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Butterfly Conservation

Saving butterflies, moths and our environment

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East Midlands Branch Butterfly Conservation

Field Trip Reports 2014

Ketton Quarry

Saturday 10th May 2014

On Saturday 10th May 2014, six members gathered in intermittent sunshine to look for the spring butterflies of Ketton. After watching an Adder at close quarters, by kind permission of LRWT we made our way round their reserve which is an outstanding site for butterflies in the East Midlands. Almost immediately we found a Grizzled Skipper (one of two seen during the morning). Some of the group were especially keen to see Green Hairstreak, so it was a relief to find one which allowed close views. Another later in the morning also posed for the photographers. Dingy Skippers proved more elusive, but after patient searching we found one which completed our list of the 'spring three' target species.

The commoner butterflies were few and far between, though by lunchtime when the group dispersed Peacock, Orange-tip, Brimstone and Small White had all put in an appearance. The total of seven species was the same as last year, but this time we had more prolonged views of Grizzled Skipper and Green Hairstreak.

Bingham Linear Park

Sunday 18th May 2014

Searching for Grizzled Skippers at Bingham Linear Park

This field trip was attended by 22 people and was a beautiful early summer's day. Over 75 individual butterflies were seen including 10 Grizzled Skippers. We were able to see them laying their eggs on the creeping cinquefoil. Also seen for the first time this year, on this site were Small Heath and a Small Copper. There were good numbers of Speckled Wood, Orange Tips and Green Veined and Small Whites. Small numbers of Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Common Blue and Brimstones were also seen. A total of 11 species of butterfly.

The group enjoyed watching a pair of Yellow Wagtails that appeared to be collecting nesting materials from the old track bed of the abandoned railway.

Also seen were some Cinnabar Moths, and Large Red Damselflies.
A good day out!

Hicks Lodge

Saturday 24th May 2014

Unfortunately cancelled due to bad weather

Barnstone/Grantham Canal

Sunday 25th May 2014

With the weather dry and the promise of some sunshine the group of 9 plus 1 dog walked the disused railway line from Barnstone Cutting to the Grantham Canal and returned to Barnstone via the bridleway passing alongside the airfield. The aim of the walk was to seek out Grizzled Skippers at the various known sites along the route. Initially things were not promising with several sites showing no signs of Grizzled Skipper activity until we reached the bridge over the Grantham Canal. Here we found an individual which obliged by remaining static long enough for photos to be taken. Further sightings were made on the perimeter track of the airfield. Other species seen were Brown Argus, Orange Tip, Green-veined White, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood, Brimstone, Common Blue and Cinnabar Moth.

Pleasley Pit

Saturday 7th June 2014

The weather was very poor with no members attending apart from committee. No butterflies were seen but we did have a newly emerged 4 Spotted Chaser at the Dragonfly Pools.

Bevercotes

Sunday 8th June 2014

A group of nine members set off towards the lake in warm sunshine. We were soon seeing Common Blues, Large Skippers and numerous dragonflies. A large clump of southern marsh orchids held our attention until 2 Dingy Skippers few past. We crossed the concrete bridge and climbed the old spoil heap with the wide verges full of nectar flowers. We soon saw Mother Shipton moths, Small Heaths and more Common Blues. Further Dingy Skippers were seen at the top of the spoil heap. One of our group saw a Kingfisher on the River Maun. Other species of orchids were seen including bee, spotted and pyramidal. A total of 7 butterfly species were seen.

Somerset Weekend

21st - 22nd June 2014

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary - Christine Maughan

On Saturday in glorious sunshine a group of 14 set off from the car park to walk up Collard Hill. Straight away butterflies were all around us in the fields and woodland leading to the hill, mainly Meadow Browns and Ringlets as well as Large and Green-Veined Whites.

On reaching the hill and climbing to the top we were greeted with large numbers of Marbled Whites and Small Tortoiseshells. Unfortunately talking to one of the volunteers it had been a very slow emergence so far for the Large Blue and only a few had been recorded to date. He was not sure why but it might have been due to the heavy rain in February flooding out some of the ant nests. However after much searching we eventually spotted a female Large Blue laying eggs on the thyme and although she refused to settle for a long periods most people got a reasonable view of this iconic butterfly. Sightings were also made of a Clouded Yellow.

We then returned to the cars, on the way briefly spotting a Silver-Washed Fritillary and a Common Hawker dragonfly.

