Butterfly Diary - field notes by Adrian Hoskins
my earliest sightings of each brood are highlighted in bold type
Sightings policy - details of certain sites where visitor pressure or trampling may pose a threat to butterflies or alienate landowners are excluded from these pages.
Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jly | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec

Sunday 29th April

Marsh Fritillaries have begun to emerge at several sites in Dorset, including a site near Dorchester where I saw at least 30 fresh males flying today. Other species included about 50 Dingy Skippers, 20 Grizzled Skippers, 3 Brimstones, 4 Orange tips, 15 Green Hairstreaks, a Small Copper, 7 Holly Blues, 2 Red Admirals, 3 Peacocks and 2 Speckled Woods. Day-flying moths included fresh specimens of Burnet Companion, Mother Shipton and Cinnabar.

Saturday 28th April

The exceptionally warm spring weather is causing many species to emerge much earlier than normal. Ballard Down for example today produced 10 Adonis Blues including a fresh female, and there were at least 40 fresh Brown Argus flying. Other species seen included about 50 Dingy Skippers, at least   4 Clouded Yellows, a Brimstone, 2 Small Whites, a dozen Orange tips, about 30 Green Hairstreaks, 3 Small Coppers, 6 male Common Blues, 3 female Holly Blues, 3 Peacocks, 2 Commas, a Red Admiral ovipositing on nettles, about 8 Wall Browns, 10 Small Heaths, and 8 Speckled Woods.

Saturday 21st April

I saw fewer than expected butterflies at Bentley Wood this morning - 10 Speckled Woods, a couple of basking Peacocks, a Small White nectaring at bluebell, 2 fresh male Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, 3 Brimstones, and a Small Copper.
Later in the morning I visited a private wood in central Hampshire, where I saw 3 Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, 5 male Duke of Burgundy, 2 Dingy Skippers, 2 Grizzled Skippers, 6 Holly Blues including a female ovipositing on dogwood flowers ( see photo below ), a Small Copper, a Green Hairstreak, a Green-veined White, a Small White, 6 male Orange tips, a Peacock, and about 20 Brimstones.
In the afternoon I visited Noar Hill where I saw 8 Duke of Burgundy, 7 Holly Blues, 7 Dingy Skippers, a Small Tortoiseshell, a Peacock, 10 male Orange tips, 12 Brimstones and a Green Hairstreak. Finally I visited Stockbridge Down, and saw about 20 Grizzled Skippers, 2 Green Hairstreaks, 10 Small Coppers, a Holly Blue, 15 Brimstones, 2 Peacocks, a Comma, 4 Small Whites, and the pretty micro moths Pyrausta purpuralis, Pyrausta nigrata and Adela reaumurella.

Saturday 14th April

At Ballard Down today I saw about 20 Speckled Woods, 2 Commas, a dozen or so Peacocks, a Small Tortoiseshell, 6 Holly Blues, 8 Small Coppers, 4 Green Hairstreaks, an Orange tip, 2 Small Whites, 2 Brimstones, 3 Clouded Yellows, and about 10 Dingy Skippers. I found 3 male Dingy Skippers whose territories overlapped. All passing butterflies were intercepted - Clouded Yellows and Peacocks were quickly investigated but not challenged. Small Coppers were challenged and quickly ousted from the vicinity. When any of the male Dingy Skippers encountered each other a sortie took place, with both butterflies whirling in tight circles close to the ground, occasionally making physical contact. After about a minute, the pair would suddenly rocket skyward to a height of about 3 metres, and the "intruding" male would be chased off, after which the "owner" of the territory would return to ground level and continue flying back and forth in search of females.

Monday 9th April

I visited Magdalen Hill Down today, where I met Colin Baker. Together we saw about a dozen Grizzled Skippers, 3 Brimstones, a Small White, a Holly Blue, 2 Commas, 3 Green Hairstreaks and about 10 Peacocks. We watched a group of 4 male Peacocks chasing each other in wide circles, then returning to their respective territories. The first Green Hairstreak we saw was a male, occupying a territory at the bottom of the hill, where it perched on privet and on low herbage. Later we saw a female egg-laying.

Sunday 8th April

This morning at Levin Down, Steve Meredith and myself saw 4 Grizzled Skippers. We later visited Chiddingfold Woods, where we saw 2 Brimstones, a Speckled Wood, 2 male Orange tips, a Comma, and a Peacock. We also surveyed a Marsh Fritillary site ( which we cannot name, due to the risk of visitors trampling on the larvae ) where we found 458 final instar larvae, most of which were seen wandering across a footpath.

Friday 6th April

A walk at Ballard Down this morning produced no less than 5 Clouded Yellows, including a mating pair. All were faded and worn, and were probably migrants, but the possibility that they had over-wintered as adults cannot be ruled out.
I also saw a Holly Blue, a Green-veined White, 3 male Brimstones, a Small White, a dozen fresh Speckled Woods, 6 Small Coppers, a Comma, a dozen Speckled Woods, a Small Tortoiseshell, 5 Peacocks, and a Red Admiral.
Thursday 5th April

Despite warm sunshine, Stockbridge Down was very quiet this morning, producing only 6 Peacocks and 4 Commas, all nectaring at blackthorn, and a single male Brimstone. Magdalen Hill Down was only marginally better, with 3 Commas, 4 Brimstones, and 5 Peacocks, but also produced my first Small Tortoiseshell of the year, seen flying around a nettle patch; and 2 fresh Green Hairstreaks.

Monday 2nd April
At Botley Wood this afternoon I saw 14 Commas, 18 Peacocks, 2 fresh Speckled Woods, and a Small White. These species however were far outnumbered by the Brimstones - I saw a minimum of 49 males, and 5 females. Most were seen in flight, but several were nectaring at primroses, violets and bluebells. I watched one confused male attempting to copulate with a fallen ivy leaf, and watched another as it intercepted a passing female. The pair landed on a bush, whereupon the male attempted to copulate. The female responded by leading him on a long courtship flight, during which the male constantly fluttered a few inches below her. The pair rose to a height of about 100m, then disappeared into the far distance, the male still hovering below. Later I watched another female fly up into an oak, where she went to roost under an ivy leaf at a height of about 5 metres.
The Nymphalids also provided some interesting observations - at one stage I watched a male Comma battling with a male Peacock, both of who believed they had legal ownership of a particular birch log. The pair engaged in battle several times during a period of about 20 minutes, the Peacock eventually conceding defeat to the victorious Comma illustrated below !
Sunday 1st April
This afternoon at Stansted Forest I saw 4 male Brimstones, 2 Commas, and 2 Peacocks, both of which were nectaring at a patch of ground ivy. There were no signs of any Red Admirals, huge numbers of which used the forest as a refuge during the winter months ( see chart ), but I did see one a couple of miles away in my garden at Havant in the late afternoon.



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