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

Copyright 2024 all photographs and text by Ashley R Whitlock ARPS JSAP unless stated

Ramsdean down from Butser Hill 

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Queen Elizabeth Country Park

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New Forest at Beaulieu Heath   

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 Afton Down and Tennyson Down Isle of Wight

Spring Nature Notes in Hampshire and Isle of Wight 2024

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Spring 

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Pearl-Bordered Fritillaries found nectaring difficult in the New Forest

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Good showing of Hawthorn and other hedgerow plants in 2024

Silver'Y' Moth of the year?

Spring Notes March/ April/ May 2024

 

The first paragraph on all my notes for the website must be about the weather, and again like other seasons throughout the year so far it has been dominated by the severity of the rainfall in the months of March and April and to a lesser degree May. It is still cold especially when the sun isn’t shining which in turn has had an effect of the numbers of insects, especially butterflies and moths seen out and about. Some days it has been so cold that I haven’t seen anything and my notes over the last few weeks have been very disappointing especially with the Duke of Burgundy, as the numbers since the middle of April have been dire.

 

There have been some good points especially with some birds which I have noted like the Glossy Ibis seen at Titchfield and the Spoonbill at Titchfield also. On a sad note, though somebody walking their dog rattled the Short-eared Owls nesting at Farlington Marshes and they never came back, and this has happened before, and it took many seasons before they made a return. The Cuckoo has been heard several times when I have been out and about, but again the numbers must be very low as there are some places I never hear it at all. Swifts and Swallows seem to be in low numbers, and I cannot remember when I last saw a House Martin. The Peregrines have had some highs and lows as well with a good showing at Winchester and Romsey and I think the two at Romsey have actually laid eggs, whilst the ones at Winchester nested but destroyed their eggs.

 

The weather though did bring out the Bluebells en-masse and Ransoms in the woodlands, and Violets, Cowslips and Primroses all put in a good show at several sites. Some of the hedgerows looked splendid as well with good areas of Hawthorn, Blackthorn and  Pussy Willow all in bloom. What I find disappointing is that you can walk around sites in the New Forest and hardly see any wildflowers at all. On the New Forest field trip, the Pearl-Bordered Fritillaries were having great difficulty finding Bugle plants to Nectar on. And there are lots of other sites where wildflowers are sadly missing, an example being West Wood near Winchester. The Councils are obviously now ignoring mowing ride side verges as I have noticed more flowers on the kerbside, whether this is to save money, or they are going along with the slogan ‘no mow May’.

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Young Mallard on Swan Lake Milton 

Peregrine Falcons thrive on city cathedrals and this is the female at Romsey taking off

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Emperor moth near Bordon

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Young Swans with their parents at Swan Lake Milton

The weather helped with good shows of Bluebells and Ramsomes in April and May

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On the Butterfly and Moth front the moth which seems to dominate the downland at the moment is the Silver’Y’ moth, they seem to be everywhere, and I cannot remember when this species was so common. The emperor moth seemed to have had a good season as well turning up in the New Forest at Pig Bush in good numbers, and at Broxhead Common as well.

 

The Large Tortoiseshell has not been reported that often in 2024, but one such record comes from the New Forest in April. There has been a slow build-up of many species but on the Isle of Wight the Glanville Fritillary is showing well at Compton Chine and at Mottiistone Down, along with Adonis Blues here and on the Island.

 

Good numbers of Marsh Fritillary on the border with Wiltshire, and Pearl-Bordered Fritillaries in the New Forest in some of the Inclosues. The duke of burgundy has had a poor season, but walking around Butser Hill yesterday you wouldn’t have thought so, along with excellent counts of Grizzled and Dingy Skippers. The highlight so far is seeing up to a dozen Green Hairstreaks feeding on the small berries on a cotoneaster bush despite these plants being a pest on chalk downland.

Duke of Burgundy has had a bad season

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Marsh Fritillary a good season in 2024?

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Large Tortoiseshell in the New Forest Photo: Melinie Vincent

Winter Nature Notes in Hampshire and Isle of Wight 2023/2024

Robin Redbreast singing along the Titchfield Canal

Red Squirrel on the I.O.W

Winter Notes December 2023/January/February 2024

Winters in Hampshire are a very soggy affair mainly due to global warming, which makes the winters in the southern part of the UK very wet, windy but mild, with the odd cold spell thrown in for good measure. Every meadow in the countryside is waterlogged and has been now for many weeks, and the water table must be so high to bursting point. Wildlife though goes through thick and thin and this season was a good year for the Waxwing in Hampshire first seen near Winchester, and then at Farnham and then along to Basingstoke. Moths seen in December were the December Moth and Winter Moths amongst others. Early Primroses where out ridiculously early. Of course there were storms in November, December, January and February, and these have caused all sorts of problems along the south coast especially on the Isle of Wight where the chalk soil has been constantly been sodden and rain has permeated through the chalk causing it to crack and fall away. Several sites along the Military road are threatened like Brook and Afton Down now.

