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Butterfly Conservation

Saving butterflies, moths and our environment

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East Midlands Branch Butterfly Conservation

Field Trip Reports 2013

Ketton Quarry, Leicestershire

Saturday 11 May 2013

On 11 May five enterprising members from Derbyshire and Leicestershire joined leader Andrew Harrop for the field trip to Ketton. Most of the day was overcast, with only brief sunny intervals. As a result there was little butterfly activity during the first two hours, though some compensation was provided by close views of a female Adder.

By early afternoon the temperature had risen sufficiently for there to be more activity, and eventually our persistence was rewarded with sightings of seven species, though we saw only one individual of each. The most notable were Green Hairstreak in hawthorn scrub above the old quarry, Grizzled Skipper, and Dingy Skipper. Other species seen were Green-veined and Large White, Orange-tip and Speckled Wood.

Andrew Harrop

Naturescape Wildflower Farm, Langar (Nottinghamshire)

Sunday 12 May 2013

With rain forecast by lunch time and little in the way of sunshine, 10 of us set off to investigate various sites where sightings of Grizzled Skippers had been reported in 2012. First stop was the Naturescape Woodland (SK734345), where we checked out the newly created scrapes for any signs of Grizzled Skipper activity. Unfortunately, none were seen although we did get sightings of Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Orange Tip, Small White and Speckled Wood. Water from the nearby Barnstone Quarry had overflowed into the woodland area and it was thought that this could have an adverse effect on Grizzled Skipper numbers at this site.

Undaunted, we headed off to Langar Airfield to check the dispersal area at SK744342. Again we were disappointed with nothing to be found. Our third site was more successful. At SK750335 we saw one Grizzled Skipper in flight and another, very obligingly, remained settled on the ground long enough for everyone to get a good view and many photographs were taken.

Returning to our cars the rain started exactly as forecast!

Nigel Wood

Hick's Lodge, Leicestershire

Saturday 18 May 2013

Hicks Lodge, at the centre of the National Forest, is to be found at the site of an old opencast coal mine. In recent years, the extensive area has been transformed with the planting of saplings encompassing a wide variety of native species. Several kilometres of hard standing cycle tracks curve through wide open rides in the plantation. These open rides, combined with more open areas, appear to be ideal for the many butterflies that favour flower-rich grassland. A number of familiar species, possibly including the Dingy Skipper which is recorded in woodland just about a mile away, are known to have colonised already.

Our primary objective was thwarted by a biting northerly wind and 100% cloud cover that persisted throughout the day. Not a single butterfly was seen! For the six attendees, however, the day was not wasted: as well as morning and afternoon walks, time was spent entomologising over coffee and cake in the cosy on-site cafe. How civilised for a field trip, roll on the next one.

Bill Bacon

Asfordby Hill/ Brown's Hill Quarry & Holwell Mineral Line

Sunday 19 May 2013

After a period of unseasonably cold and wet weather resulting in delay to so many usual spring events it was an encouragement when the day of the visit dawned bright and sunny and by the time a group of eleven commenced their exploration of Asfordby Hill the temperature had already topped 15°C. It was immediately apparent how retarded the season had become as the Hawthorn blossom was yet to appear and growth of Bird's Foot Trefoil was still at an early stage. Although this did not seem promising, eventually all three of the target species were found, namely Green Hairstreak(3), Dingy Skipper(3) and Grizzled Skipper(1). All were apparently freshly emerged and hopefully the forerunners of more yet to come.

By afternoon it had become more cloudy but the temperature had risen to 18°C. A group of eight gathered to walk through Brown's Hill Quarry and Holwell Mineral Line Nature Reserves (Leics. & Rutland Wildlife Trust). The walk was pleasant and enlivened by numerous songbirds, the presence of a pair of Buzzards high overhead and the brief glimpse of a disturbed Tawny Owl. Several Large Red Damselflies were noted but few butterflies were seen. Two Dingy Skippers were found in the quarry and a further three added at a return visit at the end of the walk.

At both sites visited small numbers of common species were present- Small, Large and Green-veined White, together with Orange Tip, Peacock and Speckled Wood-making a total of nine seen in all.

Les Purnell

Ollerton Pit, Nottinghamshire

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Six of us set off from Ollerton pit Wood Car park on a very cold and dull day. Although we walked the circular trail round the site we did not see any butterflies. We noted that the birds foot trefoil was still only just peeping through and unless the weather suddenly improved then it would be at least another two weeks before the late spring butterflies would be flying on this site. We moved from there to Sherwood Heath and a Green Veined White was seen at the far end of the heath. This was the only butterfly seen although everyone enjoyed the walk round both interesting sites.

