasant way to take a walk in the fresh air and contribute some invaluable information in the process. The season runs from April 1st to September 30th. If you would like to volunteer or would like more information then please contact me.

 

Please continue to keep a look out for early butterflies and let me know as soon as you can, either by using the email link or via our Facebook Page: Butterflies and Moths of Leicestershire and Rutland.

 

 

Group of people looking for Grizzled Skippers during a Field Trip to Bingham Linear Park

2017 Branch Field Trip Program

The East Midlands Branch 2017 Field Trip Program is now available at East Midlands Butterflies Events

 

red-admiral-161015-langold-by-pauline-bradford

Nottinghamshire Flutterings on 22nd October 2016

Nottinghamshire Flutterings on 22nd October 2016

red-admiral-161015-langold-by-pauline-bradford

Red Admiral 161015 Langold by Pauline Bradford

Records from the last week:

Speckled Wood 14/10/2016 Bramcote  garden 1 Phil Carter
14/10/2016 Toton Sidings 1 Mark Searle
16/10/2016 Gedling 1 Adrian Dutton
Comma 14/10/2016 Toton Sidings 1 Mark Searle
 – 19/10/2016 Barnby Moor 4 Rob Johnson Feeding on Ivy by Chesterfield Canal
Painted Lady 18/10/2016 Langold 1 Pauline Bradford
Red Admiral 14/10/2016 Bramcote garden 2 John Appleton
14/10/2016 Toton Sidings 1 Mark Searle
16/10/2016 Bestwood garden 1 Antoni Lachetta
18/10/2016 Kirklington 7 Robin Old on ivy
19/10/2016 Barnby Moor 1 Rob Johnson Feeding on Ivy by Chesterfield Canal
21/10/2016 Chilwell garden 1 Rob Thatcher
Small Copper 14/10/2016 Toton Sidings 3 Mark Searle 1 pristine
15/10/2016 Sandybanks LNR 2 Antoni Lachetta
15/10/2016 Leen Cutting 5 Mark Searle 2 reasonable lookers
Brimstone 20/10/2016 Wollaton garden 1 Keith McGraw seemed to be laying eggs

 

painted-lady-161018-langgold-by-pauline-bradford

Painted Lady 161018 Langold by Pauline Bradford

 

See you at Conkers!

 

RR