Birds were very impressive like Spoonbills at Pennington Marshes, later in February they were seen at Farlington Marshes and Titchfield Haven. Winnie the Peregrine Falcon returned again to Winchester Cathedral, but sadly last week it was reported she had been tragically killed by a rival female. The mild weather Hummingbird Hawk Moths were still on the wing in gardens on the Isle of Wight! Angle Shade Moth Caterpillars were also noted moving around in the mild weather. The Pine Martin has returned to the New Forest in good numbers it would appear judging by the camera traps set up to film them. It will be interesting to see if they go elsewhere in Hampshire over the next few years.

Male Bearded Tit Farlington

In January there were several Brown Hairstreak Butterfly egg-hunts which were very successful, being found at Basing Wood, Portsdown Hill, and at Wickham Golf Course. In some woods the sallow also revealed some hibernating Purple Emperor caterpillars, although large flocks of Tits have had their fill and several of the Emperor caterpillers were not found or found dead on the sallow branches. Also on the wing in small numbers were Red Admirals, Brimstones, Commas, and an extremely early Speckled Wood. Birds and the wonderful Waxwings were noted at Romsey and Basingstoke, along with Bearded Tits at Farlington Marshes, Mergansers at Hayling Island and Black Swans at Milton Foreshore. In February Spoonbills kept up their presence at several coastal sites. Also noted were Bittern, and White Tailed Sea Eagle at Titchfield Haven along with the Glossy Ibis.  

It’s still raining into March and February turned out to be the wettest on record and also the warmest!

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Pussy Willow

Peacock Butterfly

Snowdrops in the Meon Valley

December Moth

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Mist on the River Test

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Glossy Ibis at Titchfield

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Brown Hairstreak egg

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Rain, rain, rain

Autumn Nature Notes in Hampshire and Isle of Wight 2023

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Red Deer Stag

Long-Tailed Blue Portsdown Hill

Red Admiral butterfly of the year

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Hampshire and Isle of Wight Autumn Notes 2023

Autumn was just one rainy day after another, with the odd bright sunny day where I managed to get out and see one of the most spectacular events in the calendar year. On Portsdown Hill this autumn the Long-Tailed Blue turned up along a path, and gave us remarkable views, with several individuals being in very good condition, and there were also some mating pairs as well. It was bound to happen sooner or later due to the fact that the Everlasting Pea is growing in some profusion in places on Portchester Hill and alongside the Motorway the M275. Also seen were its eggs on Portchester Common and in Havant, so this butterfly seems to finding good areas to breed. What with seeing the Brown Hairstreak, the Adonis Blue, and the Small Heath returning as well it’s all looking quite good for the down, depending how it can fare in the face of global warming, but that is why we now have the Long-tailed Blue, no other reason.

 

Other news the Clifton non pariell moth was seen at several sites in the autumn months as well especially on the Isle of Wight. Over the Solent the Sea Eagle was seen in and around the New Forest. A warm October kept the Red Admiral still flying with the odd counts of the Painted Lady, but the Clouded Yellow was a bit thin on the ground. At Farlington Marshes the Bearded Tit and Dartford Warbler kept everybody on their toes with a Bittern thrown in the mix with the Short-eared Owl now keeping the late autumn’s evening more interesting. We have also several hurricane force winds to deal with in October and November, and I don’t suppose this is the end of them this side of December. The woodlands are festooned with berries and the fungi is a sight to see, some of the best I’ve seen, something to do with the amount of rain being thrown at us. The woodlands are now kept very untidy with fallen trees just left where they fall, which helps with the invertebrates and the flora and fauna which lives in amongst this mini world.

Red Shank reflection Milton Foreshore

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Clifton-nonpareil

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Everlasting Pea

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Fly Agaric 

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Starling feathers in sunlight

Queen Elizabeth Country Park in Autumn splendour

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Canada Geese in formation Farlington Marshes

Summer Nature Notes in Hampshire and Isle of Wight 2023
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Colorado Beetle

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Sea Eagle Chick

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Hornet Moth

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Black Stork

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Reddish Buff Moth

Summer in Hampshire has been a bit of an up-down-up down affair, with good warm sunshine throughout June where it meant many species of butterflies and moths emerged several weeks earlier than usual, these included Purple Emperor, White Admiral, Grayling, and Silver Washed Fritillary. The sunshine broke several records, for temperatures in the south of England. However no sooner were we getting used to it along came July and we reached for our umbrellas. Not only was it cooler and wet, it was quite windy for days on end. This made some of the early summer appearances stagger their emergence or totally wiped it out. The butterflies suffered as they didn’t know really what month it was. Into August and it was more of the same windy cloudy and damp. It was very unusual to see everything so green at the end of August.

Now as I write this we are back to Junes anti-cyclonic weather, and we are having some of the hottest temperatures we have known in the UK especially in the south. Again bringing several species out earlier than usual, like the Brown Hairstreak and Silver-Spotted Skipper.

