Butterfly Diary - field notes by Adrian Hoskins
note : earliest sightings of each brood are in bold type
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July ( part 1: 1st-17th ) >> part 2: ( 18th-31st )

Wednesday 17th July

I spent today at Straits Inclosure in Hampshire, where I had 7 sightings of Purple Emperor, including 2 pristine males which came to the ground to mineralise on the track. Silver-washed Fritillaries were plentiful, with an estimated 60 males and 8 females seen, all in excellent condition. I also saw about 15 White Admirals. Some were in fine condition but many had torn wings resulting from bird attacks or encounters with bramble thorns. Other species included 3 Red Admirals, 1 Small Tortoiseshell, 8 fresh Commas, 1 freshly emerged Peacock, 5 Marbled Whites, 30 Large Skippers, 5 Small Whites, 2 male Gatekeepers, 80 Meadow Browns and 5 Speckled Woods. I was surprised to see only about 60 Ringlets, as the latter is very abundant in most woodlands and meadows this year.

Purple Emperor Apatura iris male, Straits Inclosure, Hampshire  Adrian Hoskins

Purple Emperor Apatura iris male, Straits Inclosure, Hampshire  Adrian Hoskins

Saturday 13th July

Temperatures hit 31C today and the butterflies were hyperactive. At Bedwyn Common the Silver-washed Fritillaries were rocketing around the glades at collosal speed, making photography almost impossible. I witnessed an epic butterfly dog-fight between a trio of male Silver-washed Fritillaries that were fighting for more than 5 hours over possession of a clump of thistles! Every now and then one would break away for a couple of minutes and soar around the glade, but before long it would return and rejoin the battle. Other species seen included about 60 Ringlets, 30 Meadow Browns, 20 Speckled Woods, 2 Commas, 2 Small Tortoiseshells, 20 Large Skippers, 6 Small Skippers, 2 Small Whites and a couple of Green-veined Whites. Reports from elsewhere included 40-50 Silver-washed Fritillaries seen at Bernwood and several records of Purple Emperors, mostly seen as singletons as various sites in Hants and Oxon. The first Grayling of the year was seen today at Browndown near Gosport in Hampshire.

Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris male, Bedwyn Common, Wiltshire Adrian Hoskins

Friday 12th July

It seems that most butterfly enthusiasts in the UK have spent the last few days searching for Purple Emperors, and several people have been successful, with sightings of fresh males at Fermyn Wood, Bookham Common, Bentley Wood, Tugley Wood, Bernwood and Southwater Woods yesterday and today. A total of 13 Purple Emperor groundings involving a minimum of 8 individuals were recorded yesterday at Oversley Wood in Warwickshire! The latter half of this week has also brought reports indicating that numbers of Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral are increasing, although so far only males have been reported. The first confirmed Essex Skipper of the year was reported from Holtspur Bottom in Bucks yesterday. Other grassland butterflies have been emerging strongly this week, with Dark Green Fritillaries producing high counts at various sites including Martin Down and Farley Mount in Hampshire, Aston Rowant in Oxon, Bradenham Banks in Bucks, and Friston Forest in Sussex. Marbled White, Meadow Brown and Ringlet populations are also building rapidly.

Marbled White Melanargia galathea Bedwyn meadows, Wiltshire Adrian Hoskins

Wednesday 10th July

Today at Bedwyn and Wilton Brail the commonest butterfly by far was the Ringlet. I estimated there were at least 500 flying along the rides and in the woodland glades, and it was common to see 30 or more bustling around hazel bushes and the lower branches of oaks, pausing momentarily to imbibe honey dew from the leaves. The flower-filled meadows at Bedwyn were alive with Marbled Whites, of which I saw about 60 males and 4 or 5 females. Butterflies seen along the forest trails included 4 extremely active Silver-washed Fritillaries, about 150 Meadow Browns, 1 male Gatekeeper, 15-20 Speckled Woods, 1 Comma, a 2012-vintage male Brimstone, 3 Small Whites, 5 Small Tortoiseshells, 30 Large Skippers and 6 Small Skippers. News from elsewhere in southern England included several White Admiral sightings in Sussex, Surrey and Oxfordshire; and a report of the first Chalkhill Blue of the year, seen at Magdalen Hill Down in Hampshire.

