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Butterfly Diary - field notes by Adrian Hoskins
note : earliest sightings of each brood are in bold type
2013
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June

Sunday 30th June

Summer finally arrived today with clear skies and temperatures soaring to 25C. The first Ringlet of the year was seen at Heyshott Escarpment in Sussex, and Marbled White appeared at High and Over in Sussex and Leatherhead in Surrey. I spent the afternoon at Stype Wood in Berks, where I saw 9 Large Skippers, 5 Brimstones, 2 Green-veined Whites, 1 Large White, 12 Meadow Browns, 2 Small Heaths, 10 Speckled Woods, 1 White Admiral, an ovipositing Red Admiral, 1 Painted Lady, 6 Small Tortoiseshells, a couple of batches of Peacock larvae and 4 Common Blues. Moths included Scarlet Tiger, Cinnabar, Silver-ground Carpet, Blood-vein, Yellow Shell, Burnet Companion, Silver-Y and 6-spot Burnet. Moth reports from friends in Dorchester, Alton and Dorking have included Puss, Alder, Buff-tip and several hawkmoths: Lime, Eyed, Poplar, Elephant, Small Elephant and Privet.

Friday 28th June

The fields and meadows around Hungerford today produced 4 Green-veined Whites, 1 Red Admiral, 2 Speckled Woods, 4 Peacocks, 6 Small Tortoiseshells, 2 Meadow Browns, 5 Common Blues and a pristine and very active Scarlet Tiger moth. Sadly however I discovered that several of the Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock larval nests found on Tuesday have been accidentally destroyed by local council workers strimming nettles along the edges of footpaths. Luckily a further search of the area uncovered 2 more batches of half-grown Peacock larvae and 5 more Small Tortoiseshell webs so there should still be plenty of butterflies flying in late July. Other wildlife seen today included a pair of nesting swans with 7 cygnets, a water vole and dozens of tiny bush cricket nymphs.

Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina male, Hungerford, Berks Adrian Hoskins

Tuesday 25th June

After another 2 weeks of generally cool and overcast weather it was nice to see the sun making an attempt to break through the cloud today. The warmer conditions encouraged a few butterflies to put in an appearance, although numbers were still low. During a 2 hour stroll around the outskirts of Hungerford this afternoon I saw 2 Green-veined Whites, a Large Skipper, a Speckled Wood, a male Common Blue, 3 faded Peacocks, a Red Admiral and 2 freshly emerged Small Tortoiseshells. I also found a nest of half-grown Peacock larvae, and 4 nests of Small Tortoiseshell larvae ranging in size from newly hatched to fully grown. Moths included Burnet Companion, Green Carpet, Cinnabars and larvae / cocoons of Drinker moth.

Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae, Hungerford, Berks Adrian Hoskins

Friday 21st June

The first Black Hairstreaks of the year were reported today - two were seen around the top of an oak tree at Waterperry Wood in Oxon, and one was seen in nearby Bernwood Forest.

Wednesday 19th June

I apologise for failing to update this page during the last 2 weeks, which was due to moving house and having to wait several days for an internet connection to be established. We are now settled in our new home in Hungerford, and getting to know the local countryside. Walks along the canal and riverside, and in local fields have so far only produced a small species list, due largely to the effects of the 'June gap', but hopefully late June and July will be sunny and give us the opportunity to find a lot of additional species in local woodlands and on nearby chalk grasslands. Species seen today on a walk at Freeman's Marsh and Cake Wood included 4 Orange tips, 3 Green-veined Whites, 5 Small Whites, 1 female Brimstone, 4 Speckled Woods, 1 Small Heath, 6 Peacocks, 2 Red Admirals, 2 nests of Small Tortoiseshell larvae and 2 nests of Peacock larvae. We also saw a dozen freshly emerged Cinnabar moths, 1 Drinker larva, 1 Burnet Companion, 4 species of damselfly, longhorn caddis flies Mystacides azurea, various beetles, and numerous swans, ducks and geese. What a pleasure to be living in the countryside after having spent the last 2 years in the middle of Leicester!

Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria, Hungerford, Berks Adrian Hoskins

The strange creature below is a longhorn caddis fly Mystacides azurea found on herbage beside the canal at Hungerford. The 'pincers' are highly modified palpi which are used to grip and manipulate the female prior to mating. Caddis flies are the ancient ancestors of butterflies and moths. Their larvae are aquatic and live in portable cases constructed from sand grains or fragments of stems or leaves bonded to a silk tube surrounding their body. Modern day bagworm moths ( Psychidae ) still have larvae which live inside cases - see the example at the bottom of this page.

Caddis fly Mystacides azurea   Adrian Hoskins

Case-bearing larva of bagworm moth Psyche casta   Adrian Hoskins

Bagworm moths ( Psychidae ) have larvae which live within cases constructed from fragments of stems fastened together with silk. They use their 6 true legs to haul their mobile home from place to place, gripping the inside of the case with their anal claspers. Male bagworm moths have wings, but the wingless females pupate, emerge, lay their eggs and die without ever leaving their larval case.

Other sightings today included the first White Admirals of the year reported from Alice Holt forest in Hampshire, a Monarch of unknown origin seen by 3 observers at Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, 60 Wood Whites counted at Wicken Wood in Northants, and 20 fresh male Adonis Blues recorded at Martin Down on the Hampshire / Dorset border.

Clouded Yellows were observed yesterday as singletons at various sites along the Sussex coast, indicating the arrival of a small migration. Small numbers of Silver-studded Blues were seen at heathlands including Iping, Trotton and Stedham Commons. The first Dark Green Fritillaries of the year were seen at Martin Down in Hampshire, and at Cissbury Ring in Sussex.

Damp and cloudy weather has dominated over England for the last 2 weeks so butterfly sightings have been low, and emergence times delayed. Reports during the first fortnight of June included 50 Small Heaths, 68 Duke of Burgundy and 28 Dingy Skippers seen at Butser Hill in Hampshire on 8th; while on 9th the first Marbled White of the year was sighted at Hagbourne in Oxfordshire. On the same day 30 Glanville Fritillaries, 100 Common Blues, 15 Wall Browns and 8 Small Coppers were seen at Compton Chine on the Isle of Wight. The first Large Skipper of 2013 was seen on 15th at Dry Sandford Pit in Oxfordshire.

Sunday 2nd June

Sightings recorded today included 20 Common Blues and 4 Adonis Blues at Lardon Chase in Berks; and 16 Duke of Burgundies and 10 Common Blues at Ivinghoe Beacon in Bucks. Observers in Hants were particularly active - at Beacon Hill 12 Small Heaths, 10 Dingy Skippers, 15 Green Haistreaks and 3 Duke of Burgundies were recorded; and from Old Winchester Hill came a report of 13 Duke of Burgundies, 16 Small Heaths and 9 Dingy Skippers. Over 20 Duke of Burgundies were also seen at Ramsdean Down. At Bentley Wood 10 Pearl-bordered Fritillaries were seen in the eastern clearing.

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