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East Midlands Branch Butterfly Conservation

Field Trip Reports

Field Trip Organiser's Report 2016

There were 11 scheduled day trips and one weekend away to the Isle of Wight. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, the latter had to be cancelled at short notice, but a few members still attended and managed to see the target species, Glanville Fritillary.

The total number of people attending all the day trips was 182 with the average attendance being 17. The highest number of people attending a single trip was 37 at Coombs Dale on 14 July. Three of the day trips were joint with either the Derby RSPB Group or Derby Natural History Society.

The trip to Warren Hills and Charnwood Lodge on 7 June was specifically for new members and this year 7 people attended.

The weather for the majority of day trips was not always perfect but generally the target species were seen. No trips were actually cancelled beforehand due to bad weather, but due to the awful weather on the day nobody apart from the leader turned up for the Cotgrave Forest walk on 9 July.

I would like to express my thanks to all the volunteers who led day trips this year. If you fancy leading a walk either locally or further afield please see me. It can be just for common species, or for more specialist ones. I also urge you to attend field trips - you don't have to be an expert - the leaders will help with identification.

Max Maughan

Field Trip Organiser


Bingham Linear Park

Nottinghamshire

15th May 2016

Leader

Jenny Craig

We had 17 people on the walk in May on the Bingham Linear Park. The weather was cool and cloudy so not great for butterflies. We saw a number of Orange-tip when the sun came out plus a few individuals of Peacock, Holly Blue, Speckled Wood, Small White. As we walked back we were lucky enough to see at least one Grizzled Skipper, either in two places or there were two individuals.

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Ryton Wood and Meadows

Warkwickshire

Sunday 29th May 2016

Leader

Max Maughan

17 people assembled in the car park at the Country Park on a quite cloudy and cool morning.

We made our way to the Meadows but the conditions were still not ideal for butterflies and initially we only saw 1 Dingy Skipper. Then the sun made an appearance and a number of Green Hairstreaks were observed on bramble bushes and hawthorns, and as we crossed one of the meadows Mother Shipton and Burnet Companion moths were spotted. On the butterfly bank along the track more Dingy Skippers were seen and a male Common Blue.

Returning to the car park we made a visit to Paget Pool (normally closed to the public) courtesy of the Warkwickshire Branch who were also leading a walk around the reserve. Here there were a number of Pearl-bordered Fritillaries flying on the sunny bank recently cleared of tall vegetation, including at least one female laying eggs on the violets.

After lunch we walked through Ryton Wood to the junction of several rides where there had been recent sightings of Wood White. With patience, waiting for the sun to reappear, we were eventually rewarded with good views of at least 8 individuals, and this was a new butterfly for many in the group. There were also more sightings of Pearl-bordered Fritillary here.

It was therefore quite a successful day, but unfortunately we missed out on one of the target species, Grizzled Skipper. It appears that very few have been recorded at this site so far this year.

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Vicar Water Country Park

Nottinghamshhire

2nd June 2016

Leader

Max Maughan

We had a group of 11 people who assembled in the car park. This was a joint walk with Derby RSPB group and most were members of BC. Unfortunately the cloudy, breezy conditions meant that the chance of seeing any butterflies was remote, so we concentrated on the birdlife.

We followed a route up on to the heath area and eventually down to the cycle track. The only thing of interest apart from birds was a Drinker Moth caterpillar on the path. As we returned along the cycle track the sun finally made an appearance and we saw 2 Speckled Wood butterflies.

We recorded 32 species of birds.

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Loscoe Fields

Leicestershire

Sunday 5th June 2015

Leader

Colin Bowler

The weather during May has been disappointing to say the least, and, having managed just a single reconnaissance visit to the site, I was concerned that my first outing as a walk leader would be a disaster.

Happily, the weather took a turn for the better, and early morning cloud was beginning to clear as 15 enthusiasts, including myself and Jim Steele, met on Taylor Lane. A Green-veined White appeared and gave good views as it landed on vegetation close to the cars as we prepared to set off – we were up and running for the day!

The next couple of hours were as good as we could have hoped for following the previous weeks’ weather, with good views of all of our target species, and the added bonus of being able to watch a female Brimstone laying eggs at very close range.

Whilst overall numbers were low, we managed to see at least 5 Dingy Skippers, mostly past their best in terms of condition, 3 Common Blue, 3 Small Heaths and 3 Small Coppers. With at least 5 Brimstones seen, plus single Holly Blue and Orange-tip, a couple of Peacocks and several Large Whites and Green-veined Whites, a species total of 10 for the walk was very respectable and demonstrated the value of the site, which is currently the subject of a planning application.