Jane Broomhead

Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire

Saturday 25 May 2013

Situated in the Chiltern Hills, the area is the imposing scarp slope of the chalk downland overlooking the Vale of Aylesbury. A small group of 5 people met in the Chiltern Gateway visitor centre car park at 10am. The forecast had been good and we left the Midlands in clear blue skies, but as we drove down the motorway the clouds gathered and when we arrived it was cloudy and cool. However, before long the sun came through and the temperatures warmed up. Our main aim was to see Duke of Burgundy as this is one of the few sites in the country for this rare butterfly, and we were not disappointed.

As we proceeded down the slope, where it was quite sheltered, we first came across a number of Green Hairstreaks and Dingy Skippers. Max then spotted our first Duke of Burgundy on the path, and an obliging mating pair enabled excellent photo opportunities. We found at least 4 other individuals on the brambles down the slope. As we continued along the sunken path we came across many more Duke of Burgundys and also Grizzled Skippers, as well as more Dingy Skippers and Green Hairstreaks. There were a lot of the more common butterflies, particularly Brimstones, and a Small Heath was also seen.

A total of 10 species of butterfly were recorded before lunch, and the numbers included at least 22 individuals of Duke of Burgundy. We think this high total was probably due to its later emergence this year following the cold spring, and this coincided with the timing of our visit.

In the afternoon we visited the nearby Wildlife Trust reserve at Totternhoe Knolls, again an area of chalk grassland which contains the remains of a Norman fort and a disused quarry. Here the target species was Small Blue. Unfortunately we only saw one individual, so again its flight time may have been delayed owing to abnormal spring weather conditions. Within the Knolls and quarry a total of 9 species of butterfly were seen, most notably a large number of 26 Dingy Skippers and 2 Red Admirals.

It was a very successful and rewarding day with a final total of 14 butterfly species. Also of note, a Turtle Dove was heard, and we had excellent views of a singing Corn Bunting.

Max Maughan

Wiltshire/Dorset/Hampshire Weekend

Saturday 1 & Sunday 2 June 2013

Unbelievably, the weather forecast for the entire weekend was warm and sunny so we had high expectations of meeting our targets.

The first venue on Saturday morning was Bentley Wood, just east of Salisbury in Wiltshire. This is a SSSI, managed by the Bentley Wood Charitable Trust, which is a particularly good area at this time of year for Pearl-bordered and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries. We explored the Eastern Clearing and a large number of Pearl-bordered Fritillaries were seen but unfortunately no butterflies were identified as Small Pearl-bordered, so it is probable that their emergence would be later than normal owing to the cold spring. A bonus was the unexpected record of a Duke of Burgundy and the Yellow-speckled Moths were quite a spectacle, out-numbering the butterflies by far. Six species of butterfly were seen at this site. A Broad-bodied Chaser dragonfly also provided excellent photo opportunities.

After lunch we moved on to Hod Hill, an Iron Age hill fort managed by the National Trust, north of Blandford Forum in Dorset. From the road it was a steep climb up the grassy slope to the entrance to the fort. The ditches between the ramparts provide an excellent habitat and micro climate for butterflies. The main target here was Marsh Fritillary, but disappointingly numbers were low and they only provided tantalising glimpses as they sped past, settling only occasionally. It was also surprising that no Common or Adonis Blues were seen, only Small Blue, which provided excellent views of a mating pair. The emergence timing of the other blues was again affected by the cold spring. The site, though, was alive with Dingy Skippers, and a number of Grizzled Skippers were also seen. The total for the afternoon was 10 species. It was also interesting to see a Red Kite flying overhead indicating the spread of this bird of prey.

The sun greeted us again on Sunday morning as we met in the car park at Keyhaven in Hampshire for a short ferry crossing to the end of Hurst Castle Spit which projects out into the Solent with splendid views of the Isle of Wight. The target species here was Glanville Fritillary which has a small colony near the entrance to the castle, and is one of the few mainland sites for this iconic butterfly. Unfortunately, it also failed to make an appearance as again its flight period had been delayed. We did see Small and Common Blue, and a stunning Painted Lady butterfly was showing well on the shingle bank of the spit. Five species were seen here, and the number of Cinnabar Moths outnumbered the butterflies.

Some of the group stayed for an afternoon walk along the shoreline from Keyhaven, and were rewarded with a large number of Wall butterflies, as well as Common Blues and Small Coppers.