Not only did the weather hit the headlines but other species captured my attention. Obviously this blog if it covered every subject then it would be pages and pages long, but just a few flora and fauna to mention are, the Colorado Beetle seen in Hampshire in July. The young chick of the Sea Eagles on the Isle of Wight hatching out for the first time, and several Large Tortoiseshells being seen on the Island, and in the New Forest as well.

Other news being Black Storks, seen in the New Forest, and Ospreys at Fishlake Meadows near Romsey. Moths, there were Reddish Buff Moths seen on the Island for the first time in 4 years, and Hornet moths which are always a triumph. Red Underwing Moths as well joined in the fray and there were obviously many more.

Personally I spotted an unusual Grasshopper as I was walking around a garden centre close to Fareham in the summer; it was huge about 12mm long. I thought it may have been a locust, and had been imported through some plants. I turned out to be an Egyptian Grasshopper, and  these are quite harmless to the environment, and are seen in imports quite regularly!

There was a glut of Red Admiral butterflies in the summer in Hampshire so many on my walks they were almost impossible to count, it will probably be the butterfly of the year, closely followed by the Holly Blue.

Also the Brown Hairstreak goes from strength to strength, seen this year in Hampshire at Selborne, Shipton Bellinger, Cosham, Denmead, Andover, Alton, Soberton, Titchfield, Funtley and Emsworth. Another import is the Long Tailed Blue and these have been seen along the coast at Havant, Hill Head, Portchester Common and  Fareham.

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Large Tortoiseshell

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Osprey

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Egyptian Grasshopper

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Long-Tailed Blue

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Female Brown Hairstreak

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Wall Brown

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I must confess in all the years I have been in Butterfly Conservation I have never seen so many beautiful flower rich meadows, dotted about in Hampshire, obviously the wet summer helped with this, and really put on a showy display for all to see. Highlights were Beacon Hill, Old Winchester Hill, Portsdown Hill at Fort Widley, Noar Hill, and on the army ranges at Shipton Bellinger.

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It was also a season of aberrations, in the Alice Holt Complex there were several ‘Valezina’ females of the Silver-Washed Fritillary noted and a Male Silver-Washed known as ‘Ocellatta’. In Straits Inclosure there were several White Admiral aberrations as well known as.’obliterae’ and ‘nigrina’

Below: The contenders for Butterfly of the year, definitely the Red Admiral as the number one contender as its been everywhere in huge numbers, and lately the Holly Blue has been seen in good numbers in gardens and along hedgerows in Hampshire...

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 Spring Nature Notes in Hampshire and Isle of Wight 2023

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Butser Hill at Dawn in the Snow

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A Kingfisher waits for prey at Freshwater Mill Isle of Wight

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Honey Bee and Hawthorn blossom

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 According to the Met Office, it looks like areas across the UK can expect to see snow throughout the course of the week and potentially even beyond. The Met Office says that Thursday will be “cloudy with spells of rain across southern England” which will spread north, turning to snow over Wales and other parts of England. Additionally, Scotland will be brighter, but with “snow showers far north”. It’s been a rather chilly first half of March.

We started the month with high pressure and northerly winds keeping things cold. Then, when low pressure and south-westerly winds arrived, the mild, moist air collided with the cold, giving snow to many of us. There is still some risk of snow approaching, but it will be mostly limited to higher ground and the far north. Today has started bright and frosty for most of us. There is a weather front approaching from the Atlantic, so it is cloudier to the west. As the front progresses eastwards, it will initially bring some snow to uplands and the north and rain to the south. The front is also bringing warmer air with it, so the snow will turn to rain and only the Scottish highlands are likely to stay wintry.

 

This is how the spring season started and with snow all around the Crocuses and Daffodils were in shock to say the least. The birds and other wildlife disappeared especially the butterflies and moths with just a few butterflies on the wing at the time mainly the odd Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell. It proved to be that bad my records only began on the 27th March on Portsdown Hill which is very late. Brimstones were braving the weather which was warm in the sun but it was mainly cloudy.

 

April again turned out to be extremely wet with March being the wettest month for several decades. We did have some sunny periods, but the butterflies were very sparse, the month turned out to be quite cloudy with sunny periods which when out was quite warm. The Duke of Burgundy managed to appear on the 18th April, which was quite a surprise considering the weather, and I managed to see one on the 20th April. Other butterflies which had been seen by this time were the Large Tortoiseshell, and the Clouded Yellow on the Island.

 

The best count of butterflies was on the 28th April when I managed to clock up seven species at my local patch Milton Allotments and foreshore. My visit up to Oxenbourne Down on the 29th April felt like spring had arrived with good counts of several species like Peacock and Brimstone, I thought the season had begun although the Duke was very slow here. The beginning of May was awful with showery rain and black clouds threatening rain and the species counts dropped again, although I did clock up eleven species on the 3rd May but it was very breezy. The second week of May was even more dismal, with the cancellation of field trips due to the inclement weather.

 

The second half of May was completely different with high pressure over the country but pulling in breezy weather over the North sea which made the weather quite cool in any non-sunny periods. As I write this the sun is still shining and the breeze is still present, but seems to abate in the afternoon after the sun has reached its full strength.

