15 June 2020

2020 / 40

14:30 – 16:00 (with Elsie and Nora)
Hot, but overcast and humid. 80% cloud cover – 22C


Butterfly transect (week something…?)

I have lost track of what butterfly counts have been done this season, but the FC ranger did one here this morning and reported the first White Admiral of the year. Others locally are also seeing (at last) an increase in butterfly activity – new broods of Comma, Red Admirals etc. Marbled Whites and Skippers are on the wing too.
We started off with two or three Meadow Browns at the top of the track (first here this year) and on the grass in the east clearfell and a Red Admiral ourselves patrolling up and down. They are stunning insects that familiarity tends to overlook.
It is really hot though, and by the time we get round to Section 2 and the wayleave it is really quite stuffy  where the trees hold the heat in.

There is a Firecrest territory on the way here, and the male is singing well but remains out of sight. Seem to be a few more Chiffchaffs vocal too – and Blackcaps exactly where I expect them to be. Another first for the year – two Large Skippers at Butterfly Corner around the thistles and knapweed.

Since I last walked here two weeks ago (seems ages!) the bracken in the wayleave has exploded and now stands over head height in places. As we walk through, the girls are anxious about ticks and hayfever. We do a routine ‘check’ for the former as we emerge at Velmore – but they are right in some ways that it won’t be long before the wayleave is impassable again. Perhaps Simon and I need to get back in and do some more clearance? But that’s not to aid human passage and will be targeted for insects and pioneering plants. And talking of insects. Elsie found this on the broadest part of the track:


It is a Dock Bug (coreus marginatus) which feeds – as its name reflects – on dock and sorrell. I know little of insects, and sometimes it does feeling overwhelming just how much there is to learn… endlessly inspiring.
Also here, overhead calling and just dipping into the trees when I picked them up – three Siskins. They were recorded here last week, and its good to see them again for myself. Third year running we have had a pair raise a single juvenile.

There are a couple more each of Meadow Brown and Large Skipper as we move up The Crossing (Section 3) and by the time we reach the top the cloud has briefly parted and the sun is breaking through. Perhaps that was the cue for the White Admiral that suddenly appeared around one of the Yew trees? Flying really fast and it was frustrating that the girls couldn’t get a better view. It didn’t settle, but wonderful to see. Earliest summer date for me here too – previously not seen before 23rd June. I look forward to more of these beauties in the coming weeks – they can present some great photo opportunities and really are stunning when they ground and feed etc. My favourite butterfly.

Nice chat with the girls about the cycles of life in here. Successional flowers etc, and best measured for me in the birds. Firecrests in February, then warblers arrive. Then odd migrants and a look out for hirundines. Woodcock, then Hobby, then Nightjar. And now butterflies, until the young Hobbies emerge later in August.


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