Day-flying moths were also in evidence, in particular Burnet Companion, which thrives here. With the help of a net, I was able to ensure everyone had good views of this species, plus Mother Shipton and Latticed Heath.

The sun was burning down as we made our way back to the cars, a happy band of explorers with some memories to recall on those dark winter nights, and ready for a well deserved drink!

Further sightings of Brimstone, Holly Blue, Green-veined White and Large White were made as I chatted with some of the walkers back at Taylor Lane. Just as I was about to leave, a Painted Lady flew strongly through, heading north – a fitting finale to an excellent outing.

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Warren Hills and Charnwood Lodge

Leicestershire

7th June 2016

Leader

Richard Jeffery

Seven people (3 from Leicestershire and 4 from Nottinghamshire) met up at the Copt Oak pub, near Markfield, North-west Leicestershire, prior to embarking on this two part Field Trip, to allow for car sharing as parking at both sites was very limited. Our target species were the Wall, Small Heath and Green Hairstreak, and results were mixed.

In the morning, we set off for Warren Hills in warm and sunny conditions, making it perfect for Butterfly spotting. This site has historically proven to be a stronghold for the Wall and, as I had just seen my first Wall of the year at nearby Bardon Hill the day before, I was quietly confident. We were pleasantly surprised, therefore to count 11 individuals (the highest number I have ever seen in one day). The Small Heath is also resident here and 10 were recorded around the site. Alas, the anticipated Green Hairstreak disappointingly failed to materialise prompting fears that their flight period could have been ended prematurely in the poor weather over the previous couple of weeks.

Species seen at Warren Hills were:

  • Wall 11
  • Small Heath 10
  • Speckled Wood 1
  • Large White 1
  • Holly Blue 1

After returning to the Copt Oak for a well-earned lunch break, we moved on to the nearby Charnwood Lodge. By now it was still warm but had become considerably overcast. Charnwood Lodge is a SSSI site with varied habitat, including some acid heathland and grassland unique to the area. We were greeted by 2 Wall at the start of the trail, and later found another 2 at the far end of the trail, far enough apart to be classed as 2 different sites. Small Heath usually occur in good numbers here, and despite the lack of sunshine we still noted 13 individuals along the route. Once again the Green Hairstreak was absent from a site where sightings are normally 'guaranteed' at this time of year.

Species seen at Charnwood Lodge were:

  • Wall 4
  • Small Heath 13
  • Small Tortoiseshell 2
  • Peacock 4
  • Small Copper 1

Day-flying moths recorded throughout the day were Silver Y, Brown Silver-line, Silver-ground Carpet and Green Carpet.

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Toton Sidings

Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire

28th June 2016

Leader

Brian Hobby

A party of 19 members met at Toton Fields for a morning walk to this valuable butterfly site.

We started our walk by crossing the Erewash to the Derbyshire as we were keen to record the Marbled White on that side of the border. Unfortunately we were unable to find any but there were plenty of Ringlets (40+) along with 2 Meadow Browns, 2 Speckled Woods, 6 Large Skippers and just one Small Skipper.

We had started our walk in sunshine but after half an hour the clouds started to thicken so we returned to the Nottinghamshire in search of the elusive Marbled Whites. Initially it didn’t seem to promising with dark clouds looming but then the skies lightened and the butterflies became more active. Again the Ringlet was commonest butterfly on the wing with at least 30 individuals seen along with 7 Meadow Browns, 5 Large Skippers, 1 Small Skipper and at least 8 Marbled Whites.

The crowning glory of the day was when one of the members spotted a pair of mating Marbled Whites much to the delight of the numerous photographers in the party, a great end to a successful walk.

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Cotgrave Forest

Nottinghamshire

9th July 2016

Leader

Bill Bacon

Due to unforseen circumstances Bill Bacon agreed to step in for Richard Rogers and lead this walk at short notice, but due to heavy rain the trip was unproductive.

In Bill's words "I did go to the meeting point at the appropriate time as I had not formally cancelled. Heavy Rain, no visitors, after 15 minutes I came home. Great summer!"


Fermyn Woods Country Park

Nothamptonshire

10th July 2016

Leader

Max Maughan

Although the weather was not very promising, a good crowd of 24 people attended, some travelling from quite a distance, in the hope of seeing the target species of this iconic site. We set off through Fermyn Wood and almost immediately were amazed to see a White Admiral and a Purple Emperor chasing each other up in the canopy, showing well the size difference between them. Even better, a male Purple Emperor then landed on the track in front of us giving excellent views as he took up mineral salts from the gravel.

