2020 / 43
1430 – 1600 (with Nora Smith)
Mostly overcast and muggy – some brighter periods when the clouds thinned or parted.
Moderate F3 from the west
We are here to ‘do’ butterflies again, armed this time with my net and a new notebook. My daughter (aged 13) is enthusiastic, and quite adept at catching Skippers it seems.
We were selective, and one she caught in the first Section hit the spot and will be one of the Essex Skipper reported here in the last few days and recorded by Simon.
Excellent – a first for me.
With no camera today – typical – I didn’t photograph it, but comparing the antennae and the upperwing ‘black line’ with the Small Skippers nearby it was quite clearly different.
Very nice too
At least one Blackcap singing, and a young Buzzard ‘screaming’ as Nora described it. ‘Spooky noise’.
One Large White at the edge of the clearfell quickly followed by two more and a very smart, fresh Red Admiral patrolling the track. Large Skipper too, as well as 4 or 5 Small Skippers. Lots more in the planted area too, but off transect. I had a look here for Marbled White to no avail, and then went over to check on the NJ site. The eggs are still there, exposed and apparently untouched. I am rather surprised they have not been predated by either Magpie or Fox..?
One Ringlet and one Peacock – which we must have overlooked as it flew up from the track under our feet.
Things I really can’t identify and should get to learn more about are flowering plants (in this case Thistles) and grasshoppers. Nora has caught several small green crickets? we presume. Some have a yellow stripe on the back of their heads, some have red. males and females? There really is so much to learn, and I have a place to study and ‘find out’. Need a camera…
I mention the thistles, because the patch here standing taller than the crazy bracken is attracting a lot of butterflies and bees. A quick scan with the binoculars returns two White Admirals, one Red Admiral and a Holly Blue, which rises and disappears quickly.
The White Admirals stay around and give good views but we can’t get near. Brambles and thistles seem favoured, but they like to bask in the sun on birch leaves. Still my favourite butterfly, but they have not done especially well in here this year. I love how they rest with their wings wide open and flat, even beyond horizontal, which I haven’t seen many other species do? One of the Wood’s summer highlights.
MotoX bikes. Two, loud and smelly – the length of The Crossing is clouded in bluegrey smoke.They stop to chat with each other at the bottom with Velmore, and we can do nothing but watch. Opportunity for a litterpick though – the culprits have kindly left an orange carrier bag for us to put the plastic bottles and packaging into…
As soon as they have gone off towards the entrance, Nora picks up a ‘yapping’ noise like a monkey. Or is it a parrot? The Hobby is still here, and still loud. In the Middle of the Wood this year, maybe around Larpers Court… Great Spotted Woodpecker here calling too, and we can also hear young tapping and whistling.
Lots of grass here, especially at the top end, interspersed with Slender St John’s Wort, the next successional flower to appear. Plenty everywhere, but especially on the south side of the track around the clearfell.
Gatekeepers here, and a couple of Ringlets at the top, plus 3 or 4 Meadow Browns. In the net, these seem remarkably large butterflies, and incredibly varied between individuals. Also another half dozen Small Skippers. No catching, so no chance to check these for Essex…
Retracing our steps down the crossing it begins to get quite ‘muggy’. But that seems to have little effect on the Gatekeepers especially, which have clearly emerged in the last couple of days. There are two here, two there, two more over there. A couple more Ringlets – they ‘dance’ through the air, very upright and skippy. Meadow Brown, Small (and Large) Skipper – and a second Peacock.
Also here, a large dragonfly – female Golden-Ringed, which is annually recorded now. It is quite funny watching Nora hopelessly trying to catch it in the net. I’m glad she didn’t managed it, but nice to be relaxed and amused here with my daughter who seems to be really enjoying herself and like sit here.
More Gatekeepers and Skippers, and probably the same Peacock grounding every few metres ahead of us.
Most of the Foxgloves on the clearfell are over now, just a few remnant flowers. Summergreen is spreading, thanks at last to some rain.
Stock Doves sway gently in the tippy tops of Yew Trees. There is a Bullfinch to our left as we come up towards the seat, and by the birchline I can hear the resident Siskins. Only one to be seen though. And where did the Stonechats go? Remarkably elusive – I can’t see them again despite scanning the middle and the stream course several times.
Highlight though is more Crossbills, but they are behind in the Chilworth Pines. Three or four birds calling…?
All round the track are piles of sandy soil, scraped from the track. In some places, ditches alongside have been dragged or scratched, and in places there is evidence that this is part of an engineering project. Looks like some of the pipes that carry water under the track are being assessed for repair. There is spraypaint, arrows and localised excavation.
Meanwhile, debate rages in various forums online – UKBMS and SNHS are ‘challenged’ by this butterfly:
We submitted it as Common Blue, but a query has been raised that in fact it looks more like a faded and worn Silver-Studded Blue despite its localised and ‘rare’ status. Personally, I know little to comment, but would have thought it too early for a specimen to be worn as they suggest…?
There are historic records from sites within 5 miles at Emer Bog and Baddesley Common:
- “that could be a faded and worn Silver Studded Blue – the orange on the hind wing makes a single band and not discrete lunules…”
- “Every feature I can see points to Silver-studded Blue rather than Common Blue”
- “I have discussed this with UKBMS and due to its location, they do not believe it’s a SSB”
- “I think you will have dismiss this blue as unknown or assume it’s the commonest possibility – Common Blue. The silver studs are hardly visible but this could be due to the angle of the photo and the faded state of the butterfly. Also crucial features of the underside of the forewing cannot be seen. I can’t see the contrasting pale patch typical of Common Blue in outer middle part of the wing but this may be lost to fading. Also the arrangement of the spots on the underside of the hind wing seem to fit SS Blue better but this a variable feature. The forewing does seem to be rather more pointed than I would expect on SS Blue.”
One That Got Away
Finally today, we got back up to the entrance just as another group of MotoX bikers arrived. Seven this time. They lined up (quite threatening) at the barrier, revving loudly like it was a start line as I pulled up in my car the other side. The only reason I had parked in the Wood was because of the contractors vehicles still blocking the layby and gate. I pulled up to the barrier but did not open it until they dispersed, scrambling up over the banks either side and roaring off down the track.
All very disappointing, and duly reported.