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Butterfly Diary - field notes by Adrian Hoskins
 
2006 - The year of the Red Admiral
 
Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jly | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec
 
 
Sightings policy - details of certain sites where visitor pressure or trampling may pose a threat to butterflies or alienate landowners are excluded from these pages.

Saturday 21st January

Today in Stansted Forest I saw my first butterflies of 2006, namely 3 Red Admirals, seen in different parts of the forest. All were seen basking on tree trunks, and were active enough to fly when approached closely.

Sunday 5th February

I spent a couple of hours walking the dog in Stansted Forest this afternoon. It felt warmer than of late, so I searched out likely spots for butterflies, and found a Red Admiral basking at a height of about 4 metres on the trunk of a sunlit sweet chestnut tree.

Saturday 11th February

No sign of any butterflies at Stansted Forest this afternoon, but plenty of evidence of moths : I found hundreds of leaf-mines on bramble, produced by the micro-moth Stigmella aurella ( Nepticulidae ). Some leaves had 3 or 4 mines in them. The larvae burrow into the leaves at the edge, where the cuticle is softest, and spend their lives feeding between the upper and lower cuticle, weaving an ever-widening serpentine path as they develop. When fully grown they leave their home to pupate in a cocoon on the surface of the leaf. The adults fly in May and August.

Sunday 19th March

At Ashford Hangers yesterday, I had a butterfly count of zero, but today blue skies, warm sunshine and a gentle breeze told me that spring had finally arrived, so I headed for Crab Wood in the hope of seeing a Brimstone. Sure enough, there was a male flying around the entrance, and another 3 males seen in coppiced areas within. Later, I saw a Peacock flying around a log-pile, where it had probably spent the winter. Before returning home, I popped over to Stockbridge Down for half an hour, and was able to add another male Brimstone to the day's sightings.

Sunday 2nd April

I visited Crab Wood early this afternoon, arriving shortly after a heavy shower, and had about 2 hours there before a hail storm brought things to an abrupt end. There was very little flying, but I did see my first 2 Commas of the year, and an Orange Underwing. I also found 2 Brimstones at roost under bramble leaves - one in the Hants Trust reserve, and the other in the Forestry Commission section.

Monday 3rd April

This afternoon I spent about an hour at Whiteley Pastures, in warm and generally sunny conditions. I saw 3 male Commas, basking on mud, gravel, and dead bracken respectively. I also saw 5 or 6 male Brimstones, mostly in flight, or basking with wings closed on dead leaf litter, though I also observed one nectaring at primrose. This male, as conditions became cooler, started searching for a roosting site. I watched as it entered a very small clump of ivy growing on an oak trunk. It settled in the ivy, and I approached cautiously, expecting it to fly out, but it remained at rest. Although I saw the spot where it settled, it took me a good 2 minutes to actually locate the butterfly, under a leaf, where it was superbly camouflaged.

Monday 10th April

At Crab Wood this afternoon, I saw a male Brimstone, a Peacock, and about 10 Commas. The latter all appeared to be males. Some were seen basking on leaf litter, dead bracken, logs etc; others were vying for territories with other males. I also saw one male nectaring on sallow catkins. On Sunday I visited Ballard Down in Dorset, and saw 2 Commas, a Peacock ( nectaring on daisies ), and a Speckled Wood. Later in the afternoon I stopped for a few minutes at Martin Down, and found a Fox moth larva, but no butterflies.

Sunday 16th April

This morning I visited Noar Hill, and saw about 6 male Brimstones, including one which visited several cowslip flowers to nectar. Also seen flying were 2 Commas, a Peacock, and a Green-veined White. Other insects included oil beetles, bloody-nosed beetle, and several bee-flies.

