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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.
 
2011
Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jly | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec | Adrian and Emily's BLOG
 
April
 
Saturday 30th April
 
Today I visited Ballard Down in Dorset, where well over 300 freshly emerged Adonis Blues were flying on the south facing slopes. The vast majority were males, fluttering continually just above the grasses while the sun was shining, but settling to bask in chalk scrapes whenever clouds obscured the sun. I also saw about a dozen freshly emerged females, several of which were strongly marked with blue. Other species seen included about 50 Dingy Skippers, 1 Brimstone, 2 Large Whites, 10 Small Whites, 6 Orange tips, 8 Green Hairstreaks, 10 Small Coppers, 15 fresh  Brown Argus, 12 fresh male Common Blues, 8 Holly Blues, 1 Red Admiral, 2 Peacocks, about 30 Speckled Woods, 9 male Wall Browns, and 4 or 5 Small Heaths.
 
Friday 29th April
 
This morning at Tugley Wood in Surrey, I saw about 50 freshly emerged Wood Whites, including a mating pair. In the afternoon I witnessed several instances of the well known "courtship" ritual in which the male faces the female and uses his proboscis to whip her alternately on each side of her underside hindwings. The female response in each case was to bow her head towards the male, fold back her antennae, and flick her wings in response to each whipping. These rituals lasted between about 2-10 minutes. In every case the males failed to seduce the females into copulation. 
 
In the late afternoon I visited Noar Hill in Hampshire, to search for Dingy Skippers, which habitually roost on knapweed, with their wings wrapped tightly around the dead flowerheads, on which they are superbly camouflaged. In total I found about 15 of these delightful butterflies at roost.
 
Wood White, Leptidea sinapis, male (right) whipping female with proboscis, Tugley Wood, Surrey
 
Monday 25th April
 
Emily and myself spent a magical day today in the New Forest, where we were delighted to see well in excess of 40 Pearl bordered Fritillaries nectaring on bluebells, bugle and dandelions growing at a ride intersection that adjoined a clear-felled area. The vast majority were freshly emerged males, patrolling rapidly back and forth over patches of dead bracken, trying to locate females. We also spent several minutes tracking a couple of females, watching them as they oviposited on dry grass stems, bits of dead bracken and violet stems. Other butterflies seen included about 15-20 Speckled Woods, 3 fresh Holly Blues, 8 Brimstones and 8 male Orange tips. It was also especially delightful to watch the swarms of longhorn moths Adela reaumurella - tiny metallic green moths with enormously long antennae, dancing around virtually every tree and bush in the forest. We also spent some time relaxing by a small stream, where sticklebacks and hundreds of frog tadpoles swarmed, and where we were entertained by the playful antics of water boatmen, whirligig beetles, pond-skaters, red damselflies and Broad-bodied Chaser dragonflies.
 
Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Clossiana euphrosyne, male at bluebell, New Forest, Hampshire
 
Long-horn moths, Adela reaumurella, New Forest, Hampshire
 
Sunday 24th April
 
This morning at Noar Hill we saw an estimated 40 Duke of Burgundy butterflies, 2 fresh Holly Blues, 5 or 6 Orange tips, 2 Brimstones, 8 Speckled Woods, 1 Peacock and about 10 Dingy Skippers.
 
Duke of Burgundy, female, Hamearis lucina, Noar Hill, Hants
 
Dingy Skipper, male, Erynnis tages, Noar Hill, Hants
 
Saturday 23rd April
 
I spent most of this afternoon at Bentley Wood, where I saw over 20 Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, mostly freshly emerged males patrolling incessantly in search of females. They were bombing about all over the place and very difficult to approach, but at about 4pm they began to settle and seek out roosting places - some chose dead bracken, some preferred birch saplings, and others such as the male illustrated below, roosted on dead flowerheads of St Johns wort. Other species seen at Bentley included 5 Brimstones, 4 Orange tips, 1 Small White, 2 Peacocks, several Speckled Woods, 1 Holly Blue, 1 Dingy Skipper  and 1 Grizzled Skipper.
 
Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Clossiana euphrosyne, male, Bentley Wood, Hampshire
 
Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Clossiana euphrosyne, male, Bentley Wood, Hampshire
 
Friday 22nd April
 
In Sussex Wall Browns are now beginning to emerge at High and Over; and there has been a minor migration of Clouded Yellows, with singletons reported from Belle Tout and Castle Hill.
 
Tuesday 19th April
 
The first Small Heath of the season was reported today from Malling Down in Sussex.
 
Monday 18th April
 
Today the first Wood White of 2011 was reported from Plaistow in Sussex.
 
Saturday 16th April
 
Today I visited Magdalen Hill Down in Hampshire. Conditions were bright but cloudy, nevertheless I still managed to find a few butterflies including a Comma, 2 fresh-looking overwintered Peacocks, 2 Brimstones, 2 Orange tips, 2 male Holly Blues, 4 Green Hairstreaks, and about a dozen Grizzled Skippers, most of which were found at roost on dead flower heads.
 
Green Hairstreak, Callophrys rubi, male, Magdalen Hill Down, Hampshire
 
Grizzled Skipper, Pyrgus malvae, male, Magdalen Hill Down, Hampshire
 
Saturday 9th April
 
I spent a gorgeous sunny day at Stansted Forest today. Among the many butterflies seen were 2 Red Admirals, both ovipositing on young nettles at the side of a sunlit track. There were also a pair of worn Peacocks, one of which regularly came out as the loser in aerial battles with a territorial male Comma. I spent several minutes watching a pair of courting Commas, which sat side by side on the ground with wings fully outspread. After a while the female closed her wings, and the male fluttered around her. The pair then flew up into a nearby tree where copulation presumably took place. Other species seen at Stansted today included a Small White, a Green-veined White, 3 very worn Brimstones, a male Holly Blue, a Speckled Wood, and at least 20 Orange tips.
 
For most of the day the male Orange tips were patrolling relentlessly back and forth along the sunny tracks in search of females. I watched several attempted copulations, but each time the females dived down onto low foliage where they settled with wings outspread and abdomens raised high, indicating to the males that they had already mated. The males persisted however and I saw one popular female which had no less than 3 very excited males dancing around her. In the late afternoon things quietened down, and several of the males could be seen basking on garlic mustard flowers, or on bramble bushes. Eventually at about 5.00pm the Orange tips started to go to roost - in almost all cases both sexes chose to roost on young hazel leaves, usually at a height of about 1.5 metres above ground level.
 
Orange tip, Anthocharis cardamines male on garlic mustard, Stansted Forest, West Sussex
 
Orange tip, Anthocharis cardamines female at roost on hazel, Stansted Forest, West Sussex
 
Also today came records of the first Duke of Burgundy of the season at Noar Hill, and of the first Small Coppers at Bartley Common.
 
Friday 8th April
 
Grizzled Skippers were recorded from several sites in the southern counties today, and the first Dingy Skippers of the season were seen at Mill Hill in Sussex. At least 8 Green Hairstreaks were seen at Magdalen Hill Down, Winchester.
 
Thursday 7th April
 
The warmest day of the year so far produced numerous sightings from across southern England. At St Albans for example, butterflies recorded by Emily Halsey this morning included 10 Holly Blues, 3 Peacocks, 4 Commas, 1 Small Tortoiseshell and 5 Brimstones - including an ovipositing female.
 
Brimstone, Gonepteryx rhamni ovipositing female, St Albans, Herts ( photo Emily Halsey )
 
Holly Blue, Celastrina argiolus, St Albans, Herts ( photo Emily Halsey )
 
Monday 4th April
 
This afternoon my partner Emily and myself visited Stansted Forest, where we were delighted to see several Brimstones flying. We also watched a female Comma ovipositing on nettles growing near the edge of a sunny footpath. The greatest thrill however was to see the Orange tips, of which at least half a dozen males ( and a single female ) were flying along a 100 metre stretch of path.
 
Saturday 2nd April
 
The first Grizzled Skipper of the season was reported today from Mill Hill in Sussex.

 

 

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