The afternoon's venue was changed due to ease of parking and it was decided to go to Ubley Warren nature reserve near Charterhouse. On the way we stopped for lunch at a picnic site near a dragonfly pool at Priddy Mineries and spotted 10 species - Common Blue, Azure, Blue-Tailed, Large Red and Emerald damselfly, Emperor Dragonfly, Downy Emerald, Common Hawker, 4 Spotted Chaser and Broad-Bodied Chaser. At Ubley Warren there were large numbers of Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries even though they also refused to settle for long. But in the end everyone had good views of both topside and underside of this attractive butterfly. They were also large numbers of Large Skippers and Small Heaths.

On Sunday 12 people assembled at Sand Point north of Weston-super-Mare, hopefully to see an introduced colony of Glanville Fritillaries, but after patient hunting of the whole southern side of the point none were encountered. It may have been too late as we were right at the end of the flight period. Again the most common butterfly were Marbled Whites which were all around us. One Grayling was seen by some of the group.

Grayling Somerset
Grayling - Christine Maugham

After lunch 10 people decided to head for Brean Down to the south of Weston for better views of Grayling and possibly Wall. It was the day of an air display at Weston and the traffic at Brean Down was incredible so we were directed to park on the beach! When we climbed to the top of the Down we could see why because this was the best place to see the air display and while looking for butterflies we were entertained by the planes overhead. There were lots of Graylings of the cliff edges but no sign of Walls. We walked to the trig point where we encountered lots of fresh Dark-Green Fritillaries nectaring on yellow hawkbit and also large numbers of Red Admirals which, being migrants, may have just arrived on the Down.

As we made our way back before descending the steps we timed it right to see the climax of the air display which was the Vulcan Bomber flying right over our heads. A fitting end to a very successful weekend with most of our targets seen and fantastic weather.

A total of 21 butterfly species were recorded during the weekend.

Hick’s Lodge

29th June 2014

This was the second of three planned visits of the season at Hick’s Lodge. The first had been cancelled because of rain and with cloud overhead a few spots of rain appeared and there was a feeling of ‘here we go again’. But the rain held off and 15 attendees sauntered around the perimeter of the western part of the site through grassland, woodland both young and mature, heathland and open almost bare ground. The latter giving a reminder of the industrial heritage of Hick’s Lodge. A refreshment break at the lodge was followed by a visit to the eastern segment. The anticipated sunshine did not materialise.

Although the anticipated sunshine did not materialise, the day proved to be surprisingly fruitful. It is thought that we encountered more than 200 Ringlets and large numbers of Meadow Browns and Small Skippers were seen. Smaller numbers of Large Skippers, Small Heath, Small Tortoiseshells and Red Admirals plus singletons of the Green-veined White and the Speckled Wood were noted. Day-flying moths included both Five and Six-Spot Burnet, Cinnabar and large numbers of Shaded Broad-bar, a moth that flies at night but also in the daytime. Its larval foodplants are vetches & clovers which are in abundance at Hick’s Lodge.

Day flying moth Shaded Broad-bar
Shaded Broad-bar

The field trip was a reprise of one in June 2013 following which I reported that The Forestry Commission hoped to establish a butterfly transect at Hicks Lodge. Thanks to the enthusiasm of the ‘Friends of Hick’s Lodge’ this was duly set up and is now well established. Our afternoon session followed the exact route of the transect. Local resident Graham Bowers, who was with us throughout the day, is one of those ‘Friends’ and his local knowledge undoubtedly contributed to the enjoyment of the day. Graham is also involved with the nearby Donisthorpe Wood where he and others are preparing another transect to begin in the 2015 season.

A transect comprises a small series of ‘legs’ within a pre-determined route which is walked by a recorder or recorders each week weather permitting. The numbers of each butterfly seen are noted with the results reported to the county recorder. This programme has expanded substantially in recent years, particularly in the National Forest. If you feel that this might be for you and you would like to learn more please contact our transect coordinator and recorder for Derbyshire, Ken Orpe.

Bill Bacon

Coombs Dale, Derbyshire

1st July 2014

A good number of 20 people met in Calver on a day promising sunshine, but the morning gradually clouded over with brief periods of sun.

Coombs 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.

Brown Argus at Coombs Dale in Derbyshire
Brown Argus - Christine Maughan

The main target species of the walk were Dark Green Fritillary (the only fritillary found in Derbyshire) and Brown Argus. About 6 Dark Green Fritillaries were seen which was lower than expected but we had good opportunities to see the green colouration on the underside of the lower wings which gives the butterfly its name. Brown Argus was also seen and it was again possible to get views of the underside to see the identification features which distinguish it from female Common Blue. Altogether 12 butterfly species were recorded.

Some dragonflies were seen including Southern Hawker, and a few birds were noted including a Buzzard, Ravens, Bullfinch and a Kestrel.