Monday 17th April

I spent a couple of hours at Botany Bay and Chiddingfold Woods in Surrey today. The weather was mostly cloudy but the occasional sunny spell encouraged a few Brimstones, Commas and Peacocks to fly. Most of the 8 or 9 Brimstones that I saw were males, flying in search of females. I saw 3 Peacocks, one in flight, the others nectaring respectively at sallow catkins and cuckoo flower. The Commas were mostly males, basking on logs, wood chippings and leaf litter, although I did see one female, which was flying from leaf to leaf, "tasting" dogs mercury and various other plants before eventually discovering the right flavour, on stinging nettles. I watched her lay a single egg on a young nettle leaf. Bee-flies were abundant, as were various hoverflies ( visiting sallow catkins ).

Sunday 23rd April

At Noar Hill this morning, in fine sunny weather, I saw about 20 male Orange tips, although this figure probably included one or two repeat sightings. Other species seen included a Peacock, about 8 Commas, a Small Tortoiseshell, a Red Admiral, and about 8 male Brimstones. In the afternoon I spent a couple of hours at Stansted Forest, and saw another Red Admiral, about 6 Brimstones ( including one female ), 5 or 6 Peacocks, and at least 20 Commas. The Peacocks were very active, chasing fiercely after every passing insect, including bumble bees, bee flies, Commas and other Peacocks. I watched an encounter between 2 male Peacocks that had set up territories about 5 metres apart. When they met, a battle took place, in which they spiralled rapidly to a height of about 20 metres before separating and returning to their original territories. I also saw a male Orange tip trying to court a female Green-veined White, and later watched the latter ovipositing on the leaves of cuckoo flower.

Sunday 30th April

I took advantage of the cool overcast morning to go and look for roosting Orange tips in Chiddingfold Woods, and found 2 males on cuckoo flower. A female Speckled Wood made a brief but welcome appearance when the sun broke through the clouds for about 15 seconds. In the afternoon the weather improved, with a few sunny spells, and I visited Levin Down in Sussex. There, I saw 2 male Orange tips, 2 male Brimstones, 2 very worn Commas, and about 6 fresh Grizzled Skippers. In typical Grizzled skipper fashion, they zipped about close to the ground and were hard to spot when they settled. I was interested however to see that when 2 males crossed paths, during the ensuing dog-fight they spiralled up to a height of about 5 metres before separating and returning to bask a few metres apart on patches of bare soil. Back home at Bedhampton there were 4 or 5 fresh Speckled Woods flying in the back garden.

Monday 1st May

I visited Noar Hill this morning, but there was very little flying due to the cool breeze - just a few Orange tips ( 4m, 1f ) and a solitary Comma. By the time I got to Magdalen Hill Down the conditions had improved slightly, and I saw about 8 Grizzled Skippers ( all fresh males ), 5 Green Hairstreaks, 2 Brimstones, 1 Green-veined White, and a Peacock.

Sunday 7th May

I spent a couple of hours early this afternoon at Noar Hill. Conditions were cool and generally overcast, but there were a few minutes of mild sunshine, which encouraged a few butterflies and moths to become airborne. Amongst these were about 4 Orange tips, including a female nectaring at early purple orchid. I counted 8 Duke of Burgundy, all males, occupying widely separated territories in various chalk pits. Also a Holly Blue, and a fresh Dingy Skipper. As conditions became more overcast, with rain threatening, the Dukes went down into tussocks of grass or under cowslip leaves; and the Dingy Skipper settled to roost on a dead knapweed flower head. I also saw a few moths - Pyrausta purpuralis, a few Common Carpets, and a Small White Wave.

Tuesday 9th May

It took a long time for the sun to appear at Noar Hill today. By early afternoon there was enough warmth to get a few Duke of Burgundy on the wing - most of the 15-20 individuals I saw were in the more heavily vegetated areas at the northern end of the reserve. I saw 3 fresh females, and 5 fresh males, but the remainder were looking a bit weather beaten. There should be plenty more emerging by the end of the week though. Other species seen on the reserve included 3 Dingy Skippers, a Holly Blue, a Peacock, a Comma, a couple of Green-veined Whites, a couple of male Green Hairstreaks in aerial combat, a hundred or so Adela reamurella longhorn moths, a few Common Carpets and about 6 Orange tips, including a female seen ovipositing on garlic mustard. There were more Orange tips, at least 15, flying in the fields of dandelions outside the reserve.

