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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.
 
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September
 
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.

 
Saturday 18th September
 

Summer and the UK butterfly season are both gradually drawing to a close, and the last remaining butterflies were taking full advantage of today's sunshine. At Old Winchester Hill the most abundant butterfly without doubt was the Small Heath, of which I saw an estimated 130+ individuals during my 2 hour visit. Meadow Browns were not far behind, with at least 100 seen, many of which appeared to be in quite fresh condition.

 

Small Coppers were also in excellent numbers - I counted 21 adults including a group of 4 basking close together in a sheltered rabbit scrape. I also watched an attempted mating - a male intercepted a passing female, who immediately settled on the ground and walked about in the grasses for 2 or 3 minutes, rapidly quivering her wings. The male followed close behind her, keeping a constant gap of about 5cms between himself and his prospective mate. Eventually the lady took flight, followed instantly by the male. Both settled at the base of a bush and I fully expected them to mate, but the male appeared to lose sight of his quarry, at which time she did a runner and left him in the lurch.

 

Other species seen at Old Winchester Hill included 4 Speckled Woods, a male Brimstone, 4 old faded Chalkhill Blues, 1 very fresh male Common Blue, 5 Commas ( all nectaring at devil's bit scabious ), 3 Red Admirals, and a very worn female Silver-spotted Skipper. Additionally I saw a Holly Blue in Havant town centre, and in my garden had 2 Large Whites and 3 Small Whites, bringing the day's total to 13 species, and somewhere in excess of 280 individual butterflies.

 
Comma  Polygonia c-album, Old Winchester Hill
 
Monday 13th September
 

Transport problems meant another weekend spent at home for me - and what a pity as yesterday was such a gorgeous sunny day ! Reports coming in from Hampshire, Dorset, Sussex and Surrey all indicate that the 2nd broods of Adonis Blue, Small Heath and Small White are still flying in excellent numbers; and that Small Coppers are having a very successful 3rd brood, with 2 reports of the rare ab. schmidtii being seen for the second year running. Brown Hairstreak females are still flying, and have been recorded for the first time at several new sites in the southern counties. A few migrant Painted Ladies and Clouded Yellows arrived on the south coast last weekend and both are still flying in Hampshire and Sussex; and there have been a few reports of late-emerging Commas, including 2 in my garden a few minutes ago.

 
Sunday 5th September
 

I spent this weekend at home, not expecting to see anything more remarkable than a Speckled Wood or a Small White, but was very pleased yesterday when I noticed the unmistakeable flight of a Painted Lady ( my first 2010 sighting ), charging back and forth across my garden like a miniature fighter jet, before settling to nectar at the top of my tall straggly Buddleia bush. It set me thinking about how many other species there are whose behaviour is so distinctive that they can be identified instantly purely from their flight pattern - examples which sprang to mind included the demented twisting acrobatics of the male Vapourer moth; the White Admiral which weaves so gracefully between the branches of oaks; the unforgettable looping courtship flight of Silver-washed Fritillaries; the "spinning silver coin" flight of the Purple Hairstreak in the tree tops; and the persistent "flying but going nowhere" of the Wood White. Can you think of any others ?

 

Painted Lady Vanessa cardui

 
Wednesday 1st September
 

September began with a gorgeous warm sunny day, but unfortunately I was at work and unable to enjoy it, other than by having a brief stroll through Waterlooville at lunch time. I was rewarded by sightings of Small White, Large White and Meadow Brown. Perhaps not the most exciting butterflies to begin the month, but better than spending lunch time in the canteen !

 

Adonis Blue  Lysandra bellargus, male, Dunch Hill, Wiltshire.

 

 

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