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Butterfly Diary - field notes by Adrian Hoskins
note : earliest sightings of each brood are in bold type
2012
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July
Thursday 26th July
Despite blazing sunshine butterflies were quite scarce yesterday and today when I visited Bernwood Forest in Oxfordshire, and various woodlands in the Rockingham Forest complex east of Kettering in Northamptonshire. The commonest butterflies in both areas were beyond doubt Large Skippers and Ringlets, while Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers were seen only in relatively low numbers. I found a few Marbled Whites at Waterperry Wood and Shabbington Wood but none further north. It was a pleasure however to discover that Silver-washed Fritillaries are continuing to improve their foothold at both Bernwood and Fermyn Wood, which each produced sightings of 6 or 7 males. White Admirals were also found in similar numbers at both woods. The photographic target for myself and everyone else this week was of course the magnificent Purple Emperor. Most people were lucky and saw 3 or 4 males, either flying around the tops of tall oaks, or imbibing dissolved minerals from moisture on the forest tracks.
Purple Emperor Apatura iris  Adrian Hoskins
Tuesday 24th July
A really hot sunny day with temperatures reaching 28C brought an interesting record of a pair of 2nd brood Dingy Skippers at Deep Dene in East Sussex. Across the county border in West Sussex the 2nd brood of the dainty Wood White is just emerging at Fisherlane Wood and the mid-summer generation of Small Coppers is now building numbers nicely at Cissbury Ring, one of my favourite Sussex sites. Dorset sightings reported today included a mating pair of White-letter Hairstreaks at Alner's Gorse, and Lulworth Skippers at Durlston Country Park.
Monday 23rd July
After 3 miserable months of rainy weather in the UK we are finally getting some long awaited sunny days! Hopefully these will last long enough to allow the summer butterflies to lay plenty of eggs and produce reasonable populations next year. Reports from across the country today included Marbled Whites and Chalkhill Blues seen in good numbers at Magdalen Hill Down and Chalton Down in Hants, Swyncombe Downs in Oxfordshire, Yoesden Bank in Buckinghamshire, and Mill Hill in Sussex. Also from Sussex came a report of a Silver-spotted Skipper at Beachy Head and a Clouded Yellow at Lewes although it is unclear whether the latter was a migrant or a locally emerged insect. I have not received any reports yet of Scotch Argus, but these should be starting to emerge now at their sites in Cumbria, Yorkshire and western Scotland.
Sunday 22nd July
A Large Tortoiseshell was seen at Holmsley gravel pit in the New Forest today. It is possible that this specimen may have flown across the Solent from the Isle of Wight - recent records indicate that the Large Tortoiseshell is re-establishing itself there as a breeding species.
Sunday 15th July
Today we visited Fermyn Wood in Northamptonshire. The weather was dry but mostly overcast, the ground was very waterlogged, and conditions seemed more suitable for swimming than for watching butterflies. During the first couple of hours we saw well over 100 Ringlets, but very little else. Later, brief breaks in the cloud cover eventually persuaded a few other species to appear, but all were in very low numbers - 1 Small White, 12 Large Skippers, 2 Small Skippers, 2 Red Admirals, 8 Meadow Browns and a glimpse of a distant White Admiral. The species we had come hoping to see however was of course the elusive Purple Emperor, and we were not disappointed. A 2 minute burst of weak sunshine was enough to bring a male down from the trees. It flew over my head and landed on the path 100m ahead, but sadly didn't stay long enough for any of us to get a photo. We were luckier however with this Purple Hairstreak, which sat obligingly on a bramble leaf for several minutes:
Purple Hairstreak Quercusia quercus, Fermyn wood, Northants  Adrian Hoskins
Saturday 14th July
Reports are coming in from Hants, Sussex, Dorset and Bucks of the first Gatekeepers, Chalkhill Blues, Essex Skippers and summer Peacocks and Brimstones, but the atrocious weather that we've experienced over the last 3 months shows little sign of improving. Most butterfly species are having their worst season for several years. The inevitable consequence is that populations of some species could take 2 or 3 years to recover from the nadir, and local extinctions will certainly occur at marginal sites.
Gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus  male, Stansted Forest, Sussex  Adrian Hoskins
Thursday 4th July
Emily and myself have just returned home after treating ourselves to a mid-week break at Arnside in Cumbria. We spent Tuesday morning at Arnside Knott, where despite damp and overcast weather there were well over 40 Dark Green Fritillaries flying in the lower meadows. Most were recently emerged males. There were also several Common Blues, Small Heaths and Large Skippers, and a few worn individuals of Northern Brown Argus. In the afternoon we moved uphill to explore the woodland clearings and scree slopes where we found masses of freshly emerged Graylings - well in excess of 150, including 2 mating pairs. Our target species High Brown Fritillary was only just beginning to emerge but we were lucky to find a male nectaring at thistles, and later found another at roost on bracken. Prolonged overnight rain and continued drizzle on Wednesday morning failed to deter us from making a return visit and during a brief dry spell a few butterflies appeared, including 3 Small Tortoiseshells, a Small Skipper, several worn Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries and a very old and battered Pearl-bordered Fritillary. Shortly afterwards the sky blackened, rumbles of thunder echoed across the hills, and rain began to fall again, sending the Graylings up to shelter in the trees, and the Fritillaries diving into the herbage. We took it as a signal to head for the pub and enjoy a good meal, before catching a train home to Leicester.
High Brown Fritillary Argynnis adippe Arnside Knott, Cumbria  Adrian Hoskins
Dark Green Fritillary Argynnis aglaia female, Arnside Knott, Cumbria  Adrian Hoskins
Grayling Hipparchia semele Arnside Knott, Cumbria  Adrian Hoskins
Sunday 1st July
I spent a fruitless hour in cool overcast conditions at Monks Wood this morning searching for Black Hairstreaks, but only found a few Large Skippers and Ringlets, a Speckled Wood and 2 or 3 Meadow Browns. In the afternoon I headed north to Thorne Moors in Yorkshire. When I arrived at 3pm there was a brief sunny spell but by the time I'd reached the open moorland it had become dull and very windy, and the only butterflies to be seen were a few roosting Large Skippers. Two hours later there was another very brief sunny spell but still no sign of my target species, but then I suddenly spotted a Large Heath nectaring on a tall marsh thistle. A gust of wind instantly grabbed it and swept it out across the boggy quagmire where the ground is too dangerous to walk. During the next two hours I saw another dozen Large Heaths - mostly just brief glimpses of them being swept rapidly across the moor by the strong winds. Eventually however I struck lucky and spotted a male sitting on an orchid at the side of a path, and snapped the image below.
Large Heath Coenonympha tullia Humberhead Peatlands NNR, Yorkshire  Adrian Hoskins
Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus Monks Wood, Northants  Adrian Hoskins
Large Skipper Ochlodes venata male, Monks Wood, Northants  Adrian Hoskins

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