|40 years of saving butterflies, moths and our environment|
FIELD TRIP REPORTS 2008
Anglesey Abbey - Sunday 10th August 2008Not strictly a Field Trip - but a garden party held for all Branch members to celebrate Butterfly Conservation's 40th anniversary!
Despite the very windy conditions, it was fairly sunny and guests enjoyed several butterfly walks through the meadows in front of the house led by committee members Richard Bigg, Val Perrin and Louise Bacon.
The actual party was held on the side lawn of Anglesey Abbey and about 100 members attended. Two of the founder members (Mike Gill and Iris Newbery) were also present and Mike gave a few words of thanks and congratulated the branch on all its successes and fantastic growth in membership since the early days.
In addition, Branch chairman Carl Blamire kindly gave a review of the history of the branch and its achievements.
Thrift Wood - Sunday 22nd June 2008Following a weather forecast earlier in the week for Sunday 22nd predicting heavy rain, then amended to light rain and finally to showers, the day dawned bright and sunny with no sign of rain. There was, however a strong south-west wind. The temperature was 19deg. Rising to 20deg.
A party of twelve (including the Warden and myself) assembled in the car park. One couple were from Northumberland having come down for a few days holiday specifically to attend this trip and see the Heath Fritillaries. There were also a couple from North London, non-members of BC, who had seen the posting on the website and decided to come along.
A Red Admiral, Meadow Brown and a Speckled Wood were spotted on brambles before we moved off into the central open area. The first fritillary was seen within a few minutes. We walked slowly towards the western end of the glade where I had seen the majority of HF earlier in the week. A few were spotted on the way, along with Meadow Browns and Ringlets but the wind was catching this area so we made our way slowly up to the northern end where it was more sheltered. The group were shown the area cleared by the Branch working party last November (report here) which is now covered in Cow Wheat. Fritillaries were flying in all areas, along with Meadow Browns and Ringlets. One small Skipper, a Speckled Wood and a Silver Y moth were also seen.
As we were moving slowly, and the HF were flying, it was not possible to put a figure on the numbers precisely, but certainly upwards of 20 were seen. Numerous photographs were taken.
The Warden then led us round to the pond and explained the clearing operations which were being carried out by Wildlife Trust volunteers. Dragon flies, a basking newt, a grass snake and a swarm of bees high in an oak tree were observed.
Finally we circled round the North-West perimeter of the wood back to the car park. This whole area has been coppiced professionally over the past two years and it was noted how rapidly chestnut in particular had re-established itself. All in the party expressed their enjoyment at having come along on the trip and were pleased to have seen so many of the fritillaries.
Authored by Richard Bigg - Trip Leader
Brampton Wood - Sunday 15th June 2008Brampton Wood’s car park was filled to overflowing with 10 minutes to go before the scheduled 10:30 start. I didn’t count heads, but there must have been around 20 members and friends, including a number of visitors, one from as far away as Dorset. We arrived in sunshine, but as Robin began his introductory talk, the sun disappeared and most of the rest of the morning was overcast and slightly breezy, with only occasional sunny periods, although it was quite warm.
We walked up the entrance ride with Ringlets and Meadow Browns in good supply, made a short stop at the crossing with the main ride for late-comers to catch up, and then went straight to the first of several open clearings with good blackthorn scrub. This is the Wood’s designated area 1 for Black Hairstreaks, usually regarded as the second most likely place to find them. But not this morning. We didn’t dally long here because a better place is usually site 2, about 150 metres away. Here we set up camp with cameras and binoculars and various digiscopes, but alas there was nothing to focus on. Eventually some tentative high-level sightings were made, but in two hours there was only one low-level excursion when a butterfly made a short stop on a leaf at about 12:30. I think the successful spotter was the youngest member of our group. As it happened, I was standing near enough to capture a couple of passable images with a 200mm long lens.
Many members of the group drifted away as 1 pm approached, deciding that the overcast windy conditions were against us. This was disappointing, particularly for those who had travelled a distance, because a strong population of Black Hairstreaks were definitely about. I returned a couple of days later, in sunny, calmer conditions and had regular low-level sightings, at least half a dozen an hour, several settling for some time and allowing good photographic opportunities. In comparison with Glapthorn, where I also went, there were more Black Hairstreaks about at Brampton this year. However, the density of flowering privet and early-flowering bramble at Glapthorn is significantly more than at Brampton, so this seems to attract the butterflies down for longer periods where they remain stationary and present themselves longer for Glapthorn’s photographers!