Starling in Spring plumage

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The Hare that lost his spectacles!

Burnt Tip Orchids at Martin Down

Burnet Moth Caterpillar on Butser Hill

Male Duke of Burgundy on Territory

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Large Tortoiseshell on the Isle of Wight in March :
Picture Nikki Kownacki

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One thing I did notice was that the wild flowers looked a lot healthier this year than they have over the past couple of spring seasons, obviously mainly due to the weather conditions. The Cowslips especially, growing taller than I’ve seen them for many a year. This in turn should help the female Duke of Burgundy lay some good egg counts.

 

On my favourite bird sites Farlington Marshes had some good counts of Short eared Owls in the early spring, and the Cuckoo was seen as well, a rare sight and certainly very hard to hear over the past few years. There was good sightings of many animals and birds too numerous to mention here, but there was numerous sightings of Barn Owls over the county, and the White-tailed Sea Eagle is still travelling far and wide, and it is hoped that they will nest this year over on the Island. The Winchester Peregrines have had a youngster, only the one in 2023, so it’s hoped that it fledges.

 

On the Moth front I had some excellent views of the Emperor Moth this season. This delightful species, being seen over several weeks at the end of April and the beginning of May, having my ‘lure’ attached to my camera bag, it was obviously too much for the males to ignore, having seen it at Broxhead Common, Oxenbourne Down, Oakhanger, and Butser Hill several times, which probably proves it is more widespread and utilises several foodplants on different sites.

 

My highlight of the spring season was a close encounter with a Hare, this was seen in the Meon Valley and I was visiting a Duke of Burgundy site, and I had seen a Hare running down the road but I was worried it may get run over but it managed to get into the hedgerow, and I saw it coming up the farmers field close to a field of Rape. I managed to get my camera, but it had disappeared, but I looked along the tracks through the crop but nothing. However a bit further down a ride I espied a mother and two youngsters known as Leverets. She left these in the long grasses, and I ducked down out of sight to view the mother. I didn’t realise it but she kept coming towards me eating grass and dandelions on the way, and was practising a boxing posture. It was a delight to see, she came up to me about twenty feet away. I must have been downwind of her, or eyesight wasn’t that good, but she seemed very surprised when she did encounter me, and  then she was gone. A memory never to be forgotten.

Emperor Moth in the New Forest at Pig Bush Inclosure
Photo David Simcox

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 Male Fox in the undergrowth at Milton Common

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Cowslips at Fort Widley Portsdown Hill

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Slow Worm at Oxenbourne Down

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 Grizzled and Dingy Skippers on faeces at Butser Hill

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Honey Bee on wild flowers in May 

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Fresh Male Adonis Blue at Martin Down

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Bluebells in a wood near to Southwick

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Ramsones  in a wood near Southwick

Autumn and Winter Nature Notes in Hampshire and Isle of Wight 2022

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Cattle Egret inspecting a cows mouth on Hayling Island

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Little Ringed Plovers and Common Sandpipers at Hayling Island

The autumn started with good weather especially in September and on the downland in and around the Meon Valley the butterflies were still in good numbers especially Adonis Blue, Common Blue, Brown Argus, and Silver Spotted Skipper. On Eastney Beach the Clouded Yellow entertained us with fly pasts and occasionally stopping for a rest and getting whatever nectar that was left on any of the wildflowers which were burnt to a crisp with all the hot weather. The Long tailed blue had been noted again in several places in Hampshire, which was always a treat to hear, and several rare migrant moths had been noted as well coming over in the windier conditions from the continent.

 

These were seen well into the second week of October, then the weather started to become very autumnal with cooler temperatures, and that wet stuff started to fall out of the sky. In fact at times it seemed to would not stop and this continued well into November. In the woodlands the leaves were still on the trees, as the warm weather had stopped any large leaf fall, but the winds soon put paid to that, and the carpet of Beech and Oak leaves soon filled up the muddy water left on the side of the rides. It was very welcome, as the water tables must have got to their very limits. With many brooks and streams locally had certainly dried up.

 

into December the weather became very wintery with a shaft of cold air coming down from the Arctic Circle which stayed with us for a good part of a fortnight, making everything look very frosty. The temperature during the day was little over freezing, but the birds kept flying with Short Eared Owls being seen at several locations, and the Bearded Tits showing in reasonable numbers as well. We even had a Walrus turn up in the Solent for a few days just having a rest, which is most unusual. As I write this at the end of 2022, the rain has not stopped, but as we all know we certainly need it, but its wellies at the short trail for any walks in your local woods or bird sanctuaries to see the local Wildlife, anybody reading this I wish them a happy New Year, and hope to see you in the field somewhere in 2023!

