Butterfly Diary - field notes by Adrian Hoskins
my earliest sightings of each brood are highlighted in bold type
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.
Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jly | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec

Sunday 27th January

A visit to Whitely Pastures this afternoon produced just a single sighting of a Red Admiral in flight. Amazingly there were several primroses in flower, on a humid and very mild sunny day which felt more like April than January.

Saturday 26th January

A few weeks ago, on 9th November, I estimated that "at least 150" Red Admirals were present in Stansted Forest. Today, despite warm and sunny conditions I saw only 3 individuals - one basking on a sweet chestnut trunk at a height of 5 metres, another on a pine trunk at 7 metres, and the other seen flying rapidly along a forest track, apparently in migration. Also in the same area I saw my first Peacock of the year basking on a rock, and 2 Commas, one of which was basking high on an ash trunk, and the other found hibernating on a low branch.

Saturday 12th January

Well here it is - my first butterfly sighting of the year, a Red Admiral basking on a larch trunk this morning in Stansted Forest. When I returned to the same spot a couple of hours later it was still there, and had been joined by another Red Admiral basking on the same tree. As I approached the pair flew up, circled around me, and then disappeared into the tree tops. A few moments later I saw my second species of the year, a FEMALE Brimstone, which fluttered past me along one of the forest tracks. I've often found hibernating Brimstones early in the year, but this is my earliest ever record for a flying Brimstone. Females usually awaken from hibernation about 3 weeks after the first males appear, so this is an extremely early sighting.

Tuesday 1st January

A Happy New Year to all of you. No butterfly sightings to report yet, but time to reflect on 2007 and make a few resolutions for 2008.
2007 got off to a great start for me, with a Brimstone and 2 Red Admirals seen on the first day of the year. By 14th January I had seen my first Peacock, but I had to wait until 3rd February for my first Comma, and saw freshly emerged Holly Blue, Speckled Wood and Small White on 17th March. The winter had been mild, but none of us were prepared for the weather in April. Hot sunshine throughout the second half of the month brought most of the spring butterflies out at least 3 weeks early - with Small Coppers, Green Hairstreaks, Clouded Yellows, Marsh Fritillaries, Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, Duke of Burgundy, Dingy Skippers, Grizzled Skippers, Wall Browns and Adonis Blues all emerging in high numbers by mid April.
Continuing early emergences by Glanville Fritillary and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary resulted in all of the spring butterflies having a very successful flight season, and laying masses of eggs. Unfortunately the weather deteriorated suddenly and dramatically in mid May, and continued in a similar vein for almost the entire summer. Consequently Wood Whites, Silver-washed Fritillaries, White Admirals, Purple Emperors, Dark Green Fritillaries, Silver-studded Blues, Graylings, Silver-spotted Skippers and just about all the other summer butterflies had an abysmal season. Let's hope we get more reliable weather, and a recovery in butterfly numbers during 2008 !
At this time most of us attempt to make a few New Year's Resolutions, although we invariably break them within a few weeks. Anyone looking for ideas might like to consider the following -
Conservation - if you haven't already done so, please join your local Butterfly Conservation branch if you live in the UK, or NABA if you live in the USA. Many other countries also now have butterfly conservation organisations, so you have no excuse even if you live in Africa, Asia or South America. You'll have the opportunity to learn much more about your local butterflies, their habitats, and ways in which you can help to protect them.
Rainforests - I would most strongly urge all of you, even if you never intend to visit a rainforest, to join one or more of the rainforest conservation organisations and to sign the on-line petitions that can be accessed from www.rainforestportal.com. Rainforests are amongst the last unspoilt habitats on Earth, and are being ruthlessly destroyed at a catastrophic rate, with their butterflies, birds, mammals and other wildlife annihilated purely for commercial interests. It may surprise you to learn that there is a great deal that you, yes YOU can do to protect these wonderful places. Just adding your name to the membership list of any rainforest conservation organisation immediately increases it's political profile. Proof of public support adds hugely to the amount of "clout" that can be delivered when challenging governmental policies and commercial enterprises.
Try somewhere different - the more popular butterfly sites, particularly in Britain, are now becoming threatened by over-use by butterfly watchers, photographers, dog-walkers and cyclists. Trampling of vegetation can cause considerable damage, reducing the quality of the site to such a degree that butterfly populations suffer. There are many less well-known sites where even the rarer species can be seen. By spreading the load between different sites we can reduce the impact of our visits, give the butterflies a greater chance of surviving, and have the pleasure of discovering new habitats.



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