Butterfly Diary - field notes by Adrian Hoskins
my earliest sightings of each brood are highlighted in bold type
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Friday 30th September
On 28th September Emily and myself moved to our new home in Leicester. On the drive north we stopped at Toddington in Bedfordshire, and were pleasantly surprised when a male Brimstone fluttered across the motorway service area, followed by a Red Admiral and a Small White. Today we spotted our first Leicester butterflies - a Comma, a Small White and a Red Admiral, all seen in the vicinity of Victoria Park in the city centre.
Saturday 24th September
The butterfly season in the UK is now drawing to a close, but on warmer days there are still a few species to be seen. During a long walk around Wheathampstead yesterday species seen by Emily included 3 Small Whites, a Red Admiral and 3 pristine Commas. At Havant today the afternoon sunshine brought out several Small Whites, a Comma and 2 Speckled Woods.
Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria, female
Thursday 8th September
We visited Stansted Forest this afternoon, where we saw at least 25 pristine Red Admirals, most of which were feeding avidly on blackberries, sometimes as many as 4 or 5 on a single bush. It was a little surprising to note the paucity of Commas however - we only saw one individual, whereas it is normally common to see at least a dozen on walk at Stansted on a sunny September afternoon. Other species seen included about 15 Green-veined Whites, 3 Small Whites, 3 Meadow Browns and about 20 Speckled Woods. Most of the latter were very worn specimens, but Emily spotted a very fresh female, which we watched ovipositing on grass blades beside one of the forest tracks.
Comma Polygonia c-album, Stansted Forest, West Sussex
Sunday 4th September
Autumn is now approaching, with little hope of any return to warmer weather, but during our long weekend in the the New Forest, we still managed to find a few butterflies in woodland near Ashurst. The commonest species was Green-veined White, of which we saw about 10 per day. We also saw a couple of Small Whites, about a dozen Gatekeepers, a Red Admiral, 6 Speckled Woods and a grand total of no less than 4 Meadow Browns!  Nicest sighting however was a gorgeous male Brimstone which Emily photographed nectaring at thistles along the roadside.
Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni, male, Ashurst, Hampshire ( photo Emily Halsey )
On Friday evening we left the lights on and the windows open, hoping to attract a few moths, and succeeded in attracting a Copper Underwing, a very pretty Red-green Carpet, 8 Square-spot Rustics and a Willow Beauty. An interesting find the next morning was a batch of bluish-grey eggs laid in a bracelet around a tall grass stem. I deduced from the coloration that the eggs would hatch very soon so we revisited the spot on Sunday and found the tiny caterpillars emerging before our eyes. After eating their egg-shells they dropped one by one to the ground, where they presumably feed on the blades of the grass species on which they were laid. It seems likely that the moths evolved the habit of ovipositing in bracelets on the stems in order to make the eggs less likely to be washed off during rainstorms, and to ensure that they are safe from slugs and snails that might accidentally consume them while browsing on herbage. So far we have not identified the eggs or caterpillars.
unidentified moth species, bracelet of eggs on grass stem, Ashurst ( photo Emily Halsey )
newly emerged caterpillars from eggs shown above ( photo Emily Halsey )


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