Silver-washed Fritillary Argynnis paphia Wiltshire Adrian Hoskins

Monday 8th July

Reports from Sussex indicate that the hot weather has triggered a moderate emergence of Silver-washed Fritillaries, with up to 15 recorded at Southwater Wood and 3 seen at Tugley Wood. White Admirals are building very slowly, with a maximum of 6 at Southwater, and 3 at Tugley, where a male Purple Emperor and 4 Wood Whites were also seen. White-letter Hairstreak is beginning to appear at its strongholds in Brighton, where 4 were seen flying around English elms at Hollingbury Park. Reports from elsewhere in the country included a count of 15 Large Blues at Collard Hill in Somerset, and a single Purple Hairstreak seen at Alice Holt forest in Hampshire. Silver-studded Blues are now at the peak of their flight season on the New Forest heaths but are being recorded in dozens compared to the usual hundreds or thousands. Dark Green Fritillaries have been observed in good numbers at Friston Forest in Sussex and up to 100 were estimated to be flying at Bradenham Bank in Bucks on Saturday 6th, but elsewhere they are only appearing in single figure counts. The general impression given by most recorders is that despite the sunny conditions we are currently enjoying, populations of most butterfly species are decidedly lower than average.

Sunday 7th July

Today at Castle Copse in Wiltshire I was delighted to see my first Silver-washed Fritillary of the year engaged in aerial combat with a freshly emerged male Comma. Other species seen included 150+ Meadow Browns, 50 Ringlets, 25 Marbled Whites, 15 Speckled Woods, 1 Red Admiral, 2 Small Tortoiseshells, 1 Large White, 2 Small Whites, 15 Large Skippers and 3 Small Skippers.

Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris Castle Copse, Wiltshire Adrian Hoskins

Saturday 6th July

A warm sunny day on which I contented myself photographing a couple of my favourite butterflies - Large Skipper and Marbled White, at Chilton Foliat. Both species are now emerging strongly, as are Meadow Browns, Ringlets and hordes of Small Tortoiseshells.

Large Skipper Ochlodes sylvanus Chilton Foliat, Wiltshire Adrian Hoskins

Marbled White Melanargia galathea Chilton Foliat, Wiltshire Adrian Hoskins

Friday 5th July

Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells are both having an extremely successfully breeding season in Berkshire this year. On a walk this morning I checked a 400 metre stretch of hedgerow between 2 rape fields near Hungerford and counted no fewer than 22 separate Peacock larval webs comprising an estimated total of 1400 larvae, ranging from 1st to 4th instar. There were also 3 nests of 1st/2nd instar Small Tortoiseshells and a couple of fully grown larvae. Afterwards I checked some grassland and field edges at nearby Chilton Foliat where I found several more Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell webs. Adult butterflies seen included 40 male Meadow Browns, 12 Ringlets, 3 fresh Marbled Whites, 3 Speckled Woods, 60+ fresh Small Tortoiseshells most of which were nectaring at oil-seed rape, 3 worn Peacocks, 1 migrant Painted Lady, 1 Common Blue, 3 Large Whites, 6 Small Whites, 2 Green-veined Whites and 14 Large Skippers. Moths included Grey Dagger, Burnet Companion, Cinnabar and 5-spot Burnet.

Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus Chilton Foliat, Wiltshire Adrian Hoskins

Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae, Hungerford, Berks Adrian Hoskins

Wednesday 3rd July

Marbled White numbers are now slowly starting to build, with 12 reported from Magdalen Hill Down, and slightly lower numbers at other Hampshire sites including Stockbridge Down, Martin Down and Broughton Down. The latter site also produced 16 Dark Green Fritillaries. Early July signals the start of the crazy season, when normally rational people are overcome by the obsessive desire to hurtle around the country in search of the elusive Purple Emperor. The first males were reported today from Bernwood Forest in Oxfordshire and from Rushbeds Wood in Bucks. Black Hairstreak is now at peak season, 3 weeks later than normal, according to reports from Bernwood, Whitecross Green Wood, Finemere Wood and Glapthorn Cow Pastures.

Monday 1st July

The first Small Skipper of the year was reported today from Denham in Bucks.

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