Field Trip Reports 2017

Bingham Linear Park

14th May 2017

Jenny Craig

About 18 people turned up for the walk today down the Linear Park. It was sunny but there was a cold brisk wind so after a few Orange-tips in the sheltered wooded cutting we did not see anything until we got to the River Smite. On and near the bridge over the river there were a couple of Grizzled Skippers and on the way back in the Ash Grove we saw another individual. A Hornet was seen resting on the brickwork of the bridge.

As we walked back we saw Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, more Orange-tips, Green-veined White and Brimstone. We also saw a Little Egret, Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker and heard several warbler species (Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat and Willow Warbler) among other birds.

So, after a slow start quite a successful walk.

Cotgrave Forest

21st May 2017

Neil Pinder

There was a wonderful attendance with eighteen people accompanying me on a pleasant sunny morning. Many of the attendees were interested in the general layout, history and on-going management of the woodland and wished to know the key areas for finding the scarcer butterfly species that will hopefully show up later in the year.

Late May was rather early to expect any of these though a good range of common early season lepidoptera (including day-flying moths) put in an appearance and the varied and rich botanical interest of the woodland was there for the quieter moments.

A wonderful feature of these outings is the companionship and the sharing of knowledge that takes place. They are a pleasant social outing as much as they are a naturalist’s excursion and I personally learned a lot about the economic aspects of Black-grass Alopecuros myosuroides and how to find the eggs of Orange-tip.

Dunstable Downs/Totternhoe Knolls

28th May 2017

Max Maughan

Situated in the Chiltern Hills, the area is the imposing scarp slope of the chalk downland overlooking the Vale of Aylesbury. A good sized group of 16 people met in the Chiltern Gateway visitor centre car park at 10am. The forecast had been good, and with sunny intervals and warming temperatures we set off. 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 to be disappointed.

As we proceeded down the slope where it was quite sheltered, we first came across a number of Brown Argus, Small Heath, Grizzled and Dingy Skippers. We then spotted our first Duke of Burgundy at the side of the path on a bramble leaf, and it enabled excellent photo opportunities. As we continued along the sunken path we came across more Duke of Burgundys and also eventually a couple of Green Hairstreaks. There were some of the more common butterflies, particularly Brimstones.

A total of 15 species of butterfly were recorded before lunch. By this time the weather was extremely hot and mainly sunny.

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, the smallest of our butterfly species. Interestingly the adults here seem to be associated with wild clematis (its larval food plant being kidney vetch), but the usual site along the lane seemed devoid of the butterflies even though conditions were ideal. Eventually we found two individuals which proved quite challenging for some of the group to pinpoint amongst the dense vegetation, and it was a new species for many. Some of the group then decided to return to the cars whilst nine continued on the circular route through the nature reserve where, at the entrance to a quarry, another bank of wild clematis proved a hot spot for Small Blue with at least 20 individuals including two mating pairs - a real bonus for the photographers. Finally, on the way back to the cars a Small Copper was added to the day's list.

It was a very successful and rewarding day with a final total of 18 butterfly species. Also of note, a Turtle Dove was heard, and we had excellent views of a singing Corn Bunting at the top of a tree in the car park, both of which are becoming increasingly uncommon throughout the countryside. For the botanists amongst us there were also a number of orchids seen during the day, includingTwayblade, Common Spotted, Fragrant and Man Orchid.

Bagworth Heath Woods Country Park

30th May 2017

Eliot Taylor

The weather in the week before our trip had seen temperatures in the mid-twenties, but it had poured with rain on a typical bank holiday Monday the day before. Then driving to the country park I went through a sharp shower, so it was with a little apprehension that a group of 4 of us set out on our quest to see our target species, it was cloudy although the temperature wasn’t bad at 17° -18°. I decided to take the gravelled path through mixed woodland rather than trudge through the wet grass, but this did enable us to see a few Speckled Wood. At the end of the wood it opened out into a sheltered grassland area. The sun came out briefly while we were there and produced a good number of butterflies and day flying moths; Common Blue and Burnet Companion being the most numerous as well as a few Small Heath. It was here that one of our party spotted a Mother Shipton moth, the first I’d seen here (but not to be the last). We stayed here a while admiring 3 Broad Bodied Chaser dragonflies.

In early May Dingy Skipper were seen in this more sheltered area, but nowhere else on the site, however, now they appear to be absent apart from one faded example that I thought at the time was a Small Skipper. I wondered if the latter emerged adults would be seen higher up on the old spoil heaps, that were left over from when the area was Desford Colliery. On the lower slopes, we did find 3 Dingy Skippers and a very worn Painted Lady. 2 more Dingy Skippers were seen on the plateau at the top. Some of them were hunkered down out of the wind that always seems present on the plateau. This is a good area for Small Heath which were found along with more Common Blue. Dark clouds were gathering again so we then made a gentle descent back towards the carpark stopping to look at some Orchids that we decided were Southern Marsh Orchids. Some of these were found on a large bank that in summer is covered in knapweed and where, in July, Marbled Whites can be found. Dingy Skipper are also found here in good numbers, but sadly not on this occasion.