As we continued through the wood dodging the intermittent rain showers, we still had canopy views of Purple Emperors and White Admirals, but Purple Hairstreaks eluded us and the only butterflies seen in numbers were Ringlets and Large Skippers.

In Lady Wood the conditions improved with the sun making brief appearances, and lots of Purple Emperors were seen flying in the canopy, perching and on the ground. Other butterflies of note were Small Skipper, Purple Hairstreak and Silver-washed Fritillary.

In the afternoon some of the group drove to the Country Park Visitor Centre for a walk around the meadows and were rewarded with large numbers of Marbled White and a couple of Gatekeepers, although the strong winds made photography difficult. Dragonflies were in evidence around the ponds, particularly 4-spotted Chaser and Broad-bodied Chasers, Emperor and Brown Hawker. Southern Hawkers had already been seen in the woods during the morning.

The total number of butterfly species was 17, and 8 species of dragonfly/damselfly were seen.


Coombs Dale

Derbyshire

Joint with Derby Natural History Society

14th July 2016

Leader

Max Maughan

An amazing number of 37 people met in Calver on a bright sunny morning, but the morning gradually clouded over with briefer 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. Unfortunately the meadow is being encroached by hawthorn and is in need of management.

At the start of the dale on a patch of thistles where were a number of more common butterflies: Large Skippers, Ringlets and Meadow Browns.

However the main target species of the walk were Dark Green Fritillary (the only fritillary found in the Peak District) and Brown Argus. About 20 Dark Green Fritillaries were seen and on occasions there were opportunities to see the green colouration on the underside of the lower wings which gives the butterfly its name. Brown Argus male and female were also seen in reasonable numbers, quite easily identified by their territorial behaviour and silvery flight, but it was difficult to get views of the underside to see the identification features which distinguish it from female Common Blue. The latter species was recorded and a very confiding mating pair provided excellent photographic opportunities.

There were good opportunities to help the less experienced members with identification of the more common species such as Green-veined White and Gatekeeper, and we watched the mesmerising flight of a pair of Speckled Woods as they spiralled through the dappled light of the trees. This was probably a territorial fight between two males.

In the meadow an attractive black and white moth was spotted which turned out to be a Clouded Border Moth.

A Southern Hawker dragonfly was seen at close quarters flying around members of the group near the entrance to the dale, but further on, perched up on the stem of a meadowsweet on a sunny bank, was a Common Hawker which enabled quite good views. It demonstrated the diagnostic feature of a yellow costa (the leading edge of the upper wings), and on examination of photographs it appeared to be a female but unusually the spots on the abdomen were bluish rather than typically yellow. This can occur in some females.

Altogether 11 butterfly species were recorded.

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Aston Rowant & Whitecross Green Wood

Oxforshire

14th August 2016

Leader

Max Maughan

A good turn out of seventeen people, one having travelled from as far as the Wirral, assembled in the car park on the northern side of the motorway for the first part of the walk. The weather was warm and calm but quite dull. This actually proved to be an advantage, especially for the photographers, in that quite a lot of butterflies were still in evidence but were generally less flighty.

On entering the site the array of wild flowers was spectacular as usual and on the slopes down to the motorway we found some of our target species without difficulty, particularly large numbers of Chalkhill Blue, Silver-spotted Skipper and a few Brown Argus and Common Blue. We had positive sightings of Essex Skipper as well as Small Skipper. One species so far eluded us, but after considerable patience a male Adonis Blue was spotted in the sheltered sunken path as it momentarily opened its wings to reveal its stunning blue upperside whilst hunkered down in the short grass. It flew up the bank and we were able to get better views of both underside and with its wings fully open.

We returned to the cars and moved to the Cowleaze Wood car park for lunch before having a short walk on the southern part of the reserve. Here we saw a few Purple Hairstreaks in the top of an Ash tree and a single Marbled White on the grassy slopes. There were also a number of Chiltern Gentians, a speciality plant of the area.

Most of the group then travelled on to Whitecross Green Wood with the hope of seeing Brown Hairstreak. This proved even more challenging, but again patience paid off and we eventially saw both Purple Hairstreak and Brown Hairstreak in a large Ash tree on the side of the main ride. No Silver-washed Fritillaries were in evidence, but a lovely Painted Lady was busy nectaring on the teasels near the entrance to the reserve.

In all we saw 22 species of butterfly for the day and it was a very rewarding and enjoyable day. Some of the species were 'lifers' for a number of the group.

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