Field Trip Reports for 2012
SAVE OUR BUTTERFLIES WEEK: 19 - 27 MAY
Ketton Quarry (Rutland)
Saturday 19 May
Grid ref: SK 979 054, (O/S sheet 141).
With morning drizzle, low cloud and the temperature being just 8˚C the chances of seeing any butterflies were slim. However, three of us set out to explore this Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust Reserve more in hope than expectation. But alas no butterflies were found and only a few micro moths made an appearance. I was able to point out the best area to see green hairstreak and the food plants of the grizzled skipper - wild strawberry and creeping cinquefoil. The butterfly prefers smaller straggly plants growing on warm gravelly ground to lay her eggs and the habitat of the quarry is ideal. I suggested a visit in July would be worth a try when marbled white should be flying.
The couple who accompanied me on the walk were on their way to our Dunstable Downs field Trip the following day, I hope the weather was kinder for them!
Dunstable Downs/Totternhoe Knolls (Bedfordshire)
Sunday 20 May
8 people attended on a dull, misty, cold morning with spells of drizzle.
We walked the route along the downs but no butterflies were seen.
After lunch we continued onto Tottenhoe Knolls where we did eventually find two Dingy Skippers curled up around two Knapweed heads. We also saw a Common Carpet moth.
Unfortunately the weather had defeated us.
Pleasley Pit Country Park (Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire)
Tuesday 22nd May
A total of 22 people attended of whom 8 were non-DNHS members, although a number of the remainder were members of both organisations.
This seemed to be the first day of summer with brilliant blue skies and temperatures in the mid-twenties. The reserve is on the site of a former coal mine. Mining ceased in 1983, and the area was later acquired by Derbyshire County Council when it became a country park. It has now been upgraded into a Local Nature Reserve. This is now an important brownfield site which attracts butterflies such as Dingy Skipper.
In the morning we walked around the lower part of the nature reserve in an area noted for Dingy Skipper and were soon rewarded with many sightings of this attractive butterfly. A number of interesting plants were also noted. After lunch we continued around other parts of the reserve. Unfortunately the dragonfly pools only yielded 2 Large Red Damselflies. A few more Dingy Skippers were seen in the afternoon.
The total number of butterfly species for the day was 8 which were Dingy Skipper, Small Heath, Brimstone, Large & Green-veined White, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Orange-tip.
Brown's Hill Quarry & Holwell Mineral Line (Leicestershire)
Sunday 27 May
This Nature Reserve, owned by the Leicester and Rutland Wildlife Trust, lies just to the east of Holwell Village and comprises the larger Browns Hill Quarry and the adjacent smaller North Quarry and a section of a mineral line.
The area south east of Holwell village was originally mined for building stone and Brown's Hill Quarry was probably in existence by 1815. Ironstone, from the iron ore that was laid down in the Jurassic period, was certainly quarried from this site at various periods between 1879 and 1956 and continued in the adjacent North Quarry until 1962. Holwell Mineral Line was opened in 1876 to transport ironstone to the Asfordby "Holwell" Works. There, in 1904, the workers included a foreman named Francis Ford who was the brother of my wife's grandmother. The mineral line was closed in the 1960's when mining finally ceased in the area.
On a brilliantly sunny and hot day, Ralph Johnson, the cheerful reserves manager, greeted nineteen of us with the news that earlier that very morning he had seen a Grizzled Skipper, the first sighting there for fifteen years. The Green Hairstreak also had been seen at the southern end of the Browns Hill quarry. The morning was spent in Browns Hill quarry where Common Blues and Dingy Skippers were immediately in evidence, but overall, butterfly numbers were felt to be low. There was a feeling that, generally, the disappointing summer of last year was continuing with a poor spring.
After a break for an al fresco lunch soaking up the sun, we continued along the mineral line, followed by a walk below the one remaining face of the North Quarry which is of interest to geologists as a unique Liassic section. We concluded with another look at the main quarry. Disappointingly and despite our best efforts, there was no sign of the Green Hairstreak or the Grizzled Skipper. As the day became so hot, perhaps there was an element of aestivation, certainly the numbers of butterflies in Browns Hill reduced as the day progressed.
Nevertheless, overall double figure counts of Dingy Skippers and Orange Tips were made and other butterflies included the Common Blue, Small Copper, Speckled Wood, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Green-veined White and Brimstone, a female of which was noted ovipositing on a Purging Buckthorn by the side of the Holwell Road. Cinnabar and Silver-Y moths were also seen, the latter on some superb herb-rich calcareous grassland above the North Quarry.