A brief visit was had to see the artificial Sand Martin nest bank which appeared to have a good occupancy before we returned to the carpark. We escaped the rain and had a very successful walk, much better than anticipated.

Butterflies and moths seen:

  • Common Blue 17
  • Small Heath 13
  • Dingy Skipper 6
  • Speckled Wood 8
  • Painted Lady 1
  • Small White 2
  • Large White 1
  • Burnet Companion Moth 11
  • Mother Shipton Moth 4
  • Cinnabar Moth 2
  • Latticed Heath Moth 2
  • Yellow Shell Moth 1

Woodside Nature Reserve (Derbyshire Wildlife Trust)

4th June 2017

Jim Steele

Nearly a dozen of us turned up in windy but fairly sunny weather to wander around the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Woodside Reserve. My thanks to Colin Bowler and his expertly wielded net for enabling some close views of butterflies and moths. The 'Spring butterflies' were finishing, no Dingy Skippers to be found for example, but a good variety was still to be had. Our counts were 9 Common Blue, 13 Small Heath, 9 Large Skipper, 4 Speckled Wood and a Brimstone. Burnet Companion and Blackneck moths were also captured for inspection. Broad-bodied chaser and Four-spotted chaser dragonflies, and Blue-tailed, Common Blue and Azure damselflies were also spotted. A good couple of hours finished with a coffee for some of us at the Nutbrook Cafe!

Pleasley Pit Country Park

10th June 2017

William Lane

The walk was due to take place at 11:30am on the 9th June 2017 however the morning began with rain which was not forecast to clear till much later in the day. Three people rang me on the day, I informed them the walk was cancelled but would take place the following day weather permitting.

The weather on Sunday was a little better but no sunshine, however three people did turn up so it was decided to walk the transect route with the hope of seeing some butterflies. We were joined by a fourth person in section one.

The count was very low with only a handful of butterflies seen which included: Speckled Woods, Small Heath, Large Skipper, Common Blue and one Meadow Brown. No Dingy Skippers were seen, my own opinion being that we were too late in the season, probably by about three weeks.

Wildflowers seen included: Common Spotted Orchids, Southern Marsh Orchids, Bee Orchids, Twayblades and Rock Rose.

Towards the end of the walk the weather improved slightly which encouraged some activity at the Dragonfly Ponds, we were fortunate to catch sight of some Four Spotted Chasers, Broad Bodied Chasers, Common Blue Damselfly and Blue-tailed Damselfly.

The day ended with a cuppa at the pit Head Cafe.

Essex Weekend

Saturday 1st & Sunday 2nd July 2017

Max Maughan

On Saturday, a disappointing turnout of only 7 people (including myself and wife) met in Hockley Woods car park on a promising morning with sunny intervals and warm temperatures. Previous research had indicated the best areas for recent sightings of Heath Fritillary. Unfortunately, even after spending several hours of exhaustive searching of these areas not a single Heath Fritillary was seen. Twenty individuals had been recorded on 11 June so it seems that the diminishing colonies in Hockley Wood had now come to the end of their flight period, having emerged earlier than usual this year.

However, there were plenty of other common butterflies to be seen including a couple of White Admirals which were unexpected. Southern Hawker dragonflies patrolled the rides.

In the afternoon, five of us made our way to Wat Tyler Country Park near Basildon. There were large numbers of Marbled Whites here, flying in the meadows which had been created, brimming with wild flowers, particularly pink and white Goat's Rue. We also found several Essex Skippers (appropriately enough) nectaring on the ornamental Nepeta in the car park. A few dragonflies were also seen around the ponds - Common and Ruddy Darter and Azure Damselfly.

The total number of butterfly species for Saturday was 15.

Sunday was forecast to be a scorcher, and so it turned out. Unfortunately, we only had 5 people in the group for a tour of Hadleigh Castle Country Park which had changed a lot from our last visit, having become an international biking centre since the 2012 Olympics. However, we still managed to find large numbers of Elms and several White-letter Hairstreaks - a first for two of the group. There were also a number of Purple Hairstreaks on Ash and Oak trees, and our first Gatekeepers of the year were seen. After lunch three of us continued for a walk round the nearby Essex Wildlife Trust Reserve of Two Tree Island, which was very quiet, but we did manage to add 3 new species to the day's list, making a total of 18 species on Sunday.

The overall total for the weekend was 20 species of butterfly.

