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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.
 
2010
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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.

 
Saturday 9th October
 

The promised sunny weather failed to materialise today, and the only butterfly seen was a rather worn Red Admiral that flew across my garden in Havant. Now that the UK butterfly season is all but finished, I have more time to devote to the website. I've started by updating several of the species galleries - e.g. the Amazon and Andes galleries now extend to 8 pages of thumbnails, which link to 450 individual species accounts, and well over 2000 photographs of Amazonian butterflies. I've also updated the Butterflies of Europe gallery, which now runs to 3 pages, and currently covers about 110 species.

 
Saturday 2nd October
 

Yesterday saw a very wet and windy start to the month, but there are still a few butterflies about, including a pristine Comma which appeared in the garden this morning, gorging itself on fermenting blackberries during a very brief sunny spell. Many of you will be attending today's annual exhibition and trade fair of the Amateur Entomologists Society, at Kempton Park in London. Unfortunately I will not be able to attend, but my best wishes go to all friends and website visitors who are able to go.

 
Sunday 26th September
 

Northerly winds have sent temperatures plummeting this weekend, signalling the end of the summer here in the UK. Despite the colder temperatures however there are still a few butterflies on the wing including a few Speckled Woods and a couple of Commas in my garden today. Reports coming in from other recorders indicate that there are still good numbers of Small Coppers, Small Heaths and Meadow Browns flying at various sites in Hampshire, Sussex and Dorset.

 
Sunday 19th September
 

Despite the dull and breezy weather I decided to chance a trip to Seaford Head on the Sussex coast this morning, to search for the elusive Small Copper ab. schmidtii that had been reported from the site by a contributor to the Butterfly Conservation Sussex website. After an hour or so of fruitless searching I realised that I was not going to find it, but I did see 12 "normal" Small Coppers including ab. caeruleapunctata, which seems to be present in all populations. I also saw 2 Common Blues, one of which was a very tiny female; a female Brown Argus, 2 Chalkhill Blues, a Small White and a few Meadow Browns and Small Heaths. On the way home I stopped for a while at Mill Hill, but by then it was quite cool and very breezy so nothing was seen apart from 3 Adonis Blues, a couple of Small Heaths and a solitary Meadow Brown.

 

Small Copper  Lycaena phlaeas female, Seaford Head, Sussex.

 

Common Blue  Polyommatus icarus female, Seaford Head, Sussex.

 

 

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