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
Saturday 30th August
A warm sunny day at last ! This morning I revisited Noar Hill in Hampshire, and together with several other butterfly enthusiasts I spent several minutes observing a female Brown Hairstreak ovipositing. She spent ages crawling about on the stems of tiny little blackthorn plants, laying one or two eggs per plant, each egg-laying bout being followed by a period of basking on nearby herbage. This cycle was repeated several times until about 15 eggs were laid, after which the gathering clan of photographers got too much for her and she headed up into an ash tree. I saw a total of 3 Brown Hairstreaks. Other species were scarce but included 4 Brimstones, a small number of Small and Large Whites, about 20 Common Blues, 1 Red Admiral, 1 Comma, 6 Speckled Woods, 2 Gatekeepers, 4 Small Heaths and about 40 Meadow Browns. I finally also saw my first adult Small Tortoiseshell of the year, glimpsed from a distance, and confirmed by 2 other observers who got much closer views.

After Noar we went over to Old Winchester Hill and saw 3 Adonis Blues ( including a fresh female ), 30 Chalkhill Blues, 6 Common Blues, 3 Small Coppers, 100+ Meadow Browns, 5 Gatekeepers, 3 Small Heaths, 1 Peacock, 30+ Silver-spotted Skippers, 2 very worn Essex Skippers, 6 Brimstones, 2 Large Whites and about a dozen Small Whites including a mating pair. We only explored a limited area of the site so these figures represented probably no more than 10 percent of the total present.

Monday 25th August
Today I continued my quest for Brown Hairstreaks by visiting Shipton Bellinger, where the butterflies breed in low numbers over a fairly extensive area on the blackthorn hedgerows. Cold, overcast and windy conditions unfortunately precluded any chance of seeing adults flying, although I did manage to find a couple of eggs low down on the bushes. The only butterflies flying were a few Meadow Browns, 1 Small Heath, 1 Common Blue, a couple of Large Whites and half a dozen very tatty Gatekeepers.
In the afternoon I continued the search by visiting Alner's Gorse in Dorset. Weather conditions had by then improved, but despite warm sunshine no Brown Hairstreaks were seen. The afternoon's count comprised of about 50 Meadow Browns, 9 Gatekeepers, 15 Speckled Woods, 12 Large Whites, 4 Small Whites, 1 very worn Green-veined White, 1 Brimstone, 1 Red Admiral, 1 male Silver-washed Fritillary, 2 Small Coppers and 1 Essex Skipper.
Sunday 24th August
At Stansted Forest this afternoon Speckled Woods were easily the commonest butterfly, with 29 fresh individuals seen. Other species included 12 Meadow Browns, 3 very faded Gatekeepers, 1 Brimstone, 2 Small Whites, 2 Common Blues, 3 worn male Silver-washed Fritillaries and 3 pristine Red Admirals.
Saturday 23rd August
Brown Hairstreaks appear to be having a poor season at Noar Hill, doubtless a legacy of the atrocious weather during their flight season last year. I only had brief views of 2 males today - one settled high on a hazel bush, and the other flying around the top of a 5 metre high ash tree. A friend later saw and photographed a female on hemp agrimony, and we also found a single freshly laid egg on blackthorn.
Other butterflies seen at Noar included 5 Brimstones, 3 Large Whites, 2 Small Whites, 4 Brown Argus, circa 15 Common Blues, 1 female Holly Blue, 3 Speckled Woods, 4 Small Heaths, 60 Meadow Browns, 8 very faded female Gatekeepers, 5 Small Heaths, 3 Red Admirals, 2 Peacocks, 2 Commas and no less than 6 male Silver-washed Fritillaries.
Sunday 17th August
Cool and mostly cloudy conditions resulted in a spectacularly unsuccessful afternoon at Noar Hill. Only 2 Brown Hairstreaks were seen ( not by me ), and numbers of all other species were very low - just 2 Brimstones, 1 Large White, 2 Small Whites, 2 Brown Argus, about a dozen Common Blues, 1 Comma, 8 Peacocks, 20 Gatekeepers, 40 Meadow Browns and 4 Small Heaths.
Friday 15th August
At my garden in Havant today a pristine Red Admiral appeared, probably the progeny of adults seen ovipositing at the beginning of July. I also found a tiny and very pretty 2nd instar Comma caterpillar, doubtless the progeny of the female that has been resident in the garden since 19th July.
Sunday 10th August
Together with several friends I visited Noar Hill this afternoon. Weather conditions were far from ideal, being blustery and fairly overcast, but we were lucky to find the elusive Brown Hairstreak - a male seen nectaring on hemp agrimony. Butterflies were generally in very low numbers, but we also saw 3 Small Skippers, 3 Brimstones, 3 Large Whites, 4 Green-veined Whites, 1 Small White, 1 Brown Argus, 15 Common Blues, 1 female Holly Blue, 1 Small Copper, 3 immaculate Red Admirals, 1 worn Comma, 2 Peacocks, 1 Dark Green Fritillary, 2 Silver-washed Fritillaries, 2 Speckled Woods, 25 Gatekeepers, 35 Meadow Browns and 6 Small Heaths.
Wednesday 6th August
Late afternoon sunshine and a profusion of flowering hemp agrimony and knapweeds produced good numbers of nectaring butterflies at Stansted Forest, including 11 Silver-washed Fritillaries, 2 Commas, 1 Red Admiral, 2 fresh Holly Blues, 8 fresh Common Blues, 4 Small Whites, 1 Green-veined White, 1 Large White, 2 Brimstones and about 15 very worn Small / Essex Skippers. Slightly surprisingly the Satyrines were in low numbers - just 20 Meadow Browns, 30 Gatekeepers and 3 Speckled Woods, but a nice surprise was the appearance of no less than 12 Peacocks nectaring on a Buddleia near the Forestside entrance to the wood.
Saturday 2nd August
This morning's cloudy weather gave way to a warm and sunny afternoon which induced much frenzied butterfly activity at Stockbridge Down. Marbled Whites and Small Skippers were nowhere to be seen, and I failed yet again to see a Small Tortoiseshell, but there were over 70 Brimstones avidly nectaring at wild basil, and at least a dozen freshly emerged Peacocks, mostly nectaring at Buddleia bushes. Other species included 1 Dark Green Fritillary, 1 Silver-washed Fritillary, 1 Red Admiral, 1 very worn Comma, 1 Painted Lady, 15 Small Whites, 2 Large Whites, 40-50 Gatekeepers, 400+ Meadow Browns, 2 Small Heaths, 3 faded Small Coppers and about 600 Chalkhill Blues. The main reason for my visit however was to see Silver-spotted Skippers - I found 3 males and a single female, but had to wait for almost 3 hours before they would settle long enough to get a photograph !
Other observers this week have reported Silver-spotted Skippers in good numbers in East Sussex, second brood Small Blues in Hampshire, second brood Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries in Cornwall, and Brown Hairstreaks in West Sussex and Hampshire.


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