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 26th April
Grizzled Skippers were the most abundant species today at Stockbridge Down, with an estimated total of 40 individuals seen. Other species included 7 Green Hairstreaks, 6 Small Coppers, 1 Dingy Skipper, 1 Painted Lady, 2 Peacocks, 6 Speckled Woods, 1 Small White, 3 male Orange tips and 7 Brimstones. It was interesting to watch a female Brimstone attempting to oviposit while being harassed by a male. She got so distracted that she laid an egg on a dead hawthorn twig instead of the usual buckthorn ! At Noar Hill in the afternoon I witnessed another species ovipositing on the "wrong" foodplant - this time it was a Duke of Burgundy, which ignored nearby cowslips and instead carefully laid 2 eggs under a low growing bramble leaf. There were at least 40 Duke of Burgundies flying in the warm sunshine - many of them already appearing quite worn and faded. Other species at Noar included 1 Dingy Skipper, 5 Speckled Woods, 3 Orange tips, 4 Brimstones and 1 Comma.
Saturday 25th April
Today's cool and blustery conditions were far from ideal for butterfly watching and very difficult for photography. I spent about 2 hours in the early afternoon at Noar Hill, and saw only 3 species, namely 3 male Orange tips, 5 Dingy Skippers ( including a mating pair ), and about 20 Duke of Burgundies. I also visited a woodland in the west of Hampshire where I saw my first 3 Pearl-bordered Fritillaries of the season, 3 Speckled Woods, and a very fresh Small Copper.
Reports from other observers included Brown Argus seen in Hampshire and Bucks, Wall Browns in Dorset, Sussex and IoW, and Common Blue at Swanage. New additions to the 2009 moth list include Peppered moth, Poplar Grey, Poplar Hawk, Mother Shipton, Cinnabar, Green Carpet, Mottled Beauty, Dark Sword Grass, Oak-tree Pug,  Small Purple-barred, Red Twin-spot Carpet and Small White Wave.
Tuesday 21st April
Warm and sunny weather today brought several more reports of "first of season" sightings including  Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Small Heath in Sussex, and Wood White in Bucks.  Small Copper, Duke of Burgundy, Dingy Skipper, Green Hairstreak and Holly Blue have now been reported from several sites, and several Painted Ladies have been seen this week in Hampshire, indicating a small migration. Newly emerged moths reported so far this week include Pebble Hook-tip, Latticed Heath, Hebrew Character, Treble-bar, Dotted Chestnut, Sallow Kitten, Powdered Quaker, Spectacle, Swallow Prominent, Lesser Swallow Prominent, Common Wave, Maiden's Blush and Small Magpie.
Sunday 19th April
Butterfly enthusiasts often have difficulty distinguishing between the various "white" species when they are seen in flight, so it is interesting to note that even the butterflies themselves occasionally have the same problem.  At Magdalen Hill Down this afternoon I watched a male Orange tip intercept a female Green-veined White.  The latter immediately signalled her disinterest to his advances by settling on a leaf, flattening her wings and raising her abdomen - a signal normally given by unreceptive females to males of their own species. There was no doubt that both butterflies were convinced that the other was of their own kind, and it was only after several seconds that the Orange tip gave up and resumed the search for a female of its own species.
The highlight of the day for me was without doubt the sighting of a male Small Tortoiseshell which was vigorously defending its territory against a couple of Peacocks which had the temerity to intrude into its domain. The total species count included 4 Green Hairstreaks, 18 Grizzled Skippers, 5 Brimstones, 15 Orange tips, 7 Green-veined Whites ( including 2 mating pairs ), 1 Large White, 8 Small Whites, 12 Peacocks and 2 Commas. Moths included a Ruby Tiger and "first of season" sightings of Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet, Garden Carpet and Burnet Companion.
Saturday 18th April
Stockbridge Down is currently swathed in a carpet of ground ivy, but despite the abundance of nectar there were few butterflies to be seen due to the cool breeze. There were no signs of Green Hairstreak or Small Copper yet, but I saw 6 fresh Grizzled Skippers - 4 males and 2 females. The weak sunlight was barely strong enough to persuade them to fly, but during spells when the temperature became slightly warmer they could be seen nectaring at ground ivy or basking on low herbage. The only other species seen were 1 Comma, 4 Peacocks and a male Brimstone.
