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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Thursday 25th November
A Red Admiral was seen today flying and basking at Kingston in Sussex, as reported on the Sussex branch website of Butterfly Conservation.
Sunday 14th November
A cold rainy day indoors has given me time to add lots of photographs submitted by contacts in India, Thailand, Australia and the USA. These can be accessed via the relevant thumbnail galleries. Further submissions of high quality images are very welcome - please send a few samples !
Friday 12th November
Today's very blustery and damp weather held no promise of butterfly sightings, so I was amazed when during a spell of light drizzle a Red Admiral flew past me in Havant - my guess is that it had probably been dislodged by the wind from it's roosting place, and was searching for a safe haven. Red Admirals normally roost overnight and in cold weather on the trunks of oaks and other rough-barked trees, but are also known to overwinter in rabbit burrows, and under the eaves of houses.
Saturday 6th November
The Sussex branch website of Butterfly Conservation carried a report today of a Red Admiral seen at Keymer, and a Comma nectaring at ivy flowers at Henfield.
Wednesday 3rd November
The website of the Hampshire branch of Butterfly Conservation indicates that a fresh Holly Blue was seen in the lower Test valley, and singletons of Small Tortoiseshell and Brimstone were reported from Overton. Just over the county border in West Sussex a very late Small Copper was recorded on Thorney Island.
Monday 1st November
Despite sunny conditions today, I have not received any reports of butterfly sightings - the most recent records brought to my attention have been of Red Admiral, Comma and Speckled Wood, all of which were recorded at Lewes in Sussex on 30th October.
Monday 25th October
Red Admirals were reported from several sites in Hampshire and West Sussex yesterday, as were Small Coppers, Small Whites, and even a couple of late Small Tortoiseshells which were probably fooled by the sunny weather into thinking that spring had suddenly arrived !  The biggest surprise however was Clouded Yellow - at least 6 of which were seen today at Brownwich, near Gosport on the Hampshire coast.
Thursday 21st October

Yesterday a late Small White flew across my garden in Havant, and on Monday a Red Admiral paid a brief visit, but following last night's heavy frost, and the promise of more very cold weather ahead,  it seems unlikely that there will be many more butterfly sightings in the UK this year. I intend to pay a few visits to my local woods on sunny weekends however - just in case !


Those of you who have been following my adventures in Peru might like to visit the updated Moths of Amazon & Andes gallery, which has now been expanded to 5 pages, and illustrates an interesting selection demonstrating the bewildering diversity of moths to be found in South America. There are very few resources, paper or electronic, that illustrate more than a tiny fraction of the thousands of species found in Peru, so many will prove impossible to identify. During the winter I will however be attempting to identify as many as possible of the 600 moth species photographed on the trip, and to  expand the accompanying text.


My thanks go to those who have sent images for the Malaysia, India, North America, Australia and New Zealand galleries, which I will begin to update in November.

Sunday 10th October

It may be mid-October, but today's clear blue skies and hot sunshine made it feel more like July !

I spent the afternoon at my local woodland Stansted Forest, and was greeted by a female Brimstone flying near the Rowlands Castle entrance. Inside the wood I soon came across a fresh and brightly marked Comma which circled around me several times before flying to the top of an ash tree. Soon afterwards I saw 2 Speckled Woods, both very old and faded, but very lively in behaviour.


I then walked through the wood to Forestside, and made my way back towards Rowlands Castle, but had to wait almost 2 hours before seeing my next butterfly - a gorgeous Red Admiral. My clumsy approach with the camera caused it to take flight, and it was immediately intercepted by another Red Admiral which flew up from the opposite side of the trail. Both were clearly males, as evidenced by the aerial combat which followed. They chased each other way up above the tree tops, circling rapidly before returning to their original perches. They settled about 3 metres apart, on bracken fronds on opposite sides of the trail. One was in quite fresh condition, but the other had a damaged hindwing, so it was easy to tell them apart, and to follow the behaviour of each individual.


I watched them for about half an hour, during which time at least a dozen sorties took place. What I expected to happen was for the "stronger" of the 2 males to oust his opponent from the vicinity, and to retain ownership of his perch, but what actually happened was rather different. After each sortie, both butterflies returned to their perches, and seemed quite content to share the same territory - a short 4 metre stretch of the trail where the sun broke through the foliage and reached ground level. What intrigued me was the fact that they regularly swapped places, with each butterfly periodically settling to perch on the leaf previously occupied by his "opponent".  The most logical explanation would seem to be that both butterflies were competing for the better of the 2 available perching places. Sometimes the fresh male won, sometimes the damaged one, and the "loser" had to settle for the next best thing, on the opposite side of the trail. It was fascinating to watch though - it's the little moments like this which make butterfly watching so rewarding.


Red Admiral  Vanessa atalanta male, Stansted Forest, West Sussex.




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