Field Trip Reports 2019

Williamthorpe LNR

Sunday 11th August 2019

Willy Lane & John Roberts.

The walk was attended by 13 people, 6 of whom were Butterfly Conservation members, plus 7 of the group also carried out transects at other sites.

The weather forecast was for a mix of sunshine and showers and as we waited for everyone to arrive it looked like the showers might win out the day, but amazingly as soon as we set off the clouds parted and the sun duly obliged.

The route taken was the same as that used for the weekly transect and with great surprise within 50 yards of entering the first wooded area we got our first sighting of our target species; the Purple Hairstreak. The butterfly sat sunning itself about 3 feet above our heads in a medium size oak tree. The real surprise was that the Purple Hairstreak had never been recorded in this area of the site before. Photographs were quickly taken and as is the norm, the butterfly was then off disappearing into the canopy above our heads however we then spotted two more Purple Hairstreaks flying overhead one of which seemed to be settling for periods in the same spot in an Ash tree that was sandwiched between two Oaks.

Section one of the transect route was also used to record for the Big Butterfly count and we were rewarded with a total of seven species which included the Purple Hairstreaks and Painted Ladies.

The walk then continued to section five of the transect route which is where most of the sightings of the Purple Hairstreak have previously been recorded. Along the way numerous butterflies, dragonflies and insects were seen.

At section five which is long woodland walk with sporadic glades we were again treated to seeing three more Purple Hairstreaks and then to really top off the day and a first for Williamthorpe was a very close encounter with a Silver-washed Fritillary. The butterfly was patient enough to stay close and allow everyone who wished, to get photographs.

Section nine provided opportunities for all concerned to get excellent photographs of a Small Copper which was feeding on Ragwort, the insect was not fazed one iota by the butterfly paparazzi assembled around it. For most people it was their first visit to Williamthorpe and it would be fair to say that this old colliery nature reserve proved just how invaluable brownfield sites are to wildlife in lowland Derbyshire and the countryside as a whole.

17 species were seen with a total count of 186.

Reports from earlier years

Aston Rowant

Saturday 10th August 2019

Max Maughan

The weather forecast today was for very high winds and thick cloud, with rain showers, and that proved correct. Although we turned up nobody else did! This was not surprising.

However we still made an effort to see if we could find any butterflies and did find Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers, Chalkhill Blues and Adonis Blues sheltering in the grass from the wind, but no sign of Silver Spotted Skipper.

Having given up by lunchtime and with no improvement in the weather we decided to abandon the trip and head to a National Trust property nearby.


Tuesday 23rd July 2019

Al and John Roberts

A group of 15 met at the car park at the foot of Coombsdale on one of the hottest days of the year. Unfortunately clouds gathered over this part of Derbyshire and we walked up the lower part of the dale with few sightings. The group soon split as many wanted to examine the flowers while the non-botanists walked slowly on. As a result of the splitting of the party only two people observed the White-letter Hairstreak in the elm by the path although others saw this on their return in the early afternoon. The group re-assembled near the mine entrance and were rewarded with good views of Dark-green Fritillary and Brown Argus. 18 species were seen in all.

The small group that slowly walked up the dale also observed a micro-moth, photographed by Peter Faulkner that, after much puzzling and consultation, turned out to be a Straw-barred Pearl Pyrausta despicata, only the second record for Derbyshire and the fourth for the whole of the East Midlands.

Cloud Wood LRWT Reserve

16th July 2019

Richard Jeffrey

The meeting point for our Field Trip at Cloud Wood was in the layby outside of the reserve, and this rapidly filled to overflowing as 32 attendees arrived. After a sunny morning, it was very disappointing to see dark clouds rapidly cover the sky. The temperature was recorded as 23 degrees so we were hopeful that a few breaks in the clouds might encourage a few butterflies out into the open. 

