- field notes by Adrian Hoskins
sightings of each brood are highlighted in bold type
policy - details of certain sites where visitor pressure
or trampling may pose a threat to butterflies or alienate
landowners are excluded from these pages.
A warm sunny day at last ! This morning I
revisited Noar Hill in Hampshire, and together with several
other butterfly enthusiasts I spent
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.