Although this trip was frustrated by the weather, it was a good introduction to the Black Hairstreak’s habitat requirements, and these insects’ behaviour, and our leader did an excellent job of informing us about them. He was ably supported by Brampton’s Warden, who talked about management of the Wood and its wildlife, even recording a short impromptu question and answer session with a local school biology teacher.
Trip led by Robin Field
Authored by David Newland
Devil's Dyke - Sunday 11th May 2008A glorious day saw 12 branch members gather at the racecourse car park for a 10.30 start. If we’d known how good the weather would be, we would have started an hour earlier! Hot sunshine and light winds meant the butterflies were extremely active, a great spectacle though frustrating for would-be photographers!
Photographic attempts were made, but frustration generally resulted as the insects were very active. At the scrub-filled bottom of the Dyke, Orange Tips and Brimstones were seen passing by. We made our way slowly along the Dyke, regularly seeing both target species, along with other confusion species, the Mother Shipton and Burnet Companion moths. This was an excellent opportunity for the less experienced members of the group to get to grips with these species, particularly important for one of our party, Hilary, who hopes to conduct a research project on the Dingy Skipper for her degree course. Towards the end of the first section of the transect route (Cambridge Gap, 500m NW from the A1303) we saw our first Small Heath butterflies. We had tallied 24 Dingy Skippers by this point, including one mating pair which gave more of a chance for photographers, and Louise saw one ovipositing female, whose egg was expertly located by Hilary – an excellent find.
Green Hairstreak had reached 16 by this point, though numbers of both were hard to estimate as individuals flew so widely that they could be under- or over-counted very easily.
Another addition to the species list in this section was Small Tortoiseshell. Dingy Skipper was again the commonest species, with another 26 by the end of the 400m long section 3 (Well Gap) plus 6 more Green Hairstreaks.
A total of 57 Dingy Skippers may well be a site record, there certainly has not been a count in category D (30-99) since 1997 according to the branch’s database of sightings. Those who were left ate lunch in a welcome patch of shade, some then departed while the final four made a short trip to Reach, to explore the NW end of the Dyke.
All in all a very successful trip and a Dingy Skipper count that the branch can be proud of helping to produce with our winter work parties!
Authored by Vince Lea
Langdon Hills - Sunday 4th May 2008
We were led via Great Lodge and Homefield to Knightsfield. Four male Orange Tip and a female egg laying on cuckoo flower (lady's smock) were spotted along with Speckled Wood (2), Green Veined White (2), Peacock (5) and three unidentified whites.
In Great Lodge, a Grizzled Skipper was found by Graham Bailey but was quickly lost in flight before any others could see it and another one was seen (in flight only) in Knightsfield. We also found a Latticed Heath moth.
In Homefield, we came across two adders. The first was 18in to 2ft in length but quickly hid itself away before anyone apart from the original finders could spy anything but a tail in a grassy clump! The second was smaller and was basking, curled up in the hazy sun. However, this snake gave good views to all before wriggling away, just as cameras were being drawn!
The return through Great Lodge yielded one Grizzled Skipper basking, which thankfully everyone was able to see before it flew off. This was clearly a different individual from the one found earlier which was identified as a taras aberrant form. We also found a Small Copper and a Small Yellow Underwing moth here.
Despite having good Grizzled Skipper habitat, we unfortunately failed to add to our morning total of 3. However, Green-winged orchids in profusion more than made up for the lack of Grizzled Skippers.
There were a number of small moths which Graham identified as Pyrausta aurata. The final members of the trip packed up for the journey home at about 3.15pm, leaving the leader to wander back through the meadow below the Ranger's house and then through part of the neighbouring Northlands Wood.
Graham added Comma and Large White (and another Small copper) to the day's list. He also noted about half a dozen of the pretty little day-flying Speckled Yellow moths that feed on the wood sage plant. These are very local in Essex, but Graham has recorded them from here for many years now, so it's good to know they are still surviving.
Many thanks to Graham Bailey for a thoroughly enjoyable day's butterfly hunting!!
Authored by Richard Bigg
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