The event got off to an interesting start as an 'Old Lady' ended up being blown into the road. The 'Old Lady' in question was a large moth that narrowly avoided a premature demise in the slip stream of a speeding car. Fortunately the moth recovered to fly up into a nearby tree, posing long enough for photographs to be taken.

Our target species for the day were Silver-washed Fritillary, Purple Hairstreak and White-letter Hairstreak. Positive sightings of the first two species were noted, although the latter failed to put in appearance. A few brief sunny spells brought a single SWF out into one of the narrow rides and attendees armed with binoculars were lucky to see a couple of Purple Hairstreak flying high above Oak and Ash trees. The usual summer stalwarts were in evidence, but only Ringlets appeared in any great numbers, the remainder being recorded in low single figures. The grey skies reappeared and we decided to call it a day with the promise of repeating the trip at a similar time next year. A few of us stayed behind to investigate the site further and were rewarded with another brief sunny spell and an appearance of a couple of SWF giving us a good opportunity to take photographs.

The full species count for the day was as follows:

Meadow Brown4
Gren-veined White2
Peacock 1
Silver-washed Fritillary3
Purple Hairstreak2
Small Skipper1
Large Skipper3
Small Tortoiseshell1
Silver Y1
Old Lady1

Fermyn Woods Country Park

Sunday 7th July 2019

Max Maughan

A group of around 26 people went on the walk on a day that proved the most important thing needed was sun!

We set off through Fermyn Wood and were interested to see whether the area was recovering after the wholesale clearance of trees on the side of the main track that took place last year. It will also be interesting to see if this drastic action will eventually improve the area for butterflies and other wildlife. There were certainly lots of Silver Washed Fritillaries flying up and down the ride, along with whites, Meadow Browns, Ringlets and Large and Small Skippers.

We decided to investigate an area around some sleeping huts where there still seemed to be large amounts of bramble and were rewarded with more good views of both male and female Silver-washed Fritillaries nectaring on the bramble and thistles.

Continuing on just passing out of Fermyn Wood we suddenly had a male Purple Emperor flying around our feet. Unfortunately it settled in the grassy ditch out of view and eventually flew off. Further on the small number of surviving elms failed to produce any White-letter Hairstreaks, but in the Ash trees one or two Purple Hairstreaks were spotted.

In Lady Wood there were Silver-washed Fritillaries everywhere but only brief views of White Admirals. We headed to where some other people had seen a male Purple Emperor on the track but the sun then decided to go in and stubbornly refused to come out again and the emperor would not show itself. Most people gave up waiting and made their way back, but a few people stayed until the sun came out and were rewarded with the emperor coming down.

Despite the lack of sun at the right time everyone agreed it had been a good morning with a total of 15 species seen.

In the afternoon a few of the group drove to the country park visitor centre for a walk around the meadows and were rewarded with lots of Marbled Whites.

The total number of butterfly species for the day was 16.

Tippings & Boundary Wood

Sunday 9th June 2019

Jane Broomhead

A group of 17 people met at the Car Park, including Jane (Branch Organiser), Richard (Nottinghamshire Conservation Officer) and Suzanne (Nottinghamshire Recorder). The weather had not been good over the previous days but we had a warm morning with hazy sunshine. The count for species was as follows:-

Speckled Wood 5
Large Skipper 3
Red Admiral 2
Common Blue 24
Brown Argus 1
Dingy Skipper 1
Peacock 2
Green Veined White 1
Orange Tip 3
Meadow Brown 1
Cinnabar 3
Burnet Companion 14
Latticed Heath 2
Common Heath 1
Shoulder-striped Wainscot 1
Mother Shipton 1
Yellow Shell 1
Plants – (Rarer plants only) Bee Orchid, Southern March Orchid, Common Spotted Orchid, Common Cudweed, Yellow Bartsia.

Everyone enjoyed the 2 mile walk and thought it was a lovely site. We found the target species although it was very tatty. We think we were a little late in the season, but the amount of Birds Foot Trefoil would suggest that there had been many more DS there.