Toton Sidings

4th July 2017

Marion Bryce

A Red Admiral sucked the ripe dark cherries as we idly waited in the car park, then at 10 o'clock off we set, with 19 people in tow. The weather forecast had been quite buoyant but as we walked by the River Erewash, the cloud cover increased and it started to rain. A Little Egret fled as we crossed the river bridge, passed through the gateway into the old sidings.

Toton railway yards, built in 1856, were once described as the “biggest in Western Europe”. As freight business declined, the sidings began to return to nature. There was much dismay among local residents when the woodland that had grown up was illegally felled in 2009. But what followed was a blooming of the sidings with such a variety of wildflowers many different butterflies were attracted.

As we brush past the foliage the dark shadows of Ringlets flutter and a Gatekeeper flashes brilliant orange before shutting its wings and resting among the bramble. We went off piste to the best wildflower areas where the Marbled Whites fly late into the July evenings, and there they were, marble indeed, posing, frozen on the mauve knapweed flowers. So far, this year only 7 have been counted and we saw 3 today. Four large day-flying moths appeared, the Shaded Broad-bar, the Latticed Heath, the Six-spot Burnet and was that a Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet? A Smoky Wainscot thought it was night-time. Two Green-veined Whites showed off and we took the time to look at the skippers. Essex and Small Skipper were confirmed. A small grass moth was the common, Garden Grass Veneer Chrysoteuchia culmella. Pale Straw Pearl Udea lutealis, a bramble feeder was also confirmed.

Meadow fescue grows profusely along the path to the top of the hill. It stopped raining but the sky still lowered as we saw more skippers and Ringlets a-plenty, confirming Small and Essex Skippers at the top of the hill. A Large Skipper rested, waiting for the sun to shine.

We were almost back when we spotted the unmistakeable jagged edged wings of a Comma.

Fermyn Woods

8th July 2017

Max Maughan

The weather was not as predicted but this time was in our favour - it was a glorious sunny morning, and the whole day remained so. The butterflies responded to the sun and high temperatures in amazing numbers. There were also amazing numbers of people coming to look at them and it is difficult to say exactly how many attended the East Midlands Branch fieldtrip as there were also trips from Lincolnshire Branch, Beds & Northants Branch and a nature group from the East Midlands, but there were approximately 26!

We set off through Fermyn Wood and almost immediately were amazed to see several Purple Emperors in the sunlit canopy of an Ash tree and large numbers of Purple Hairstreaks. As we continued through the wood we came across White Admirals, and lots of Silver-washed Fritillaries, both male and female, more than I have seen on any occasion here. They were even coming down to the track around our feet in twos and threes to take up mineral salts from the gravel.

The hedge row between Fermyn and Lady Wood yielded good numbers of commoner species, but the small number of surviving Elms failed to produce any White-letter Hairstreaks.

In Lady Wood numbers of the target species were again high, including good views of a pair of Purple Emperors flying low around our heads before the female landed and perched on a low branch, and close by a pair of mating Silver-washed Fritillaries afforded good photographic opportunities. It was here also that one member managed to spot a female Valezina form.

We had not been fortunate enough to get any male Emperors coming down to the ground so we walked back with our eyes fixed to the track and were rewarded first with a White-letter Hairstreak taking up salts, before finally coming across the prized target of a male Purple Emperor also doing the same. It had been a very rewarding morning with a total of 19 species seen.

In the afternoon nine of the group drove to the Country Park Visitor Centre for a walk around the meadows and were rewarded with several Marbled Whites, a single Common Blue and a lone Essex Skipper. Dragonflies were in evidence around the ponds, particularly 4-spotted 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 for the day was 22.

Borders Wood

Owthorpe, Nottinghamshire
9th July 2017

Nigel Wood

Sunny and warm conditions greeted 19 people and one dog for a circular walk of approximately 2 miles using public footpaths and bridleways through Borders Wood.

Sadly only one Silver-washed Fritillary was seen but it stayed feeding long enough for those who wished to get a photograph. In total 14 species were seen:

  • Large White
  • Small White
  • Green-veined White
  • Brimstone
  • Small Tortoiseshell
  • Red Admiral
  • Comma
  • Speckled Wood
  • Ringlet
  • Meadow Brown
  • Gatekeeper
  • Small Skipper
  • Large Skipper
  • Silver-washed Fritillary

Cotgrave Forest

16th July 2017

Richard Rogers

A warmish day (21-22°C.) but overcast with only one brief spell on sunshine. At least we were spared the rain.

19 of us started off but this figure grew to 26 by midday.

The four target species were Silver-washed Fritillary, Purple Emperor, Purple Hairstreak and White Letter Hairstreak and, thankfully, all four were seen, one albeit with only one very brief view of a Purple Emperor in flight. With the flight period for the Purple Emperor nearly over and the doubtful weather conditions that was better than not seeing any at all.

Other species seen included Ringlet, Gatekeeper, Green-veined White, Small White, Large White, Large Skipper, Brimstone, Meadow Brown, Small Tortoiseshell and Comma.