Long Tailed Blue

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     Speckled Crimson Moth                                      

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Autumnal Bramble leaves

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Lasp gasp feeding frenzy 

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Short eared Owl

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New Forest with autumnal leaves in November

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Kestrel hovering looking for prey at Farlington Marshes

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New Forest ponies in the frosty conditions....photo by Claire Sheppard

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Robin in the freezer still made me smile

Summer Nature Notes in  Hampshire and Isle of Wight 2022

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The High Brown Fritillary was quite common in Devon in June 

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Silver-Washed Fritillaries were common in some woods

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Glanville Fritillaries were not so common on the Isle of Wight in 2022

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Hummingbird Hawk Moths were very common in gardens in 2022

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Bordered Straw Moth, rare immigrant from the Continent 

Summer Hampshire will be remembered for the excellent summer weather in 2022, and with that the species of butterflies geared up for flying a lot earlier than expected. However in June after a successful field trip over to the Island again where I found lower numbers of Granville Fritillaries at Compton Chine, however these were several weeks late I suspect as the numbers seemed somewhat suppressed, on Afton Down and Compton Chine.

 

Later on in the month of June I travelled down to Devon to see how the High Brown Fritillary was doing, and the weather was very warm which helped, although to recognise the butterfly from its cousin the Dark Green Fritillary I needed to get to the site very early in the morning where the butterfly was just sitting on top of the ferns. The count there was exceptional into the many hundreds I suggest, it’s just a sad fact you cannot find it in the county of Hampshire. What do we have to do to get the right conditions in the New Forest for this beautiful butterfly again?

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Alice Holt Forest seen from higher ground near Bordon

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Into July and the Silver Washed Fritillary was in good numbers in Straits Inclosure, along with very good numbers of White Admiral. On the heathland at Broxhead Common the Silver Studded Blue was seen but the heat was starting to take its toll. The Purple Emperor emerged in the third week of June and was seen on site at Alice Holt Forest on the 28th June, and field trippers were left happy by seeing many males flying in the rides at Abbotts Wood Inclosure and at West Wood near Winchester.

 

Exceptional numbers of Dark Green Fritillaries were seen on Pitt Down with well over (70) counted. Well into July now and the heat was into the upper 80’s and the butterflies were starting to flag. Good numbers of Emperors were seen at Whiteley Pastures, and again at West Wood on a second visit, and up into the eastern edges of Queen Elizabeth Country Park.

Wasp spider on Broughton Down

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Ladybirds mating at Shipton Bellinger 

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Little Ringed Plovers and Common Sandpipers flying on the shoreline on Hayling Island in August

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Even when it was overcast it was very warm and a visit to the western edge of Hampshire on the 4th August produced good numbers of Wall Brown, and a solitary Brown Hairstreak and Silver-Spotted Skippers were whizzing about very early at Oxenbourne Down and Old Winchester Hill. Shipton Bellinger by mid-August was cold and overcast in the morning and didn’t produce any sightings whatsoever as the heatwave had broken and the sun did come out in the afternoon and what a contrast.! Brown Hairstreaks were woefully low in number, whether this was weather related or just that we were all in the wrong place at the wrong time? However it was pleasing to see the Wall Brown dotted about the site.

 

The Adonis Blue seems to be having a renaissance at the moment  being noted for the first time at Oxenbourne Down, and it has now got a toe hold at Butser Hill and at Portsdown Hill! Beacon Hill was the big disappointment with no sightings of Adonis Blue and only one Silver-Spotted Skipper, this is due to management, the grazing hasn't cured the fact the grasses are too long but there are cattle and sheep on site, so hopefully this problem can be addressed in the future. In the latter part of the summer the Moths that really took us by surprise was the Hummingbird Hawk Moth seemingly everywhere. I've never had more than one on my buddleia bush in the back garden before 2022, but this year I had up to three in one afternoon, just spectacular to watch.

Spoonbills were seen at Farlington Marshes and other sites in Hampshire in 2022

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Male Purple Emperor Butterfly

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Ospreys were seen at Fishlake Meadows near Romsey and Farlington Marshes Portsmouth 

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Peregrine Chicks on Winchester Cathedral in 2022

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Common Lizard sunning itself

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Silver-Studded Blue Butterflies mating

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Queen Elizabeth Country Park 

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Mating Silver Spotted Skippers

White Admiral Butterfly

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Turtle Dove were seen several times at a site in Hampshire

A fresh Adonis Blue drying its wings

Clustered Bell Flower

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The the extremely rare Drab Looper Moth was seen at one site in 2022

Spring Nature Notes in Hampshire and Isle of Wight 2022

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Hunting Fox on the marshes at Farlington January

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Fallen Elm tree from the storms in February

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Purple Sandpiper at Southsea Castle
February

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Avocet and Teal ducks at Farlington January

Following on from 2021 the weather into January was very cold at times with some hard frosts at night keeping the temperatures down, although there were some warmish days into February. Kick starting some visual signs of life that was come out of some winter slumber; odd sightings of Holly Blue, which is a record in anybody’s book, and the odd Brimstone and Peacock were seen. However there was no repeat of Large Tortoiseshell so early on in the year into February. The weather was going to turn rather nasty, with two heavy storms in quick succession coming in from the south-west and giving the UK a severe bashing. February 2022 will be remembered for its cluster of three storms known collectively as  Dudley, Eunice and Franklin, their impacts and disruption, were very widespread, and I feared for many of the woods in the south of England, and I was so right when walking in and around the Meon Valley, many of the diseased Ash Trees had succumbed, and the odd Elm and Beech had toppled over, making several woods looking like a war-zone. The good thing about this catastrophe is the ground flora can now expand as the light penetrates the floor of the wood , and brings on flora like Primrose, Garlic Mustard, and other flora and fauna.