Max Maughan

Fermyn Woods, Northhants

13th July 2014

Male Gatekeeper showing dark scent band- Fermyn Woods
Male Gatekeeper - Christine Maughan

We had a good turnout with 20 people meeting at the start of the walk, but unfortunately the sky was overcast although it was warm. At first no butterflies were visible but as temperatures continued to improve the Ringlets, Meadow Browns and Large Skippers began to emerge from the damp undergrowth after the previous night's heavy rain. There were moments of sunshine and we did see some high flying Purple Hairstreaks amongst the Oaks and Ash. It was also during these fleeting glimpses of sun that eventually a few White Admirals and Purple Emperors were seen, but they refused to come down low enough for really good views.

We continued into Lady Wood where the weather did seem to improve and Small Skippers were seen and some of the group did identify an Essex Skipper. Commas and Gatekeepers were other butterflies of note. At that point though it actually started to rain and we decided to head back to the cars.

Purple Emperor
Purple Emperor - Christine Maughan

Some of the group then went to the Country Park for lunch and afterwards walked around the pools and meadow area. Common Blue and Small Tortoiseshell were seen but no Marbled White. The pools yielded Azure, Common and Blue-tailed Damselflies, Brown Hawker, 4-Spotted Chaser and Ruddy Darter.

A few people then decided to go back to the morning's venue for another attempt to get closer views of our target species hoping that the weather was improving. We were rewarded with better views of White Admiral and a good view of the underside of a Purple Emperor in a tree but still none on the ground. After also a fruitless hunt for Silver-washed Fritillary we gave up and called it a day.

On the return walk we also had a couple of Southern Hawker dragonflies. The skies still remained generally cloudy.

A total of 15 butterfly species had been seen and 7 damselflies/dragonflies.

Max Maughan

Vicar Water Country Park, Notts (Joint with Derby Group RSPB)

15th July 2014

Under grey leaden skies again and temperatures on the cool side it was amazing that 29 people assembled in the car park. The nearby Clipstone Colliery closed in 2003, and the former spoil tip is now managed as a country park.

Female Gatekeeper
Female Gatekeeper - Christine Maughan

We walked a circular route around the park, covering a variety of habitats. The former spoil heap was returned to grassland and heathland in the late 1970's and contains both ling and bell heather. On our way across the highest part of the park we encountered several butterfly species including Gatekeepers, Ringlets and Meadow Browns, but most pleasing were a number of Essex Skippers. The cool weather conditions worked in our favour as the butterflies were fairly settled. This allowed close examination to enable positive identification of the skippers' distinguishing black-tipped antennae, and made comparison with Small and Large Skippers which were also seen much easier. It was also possible to point out the differences between male and female skippers, Gatekeepers and Ringlets.

We dropped down to the cycle path heading back towards Vicar Pond. Here it was much more sheltered, and the most interesting sighting was of a perched male Southern Hawker dragonfly.

A total of 11 butterfly species were seen, and 2 damselflies/dragonflies.

Max Maughan

Hick’s Lodge, Willesley Woodside, Leics

NEW MEMBERS' WALK

Saturday 19th July 2014

The weather forecast had been for rain in the morning with showers throughout the day. Sure enough it rained in the morning. One attendee and I sat around for almost half an hour in the rain and then, with regret, I decided to call it a day. Déjà vu.

Bill Bacon

Wyre Forest (Worcestershire)

Saturday 19th July 2014

The problem with planning our field trips is that we have to select the dates for the trips in the December prior to the next butterfly season, when of course we have no idea what kind of season we will have, never mind the likely weather on the day. So on the basis that in 2012 we ran the Wyre Forest trip on a Sunday, I decided to organise the 2014 trip for the Saturday, hopefully giving members who cannot attend on a Sunday the chance of coming along.

Unfortunately as the weekend approached the weather forecast gave heavy rain, including thunderstorms for the Friday and Saturday, and unfortunately the forecasters got the Saturday right. Heavy overnight rain which, other than short dry spells at breakfast and lunch, continued till late afternoon.

However we were surprised, has we sat in the car park with the 11 o’clock start time fast approaching, to see a car arrive and park next to us, the three occupants had been more optimistic than us and had made the journey from South Derbyshire more in hope than expectation. The next hour was spent chatting over tea and biscuits before eventually having to concede that the trip was not going to go ahead.

Silver-washed Fritillary puddling on path at Wyre Forest
Silver-washed Fritillary puddling on path

The weather forecasters didn’t get it all right, after heavy thunderstorms during Thursday night, Friday was dry, a cloudy warm humid morning followed by a sunny warmer humid afternoon. This was the day we had chosen to do our recognisance walk. So what would we have seen if the walk had gone ahead on the Saturday?