Wednesday 10th May

Today I visited Ballard Down in Dorset, and had warm sunshine all day. The most prolific species by far was Speckled Wood - there were at least 40 flying along the hedgerows at the bottom of the hill. Dingy Skippers were also abundant, with about 25 seen. I spotted about 8 Green Hairstreaks. In the morning the males were perching on blackthorns, but later in the day they were settling in elms and field maples at a height of 6-7 metres. Other species included 4 Small Coppers, 2 Commas, 4 Peacocks, a Red Admiral, 5 Orange tips, 3 Holly Blues, a freshly emerged Brown Argus, a fresh Small Heath, 3 Brimstones, a Large White, 2 Wall Browns, and a web of fully grown Brown tail moth larvae.

Saturday 20th May

The desperately needed rain has triggered the emergence of a few more Orange tips. I found 2 fresh males and a fresh female at Stansted Forest today, although the strong winds and heavily overcast weather made photography very difficult. I also saw a Painted Lady, a Speckled Wood, and a few moths including Mocha, Speckled Yellow, Shaded Broad-bar, and Green Carpet.

Saturday 27th May

Yet another dull and breezy day, with few butterflies. This morning at Stansted Forest I saw a group of 4 very active migrant Painted Ladies "hill-topping", but there were no other butterflies about. I spent a couple of hours at Noar Hill in the early afternoon, and saw about 8 very weather-beaten Duke of Burgundy, 7 Dingy Skippers including 2 freshly emerged, 2 Orange tips, a Speckled Wood, and a Common Blue. Also a magnificent hornet, and a few moths including Speckled Yellow, Common Carpet, Silver-ground Carpet, and White Ermine.

Monday 29th May

Amazingly the only butterfly I've seen in Hampshire this weekend was a male Brimstone flying at Beaulieu. I spent yesterday morning ( 28th ) at a meadowland site in Dorset, where I saw 8 fresh male Marsh Fritillaries. In the afternoon I went to a chalk grassland site near Dorchester, and in cloudy conditions saw about 100 male Marsh Fritillaries, plus 5 females and 2 mating pairs. Dingy Skippers and Grizzled Skippers were also abundant, with over 60 of each seen. Other species included 2 Small Coppers, a Green Hairstreak, a Small Blue, and a Green-veined White. Today I visited Ballard Down, where I saw about 10 male Adonis Blues, 4 Common Blues, 2 Green Hairstreaks, about 15 Dingy Skippers, 3 Small Heaths, a Red Admiral, a Painted Lady, and a Clouded Yellow.

Monday 5th June

I visited Botany Bay this morning hoping to see a few Fritillaries, but despite 4 hours of searching failed to find either Pearl-bordered or Small Pearl-bordered. Butterflies were generally scarce despite the sunshine. I saw 6 worn Wood Whites, an aged Comma, a Red Admiral, a Green Hairstreak, a Large White, 2 Orange tips, and about a dozen fresh Speckled Woods. The biggest surprise was the appearance of about 40 male Brimstones, massing to nectar at vetches in one of the clearings. In the afternoon I visited Ramsdean Down, where butterflies were also fairly scarce. I saw 4 male Brimstones, a Red Admiral, a battered migrant Painted Lady, a very ragged Green Hairstreak, 3 Small Coppers, 6 Brown Argus, about 20 fresh male Common Blues, 10 worn Grizzled Skippers, 12 Dingy Skippers, and 5 faded Duke of Burgundy. There were also a dozen or so Cinnabars flying, several Speckled Yellows, a Wood Tiger, and a few worn Silver-Y moths.

Tuesday 6th June

This morning at a woodland in east Hampshire, I saw about 30 fairly fresh looking Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, and 2 Pearl-bordered Fritillaries. There was no sign of Duke of Burgundy. Other butterflies seen included 2 Large Whites, 2 Small Whites, 4 Speckled Woods, 3 Brimstones, a Red Admiral, 2 Grizzled Skippers, 3 Dingy Skippers, and 2 fresh male Large Skippers.