There were red warnings, gales, rain, snow and England’s highest ever recorded gust of 122mph at the exposed Needles lighthouse. This succession of Atlantic lows led to large rainfall totals and severe flooding for northern England, the Midlands and particularly along the River Severn.  February was also milder than average, more so for England and Wales and completed a milder than average winter. March wasn’t much better with lows and rain coming although the middle of March there was a warmish break when I started venturing out looking for the odd butterfly or two. It was nice to start to see butterflies in the garden on the 17th March, where there was a flurry of species (5) were counted and it was the best count in my garden ever! In fact it stayed sunny right through the rest of March the best day was the 25th March when I had six species of butterfly on Park Hill, and there were Sparrowhawks and Red Kites flying in good numbers as well as Hares frolicking in the grasses.

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Godwits on the move on Hayling Island January 

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Wolf Moon at Milton Lock Foreshore February

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Mother Shipton Moth May

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Bluebell Woods Meon Valley April

April started very cool indeed but the banks of the many hedgerows I was walking past in several sites there were good clumps of Dog Violets, and Cuckoo flowers, but the species had seemed to have all gone back into hibernation, with only three species seen on a partly sunny day which was cool on the 9th April. Duke of Burgundies are normally out by this time and these were just around the corner with two individuals seen on the 16th April at Noar Hill, on this there were ten species of butterflies were seen what a triumph! Towards the end of April there was cold wind blowing keeping temperatures down, and butterfly counts had retracted again. At a site close to Rowlands Castle the butterfly numbers expanded again on a very warm day on the 26th April with counts of (25) Brimstones, (50) Small Whites and (10) Peacocks, and a ridiculous count of (20) Orange Tips! Early May was hot and sunny and many butterflies and moths rejoiced in the balmy weather.

 

 

Two Field trips were conducted on the 8th May at Beacon Hill Exton and Stephen’s Castle Down and the species counts were very good at both sites. (15) Species being recorded at Beacon Hill Exton, with counts of (10) Brown Argus, (40) Dingy Skipper being an example. In fact most of May was glorious however it all went pear shaped at the end of May when large blankets of cloud covered the country and one of the best sites Martin Down was a very poor visit with not much on the wing at all. The last visit to Butser Hill in May produced over (40) Duke of Burgundy's on a perfect day being the best count for this species of the season.

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Honey Bee collecting pollen in March Portsdown Hill

Over the period of early-late winter months I had the privilege to see many bird species that I hadn’t seen before in good numbers, these were Avocets and Godwits at Farlington Marshes, which kept me occupied whilst the winter still had its overcoat on. The good thing about birding is that they fly in most weathers, and I was fortunate to see a good amount of waders, in January, February and March, and I also visited Winchester to see ‘Winnie’ the famous Peregrine Falcon, and her new mate William, which now have had chicks which are now flapping their wings just about ready to fledge, as I write these lines at the beginning of June. Peregrines are quite prevalent in Hampshire and have been noted in many towns and cities, notably Portsmouth several sites, Andover, Fawley, Farnborough, Southampton, Milford, Romsey, and Winchester to name but a few!

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Kestrel surveying his hunting ground Milton Lock in March 

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William the Peregrine Falcon with a Kill Winchester Cathedral March

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Male Duke of Burgundy Oxenbourne Down
April

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Emperor Moth on Heathland at Bordon April

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Painted Lady camouflaged at Milton May

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White-Tailed Sea Eagle 

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Large Tortoiseshell was seen at Parkhurst Forest in 2022

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Glanville Fritillary had a good year in 2022

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Red Squirrel I could watch these all day!

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Male and Female Bullfinches on a bird feeder

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Oak Beauty Moth March 

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Slow Worm on Oxenbourne Down April

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Black Adder Browndown Ranges Photo David Stevenson

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Storm over the Meon Valley May

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Young Roe Deer in the Meon Valley May

Reed Warbler on the lookout Milton Lock
May

Spring Nature notes from the Isle of Wight 2022 

Text by : Nikki Kownacki

There continued to be a good number of over wintering birds in Yarmouth and Newtown with a good number of Brent Geese seen. There were also smaller flocks of Brent along the whole of the Solent mostly ranging from Yarmouth through to Bembridge Harbour. 

 

It was good to see a number of Lapwing, Black Tailed Godwits, Wigeon and the beautiful Teal. On an organised walk at Newtown there were a few Golden Plover in their winter plumage to be seen. These are extremely well camouflaged in the golden yellow grasses of the scrapes. Plenty of little Dunlin were also around and you could see them almost in large flocks flying around the creek. There were also flocks of Oystercatchers which always look impressive though less of the Spoonbills turned up this year and I believe there were only 4 at Newtown this year which is a shame as they are spectacular to see.