It was in all a very successful weekend despite the lack of some target species. The total number of butterfly species seen over the weekend was 18. Fourteen people participated in the weekend overall, though not all visited every site.

Max Maughan

Hicks Lodge

Saturday 15 June 2013

This was the second of three visits this season to Hicks Lodge. After the disappointing weather of the first visit in May, It felt like déjà-vu with a cold westerly wind gusting up to 15 to 20 mph and 100% cloud cover. Somewhat to my surprise, a total of seventeen optimists assembled as Butterfly Conservation members were joined by a number of local residents.

There are extensive open flower-rich meadows and wide rides amongst the trees in Shell Brook, the easterly half of the site. The young trees provided protection from the wind and, during brief brighter spells perhaps a total of ten butterflies comprising Small Heath, Green-veined, and Small Whites. The young trees also provided some protection from a heavy but brief shower.

The afternoon session in the westerly section of Hick's Lodge was abandoned as we got soaked in a prolonged and heavy downpour and, on our hasty return, the civilised facilities at the Visitor Centre were most welcome.

Incidentally, The Forestry Commission wish to establish butterfly transect recording at Hicks Lodge. I would be pleased to hear from anyone who may, with others, consider becoming involved; being a novice is no bar as full training would be provided

Bill Bacon

Bingham Linear Park (Nottinghamshire)

Sunday 16 June 2013

The walk was attended by 12 people. We saw: orange tip, common blue, green veined white, large white, small heath, speckled wood and grizzled skipper (Bill was able to show us some eggs and a larva on the Potentilla reptans we are trying to encourage the growth of). It was a lovely warm sunny day.

Jenny Craig

Fermyn Woods

Sunday 7 July 2013

This year the weather was quite different from the same trip in 2012, with cloudless skies and temperatures reaching 28°C. However, this year we had a different problem in that all species of butterflies seemed to be appearing about 2 weeks later than normal because of the cold spring. We had checked with the visitor centre at Fermyn the day before as to whether our target species were on the wing but they hadn't been recorded so far. Nevertheless 23 people assembled, from places as far afield as Norfolk and Cheshire, hoping that Purple Emperor and White Admiral might emerge that morning.

We spent the morning walking along the track through Fermyn Wood and into Lady Wood, and then retraced our steps back to the cars. However disappointingly, even with 23 pairs of eyes searching, we failed to find Purple Emperor, White Admiral, Purple Hairstreak and White-letter Hairstreak. We picked up seven of the more common species, including a very fresh Comma and Small Tortoiseshell. Also some of the group spotted a Southern Hawker dragonfly.

11 people stayed for the afternoon walk starting from the visitor centre. The walk mainly concentrated on the grassland areas and several ponds in the country park. Some work has recently been carried out to restore the ponds and this has greatly improved the biodiversity at these sites. At the Reedy Pond Azure and Common Blue damselflies were observed, as well as a Banded Demoiselle and several 4-spotted Chasers. At the Long Pond, an Emperor dragonfly was patrolling, chasing off the other dragonflies, and we were lucky to have excellent views of a Grass Snake swimming up the pond and it remained in view amongst the reeds. The target butterfly in the meadow area was Marbled White, and we were fortunate to see two. We also saw Large and Small Skippers and several Common Blue butterflies.

Later in the afternoon all members of the group remaining decided to visit the nearby Glapthorn Cow Pastures Reserve for Black Hairstreak, and we were eventually successful in seeing one individual which came down to nectar on Dewberry bushes within inches of the observers. This was a life species for most of the group, and was a fitting bonus to a rather frustrating day. The weather had been brilliant, but we were still suffering the effects of the earlier abnormal conditions in spring.

The final butterfly tally for the day was 13 species, and 9 species of dragonflies/damselflies. We also had good views of Red Kite.

Max Maughan

Carr Vale Flash (joint with Derby Natural History Society)

Tuesday 9 July 2013

A group of 14 people gathered on a wonderfully sunny, hot morning. What was once a landscape of collieries and coalpit spoil-heaps has been transformed in recent years making Carr Vale one of the top five nature reserves in Derbyshire, managed by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.

From the car park we walked through the Peter Fiddler Reserve and then into the Carr Vale Reserve, returning via the Stockley Trail (a former railway line linking the collieries).

The first butterflies to be seen in the Peter Fiddler reserve were large numbers of Ringlets and Meadow Browns, but we soon added Small Skippers and a nice fresh Small Tortoiseshell. We managed to examine a number of Small Skippers more closely, and found at least one to be an Essex Skipper with jet black antennae. On the way to the ponds we saw a group of Common Spotted and Southern Marsh Orchids, and at this point a Brown Hawker dragonfly flew past.