Thursday 16th April
The first Dingy Skipper of the year was reported yesterday from East Sussex, followed quickly by a report of this year's first Duke of Burgundy ( a female ) from Noar Hill in Hampshire. Yesterday also produced the first 2009 records of several moth species including Ruby Tiger, White Ermine, Common Heath, Tawny Pinion, Clay Triple Lines, Yellow-barred Brindle, Mullein, Speckled Yellow, Currant Pug, Least Black Arches, Shoulder Stripe, Grey Dagger, Scalloped Hazel and the beautiful purple and gold micro moth Pyrausta purpuralis.
Monday 13th April
I visited Woodhouse Copse on the Isle of Wight today. There were a few of the commoner species on the wing - 2 Peacocks, 3 Brimstones, 5 Commas, 2 Orange tips, 1 Green-veined White, 1 Small White, 2 Large Whites and about a dozen Speckled Woods; but there were no signs of the Large Tortoiseshell which 2 or 3 other recorders have been so lucky to see in the past 3 weeks. Woodhouse Copse seems to be an unlikely breeding site for this very rare species, and it seems more likely to me that it breeds somewhere else in the vicinity but migrates to "hill-top" at Woodhouse.  This mate-locating strategy is employed by several of the larger Nymphalids e.g. Purple Emperor and Painted Lady, which conduct their nuptial activities up to 2 or 3 kilometres away from the egg-laying sites.
Sunday 12th April
Cool and wet weather has prevented butterflies from flying this weekend, my only sighting being of a possible Small Tortoiseshell in flight in my neighbour's garden. Many nocturnal moths however actually seem to like these conditions - Newly emerged species reported in the last few days include Streamer, V-Pug, Brimstone moth, Purple Thorn, Red-green Carpet, Waved Umber, Mullein, Chocolate-tip, Lunar Marbled Brown, Frosted Green, Nut-tree Tussock, Shuttle-shaped Dart, Flame-shoulder, Pine Beauty, Angle Shades, Lead-coloured Drab, Muslin, Eyed Hawkmoth, Pebble Prominent, Coxcomb Prominent, Scarce Prominent and Great Prominent. There have also been several records of Britain's only wild silkmoth, the magnificent Emperor.
Sunday 5th April
April is probably my favourite month of the year to be in England - the woodlands are carpeted with primroses, celandines, violets, ground ivy and wood anemones; sallow trees are adorned with catkins, bluebells are just starting to appear, and best of all there are now plenty of butterflies bringing new life to the countryside. The ex-hibernation Brimstones, Commas, Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells have now been joined by the new generation of Speckled Woods, Orange tips, Small Whites, Small Coppers and Holly Blues, and the early spring has already brought reports of the first Green Hairstreaks and Grizzled Skippers, both of which were seen yesterday at Magdalen Hill Down in Hampshire. Also the first Painted Lady of 2009 was reported from the same site on 2nd April.
I visited Dunsfold in Surrey this afternoon, having been tipped off by a friend that Orange tips were flying. The cloud cover was broken by brief spells of sunshine, which immediately prompted several butterflies to awaken from their roosts and seek out nectar from the abundant cuckoo flowers. I saw a Small White, my first Green-veined White of the year, 2 Brimstones, 2 Speckled Woods, 2 Peacocks,
3 Commas and a total of 5 Orange tips - 2 males and 3 females.  It was interesting to note that 2 of the latter were substantially undersized - one in fact was no larger than a Holly Blue.
Orange tip Anthocharis cardamines, Dunsfold, Surrey. More Orange tip photos here
Saturday 4th April
Speckled Woods were flying in good numbers at Ballard Down this afternoon - I counted a minimum of 19, flying and basking in areas of dappled sunlight beneath trees at the bottom of the hill. I watched several territorial sorties where males encroached into each other's territory and engaged in dog fights to resolve "ownership" of a sun-spot. One of these battles lasted for over 2 minutes and resulted in the intruding male being chased a distance of at least 20 metres before it gave up and departed. It was quite amusing also to watch one particular male repeatedly engage a noisy bee-fly that dared to enter it's domain. The bee-fly had the last laugh though, when a Peacock came along and promptly chased the Speckled Wood out of the area ! The total species count for the afternoon was 19 Speckled Woods, 8 Peacocks, 3 Commas and a Small White.

Peacock Inachis io, Ballard Down, Dorset



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