In the afternoon I visited a chalk grassland site near Salisbury, where I counted 26 Marsh Fritillaries. Most of these were fairly fresh males. I found 3 freshly emerged females, one of which was drying its wings. I found the empty chrysalis about 3 inches away from the butterfly. This is easily the highest one-day count for this species in recent years at this site. It is likely that the poor weather in May delayed the emergence, and that the entire population is emerging en masse this week. Other species seen included about 30 male Adonis Blues, and 6 fresh females. Common Blues were in similar numbers, again mostly males. There were less Small Blues than I expected - only about 40 seen. I also saw about a dozen or so Brown Argus, 3 faded Green Hairstreaks, 20 Grizzled Skippers, 8 Dingy Skippers, 2 Speckled Woods, 3 Small Whites, 2 Large Whites, 2 Brimstones, a Painted Lady, a Peacock, about 20 fairly fresh Small Heaths, and a Small Copper. Moths included a couple of Common Heaths, 2 Fox moths, 2 Mother Shiptons, and about 10 Burnet Companions.

Wednesday 7th June

I revisited Ramsdean Down this afternoon, and saw about 40-50 male Common Blues, 20 Dingy Skippers ( some quite fresh ), 8 Grizzled Skippers, 15-20 fresh Brown Argus, 3 worn Green Hairstreaks, 10 fresh Small Heaths, 2 Brimstones, 1 Large White, 2 Small Whites, 4 worn Duke of Burgundy, and a battered Painted Lady. The only moths seen were about 15 Cinnabars.

Friday 16th June

Today I spent about 3 hours exploring a coppiced woodland near Canterbury in Kent. It was hot and sunny all day, but I saw only about 12 Heath Fritillaries. The butterflies were quite hard to find, occupying just a couple of ride intersections, and were absent from the open coppice areas. Nearly all the butterflies were fresh males. They occasionally took flight, and visited bramble and cow wheat flowers, but spent most of their time sitting motionless on bracken or sweet chestnut leaves, waiting for the right woman to come along. When one did appear, 2 different males attempted to copulate with her, but she clearly wasn't interested in hanky panky, and sent them both packing. Other insects seen included a Large Skipper, 2 fresh Red Admirals, 2 Speckled Woods, 2 fresh male Meadow Browns and a Hummingbird Hawkmoth. In the late afternoon I saw another fresh Red Admiral, a Common Blue and a Large Skipper in my local wood, Stansted Forest.

Sunday 18th June

I visited Stockbridge Down in cloudy conditions late this afternoon, and saw 2 Large Skippers, about 25 mainly fresh Small Heaths, 5 Meadow Browns, 30 worn Common Blues, 1 Brown Argus, 1 Adonis Blue, 1 Painted Lady, 3 fresh Ringlets, 3 Chimney Sweepers, several Cinnabar larvae, and various micros including Agapeta hamana.

Thursday 6th July

I spent today photographing the commoner species in Stansted Forest, where I saw a solitary Silver-washed Fritillary, 2 White Admirals, 2 Commas, about 40 Essex Skippers, about 20 Small Skippers, a few 6 spot Burnets, the micro Agriphila straminella, 15 Marbled Whites, 4 Gatekeepers, 30 Ringlets, and 40 Meadow Browns. The highlight for me was the discovery of a gorgeous Leopard moth, freshly emerged and drying it's wings.

Friday 7th July

This morning, in dull and damp conditions I visited a Wiltshire wood, and saw one Purple Emperor, 3 White Admirals, about 70 Silver-washed Fritillaries including a valesina, 25 Marbled Whites, 2 Commas, 3 Red Admirals, 2 Brimstones, a Green-veined White, plus the usual common Satyrines and Skippers. In the late afternoon I spent an hour at Stockbridge Down, and saw 6 Chalkhill Blues, 40 mostly worn Marbled Whites, 4 Small Heaths, 1 old Small Copper, about 20 Gatekeepers, 100+ Meadow Browns, 30+ Ringlets, 60+ Small Skippers, 2 female Brimstones, 4 Commas and lots of Cinnabar larvae. Biggest surprise of the day was a Grizzled Skipper - it was very worn, and is certainly the latest 1st brood Grizzled that I've ever seen.

