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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.
 
2008
Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jly | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec
 
July
 
Sunday 27th July
 
At Crab Wood this morning I recorded 2 Green-veined Whites, 1 Large White, 13 fresh Brimstones, 1 Large Skipper, 2 Speckled Woods, 1 Gatekeeper, 1 Ringlet, 28 Meadow Browns, 2 White Admirals, 1 Peacock and 37 Silver-washed Fritillaries including a valesina ovipositing on an oak trunk. Later at Stockbridge Down I saw another valesina nectaring at bramble on the open downland, and 2 males at Buddleia. Other species at Stockbridge included 3 Dark Green Fritillaries, 5 Peacocks, 1 Red Admiral, 1 Comma, 1 worn Painted Lady, 18 Small / Essex Skippers, 6 Green-veined Whites, 1 Large White, 2 Small Whites, 15 Brimstones, 2 Speckled Woods, 35 Gatekeepers, 150+ Meadow Browns, 3 Small Coppers, 2 Common Blues and an estimated 800-1000 Chalkhill Blues.
 
Saturday 26th July
 
A couple of hours spent on Ramsdean Down this afternoon provided further evidence that populations of our summer butterflies are at an all-time low. Despite warm and bright conditions the only species seen were 20 Common Blues, 3 Small Coppers, 2 Dark Green Fritillaries, 1 Peacock, 20 Small Heaths, 10 Marbled Whites, 60 Meadow Browns, 1 Large White, 2 Small Whites, and about 30 Small Skippers.
Reports coming in from other observers indicate that Silver-spotted Skippers and Brown Hairstreaks are just beginning to emerge in East Sussex, and Wood Whites in Surrey. Most observers are agreed that most of the July species have suffered a major decline this year, a consequence of the atrocious weather conditions during last year's breeding season. One of the worst affected species is the Small Tortoiseshell, which is causing great concern, with many recorders having failed to see even a single specimen this summer. The Large Tortoiseshell however, which only a few years ago was presumed extinct in the UK, is showing signs of making a comeback, with several reports of presumed migrants reported from sites along the south coast.
 
Thursday 24th July
 
Despite perfect weather conditions butterflies were in well below average numbers at Ballard Down in Dorset today, although diversity was reasonably high with 27 species recorded - 9 Lulworth Skippers, 1 Small Skipper, 2 Essex Skippers,  3 Large Skippers, 4 fresh Dingy Skippers, 1 Clouded Yellow, 1 Large White, 5 Small Whites, 2 Green-veined Whites, 7 Small Coppers, 30+ Common Blues, 1 Holly Blue, 7 Chalkhill Blues, 3 fresh male Adonis Blues, 15 Brown Argus, 3 Red Admirals, 8 Commas, 3 worn Dark Green Fritillaries, 4 immaculate Peacocks, 12 Speckled Woods, 2 fresh Small Heaths, 1 fresh Grayling, 60+ Gatekeepers, 50+ Marbled Whites, 2 Wall Browns ( ovipositing ) and about 150 Meadow Browns. The biggest surprise however was the presence of 2 Silver-washed Fritillaries ( 1m, 1f ) a species not previously recorded at this site.
 
Sunday 20th July
 
I decided today to concentrate on photographing some of the commoner species, so late this morning I visited Noar Hill, a very flowery chalk grassland site which normally supports huge populations of Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers, Marbled Whites and usually excellent for summer Nymphalidae such as Red Admiral, Peacock, Painted Lady and Comma. Weather conditions were quite reasonable, but butterflies very scarce, possibly the worst I've ever known at this site. My total count for the morning was just 60 Meadow Browns, 15 Ringlets, 8 Gatekeepers, 3 Small Heaths, 15 Marbled Whites, 3 Large Whites, 1 Red Admiral, 3 Commas and about 40 Small / Essex Skippers.
Afterwards I visited Stockbridge Down where despite cooler and overcast conditions butterflies were more profuse, though by no means abundant. Species seen included 2 Brimstones, 2 Small Whites, 12 Green-veined Whites, 4 Commas, 7 worn Dark Green Fritillaries, 2 worn Silver-washed Fritillaries, 30 Marbled Whites, 30 Gatekeepers, 180+ Meadow Browns, about 120 fresh male Chalkhill Blues, and 9 Small Coppers including a female ovipositing on sheep's sorrel at the edge of a rabbit scrape.
 