This gentle amble, occasionally we accelerated to a stroll, was, I think, thoroughly enjoyed by us all.
Ryton Wood and Meadows (Warkwickshire)
Sunday 3 June
The forecast for the day was atrocious with heavy, continuous rain, so not unexpectedly, apart from myself and Christine, nobody else arrived. Having waited in the soggy car park in case of latecomers we abandoned the day's walk.
Unfortunately the weather has defeated us again.
Vicar Water Country Park (Nottinghamshire)
Tuesday 5 June
A total of 15 people attended on a cloudy, cool and breezy morning with little hope of seeing any butterflies or dragonflies.
This former colliery site is now managed a country park. This is now an important brownfield site which attracts butterflies such as Dingy Skipper.
We walked a circular route around the park, covering a variety of habitats, and the first insect sighting was that of a Common Heath moth. The area at the top of the first track which is where most Dingy Skippers are known to have been recorded was unfortunately devoid of butterflies, but further along the ridge 2 possible Dingy Skippers were seen flying. (These did not settle to allow positive identification.) The other major sighting was that of a Lime Hawkmoth on the cycle track. This was a very fresh specimen which appeared to have only just emerged and was seen dropping from the trees on to the track by one excited member of the group. It allowed very close inspection, and was then rescued from the ground and put onto nearby vegetation from which it then flew to an overhanging tree.
Other sightings included Cinnabar moth, and caterpillars of Drinker moth, Burnet moth and an attractive Yellow-tail moth larva. It was also nice to see a large colony of Bee Orchids on the hilltop.
Bingham Linear Park (joint with South Notts Wildlife Trust)
17 June 2012
The walk was attended by 9 people. It was a cool (15 degrees C), gusty day. The numbers of butterflies seen was low - 5 in all but each one was a different species. We saw a Ringlet, a Meadow Brown, Small Heath, Small White and a Grizzled Skipper. Bill Bacon found some Grizzled Skipper eggs on creeping cinquefoil in places where we have been trying to encourage Grizzled Skippers. Lots of good growth of flowering herbs such as poppies and ox-eye daisies.
Friends of Bingham Linear Park
Prees Heath & Whixall Moss
1 July 2012
7 people attended.
At Prees Heath Butterfly Conservation Reserve we began our walk in heavy rain showers with a cool wind and no sun. However, in spite of the weather, we found 3 Silver-studded Blues and one Common Blue bravely clinging to heather stems, and we also came across a Meadow Brown and two Small Heaths. Then to our great delight we found a fairly healthy population of approximately 30 Silver-Studded Blues perching and nectaring on clumps of wood sage which appeared to create a warm, sheltered micro-climate. It was an amazing sight, and a very welcome one in this awful year of sparse butterfly records! Simon also discovered a group of Mullein moth caterpillars on a flower spike.
After spending much time admiring and photographing, the group moved on to the lowland raised bog of Whixall Moss, a National Nature Reserve. After lunch, the weather started to improve with blue sky and sunshine appearing! Adjacent to the cars some Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars were noted in a nettle patch. A number of Ringlets, a Meadow Brown, a pair of Large Skippers and a Large White were seen in the marl allotment area, as well as several male and female White-legged damselflies and a Common Blue damselfly.
On the Moss itself, at the dragonfly pools we saw good numbers of Large Heaths, although they were very flighty and difficult to examine closely or to photograph. Also two Small Skippers and a number of Large Skippers were seen. There were a number of dragonflies and damselflies: two newly-emerged Black Darters, and a very fresh Emerald damselfly, as well as several 4-Spotted Chasers.
We then walked along the Mosses trail and came across another Large Heath which settled in the grass long enough to be photographed. Two Large Red damselflies were noted in one of the drains. At a small coppice it was pleasing to find a number of Green Hairstreaks still on the wing, and a pair of mating Large Skippers.
Walking back towards the canal, a Small Tortoiseshell was seen, as well as several more Ringlets along the towpath.
Several moth species were also recorded during the day, including Yellow Shell, Clouded Border, Common Carpet, Latticed Heath and Yellow Underwing.
All in all it was a very good day after a rainy start with all the target butterflies seen, and a number of damselflies and dragonflies.
8 July 2012
10 people attended.