At the ponds a number of Emperor dragonflies were patrolling and chasing off the 4-spotted Chasers, and one perched obligingly for the photographers on nearby reed stems. It was a shame that its wings were already damaged, even though it could only have emerged fairly recently. A female Emperor was also observed ovipositing in the vegetation at the edge of the pool. The pond-dipping platform was a good place to carry out an ID session on blue damselflies: Common Blue, Azure and Blue-tailed. We saw two Reed Warblers and could hear Sedge Warbler.

On the banks we identified several other plant species including, Kidney Vetch, Common Centaury, Greater and Rosebay Willowherb and Self-heal.

We continued into Carr Vale Reserve and reached the large lake. At this point we heard an extremely loud croaking noise coming from the water's edge. We had been told there was a South American Bullfrog, and everyone managed to get good views through the reeds. We discussed how it had got here, probably having been released. Also along the lake edge several male Black-tailed Skimmers were seen.

From the viewing screen on the mound there were a few species of water birds visible on the wetlands below, including Grey Heron, Common Tern and Lapwing.

As we continued along the Stockley Trail back to the car park a Whitethroat and a group of Long-tailed Tits were seen.

The total number of butterfly species seen was 10, dragonfly/damselfly species numbered seven, and we recorded 22 bird species.

Max Maughan

Anston Stones Wood - South Yorkshire

Sunday 14 July

It was a great success. 8 members came and the weather was sunny. 15 species of butterfly seen total nos: 433 Highlights include122 marbled whites 68 dark green fritillary 17 silver studded blue also large nos of ringlets and other summer butterflies. It was great to see so many butterflies in one small area even if some were introduced, they seem to be doing well.

Paul Townsend

Coombs Dale, Derbyshire (joint with Derby RSPB Group)

Tuesday 16 July 2013

This was a joint walk with Derby RSPB Group, and a record number for this year of 26 people attended. It was a really hot, sunny day in the middle of a heatwave, so lots of butterflies were on the wing, but they were very active.

Coombes Dale is a limestone Dale near Calver, and the walk follows a track through a wooded area, leading up to the old fluorspar workings of Sallet Hole Mine which ceased operating in 1996. The area has since been re-landscaped to create an open meadow near the mine entrance which provides good habitat for a number of plants and invertebrates.

The main target species of the walk were Dark Green Fritillary (the only fritillary found in Derbyshire) and Brown Argus. At least 30 Dark Green Fritillaries were seen and we had good opportunities to see the green colouration on the underside of the lower wings which gives it its name. Brown Argus was seen in good numbers and it was again possible to get views of the underside to see the identification features which distinguish it from female common blue. Some in the group were also lucky enough to catch sight of a Clouded Yellow as it flew across the track. This is an uncommon migrant butterfly, not often recorded in Derbyshire. Altogether, 15 butterfly species were recorded.

Various plants were seen along the track and in the meadow including Bee Orchid and Common Spotted Orchid, but the rare Dark Red Helleborine was not yet in flower.

Some dragonflies were seen including Southern Hawker, Large Red Damselfly and a newly emerged Common Darter, and a few birds were noted including a Buzzard and a Kestrel.

Max Maughan

Hicks Lodge, Leicestershire

Sunday 21 July 2013

We arrived at to Hick's Lodge in steady drizzle, unwelcome following several days of the biggest heat-wave since 2006. With hopes that the weather would brighten later, the fourteen attendees, including the local Forester from the Forestry Commission, took advantage of the Visitor Centre for an illustrated introduction to local butterflies and their potential in the National Forest Later in the morning and the light rain persisted but we began by strolling round the western part of the site. This was the season of the brown butterflies and, despite the light rain, soon we saw several Meadow Browns, a few Ringlets, plus one Small White on the wing. These species will fly in dull weather if the temperature is sufficiently high but it was somewhat surprising also to see a small fulvous-orange butterfly, soon identified as an Essex Skipper, braving the damp conditions.

A leisurely lunch break at the café and the drizzle yielded to bright but not sunny weather. We,now including a captive-bred Barn Owl, crossed the road to the eastern, Shell Brook, section. A broad, wide ride running parallel to the road revealed good numbers of Meadow Browns, Ringlets and Essex Skippers. Essex and Small Skippers are superficially quite similar; there are a number of small differences but the classic way to differentiate the two species is by close inspection of the antennae: this is not always possible. I have always found it helpful to approach slowly from behind and try to pick up the butterfly. If possible, delegate this task to an eight-year-old, give or take a year or two, whose stealth and dexterity are invaluable and whose eyes are sharp. If successful the butterfly always proves to be an Essex Skipper; Small Skippers simply fly away.

