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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
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May
 
Sunday 15th May
 
Today at Bentley Wood there were in excess of 40 Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries flying in the midday sunshine, mostly fresh males. The very warm spring weather has caused the butterflies to emerge earlier than normal, and out of sync with their preferred nectar sources - ragged robin and thistles. Most instead fed at the flowers of bugle. Later in the day when conditions became overcast the butterflies went to roost, and I easily located a dozen or more perched on dead flower heads. Other species seen included about 30 faded Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, 8 Brimstones, 1 Orange tip,
4 Grizzled Skippers and 1 Duke of Burgundy. Moths seen included Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth, Argent & Sable, and caterpillars of Scarlet Tiger and Drinker moth.
 
Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Clossiana selene, male at roost, Bentley Wood, Hampshire
 
Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Clossiana selene, female, Bentley Wood, Hampshire
 
Sunday 8th May
 
Emily and myself have spent the last few days in Leicester - not an area renowned for its butterfly fauna, but we came across a few Small Whites and a Holly Blue in the city centre; and on a day trip to Rutland Water we found several Speckled Woods, about 8 Brimstones, 4 Green-veined Whites, 8 Orange tips, and a courting pair of Small Coppers. The female spent 2 or 3 minutes walking about on leaves and stems, fluttering her wings rapidly, with the male in constant pursuit. Unusually the male had a gorgeous purplish sheen on the hindwings.
 
Small Copper, Lycaena phlaeas, male
 
Monday 2nd May
 
Pearl-bordered Fritillaries were still present in good numbers in the Hampshire section of Bentley Wood this morning. I saw an estimated 60 individuals, mostly females ovipositing on dead bracken near the ditches. Also seen were 2 Peacocks, 1 Red Admiral, 7 or 8 Brimstones, 6 Orange tips, 3 Small Whites, 5 Green-veined Whites, 10 Speckled Woods, 2 Dingy Skippers, 2 Grizzled Skippers, 2 Duke of Burgundy, and rather surprisingly in view of the forested habitat - a female Brown Argus.
 
In the afternoon I visited Cerne Abbas where I found about 30 freshly emerged Marsh Fritillaries at roost among the grasses on the west-facing slopes. At nearby Black Hill I discovered a flourishing colony of Grizzled Skippers, many of which could be found roosting on dead flowerheads. Likewise Dingy Skippers were also present in good numbers, mostly roosting on grass heads.
 
Dingy Skipper, Erynnis tages, female at roost on knapweed seed head, Noar Hill, Hampshire
 
Marsh Fritillary, Euphydryas aurinia, male, Cerne Abbas, Dorset
 
Adonis Blue, Lysandra bellargus, female, Ballard Down, Dorset
 
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.
 
Wood White, Leptidea sinapis, at roost on dandelion seed head, Tugley Wood, Surrey
 
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
 

 

 

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