It was a grey, overcast and misty start as we walked through the wood with one brave Ringlet seen. We returned to the cars for coffee hoping for a change in the weather. Another Ringlet and a Meadow Brown were spotted in the lane near the cars. It did look then as though the weather was improving and we decided to walk the track through the wood once more, but we only saw the same Ringlet as earlier.
Unfortunately it then started to rain heavily and a quick retreat was made back to the cars for lunch. With the rain continuing and no sign of any sun, It was decided to call it a day and go home to watch the Wimbledon men's final!
No target species were seen, the weather having beaten us again. Will it ever improve?!
Carr Vale Flash (joint with RSPB Derby Group)
17 July 2012
A total of 11 people attended on a cloudy but dry morning with some hope of sunny intervals.
What was once a landscape of collieries and coalpit spoil-heaps has been transformed in recent years into one of the top five nature reserves in Derbyshire.
From the car park we walked through the Peter Fiddler Reserve and then into the Carr Vale Reserve. Returning for lunch via the Stockley Trail (a former railway line linking the collieries).
6 species of butterflies were seen with lots of Meadow Browns, Ringlets and Large Skippers, as well as a few Small Skippers. Red Admirals and Commas emerged when the sun came out. Due to the minimal amount of hot sunshine there was a lack of dragonflies but a number of damselflies were seen including Emerald Damselfly which was a new species to some of the group. 4 dragonfly/damselfly species were recorded in total.
Wyre Forest (Worcestershire)
Sunday 22nd July
Following a spring and summer of rain that has had a detrimental effect on our butterflies and has seriously effected our field trips, we were told by the weatherman that the Jet Stream had eventually decided to move back north in the few days before our trip to the Wyre Forest.
Our last visit to this National Nature Reserve was during our 21st anniversary year, now we were visiting it during our Silver Anniversary year and our target species would be the Silver-washed Fritillary, the second of our three "Silver" species we hoped to see during the year.
It seemed that our members did not completely believe the weather forecast, as our group only numbered nine, the majority of whom where from the Derbyshire RSPB Group.
The weather seemed ideal as we collected in the car park, even seeing a couple of Silver-washed Fritillaries flying through as we waited, but as we crossed to the more open area around the track down to Dowles Brook we found a strong breeze and periodic cloud cover, this did not stop the Silver-washed from being seen in flight, but they were very reluctant to settle.
There was no shortage of Ringlets and Meadow Browns, although telling them apart was very difficult, the brighter and pristine Gate Keepers were much easier to pick out, even in flight. Then Large Skippers made an appearance, followed further down the track by Small Skippers, but the Silver-washed Fritillary still refused to settle.
As the bridges across Doyles Brook at the bottom of the path and at Knowles Mill had been damaged by flash floods, the circular route we had taken four years earlier was not possible, we therefore decided to explore one of the side paths on our way down, it took us to a sun trap more sheltered from the wind.
Just before turning onto this side path a couple of the group found a Silver-washed Fritillary which had settled and managed to get some photographs, they also saw the first of two Speckled Woods to be seen on the trip.
This little diversion proved to be well worth it, a couple of Small Coppers, a Large White and, a first on one of our field trips to the Wyre Forest, a Marbled White, were all added to our list. We also had good views of a Golden-ringed Dragonfly and a small Toad.
Rejoining the main path we had a quick look in the meadow by the side of the brook, evidence of the floods was apparent with most of the grass flattened by the flood water, however on the higher ground the knapweed was in full flower and good numbers of Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers and Skippers were evident, Silver-washed Fritillary kept flying over and along the hedge, only to disappear at the other end back over the hedge again. Two more Marbled Whites appeared and alighting on the knapweed allowed a few photos to be taken.
We walked a little further along the footpath towards the damaged bridge, a fast flying Small Tortoiseshell was spotted by one of the group and then a Green-veined White, but finally the whole of the group had good views of a Silver-washed Fritillary, albeit settled on the radiator grille of a parked car.
Retracing our steps back up the track only two further species were spotted, a small white and then a small pale brown butterfly in flight, it looked different, and following it for sometime, it landed and we had a very faded Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary.
In total we saw 14 species of butterflies and although we had not had many of our target species settle, we had regularly seen them in flight throughout the visit.
As I put the finishing touches to this report, the weather man has indicated that the Jet Stream is making it's way back south and the wet unsettled weather is about to make a return, the window of good weather was very short, but thankfully this trip was right in there!