Saturday 15th July

This morning, when I revisited the same Wiltshire wood, there were about 40 other butterfly watchers present, so I explored the quieter tracks, and was rewarded with 2 worn male Purple Emperors down on horse dung. Silver-washed Fritillaries were abundant, about 70 seen, including 2 valesina and 2 mating pairs. There were still about 8 White Admirals flying, plus 5 Brimstones, about 20 Commas, 7 Red Admirals, 200+ Ringlets, 300+ Meadow Browns, 200+ Small/Essex Skippers, 4 Marbled Whites, 150+ Gatekeepers, a Common Blue, and a White-letter Hairstreak.

I stopped for half an hour around midday at Dean Hill, and saw about 30 Marbled Whites, 4 Dark Green Fritillaries, and several dozen 6 spot Burnets. Then I went home via the New Forest, stopping at Godshill to see the Grayling colony. There were about 30 Graylings flying, and they were extremely difficult to approach, except for one male which insisted on establishing a territory on my trouser leg ! Other species included about 50 Meadow Browns, the females of which were noticeably richer in colour than those normally seen at grassland and woodland sites. Also seen were about 20 Gatekeepers, 3 Dark Green Fritillaries, a solitary Marbled White, a Red Admiral, 2 Brimstones, 6 Small Heaths, a Small Copper, and a Grass Emerald.

Friday 21st July

Most sensible people stay indoors when it gets this hot, but I'm a fanatic ! I arrived at Noar Hill at 0800am, and the butterflies were already zipping around and almost impossible to approach. I saw about 15 fresh Painted Ladies, 3 Peacocks, 2 Commas, 5 Red Admirals, 1 Brimstone, 12 Green-veined Whites, 3 Large Whites, 30 Marbled Whites, about 60 Meadow Browns, 15 Gatekeepers, 2 Large Skippers, and a few worn Small / Essex Skippers.

By 1000am the butterflies had all gone to hide from the sun, presumably resting inside bushes, so I left and headed for Alice Holt Forest, figuring that there might be some shade there ! I spent about 2 hours there, and saw about 40 Silver-washed Fritillaries, 12 White Admirals ( one very fresh ), 6 Red Admirals, 3 Commas, 15 Green-veined Whites, 2 Purple Hairstreaks, 3 Brimstones, 3 Large Whites, a Clouded Yellow bombing along the main ride, and the usual Satyrines and Skippers.

Finally I visited Botany Bay, where I saw 2 Peacocks, 3 Commas, about 20 Brimstones, 6 Large Whites, 2 Small Whites, 12 Green-veined Whites, 4 White Admirals, 30 Silver-washed Fritillaries, 2 second brood Wood Whites, 3 Red Admirals, 4 Ringlets and plenty of Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers that I didn't bother counting. Oh, and when I got home at 1700pm there was a Holly Blue in my garden at Bedhampton.

Saturday 29th July

Yesterday I visited Noar Hill and saw my first Brown Hairstreaks of the year, 2 males and a female, freshly emerged and resting on low herbage. Today I spent a couple of hours in Stansted Forest, and saw 4 Clouded Yellows ( 3 seen in flight together, and another on the opposite side of the site ) patrolling back and forth along the grassy avenues. All were slightly faded and showing signs of wear, suggesting that they were migrants. I also saw 6 Silver-washed Fritillaries, 2 Painted Ladies, 3 Peacocks, 3 Marbled Whites, 4 Red Admirals and the usual Browns and Skippers. Biggest surprise was 4 fresh male Chalkhill Blues, never recorded at Stansted before. There is no horseshoe vetch there, and the nearest site for Chalkhills is about 3 miles away. The hot weather is obviously causing them to disperse en masse. On tree trunks in the woodland I saw 6 Black Arches, and a Dingy Footman.

