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.
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The Butterfly Diary page is normally updated at least once a week, but I will not have access to a computer during the next 3 weeks, so please bear with me during this period.


This page will next be updated on 20th June, after which my normal weekly updates will resume.

Sunday 23rd May
The northerly winds that brought cold weather to Britain during much of the early Spring have now gone, and an area of high pressure is currently centred on western Europe, bringing clear skies and warm sunshine to the UK. The change in weather has stimulated a mass emergence of butterflies, with reports of Common Blue, Small Blue, Adonis Blue, Green Hairstreak, Grizzled Skipper, Dingy Skipper, Small Copper, Small Heath, Small White and Pearl-bordered Fritillary appearing in good numbers at their sites in Hampshire and Sussex.
Today the temperature at Hod Hill in Dorset hit 25C at midday, making the butterflies very jittery and almost impossible to photograph. Marsh Fritillary numbers were the highest I've seen at this site for several years, with well over 200 observed. Other species seen included 1 Peacock, about 20 Grizzled Skippers, 100+ Dingy Skippers, 2 Brimstones, 1 Green-veined White, 3 Orange tips, 2 Small Coppers, 1 Green Hairstreak, 15 Small Blues, 15 Common Blues, 5 fresh male Adonis Blues, 20 fresh Brown Argus, 2 Speckled Woods and at least 50 Small Heaths.
Late in the afternoon we visited Cerne Abbas where we saw another 200 Marsh Fritillaries including about 20 mating pairs; together with about 20 Dingy Skippers and 6 Grizzled Skippers.
Marsh Fritillary, Euphydryas aurinia, Cerne Abbas, Dorset
Friday 21st May
The first Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries of the year were reported today from Bentley Wood.
Monday 17th May
The first Clouded Yellow of the year was reported yesterday from Rye in Sussex, and at least 25 pristine Adonis Blues were seen by a field trip group at Mill Hill also in Sussex. Today, at Portsmouth in Hampshire, 12 Holly Blues were reported, including several egg-laying females. The beautiful moth illustrated below is a Lime Hawkmoth, photographed in my garden.
Lime Hawkmoth, Mimas tiliae, Hampshire
Saturday 15th May
The first Small Blues of the year were reported from Cocking in Sussex today. Reports coming in from various sites in Hampshire and West Sussex indicate that Pearl-bordered Fritillaries are now at the peak of their flight period, as are Grizzled Skippers, Dingy Skippers, Green Hairstreaks, Wood Whites and Duke of Burgundies.
Saturday 8th May
A dull cloudy day with light rain showers might not seem to be ideal for butterfly watching, but I've never been a "fair weather" entomologist, so today we visited several sites in Hampshire and West Sussex to search for roosting butterflies. This is a challenging pastime as they can be very difficult to find, but it's a great way of learning about their behaviour, and beats sitting indoors !
Anthocharis cardamines - the egg on the right is freshly laid, that on the left is about 3 days old.
The first site visited was Rewell Wood, where we found several Orange tip eggs on cuckoo flower and garlic mustard. During a ( very ) brief sunny spell a Pearl-bordered Fritillary flew past so I followed it trying to see where it had settled. I failed to find it, but while searching I came across a fresh male Orange tip at roost on a bracken frond.
Next we visited a site on the Sussex / Surrey border where we found 9 Wood Whites, most of which were roosting on their favourite flower, greater stitchwort, while others were found asleep on the flower heads of vetches, or among grasses. During a bright spell 3 Wood Whites awoke and took flight, joined by a Grizzled Skipper and 3 Speckled Woods.
Wood White, Leptidea sinapis, at roost on greater stitchwort, Surrey / Sussex border
The final site visited was Noar Hill. On a farm track leading to the reserve I spotted a male Orange tip at roost on a cow parsley flower head. The object of the trip had been to find Dingy Skippers, which roost on knapweed plants, with their wings tightly wrapped around the dead flower heads. I found 2, a male and a female, and also struck lucky by finding a fresh female Duke of Burgundy at roost. As we were about to leave we spotted the last butterfly of the day, a fresh Small Heath at roost on a marjoram seed-head. Who needs sunshine ?
Dingy Skipper, Erynnis tages, female at roost on knapweed, Noar Hill, Hampshire, England
Small Heath, Coenonympha pamphilus, Noar Hill, Hampshire, England
Thursday 6th May
The first Wall Brown and Adonis Blue of the year were both reported from West Sussex today, and the first Common Blue of 2010 was seen in Somerset yesterday.
Monday 3rd May
Another typical May bank holiday weekend - cool, windy and mostly overcast !  Today however in the more sheltered chalk pits at Noar Hill there was just about enough warmth to encourage a few Duke of Burgundies to crawl up from their hideaways in the grass tussocks and bask. Cold winds and a light rain shower soon sent them back into hiding though, so I travelled across to the west of Hampshire hoping for better weather. Luck was with me, because shortly after arriving at Bentley Wood the sun appeared from behind the dark clouds, and 5 Pearl-bordered Fritillaries quickly took to the wing and began avidly nectaring at bugle, violets, ground ivy and wood anemones. Towards the end of the day I was fortunate to find this beautiful specimen at roost on a dead flower head :
Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Clossiana euphrosyne, Bentley Wood, Hampshire
Duke of Burgundy, Hamearis lucina, female, Noar Hill, Hampshire
Saturday 1st May
The first Pearl-bordered Fritillaries of the year were sighted 3 days ago in West Sussex, and in the New Forest in Hampshire. Other first sightings include a Brown Argus seen in Somerset, and the first Glanville Fritillaries of the year seen at Wheeler's Bay on the Isle of Wight today.
The beautiful Emperor moth shown below is a captive bred ex-New Forest female that emerged at home a couple of days ago. Female Emperors have an organ at the tip of the abdomen from which they disseminate pheromones to attract the day-flying males. The females are heavily laden with eggs so are unable to fly very far, and after mating lay most of their eggs very near the spot where they emerge. After laying 100 or so eggs they have lightened their load sufficiently to enable them to fly, but unlike the males they fly by night. It takes them about 2-3 days to complete egg laying. The female illustrated paired with a male that emerged the same day, and has now laid all her eggs, which should hatch in about 2 weeks time.
Emperor moth, Saturnia pavonia, female.

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