Saturday 19th July
 
My opportunities to visit butterfly sites in the last few days have been very limited, but reports coming in from other observers indicate that Chalkhill Blues, Graylings, Peacocks and Brimstones are flying at several sites in southern England, and that Scotch Argus has begun to emerge in Cumbria.
At home in my rather unkempt garden in Havant I saw 2 Red Admirals ovipositing today on a small patch of nettles. Each laid about a dozen eggs between about 11.00am and 1.00pm. The eggs were all laid singly on the upperside of terminal nettle leaves. The egg-laying bouts, which each lasted about 2-3 minutes were interspersed with periods of basking, and occasional flights to nectar at a Buddleia bush a few metres away. Interestingly a Comma was ovipositing simultaneously on the same nettle patch, and neither species seemed disturbed by the presence of the other. Also in the garden were a few Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns and Speckled Woods, plus the occasional Holly Blue and Small White, visiting bramble blossom and Buddleia.
 
Saturday 12th July
 
After the heavy rains this week, it was hardly surprising to find that butterflies were in poor numbers this morning at Stansted Forest. During a 45 minute walk I managed to see 30 Gatekeepers, mostly males, plus about 30 Meadow Browns, 40 Ringlets, 4 Marbled Whites and a few Small Skippers. In the afternoon I visited Martin Down. A strong breeze and overcast conditions reduced butterfly activity but during sunny spells the Dark Green Fritillaries became very active. I saw about 40 individuals, mostly worn males, although there were also at least 8 freshly emerged females. Other species at Martin Down included about 60 Meadow Browns, 30 Marbled Whites, 2 Gatekeepers, 5 Ringlets, about 80 Small Skippers, a few fresh Essex Skippers and 1 Small White.
 
Friday 4th July
 
I was very fortunate to have several sightings of Purple Emperor at Alice Holt forest this morning - at one stage I had 3 males and 1 female in sight simultaneously. On 2 occasions different males flew down and settled on the path, displaying their purple sheen in all it's glory. The first male appeared at about 09.45am and settled to feed on a fox scat for a few moments before returning to perch high up in an oak tree. The other individual came down several times during the course of the morning, and was last seen at about 12.30pm. One, or possibly 2 females were seen in flight, one of which settled at the top of a sallow tree where it remained for about an hour. Other species seen included 50 Ringlets, 50 Meadow Browns, 2 Purple Hairstreaks, 1 fresh Green-veined White, 2 Speckled Woods, 5 White Admirals, 2 Red Admirals, 3 Commas, 30 Large Skippers and about 25 Silver-washed Fritillaries. Most of the latter were males, but there were at least 6 females, including the aberrant form confluens.

 

Thursday 3rd July
 
This afternoon I visited a woodland reserve in Wiltshire where Silver-washed Fritillaries were abundant until 3 or 4 years ago. Unfortunately numbers have dropped considerably, and I only managed to see about 20 today, including 2 mating pairs. White Admirals were also well down in numbers, with only 3 seen. The small population of White-letter Hairstreaks seems however to be stable, with sightings of 3 adults flying around the top of a wych elm in the centre of the wood. Other species seen included 2 Marbled Whites, 50+ Meadow Browns, 80+ Ringlets and about 20 Large Skippers.
 
Wednesday 2nd July
 
During a walk around Whiteley Pastures between 7.00 - 7.30pm, I counted 173 Purple Hairstreaks in flight around the tops of oak trees. The mature broad-crowned oaks produced the highest counts, with between 8 - 12 seen in flight above each tree, while the smaller and more spindly trees typically hosted at least 3 or 4 specimens. These figures represent butterflies seen in flight, and it can be safely assumed that for each specimen in flight there must have been another 3 or 4 at rest which escaped detection. During the limited time available I was only able to look at about 05% of the oaks in the wood ( i.e. those along a half-mile stretch of one particular track ). If my mathematics are correct this means the total population of Purple Hairstreaks at Whiteley Pastures today was possibly in excess of 103,800 butterflies ( multiply 173 x 3 to get an estimate of butterflies along the section of track that I visited, and multiply that figure by 200 to include the total number of oaks in the wood ).
 

 

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