Butterfly Diary - field notes by Adrian Hoskins
my earliest sightings of each brood are highlighted in bold type
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Monday 25th July
Emily and myself spent today at Bricket Wood. Although butterfly diversity and abundance was poor compared to the better known sites, we had a very enjoyable time strolling around field edges, and exploring riverside walks. Gatekeepers were common, with about 40 observed. Meadow Browns on the other hand, being a species that tends to breed in discreet colonies, were much scarcer, with only about 8 sightings. Speckled Woods were also surprisingly scarce, with less than a dozen seen flying in the dappled sunlight along the woodland trails. We saw 4 Commas and 4 or 5 Red Admirals, most of which were females exploring nettle patches in search of egg-laying sites. The only other adult Nymphalid seen was a single freshly emerged Peacock, nectaring at bramble.
Peacock Inachis io

Among the Pieridae we saw a minimum of 15 Green-veined Whites - one of the commonest woodland butterflies this year in southern England. There were also 2 or 3 Small Whites and a Large White.


We spent several minutes watching a freshly emerged female Brimstone, which we had accidentally disturbed from its favourite flower teasel. Within a couple of minutes it regained enough confidence for a return visit, and spent 3 or 4 minutes probing deeply into a white Convolvulus flower, where it looked rather cute! (photo right)


Amongst the Lycaenidae we saw 1 fresh male Common Blue, 5 female Holly Blues, and 3 Brown Arguses. The latter were breeding on Erodium ( storksbill ) growing along the edge of a roadside hedgerow.


The only member of the Hesperiidae seen was the Small Skipper, of which we saw 3 or 4 faded adults flying around the edge of a poppy-studded wheat field.

Friday 22nd July

A few minutes at lunchtime spent in my garden in Hampshire produced several butterfly sightings, among which were 3 Speckled Woods, 2 Meadow Browns and a Gatekeeper, all flying around tall grasses. My large Buddleia bush attracted several other species including a Holly Blue, 2 Commas, 2 Red Admirals and 3 Small Whites. My dog Buddy was excitedly chasing after a Small Tortoiseshell but failed to scare it off - a short while later I spotted it busily laying a batch of eggs under the terminal leaves of some stinging nettles!
egg batch of Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae, Hampshire, England
The first Chalkhill Blues of the year appeared in Hampshire and Sussex on 5th July, and numbers are now building at most sites despite the recent dull rainy weather.
Chalkhill Blue Lysandra coridon, male, Stockbridge Down, Hampshire
Saturday 16th July
Although the weather at Luton today was damp and overcast for much of the time, we were able to confirm that the Small Tortoiseshell recovery continues unabated, with 2 larval nests found along a roadside, and another nest of 2nd instar larvae found at the edge of a field. During brief sunny interludes we managed to see a few adult butterflies - Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Small White and Small Skipper - all in very low numbers.
Saturday 9th July
There were frequent heavy showers this afternoon at Pitt Down in Hampshire. However during the brief dry spells, butterflies erupted from among the tall grasses, and I saw about 40 Marbled Whites, 10 male Gatekeepers, 30 Meadow Browns, 3 Speckled Woods, 5 Ringlets, 2 Small Coppers, 5 Small Whites, 3 Large Skippers, 20 Small Skippers, 3 Small Tortoiseshells, 1 Red Admiral and about 8-10 Dark Green Fritillaries - a mixture of worn males and fairly fresh looking females.
Dark Green Fritillary, Argynnis aglaia, female, Pitt Down, Hampshire
Thursday 7th July
The first week of July has produced numerous reports of male Purple Emperors from sites across Hampshire and Sussex, and unusually there have also been at least 3 reports of females settling on the ground to imbibe moisture from woodland paths. Silver-washed Fritillaries appear to be having an excellent season, with scores reported at Whiteley Pastures, Creech Wood, Pamber Forest and various other sites. White Admirals have also been reported in good numbers, e.g. on 3rd July no less than 35 were seen in Pamber Forest.
Purple Emperor, Apatura iris


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