Bagworth Heath Woods Country Park

18th July 2017

Eliot Taylor

15 people attended the walk, which was better than I expected for a Tuesday morning event. The fine weather no doubt helped encourage people to join this search for the Marbled White.

The Country Park is large, and our walk only covered about a quarter of it. We went on the same circular route as our May field trip here, when we were looking for Dingy Skipper.

We started out through light woodland where Specked Woods were seen, this then opened out to a sheltered glade. There was a good show of flowering Knapweed here and lots of butterflies: Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Small Skipper and Essex Skipper and a few Common Blues. Here we also encountered our first Marbled Whites.

As we climbed the now reclaimed former spoil heaps, left over from the time when this site was a colliery, we saw a Small Heath and further up Small Copper was spotted, as well as more Marbled Whites.

As we made our way back to the car park I became aware that I had become the centre of attention. An apparently large attractive bush cricket had landed on the top of my hat. All gathered round to get photos, it was a bit frustrating because everyone got a good view but me, as it was on top of my head! Eventually when the photographers had finished I took my hat off to look at the insect. I found out it was a Roesel’s Bush-cricket, a species that is rapidly spreading north and was first seen in Leicestershire in 2006. During the last century it was confined to the salt marshes and dunes of the south-east coast of England. Another result of climate change.

Butterflies and moths seen:

  • Speckled Wood
  • Gatekeeper
  • Meadow Brown
  • Ringlet
  • Small Heath
  • Small White
  • Large White
  • Green-veined White
  • Small Skipper
  • Essex Skipper
  • Red Admiral
  • Comma
  • Brimstone
  • Marbled White (7)
  • Common Blue
  • Small Copper
  • Six spot burnet moth
  • Latticed Heath Moth
  • Brimstone moth

Wyre Forest

22nd July 2017

Geof Adams

Was it the weather? Friday had been persistent rain from mid afternoon until late evening and the forecast for Saturday was cloudy with sunny periods and possible showers. Or was it that it is now fairly easy to see our target species, the Silver-washed Fritillary, nearer to home? Only two weeks previously we had been to Fermyn Wood and saw 13 Silver-washed Fritillary, including a Valezina female, all in good condition. Whatever the reason, the result was that we had no one turn up for this trip.

Despite the cloud it was still warm and the sun kept breaking through, so by 11.15 we decided that we would still do the walk down to the brook, Gatekeepers were all over the place, followed by Ringlets and Meadow Browns, but we only had small numbers of Red Admiral, Large, Small and Essex Skippers, Large & Green-veined Whites and one well-worn Silver-washed Fritillary.

Crossing the brook and climbing upto the old railway tracks we had sightings of two decent looking Silver-washed Fritillary. Here we met two members of the West Midlands branch who told us that they had seen several more further along the track, however the clouds were building up and it looked like those forecasted showers might catch us before we got back to the car, so we turned back down to the brook and across to the other side.

To our surprise, within five minutes of crossing the brook, the sun came out and remained out all the way back to the car park. We added Speckled Wood and Small Tortoiseshell to our list and four more Silver-washed Fritillary, again in good condition. But we still had one more species to add to our day’s tally, as we approached the main road there was a Purple Hairstreak flying low around a young oak tree, settling several times, giving good views, but not quite long enough for a photograph. As far as I can recall this is the first sighting of this species on our field trips to the Wyre Forest, perhaps the only good thing about the rain the previous day was that the Purple Hairstreaks had had to come down lower to find the honeydew they normally feed on at the top of the oak trees.

Interestingly we went to Kinver Edge the next day and had five Purple Hairstreaks settling low on vegetation, allowing us to get some good photographs and to introduce several passers-by to a butterfly they had never heard of before never mind seen, which they then proceeded to try photographing with their mobile phones. All due to that very wet Friday!

Coombs Dale

25th July 2017

John and Al Roberts

A group of 32 met at Calver for the annual visit to Coombsdale. Unfortunately the day was dull and cool but we set off up the Dale in good heart. In the first part of the dale no butterflies were seen but there were good views of small teasel, fragrant, pyrimidal and common spotted orchid. When we reached the mine the temperature had risen and the first of 8 Dark Green Fritillaries was spotted. As we explored the meadow so the numbers and variety of butterflies rose and the group had good views of Brown Argus, Small Skipper, Small Copper and others.

In all 13 species were seen, which was remarkable cosidering the adverse conditions.

  • Meadow Brown - 12
  • Gatekeeper - 5
  • Dark Green Fritillary - 8
  • Small White - 3
  • Brown Argus - 2
  • Green-veined White - 7
  • Common Blue - 3
  • Small Copper - 1
  • Small Skipper - 8
  • Large Skipper 1
  • Ringlet - 4
  • Speckled Wood - 1
  • Red Admiral - 1