Sunday 30th July

 Today I revisited Noar Hill and saw another Brown Hairstreak ( male ) at hemp agrimony, a Clouded Yellow, about 40 Painted Ladies, 20 Red Admirals, 15 Peacocks, 30 Brimstones, 10 Small Whites, 25 Large Whites, 1 Green-veined White, 10 Silver-washed Fritillaries, 100 Gatekeepers, 300 Meadow Browns, 2 Brown Argus, 3 Holly Blues, 60 Common Blues, 3 Small Coppers, 8 Marbled Whites, about 100 Small/Essex Skippers ( I only examined a few closely, but both species were present ), 2 Large Skippers, a Ringlet, and 5 Speckled Woods. Biggest surprise, again was a fresh male Chalkhill Blue ( there is no horseshoe vetch at Noar, so this was another wanderer ). Best species of the day however was the rare Pyralid moth Sitochroa palealis, spotted by Tony Hoare.

Thursday 3rd August

I spent a couple of hours this afternoon in Stansted Forest, and saw 12 worn female Silver-washed Fritillaries, including one I watched laying about 10 eggs at heights of between 1 - 4 metres in chinks on the bark of an oak. Marbled Whites seem to have finished, but I saw 20 worn Small/Essex Skippers, 2 ancient Large Skippers, 3 Clouded Yellows, 3 Brimstones, 3 Large Whites, about 30 Small Whites, 1 Green-veined White, 1 Small Copper, 4 freshish Brown Argus, 15 Common Blues, 1 male Chalkhill Blue ( presumably the same one that was there last weekend ), 3 fresh male Holly Blues, 5 fresh Red Admirals, 1 fresh Painted Lady, 3 Peacocks, 2 old Commas, 7 fresh Speckled Woods, about 70 Gatekeepers ( mostly worn females ), and 80 Meadow Browns. I searched for Small Tortoiseshells but found none - they are very scarce everywhere I've visited this year. The 6-spot Burnets seem to be finished, but I saw several other moth species including 30 Silver-Ys, a Grey Dagger, and a fresh Pyrausta purpuralis. There were 3 Black Arches moths resting on tree trunks, and what at first looked like another, larger specimen, but which on close examination was seen to be a female Gypsy moth, presumably a migrant.

7th-15th August

I am writing this at Rio Cristalino, in Mato Grosso state in Brazil. Yes, I'm deep in the Amazon rainforest, having returned to Cristalino for a second visit. This is probably the best butterfly site in the world – the narrow trails through the rainforest are alive with a myriad of species, and the salt-licks are attracting swarms of butterflies, probably at least 80 species at any time. Some of the butterflies occur singly, whilst others, such as Eunica pusilla, are present in hundreds. In total I've seen about 280 species in the 8 days spent here. Highlights have included several different Morphos and Owl butterflies, dozens of Satyrines, Metalmarks including Caria mantinea and Rhetus periander, some incredibly beautiful Nymphalids ( e.g. Hamadryas velutina, Siderone galanthis, Nessaea hewitsoni ) and hordes of Sulphurs. Along the riverbanks we have seen tapirs, giant river otters, capybaras, and a lot of fabulous birds, my favourite being the capped heron. We also had a very close encounter with a giant anaconda, estimated to be at least 8 metres in length, Fortunately it had recently had a meal ( probably a capybara ), and was too lazy to attack ! For a full report and species list click here.

Sunday 27th August

Today was my first chance to look for British butterflies since returning from Brazil. By comparison, a walk in Stansted Forest this afternoon seemed a bit tame, but it was nice to see the British species again - 5 Meadow Browns, 6 Common Blues, a Brown Argus, 6 Small Whites, a Speckled Wood, a Holly Blue and a Red Admiral.

