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
Monday 28th April
I spent this afternoon on the Purbeck Hills in Dorset. Cool, overcast and breezy conditions greeted me on arrival, but within a couple of hours the weather began to improve, with bits of blue sky appearing between the scudding clouds. Cowslips, ground ivy, cut-leaved crane's bill, daisies and gorse were in full bloom, and the first few horseshoe vetches were starting to flower. Although weather conditions were far from ideal, in the course of the afternoon I recorded a total of 9 Wall Browns, all males, at least 2 of which were very ragged and must have been flying for several days. Other species included 2 male Orange tips, 2 Large Whites, 1 Red Admiral ( migrant ? ), 1 Peacock, 1 Comma, 10 Speckled Woods, 1 Brown Argus, 1 Green Hairstreak, 3 Small Coppers and 6 Dingy Skippers.
Saturday 26th April
A warm afternoon with hazy sunshine. I spent an hour or so walking the dog in Stansted Forest, where wood anemone, bluebells, dandelions, dog violets, hedge garlic, cuckoo flower, wood spurge and bugle are now in full bloom. The first butterfly seen was a female Brimstone found at roost under a bramble leaf. I saw a further 8 Brimstones, most males, plus 2 Green-veined Whites, 10 male ( and 2 female ) Orange tips, a Peacock, a Comma, and 2 Speckled Woods. Other records coming in at the moment include the first Duke of Burgundy of the season in east Hampshire, Pearl-bordered Fritillaries in Devon, and from Kent - Common Blue, Adonis Blue and Small Heath.
Sunday 20th April
This morning I visited a chalk grassland site in West Sussex, where I saw 9 male Grizzled Skippers, and 2 fresh females. Grizzled Skippers are well adapted to the vagaries of the English spring, and were avidly nectaring at dandelions and violets despite the breezy conditions. I witnessed territorial engagements between 3 separate pairs of males. On another occasion I watched a male intercept a female, and settle on the ground next to her. He buzzed around her for a few seconds, but she had clearly already mated, and refused to copulate. In the much warmer conditions of early afternoon I visited Stansted Forest, and saw 6 Orange tips ( including 1 female ), 6 male Brimstones, a Comma, 4 Peacocks, a Large White, a Green-veined White and 2 Speckled Woods.

Sunday 13th April
White dead-nettle, garlic mustard, cuckoo flower, common mallow and wood forget-me-not are all now appearing along hedgerows in Hampshire, while in the woods yellow archangel has now joined the profusion of primroses, wood anemones, celandines and dog violets. Today's cool breeze and frequent downpours were enough to discourage butterflies from appearing though, except for a single Peacock which I found basking on Stockbridge Down during a short sunny spell this afternoon.
Saturday 12th April
Heavy snow on 6th April, followed by hail, sleet and a week of freezing nights should be enough to persuade any sensible butterfly to stay in it's chrysalis, but Speckled Wood, Orange tip, Holly Blue, Green-veined White, Large White, Small White and Small Copper have all been recorded this week in Hampshire by various observers. Grizzled Skippers have also begun to emerge in Hampshire and Sussex - I saw my first specimen of the season today at a grassland site near Winchester. Green Hairstreaks have been reported from Kent, and Clouded Yellows from Dorset.
Thursday 10th April
The Large Tortoiseshell appears to be slowly re-establishing itself in southern England, with specimens reported in the past few days from coastal sites in Devon, Dorset and Hampshire. Perhaps most surprising however is the news that over-wintered Camberwell Beauty has been recorded in Dorset !
Snow scene in Stansted Forest - 6th April was not a good day to look for butterflies !
Saturday 5th April
A cool northerly wind and a paucity of sunshine deterred butterflies from visiting the profusion of violets, ground ivy and blackthorn blossom at Stockbridge Down today, but at nearby Crab Wood I was lucky to see 2 Commas and a Peacock in flight. The mating Brimstones that I discovered there last week were still in union amongst the dog's mercury. It is quite common for Brimstones to remain copulated for several days. The Crab Wood pair have remained joined for 8 days so far, still a long way short of the 17 day marathon enjoyed by a pair I found in a Surrey wood in 1986 ! Love was in the air amongst amphibians as well, with 6 Common Toads seen at Stockbridge, including 2 mating pairs. Other wildlife seen today included a Stoat and a Muntjac in Crab Wood, and a group of Roe Deer at Farley Mount.



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