 

One of my favourites the Common Redshank were seen at both Yarmouth and Newtown and at Yarmouth the rarer lonely Spotted Redshank, a single bird of this species, could be seen near to the other Redshanks. This bird has been at Yarmouth for a couple of years now and doesn't even bother to fly home for the summer months.

 

Red Squirrels continue to be seen every day during the late winter months and are always a joy to see especially when they chase each other around the tree trunks. A good number of youngsters appeared this Spring and one even tried to threaten me with its angry noises until it came face to face with me and thought I was a bit too large to intimidate and promptly ran away!

 

Regular visitors to our bird feeders this year were a couple of pairs of Bullfinches. These still continue to visit every day and like to feed on the Sunflower seeds. I have seen no evidence of youngsters though. I think they must be kept well hidden. A couple of Greenfinches were also seen but these are unfortunately a lot rarer now.

 

We also saw Great Spotted Woodpeckers which visit every day. Now the youngsters are coming to feed on the peanuts. A Great Spotted Woodpecker nest was spotted not far away high up in a tree. You could hear the youngsters inside and if you were patient, they would pop their heads out of the hole. 

 

In May and June I have had sightings of a Red Kite locally. This bird seems to be spreading it's territories and hopefully it will start to breed and do well on the Island. Also a couple of Hobbies have been sighted. These come over in the summer from Africa. 

 

We were very lucky to see a Nightjar fly out of our next door neighbours garden earlier in June. We like to sit outdoors late in the evenings and listen to their churring calls. 

 

The first Butterflies I saw was in early January on a beautiful sunny day at Quarr Abbey. There were two Red Admirals sunning themselves on a hedge. But it was a month or so before more Butterflies started appearing. Brimstones were in good numbers on my transect and I often found 3 or 4 trying to mate with the same female. Other early Butterflies seen were Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells. 

 

The Isle of Wight Butterfly the Glanville Fritillary started to be seen in early May. Reports that I have heard seem to be that there are less around this year and when I have gone to look they have been lively and not as many around as the previous two years. They do have a good stronghold along the downs and along the coast along from Freshwater and Compton and at Ventnor Revertment though. At the Revertment there was a very early Clouded Yellow spotted which most probably meant that it bred on the Island which is unusual for this butterfly.

 

June has had good reports of the White Admiral and 11 in total were seen on my last Transect which compares to 3 over the whole summer last year. On a butterfly walk in June at Newtown a large number were seen there also and others have reported good numbers of this butterfly so it appears to be a very good year for them. 

 

We dug out where there used to be a pond at the bottom of the garden late last year and it has had great results this year. There were a very large number of tadpoles seen. It was great to watch the tiny froglets make their way out of the pond when they were ready. There are also a few newts in the pond. Not easy to see but I think they are Common Newts.

 

There is a beautiful male Broad Bodied Chaser that has made the pond his home. There are also around three females nearby - they have been seen mating. Other Dragonflies seen so far this year near the pond include the Emperor Dragonfly, Ruddy Darters (we had the earliest recorded one in the garden on the Island this year), Common Darters and Black Tailed Skimmers. There have also been Large Red Damselflies, Azure Damselflies, Common Blue Damselflies and Blue Tailed Damselflies recorded. All of these around the pond area. It is amazing how much wildlife a pond brings in.

 

We continue to grow and encourage wild flowers in the garden and during 'No Mow May' left the front lawn as well as a lot of the back. To my delight here were a lot of Common Spotted Orchids that grew in the front lawn and made a spectacular site. It was well worth practicing not mowing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Compton Chine and Afton and Tennyson Downs

Spring Nature Notes in Hampshire and Isle of Wight 2021

Large Tortoiseshell Cosham 27 Feb 2021 (

Large Tortoiseshell

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 Mating Grizzled Skippers

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Common Dog Violet

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Male Pheasant

Following on from 2020 was never going to be easy or straightforward having suffered a mild Heart Attack 3 days after my 65th birthday in January, and with the Covid-19 still a threat to all of us, we certainly looked forward to the spring and warm weather. Having the best weather in the spring of 2020, I just knew somehow, it wasn’t going to be the same again in 2021, and so it turned out. January and February were cold at night although we had some quite barmy weather during the day especially in February which had ridiculous temperatures of 8 degrees for 9 days. It was quite warm for the winter as February turned to March and was warm with temperatures of 11 degrees for a period of 12 days, which really started to get flowers blooming and the birds start to get ready for nesting if they haven’t already done so.

 

Butterflies were seen in reasonable numbers and in February in Cosham close to Portsmouth I had a report of Large Tortoiseshells flying in gardens. Lucky for me it was a good friend’s garden and his son who saw it, and I managed to download his photograph after a second day of it being seen on his kitchen windowsill enjoying the sunshine. This is the second time they have seen it a few years ago another turned up in their garden, which makes me think that the butterfly may well be breeding in small pockets in and around the area on Elm, as there is some in the Hospital just up the road in Cosham.