Monday 28th August

I spent about 2 hours at Old Winchester Hill this afternoon, mainly on the slope below the car park, and saw about 12 fresh male Adonis Blues, 20 Common Blues, 5 very worn female Chalkhill Blues, 50-60 Meadow Browns, 30 fairly fresh Small Heaths, a Clouded Yellow, 10 Small Whites, 2 Speckled Woods, a fresh female Small Copper, and about 15 worn Silver-spotted Skippers, including a pair which met and mated before my eyes. Earlier in the day I took the dog for a walk in Stansted Forest, where I saw 5 Meadow Browns, 3 Common Blues, a Small Heath, a Silver-washed Fritillary, 2 Speckled Woods, 3 Small Whites, and 3 Holly Blues. At both sites it was surprising that I saw no sign of Commas, which are usually seen in numbers gorging themselves on over-ripe blackberries at this time of year.

Friday 8th September

It may be the end of the season, but there are still plenty of butterflies to be seen : I spent an hour at Martin Down this morning, where I saw 50 Adonis Blues, 4 Chalkhill Blues and 15 Common Blues. Also 35 Small Heaths, 1 Small White, and about 60 Meadow Browns. Later I spent 2 hours at Stockbridge Down, seeing 1 Peacock, 2 Red Admirals, 3 Commas, 2 Green-veined Whites, 7 Brimstones, 34 Small Coppers ( my highest count this year ), 1 Large White, 1 Speckled Wood, 180+ Meadow Browns ( including several very fresh females ), 10 Small Whites, 90+ Small Heaths, 8 Chalkhill Blues, 6 Common Blues, 7 Adonis Blues, and 1 Brown Argus. Finally I got to Noar Hill, where butterflies were much scarcer, but still managed to see 25 Meadow Browns, 3 Small Whites, 3 Speckled Woods, 1 Comma, 20+ Small Heaths, 1 Brown Argus, 3 Common Blues, and a female Brown Hairstreak. Moths seen today included a Fox larva at Martin Down, and 2 Hummingbird Hawkmoths at Stockbridge Down.

Sunday 17th September

I spent this morning in gorgeous September sunshine, at Old Winchester Hill. I spent about 3 hours there, thoroughly exploring all the habitats, and was rewarded with sightings of 17 species. There were at least 400 Meadow Browns ( including 4 mating pairs ). In places up to a dozen were gathered together nectaring on devil's bit scabious. I saw 80+ Small Heaths, 5 Speckled Woods, 12 Commas ( on blackberries, and nectaring at devil's bit scabious ), 2 Peacocks, 3 pristine Painted Ladies ( including one undersized greyish specimen ), 5 fresh Red Admirals, 15 Adonis Blues

( these have now spread all across the site ), 2 battered female Chalkhill Blues, 10 Common Blues, 2 Brown Argus ( a miniscule battered male copulating with a pristine female ), a minimum of 70

( yes, seventy ! ) Small Coppers ( many in fresh condition ), 4 Small Whites, 1 Large White, 23 Brimstones, 7 Clouded Yellows ( including 2 fresh males ), and 2 Silver-spotted Skippers.

Sunday 24th September

I saw a Red Admiral and a Comma at Bedhampton early yesterday morning ( 23rd ), but spent most of the day out of the county, visiting Hod Hill in Dorset, and Morgan's Hill in Wiltshire. At Hod Hill I saw about 35 Meadow Browns ( including a mating pair ), 3 Speckled Woods, 4 Small Coppers, 2 Adonis Blues ( 1m, 1f ), 1 Common Blue, 1 Brown Argus ( very worn ), 3 Painted Ladies, 4 Red Admirals, 1 Comma, and 9 Clouded Yellows ( including a helice ). The Clouded Yellows were all flying in the same direction, and all seen within a short space of time, suggesting that were migrating through, rather than having bred on site. All were in fairly fresh condition. At Morgan's Hill conditions were very blustery, and I saw only 1 Meadow Brown, 1 Speckled Wood, 5 Red Admirals, and 1 Comma. At both sites I found Fox moth larvae wandering amongst the grasses.