Dunstable Downs

Saturday 25 May 2019

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 19 people met in the Chiltern Gateway visitor centre car park at 10am. The forecast had been for cloudy conditions but the sun was beginning to break through as we set off and walked towards the sunken path and the temperature increased. 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 this was one of the first butterfles seen and one of many more.

As we proceeded down the path where it was quite sheltered, we also came across a number of Brown Argus, Small Heath, Grizzled and Dingy Skippers as well as more Dukes of Burgundy enabling excellent photo opportunities. Green Hairstreaks were also spotted on the hawthorns and on the grass. It was also the first time on one of my walks that we found Small Blue, two specimens. This may indicate that they are spreading along the Chiltern Ridge from Bison Hill. There were also 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 hot and 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). Walking down to the old quarry lots of Small Blues were seen including a mating pair, a real bonus for the photographers. We continued further into the reserve and found a couple of Dukes of Burgundy after an exhaustive search!

It was a very successful and rewarding day with a final total of 15 butterfly species.

Bagworth Heath Woods Country Park

Wednedsay 22nd May 2019

Eliot Taylor

There were 14 people present. The temperature was 16˚C at the start of the walk.

The trip started with cloud but there were some sunny intervals as we searched lower area of this former colliery. At the start of the walk butterfly numbers were not as good as in previous years. The flowers in the lower section seem later, especially Bird's-foot Trefoil (Food plant for Dingy Skipper, Common Blue and Green Hairstreak, at this site). However, we did see a few Common Blues and a Brown Argus, and a little further on we had good views of a day flying moth, the Mother Shipton, so called because the markings on its forewing look like the profile of the face of a witch. It was only when we got to the top of the old spoil heap that we started to see more butterflies. A single Green Hairstreak posed well for photographs, then 2 more were seen close together. We also saw a lot more Dingy Skippers here. The Bird's-footoot Trefoil was well in flower on this higher ground, but not on the lower area, in my experience the opposite of most years.

Species Seen

Brimstone 3
Common Blue 9
Brown Argus 1
Dingy Skipper 25
Green Hairstreak 3
Orange-tip 4
Peacock 1
Small Copper 1
Small Heath 3
Speckled Wood 2
Mother Shipton 3
Burnet Companion 1
Cinnabar 5

Bingham Linear Park

Sunday 19th May 2019

Jenny Craig

The day was sunny and warmish  to start with but it clouded over as we did the walk to the River Smite. There were about 13 people on the walk, some local, some had travelled some distance to get here.

 The overall numbers of butterflies was low. We were hoping to see Grizzled Skippers and indeed some of the group (which got spread out along the path) did see some individuals. Unfortunately not everyone in the group managed to see one. We also saw small numbers of Speckled Wood, Orange-tip, Small White, Peacock and Brimstone. Most surprising were the relatively large numbers of Brown Argus we saw in the exact same areas we would expect to see Grizzled Skippers. I had noticed that their food plant Geranium molle Dove’s-foot Cranesbill has done very well this year which no doubt has helped. For comparison over the last 10 years of butterfly monitoring walks I have recorded annually between 8 and 50 Brown Argus individuals annual total (average 14 per year). On this walk alone I recorded 7 individuals.

 We also saw adult Cinnabar moths.

Longstone Edge

Saturday 18th May 2019

John Green

Eight people turned up at the big layby on Longstone Edge to hopefully see our target species. The weather conditions were far from perfect but it was dry and little wind. The problem was the lack of sun. We managed to see a Small Copper, one Wall Brown, and three Small Heaths. No Green Hairstreaks even though we looked in all the usual places. Thanks to all who came, sorry we did not rise to the usual high standard, better luck next year. One of our number went back on the Sunday and saw Wall Browns, Green Hairstreaks, Small Coppers, Whites, a Peacock, Orange Tips and a Dingy Skipper. What a difference a day makes!