2019 / 25
14:30 – 16:30
Butterfly Transect 01
Bright, sunny and warm 16°C. Wind speed ‘2’. Light E breeze.
100% sunshine throughout, apart from tree shadow.
with Simon Holloway, FC Beats Officer (and ecologist)
Early dog-violet (Viola reichenbachiana)
A different kind of walk, and so perhaps a different kind of commentary.
One of the most interesting, rewarding and utterly splendid times I have ever spent here.
Simon is becoming a good friend, an inspiring mentor, and an informative teacher. His endorsement has done wonders for my confidence and assuredness here, and my love for the place is infectious back the other way. It is becoming what I hope can develop into a purposeful and mutually rewarding relationship.
Walking a butterfly transect has to be done slowly. 2 km/h, with eyes focussed intently on a 5m radius in front of the observers. I need to learn this, but it won’t be hard. Butterflies are remarkably easy to miss. We did extremely well today:
Peacock (Aglais io)
At least 11 present, 8 recorded on transect. 3 in Section 1 at the top of the track, and 5 together in sections 4 and 5. Almost all were grounding, for either moisture or minerals, then sunbathing to absorb energy and we practically stepped on quite a few!
As we came over the West Stream towards the end of Section 4, we had a ‘swarm’ of FIVE in the air together, chasing one another. Fabulous. They seemed to just ‘disappear’ but we have concluded these were the same we then saw individually spaced out along the north side of the Track throughout section 5.
They have a distinct ‘jizz’ and fly with flat wings a lot. I think they resemble small bats.
Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)
At least 4 present, two on the transect. One at the top in Section 1, and one up by the Crossing on the south side in Section 3 as expected, but more than 5m from the line of recording. One more down on Section 5, and then I had a fourth at the back down by Marshall’s.
Comma (Polygonia c-album)
At least 3 present, only one on transect. Up at the top end of the track, in the Upper Quarter on the grass. So actually NOT on transect. An ‘incidental’ record. I had two together later on in the scallop at the back of Marshall’s.
Small White (Pieris rapae)
2 present, both on transect. After the first Peacock at the top, our next butterfly was a small white in the Upper Quarter, flying some distance and at some speed through the trees, alighting briefly on a holly. The second went through the ‘gorse gap’ into Q3 of the wayleave, flying ahead of us as we walked back along Section 5
One recorded, on Section 3 towards the top of the Crossing. Surprising record, and quite early. I think probably Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus) – very ‘triangular’ and ‘orange’, but it rose high from the grass and over the trees very quickly.
Edit (2nd April) Two sources suggest instead this could have been one of the Orange Underwing moths. Too early for Skipper?
Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria)
One recorded, but not on transect. It was in the north west corner as I was leaving, up by the rabbits.
Also in this area, almost predictably, the season’s first singing Willow Warbler (2019 = 52). Interesting that these beeches on the NW corner have turned up the first Willow Warbler for the last three year’s. Could it be the same bird. Philopatric (Robert Macfarlane). 10 Chiffchaffs, two Blackcaps, 3 Buzzards and 2 Ravens. I expect they have young in the nest now.
We alos recorded one Common Lizard, but of course it was little more than a rustle in the leaves. At the top of Q2, in butterfly corner. Simon has exceptionally good ears. His increased awareness also rewarded us with fine views of a grazing Muntjac, two Roe Deer and – best of all – a Wren’s nest with young at the bottom of a tree stump on the Crossing. there is something to be said for doing a small section SLOWLY…!!!
I think though perhaps the highlight today was his expression of delight at my raking and clearance work, most especially because of the plants that have ALREADY come up since Friday. There are two Wood Anenomes in flower and several other leafs around the area:
The most encouraging sign of all today though is the evidence that Early dog-violet (Viola reichenbachiana) are starting to re-appear. After seeing the first on eon the top of the track some weeks ago, it has not been until today that we have been able to find others. The new cleared patch has a few leaf patches, and there are half a dozen flowers among the wood chips and grass. The picture at the top of this post indicates further that there just might be some Fritillary caterpillars around – they eat the leaves of Violets, and these have clearly been well nibbled. There may be other butterflies that do that, but violets are essentially food source for Fritillaries in particular It was great to see Simon so excited, and to know that my raking method was approved. We have identified three other sites to work on together, starting perhaps even next week.
There is another patch – quite extensive, at the top of Q1 coming down towards the East Stream. This lovely area today was full of bee flies and bumble bees too – Buff tailed queens. All very fabulous indeed.
Before that, contractors will be in to move two fallen trees, as well as cut some more down on the north side to block the equestrian’s entrance. FC are keen to keep them out of the Wood, and he had stern words for the two girls we met this afternoon. There is a further plan form the Land Agent team to monitor the response to the blockage. If it is cut or moved, there is cause for further action.
More points of interest this afternoon: I can now readily identify Wood Spurge – an evergreen flowering plant that seems to be welcome, and there is a larger stand of Blackthorn in Q2 than either of us noticed before, well back from the cut area towards the deer path; new hawthorn and beech leaves make an excellent green salad, and a Mole has visited my cleared patch too.
Learning is a delight. Look at this beauty.
My eye was caught by the most vivid green leaf among ivy, bramble and dead bracken.
An emerging beech ‘oyster’ – the birth of a new tree. Utterly exquisite:
And bees. There is a colony of Mining Bees at the top of the track, that will not welcome being walked on. Lots of the insects flying around at low level:
Finally, there is this fungi, growing on a beech stick decomposing in standing water where the wayleave crosses the track. I haven’t managed to identify it yet:
Edit (2nd April)
They are Bog Beacon (Mitrula paludosa). This fungus only appears in spring and is common in the New Forest but rare around Southampton, regularly reported only from Lords Wood.
Among violets and bees
In birdsong and trees
Peace and all good
In my wonderful Wood