Tuesday 3rd October

The recent ( and very welcome ) rains have depleted butterfly numbers considerably, but at Old Winchester Hill this morning, I saw 16 Red Admirals ( mostly in very fresh condition, all feeding at fermenting blackberries ), a minimum of 9 Clouded Yellows ( up to 5 seen simultaneously ), 6 Commas, a Painted Lady, a male Brimstone, 4 Small Heaths, 45+ Meadow Browns ( all very worn ), and 12 Small Coppers ( including 3 fresh females, and a mating pair ).

Sunday 29th October

Mild and mostly sunny conditions during my regular weekend walk in Stansted Forest allowed me to see 1 Comma, 1 Peacock and 19 Red Admirals. The Comma, a worn male, was basking on a fallen branch. The Peacock, also a male, but in nice condition, was walking about on an oak trunk, fanning it's wings whilst imbibing moisture from between fissures in the bark. I wish I'd taken my camera, because Red Admirals were in good numbers, and mostly in very fresh condition. The 19 that I counted were seen in various places, basking on oak and larch trunks, or visiting ivy flowers. Along one particular sunny ride there were 7 Red Admirals patrolling back and forth, and I saw 3 individuals engaged in what seemed to be a territorial dispute. This ride had flowering ivy clumps, bramble, and a nice nettle patch, where I observed a female oviposit on the upperside of a dew covered terminal leaf. Possibly the last butterfly egg to be laid in 2006 ? My route took me past a spruce plantation, where I saw 7 Grey Shoulder Knot moths resting openly in full sunlight on the tree trunks. I also saw a November moth resting on a larch trunk, at least a dozen hornets, a few common wasps, 2 roe deer and a fallow deer. A satisfying day !

Saturday 4th November

Despite 3 successive nights of frost, the Red Admiral show at Stansted Forest continues unabated. I spent over an hour this afternoon, standing in front of a particular ivy-covered larch in the forest, feasting my eyes on the bonanza. At one stage there were 14 Red Admirals and a Comma nectaring on the ivy blossom. Often, when another Red Admiral arrived on the scene, aerial sorties took place, with 2 or 3 butterflies chasing each other in wide circles around the tree before resettling to resume nectaring. I also saw a male attempting to court a female, fluttering around her as she basked on a tree stump. Elsewhere in the forest I saw another 7 individuals, mostly basking on tree trunks, usually at heights of 3-4 metres. Particular trees were favoured, with certain recognisable individual butterflies seen basking on the same tree trunks on sunny days throughout the past 3-4 weeks. In total today I saw 21 Red Admirals and 2 Commas, plus several Grey Shoulder Knots at rest on the trunks of rough barked trees, and an unidentified greenish Geometrid seen flying around ivy.

Saturday 18th November

I arrived at Stansted Forest at 11am this morning and was immediately greeted by 3 Red Admirals, basking at different heights on the trunk of the same larch tree. During the course of the next 2 hours the count rose to 28 Red Admirals, spread throughout the wood, each insect seeming to have it’s own “patch”, usually a sunlit tree trunk, or a bit of sunlit ground at a ride intersection.

Saturday 16th December

A beautiful sunny December day. At Stansted Forest I counted 11 Red Admirals - a remarkable number for this time of year. I only explored a limited area of the habitat, so this figure must only represent a tiny fraction of the total numbers present. I noted that none of the Red Admirals that I have seen during recent weeks have had any sign of bird peck damage, which strongly suggests that the butterfly's very distinctive wing patterns could serve to warn insectivorous birds that the butterflies are distasteful. I also saw a Comma in flight ( my latest ever sighting for this species ), and 2 Brimstones, both seen in flight, one of which settled to roost on the underside of a bramble leaf.

Sunday 31st December

It's New Year's Eve, and the Brimstone which I saw settle under a bramble leaf at Stansted Forest on 16th December is still there, hibernating. I've marked the spot, and will be keeping an eye on it through the winter, to see when it awakens.......

 

 

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