Welcome to Hampshire Butterflies and Moths by Ashley Whitlock

This website is dedicated to Hampshire and the Isle of Wight butterflies, moths, flora, fauna and conservation

Foreword by Ashley Whitlock

I am delighted to be taking over this website from Alan Thornbury (formerly Alan Thornbury’s Hampshire Butterflies) and am grateful for all the work he has diligently performed to create it, spanning many years. During the next months, I plan to gradually expand and evolve its scope and content into areas where I also have a passion, including moths, other flora and fauna and their conservation, as well as expanding its geographic scope to encompass the Isle of Wight.

Ramsdean Down from Butser Hill

Spring Nature Notes in Hampshire 2020

Orange Tip male

Green Hairstreak 

 

The 2020 Field trip programme was all set to be one of the best, in theory but as we all know best laid plans…..The middle of March we discovered we had to stay indoors because of the dreaded Corona Virus, but we could exercise for an hour …locally. It was a good time to get to know our local patch. There is an allotment less than 100 yards away from my house in Portsmouth and also a shoreline leading to the Hampshire and Isle Wildlife Trust’s Milton Lock. March is one of those months where it can be very warm and sunny and it turned out to be one of the warmest springs on record.

 

The butterfly counts soon increased, responding to the splendid weather, and in my garden I was really surprised how many moth caterpillars I found in the sprouting shrubbery. I watched the progress of Mint Moth, Garden Tiger and White Ermine Moths as they ravished whatever they could find. By the allotments Red Admirals and Small Tortoiseshells were eagerly laying eggs on the fresh shooting Nettle patches.

 

March turned to April and still the sun shone, which I think was a boon considering we had to be so confined. What with Redshanks and Oystercatchers keeping me entertained on the shoreline there was a lovely pair of Kestrels nesting near to the Nature reserve and hunting around the area. Lovely courting Orange Tips near the allotments reminded me what I was missing in the big wide world of butterflying.  

When the government guidelines allowed you to travel for exercise further from home I drove for 20 minutes on empty roads to get to Oxenbourne Down; it looked like 2020 Butterfly season was just starting.

 

The Duke of Burgundy was flying in good numbers in the Meon Valley at most sites and it was a joy to see along with the usual Green Hairstreak, Grizzled Skippers and Dingy Skipper.

In early May there was an easing of restricted journey times and transects could begin again but alas Field Trips still took a back seat. However the air seemed fresher, there were no vapour trails in the sky, everybody who was out walking seemed to join in the joy of being out in the great wide world again.

 

On the 19th May Martin Down was my best day out in this very extraordinary time, with over fifty Marsh Fritillaries seen and equally the same number of Adonis Blues, the icing on the cake was a Small Bordered Bee Hawk Moth.

 

To add to all of this it was the warmest spring on record, and the Purple Emperor was flexing its muscles in the first week of June, which is unprecedented, as a result of the hot weather when we all cooked. We were almost getting back to normal ways, butterflying that is, and that’s another chapter.

   

Male Kestrel before hunting

Redshanks flying along Milton Foreshore

Summer Nature notes for 2020

Female Purple Emperor

 

   

 

 

With the prospect of the Purple Emperor entering into an early June emergence, due to the warm spring weather, anticipation was high about how well it was going to do throughout the warm spell. But unfortunately it didn’t emerge so early after all, with the cool nights it seemed to slow down its pupating and became very vulnerable in its late stages of emergence.  There were signs that it wasn’t going to be a large emergence after all which  is how it turned out, with extremely low numbers being seen at most woods in and around Hampshire. In my Moth trap there were countless different varieties of Moth, which kept me occupied in situ for hours.

The Silver-Washed Fritillary was seen in good numbers in the rides feeding on Brambles and Thistles along with better numbers of White Admirals as well, and the first appearance of the Purple Emperor was on the 21st June which in normal summer conditions is when they start to appear. Other butterflies seen in good number were the Comma, with plenty of ‘Hutchinsoni’ on the wing along with the Small Skipper in many of the flowery meadows.

Also in  2020 I noticed more Purple Hairstreaks than I have ever before, and at some sites I counted well over (50) in the tree tops, a few  individuals coming down to shoulder level on some days. At a site near Romsey I counted over (25) White Admirals, where the site is festooned with many clumps of Honeysuckle. In June the weather was warm but very windy, it seemed that every day I ventured out it was windy, and Purple Emperors being Arboreal obviously have a great dislike for this type of weather. It became very frustrating sitting, and trying to observe this insect which was very torpid, not wanting to move due to the weather conditions.

July weather was hot, July 6th and 10th seemed to be the best days for all things Purple, on 6th I counted (12) Purple Emperors and well over (30) Purple Hairstreaks and on 10th I counted (8) Purple Emperors and well over (50) Purple Hairstreaks into the afternoon at Abbots Wood Inclosure. The weather though burnt out many species such as Marbled Whites and Ringlets which succumbed to the heat and soon disappeared.

On the 24th July a male Brown Hairstreak was observed freshly hatched out at Noar Hill, staying in my presence for well over an hour, and at Bedlam on 29th (40) Brown Argus were counted, along with (6) Wall Brown patrolling up and down the tank tracks.

Chalkhill Blues were very numerous at Oxenbourne Down and there must have been hundreds on the Motorway slope of the A3 at the end of July. 

I organised a ‘Covid managed Covert Field Trip’ to Shipton Bellinger on 3rd August with a few friends, who come on my field trips, and we had the pleasure of seeing in excess of (30) odd Brown Hairstreaks that day,  many of these were playing chase in one of the rides, settling on Sycamore and Field Maple trees. At Old Winchester Hill the Silver-Spotted Skipper was obviously enjoying the sunshine as (45) were seen on the 20th August along with many Adonis Blues.

Later in August I saw for the first time Dark Crimson Underwing and a little Chinese Character in my moth trap. The star of the year was the Merveille-Du-Jor, which wasn’t actually in the moth trap but just sitting on a fern close by, I managed to put it onto a fallen Oak branch with lichens on and with its camouflage it seemed to totally disappear. The Clifden Nonpareil, was in the moth trap again in 2020, this time a very fresh one, and I was wondering whether they actually breed here in the UK and are not just visiting from the continent.

 

Other highlights of the year were witnessing a Hobby hunting on the wing catching many Dragonflies and the year being rounded off by one of my favourite butterflies the Clouded Yellow on patrol over some meadows, and Small Coppers having a late surge late into October.

 

Hutchinsoni Comma

Male Brown Hairstreak

Merveille-du-jour moth

Female Small Copper laying eggs on Sorrel

Clouded Yellow 

© Copyright Ashley Whitlock A.R.P.S  J.S.A.P  2020 & 2021