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
Sunday 29th June
I spent about 2 hours this afternoon in one of the Inclosures at Alice Holt forest, and found butterflies were in surprisingly low numbers - just 18 Meadow Browns, 35 Ringlets, 2 fresh Red Admirals ( one of which was being chased incessantly by a confused Ringlet ), 6 White Admirals, 5 Large Skippers, 1 Small Skipper and 11 Silver-washed Fritillaries including a mating pair. Later I took my dog for a walk in my local wood Stansted Forest, where I saw 1 Large White, 20 Meadow Browns, 6 Marbled Whites, 4 Ringlets, 4 Large Skippers, 17 Small Skippers, 4 White Admirals and a 6-spot Burnet moth. Finally, my garden in Havant produced my first summer generation Holly Blue and Comma.
Reports from other observers this week indicate that Dark Green Fritillary, High Brown Fritillary, Purple Emperor, Purple Hairstreak, Gatekeeper, Brimstone and Small Tortoiseshell have all begun to emerge in the last 3 or 4 days.
Saturday 28th June
Having been defeated by the awful weather last Sunday, I returned to Whixall Moss today determined to get some better photographs of Large Heath for the website. In total I saw about 15 flying, but most were inaccessible due to the very treacherous nature of the boggy terrain. A lot of determination and patience was needed, which was eventually rewarded when 2 individuals settled near the edge of the tracks and allowed me to take a few snaps. The only other butterflies seen were about half a dozen Large Skippers, but I also saw several Common Heath moths and 2 fully grown Oak Eggar larvae.
Sunday 22nd June
Call me crazy if you like, but this afternoon I spent an hour with a friend trudging around Whixall Moss ( a Shropshire peat bog ) in the midst of a storm, trying to photograph Large Heaths. Branches were being ripped from trees by fierce 60mph winds, and it was difficult to stand without being blown over, but amazingly we found 3 Large Heaths, all disturbed from rest along the edges of the dry tracks that run through the reserve. Unfortunately trying to follow them to take photographs was impossible in the hurricane-like conditions. We left the site via a relatively sheltered track through woodland, where we managed to find a couple of roosting Large Skippers and 4 Speckled Woods.
Later in the afternoon we visited the Butterfly Conservation reserve at Prees Heath, by which time the storm had eased slightly. The heathland habitat there is very degraded, but is slowly being restored in the hope that the tiny population of Silver-studded Blues can be maintained. An hour of searching produced a total of 4 males and 2 females, all in fresh condition. All were found at roost on sheltered clumps of heather or cross-leaved heath.
Sunday 15th June
I saw my first Marbled White of the year today at Stockbridge Down but butterflies were generally scarce - the only other records being of 1 Large Skipper, 6 Common Blues, 1 Brown Argus, 1 Grizzled Skipper, 9 Small Heaths, 4 Meadow Browns and 4 Forester moths.
Saturday 14th June
This morning I visited a site in Essex where I saw about 90 fresh Heath Fritillaries. The butterflies were concentrated in 2 main groups centred on small glades within the sweet chestnut coppice habitat. Most were seen basking on low foliage or sitting on grass stems with their wings shut. Despite sunny conditions they were very lethargic and only became active when temperatures exceeded 15C. Both sexes then fluttered lazily around the glades nectaring at hawkbit, bramble, lesser stitchwort and buttercups. I observed several attempted matings, and found 3 copulated pairs. Other species seen included 2 Meadow Browns, 4 Speckled Woods, 1 Brimstone, 2 Large Skippers, a Blood-vein moth and a larva of Yellow-tail moth.
Reports from other observers indicate that the first Black Hairstreaks of the season have been sighted in Oxfordshire, and Large Blues are now flying in Devon. Several other species are just beginning to emerge including Ringlets, Marbled Whites and Silver-studded Blues.
Sunday 8th June
The notorious "June Gap" when butterflies are generally scarce in southern England, was certainly a notable feature of this weekend. At Pewsey Downs the only butterflies seen were 4 Marsh Fritillaries, 2 Small Heaths and a Common Blue, but a Small Elephant Hawkmoth found at rest amongst grasses was a nice bonus. Lydlinch Common was totally devoid of butterflies, and only produced a single moth - Epiblema scutulana. Powerstock Common was the most productive site visited today, but even there butterflies were decidedly scarce - 8 Wood Whites, 1 Small White, 1 Green-veined White, 1 Brimstone, 2 worn Grizzled Skippers, 2 Small Heaths, 10 Speckled Woods and 1 Green Hairstreak.
Saturday 7th June
Despite warm and sunny conditions at Stansted Forest this afternoon butterflies were decidedly scarce, the only notable sighting being of my first 2 Meadow Browns of the season. Apart from that the only butterflies seen were a dozen Speckled Woods, 1 Red Admiral, 1 Small White, 1 Common Blue and 2 territorial male Large Skippers buzzing around on the escarpment.
Sunday 1st June
Overcast conditions during my walk in Stansted Forest this afternoon minimised butterfly sightings with only 2 species seen - 2 Red Admirals and 3 freshly emerged Speckled Woods. I did find a couple of interesting moth species though, in the form of a freshly emerged Leopard moth, and 2 fully grown Drinker larvae.


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