- 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.
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.
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.
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
5 male Duke of Burgundy, 2 Dingy Skippers, 2
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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 (
), but I did see one a couple of miles away in my garden at
Havant in the late afternoon.