Round a ninety degree bend and along a longer, less sheltered ride, there were still fair numbers of Meadow Browns, Ringlets and Essex Skippers but, as we ascended a gentle slope, Ringlets soon yielded to Gatekeepers. There were also some differences in the flora taken together giving a clear indication that species do respond markedly to apparently minor variation in habitat.

Surprisingly, nowhere were Speckled Woods seen although several more Small and one Large White flew by. As the weather again became less bright and the temperature dropped we rounded off the day by returning to the Visitor Centre for further refreshment and butterfly talk.

Note. No butterflies were harmed in the writing of this report.

Bill Bacon

Aston Rowant, Oxfordshire

Sunday 11 August 2013

This year we only had a small group of 6 people - two others had planned to join us but they were stuck in traffic near Silverstone and although they met up with us as we were leaving the first site, they decided to continue on their own. The hillside was packed with butterfly enthusiasts, included a large group from the Warwickshire Branch of BC. We followed the usual itinery, first exploring the hillside on the northern side of the M40. This area of chalk downland presents a spectacular display of wild flowers attracting a host of butterflies, which is only marred by the roar of traffic thundering past on the motorway, a few hundred yards away. When we arrived it was quite cloudy, windy and cool but we soon came across significant numbers of Chalkhill Blue and several Silver-spotted Skippers. The overcast conditions enabled close views because the butterflies were less active, but photography was difficult in the strong breeze. The sun emerged and the temperatures started to warm up, bringing out many more butterflies including a number of Brown Argus, both male and female, and Small Coppers, particularly on the marjoram. We were told that a couple of Clouded Yellows had been sighted further along the slope, but suddenly one flew straight past us, and a few minutes later another was flying near the sunken path. There were also a number of Common Blues so these could be compared to the Brown Argus and Chalkhill Blue, and as we walked back to the car park along the sunken path we came across a Marbled White and positively identified an Essex Skipper, having already seen several Small Skippers.

We then moved on to the Forestry Commission car park on the southern side of the M40 for lunch and afterwards did a short walk from there looking for Purple Hairstreak, but conditions were very windy and we had no luck. We did see Red Admiral and Holly Blue. On returning to the car park we again met the Warwickshire group and they told us that Purple Hairstreak had been seen in the first car park so we drove back and managed to find a single specimen at the top of an ash tree. The total species count for Aston Rowant was 23.

Our second site was the nearby Berks, Bucks and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust reserve of Whitecross Green Wood, back up the M40 towards Oxford. With sunny intervals and warm conditions we searched for our other target species of Brown Hairstreak. There had been a few sightings earlier that day but unfortunately we were unsuccessful. However we did see a White Admiral, several Silver-Washed Fritillaries, and quite a number of Purple Hairstreaks. Here we recorded 17 species. There were large numbers of Migrant Hawker dragonflies on the wing, as well as a few Southern and Brown Hawkers, Ruddy and Common Darters and one female Broad-bodied Chaser. Each species at some point during the walk settled on vegetation enabling close views and photographs.

By the end of the day we had seen a total of 27 species of butterfly and 6 species of dragonfly.

Max Maughan

Longstone Edge (Derbyshire)

Sunday 18th August 2013

This was a joint meeting with the Cheshire and Peak District Branch and was attended by 15 members, some of whom had travelled from as far as The Wirral and Chester.

A bright and sunny morning at this spectacular site on the 300 metre contour of the Peak District meant that our main target species, the rare Wall Brown Butterfly was soon in evidence although there were quite active. Eventually some members also got a photo of this species and a total of 6 individuals were seen.

Other species noted were: Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Common Blue, Small Copper, Brown Argus (Peak District Race), Painted Lady, Peacock, Dark Green Fritillary, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and Small Heath.

Lunch was taken whilst sitting below the Edge with wonderful views of the hilly Derbyshire countryside. Although the weather then started to cloud over some members decided to do a circular walk to nearby Coombs Dale where additionally Small Skipper, Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell and Speckled Wood were seen, making a total of 17 species for the day.

Everyone agreed that it was a very successful trip, so much so that David Tomlinson subsequently suggested that we do a repeat event next year so as to enable more members to enjoy this special part of the wonderful County of Derbyshire.

Ken Orpe