On the Friday we had 13 species, one less than 2012, there was large numbers of Gatekeepers, followed by Ringlets and then Meadow Browns. Small numbers of Small, Essex and Large Skippers, Green-veined White and Peacock, and singletons of Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Comma and Small White.

Our target species of Silver-washed Fritillary was surprisingly absent until we got down into the valley and up onto the old railway track on the opposite side of the valley, an area that during previous visits has never been too good for the Silver-washed, however this year we had 15 sightings including two puddling on the path. Re-crossing Dowles Brook and making our way back to the car park, although sightings were still lower than usual for this part of the walk, we ended with a tally of 25 Silver-washed Fritillary.

Had I picked Sunday for the walk, well that was a pleasant sunny day. What a difference a day would have made!

Geof Adams

Cotgrave Forest

Sunday 20th July

Assembling at the start of field trip to Cotgrave Forest
Assembling for the start of field trip

Despite the heavy thunderstorms of the previous day, there was a very good turnout for this field trip with 37 people being present, but would the butterflies be willing to show themselves after the battering they’d taken from the rain of the day before?

The weather on the day was humid and quite warm but overcast at times.

The large number of people at this event could probably be explained by the number of species seen here in recent years including sightings of a purple emperor at the start of July. However we were unlikely to encounter this iconic butterfly, as even in its stronghold of Fermyn Woods the season was drawing to a close.

On entering the wood we encountered Large White, Ringlet and Meadow Brown. As we walked further down the hill I spotted 2 purple hairstreak but as usual for this species it was not easy to get good views of them flying high in the oak canopy. I was hoping that the heavy rain of the previous day may have washed off the honeydew that the adult butterflies nectar on, forcing them to fly to the batches at lower level but it wasn’t the case for the purple hairstreak.

We then moved to the junction of the two rides through the wood which is an open area where there is knapweed teasel and thistle growing (including woolly thistle). Here is where the Dark Green Fritillary is often seen, unfortunately not on this occasion. Binoculars were used by many of the group to scan the area. Then a lady called out that she had spotted a White Letter Hairstreak on one of the thistle heads about 50 feet away. We stopped for a while whilst binoculars were past around so everyone got to see one of our target species. Also in this area we saw Peacock Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell and Comma.

After walking just past the power lines and seeing a pristine Gatekeeper we retraced our steps to the junction before heading down the eastern ride. Here we encountered 2 more purple hairstreak, again at tree top level, and a Red Admiral on the track. Further along I pointed out a Speckled Wood to some of the group Meanwhile another White Letter Hairstreak was spotted on thistle, again at a distance and with a bramble barrier between it and the photographers. Then another was spotted this time closer and a fresher specimen allowing good photo opportunities for those photographers who had brought long lenses. To round things off a large skipper was also seen on the brambles, making the total number of species seen 16.

Eliot Taylor

Toton Sidings

Thursday 24th July 2014

Surprisingly a large party of 36 people was present for this mid-week walk.

Female Gatekeeper
Female Gatekeeper

We walked over the river Erewash onto the Derbyshire side of the area. A field wildflowers and low scrubland was crossed, and here we started our search for the butterflies we had all come to see. It wasn't long before we were seeing gatekeepers in large numbers and a common blue posed nicely for those with cameras. Small skippers were also seen and then the hunt was on to try and establish whether any of them were the Essex skipper species. One member of the party proved to be a dab hand at capturing these in sampling jar, which meant that everyone in the party was able to look at the black tips of the antenna establishing that some of them were in fact Essex skippers. The wildflowers in this area produced large quantities of meadow browns, small, large and green-veined whites, a few ringlets were still flying about but most they were looking rather tatty now as they were at the end of their flight season. A few people were also lucky enough to spot the odd comma butterfly.

We then crossed back over the river and onto the Nottinghamshire side, and here large numbers of banded demoiselle were seen along the river bank with several other blue damselflies and later several dragonflies were seen including brown and southern hawkers.

Souther Hawker

We then searched another large area of scrubland where marbled whites have been seen but unfortunately it was all in vain this year we were clearly far too late, yet 2 years ago on the very same day I had seen several. We then took the main track through to what I have dubbed train spotters bank where you are more likely to see people with binoculars looking for trains rather than wildlife, well each to his own. Along the way we passed several buddleia bushes which were very disappointing as they only had a few peacocks and small tortoiseshell butterflies. However we were fortunate enough to have two sightings of brown argus.

We ended with a walk down through the wooded area of the reserve where speckled woods were seen and several dragonflies including a southern hawker dragonfly that posed nicely for the photographers.

Whilst the walk failed to find our target species the marbled white, this was an introduction to an area that is a good habit for a wide variety of butterflies and wild flowers which can be explored by anyone at any time of the year.

Brian Hobby