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A dry New Forest and Pony

Kestrel on Portsdown Hill

April turned out to be the coolest for 90 odd years with average temperatures at night well below zero, which affected the birds, and  insects as well. Following closely behind came infamous May with a low pressure system sitting over the country for most of the month driving wet and gusty weather. It’s no wonder the Insects were so confused, my species the Duke of Burgundy started to emerge at Noar Hill on the 19th April, when we had a small warm period, and we thought wrongly everything was set fair, just how wrong we were!. Everything went back into hibernation, and other species just marked time for at least three weeks. June has come along with a start of summer practically with warm temperatures and High pressure sitting over the country a carbon copy of May 2021, and I’ve been out and about in the Meon Valley looking at the Duke sites, and the species are still emerging, which is most unusual.

Honey Bee covered in Pollen from Pussy Willow

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Male Dog Foxes

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Bee in my Bee House

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Male Marsh Fritillary

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Female Duke of Burgundy

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Toad

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Smiling Grey Squirrel

Covid rules and regulations meant that the Field Trip programme was restricted to just 6 people. So I started with the Emperor Moth in the New Forest, and with my trusty Emperor Moth Lure and on a perfect but cold day we managed to lure one perfect Emperor Moth to my trap. He was happy buzzing in and around my camera bag, and then he sat quite comfortably on a dried up piece of Bell Heather. The New Forest at this time like most of the country had hit a drought, and every part of the countryside looked rather dull and grey, and the New Forest was no exception, but the Emperor Moth brought some colouration to a rather dull landscape. We were not prepared for the deluge which was to follow…rain rain and more rain. The rather stunted Cowslips on most of the Duke sites were dried up, but when I returned on a dry and warmish day in May the Cowslips were quickly responding to a drink of water. Here the second field trip at Butser Hill was another warmish day after a cancellation after some rain.  

 

The Duke of Burgundy had kick started its emergence, along with Grizzled and Dingy Skippers. We heard and saw the Cuckoo which was a triumph as I never saw or heard it in 2020, such is the sad fact now, and I go out into the Meon Valley in the late spring and very rarely hear it. Bentley Wood on the 26th May was another field trip which was the first after Covid restrictions had relaxed and we could meet up to (30) people outside. We saw the Pearl Bordered-Fritillary but butterflies were very scarce even at this late stage of the spring, added to the mix were Broad-bordered Chasers, Common Lizards, and a good number of Slow Worms, which slithered in front of us as we walked around a rather soggy Inclosure. Again the Cuckoo made his presence known which is always a treat to hear. But it was good to back amongst butterfly friends again and talk about flora and fauna and other things and putting the world to rights.

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Angle Shades Moth

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Emperor Moth

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 Male Orange Tip

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The last field trip of May was a journey to the magnificent Martin Down, this site is always a great place to visit, and on a perfect day, it was rather hot now, but we shouldn’t complain after the rather soggy start to May, we saw our quarry the Duke of Burgundy alongside the Marsh Fritillary, and the Adonis Blue. The Duke of Burgundy at Martin Down is rather scarce, but this year several recorders have seen it, whether it’s more common now, that there is more scrubby areas and there is a lot more Cowslip, which can only be a good thing. (6) Species of Moth and (16) species of butterfly were recorded, with good hedgerow birds like Yellow Hammer, Blackcap, Skylark, Chiffchaff, Linnet, Whitethroat, Corn Bunting, Swallow and Swifts. Unfortunately the Turtle Dove was not recorded on this day, whether it hasn’t turned up yet as a lot of other flora and fauna is late, or we were just unfortunate.

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Common Hare on very dry ground

Head of a Pearl Bordered Fritillary

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Green Hairstreak

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Parent Bug's

A day trip to the Isle of Wight  in June 2021

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Compton Chine and Freshwater Bay Isle of Wight

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Male Glanville Fritillary Compton Chine Isle of Wight

White Plume Moth Compton Chine

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Thrift covers most of Compton Bay in a sea of pink

Ribwart Plantain foodplant of the Glanville Fritillary caterpillar

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Male Adonis Blue on Afton Down

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Male Glanville Fritillary freshly emerged 8th June 2021 Compton Chine

Summer Notes for 2021  in Hampshire and Isle of Wight 

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Southern Hawker Dragonfly

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Digger Wasps

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White Admiral

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Painted Lady 

The summer started off with lots of sunny periods in the first two weeks of June, and this helped the Duke of Burgundy keep flying well into this month and it was still being seen on Oxenbourne Down on the 12th June. Along with other late spring stalwarts the Grizzled Skipper,  Dingy Skipper, Green Hairstreak and the Common Blue.

 

I decided to go to Bentley Wood in the evening to avoid all of the crowds of recorders going to snatch a sighting of the increasingly rare Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary. I was lucky just to glimpse of the species for a few seconds imbibing on the floor however I disturbed it and it flew off never to be seen again. This was on the 23rd of June quite late but every species were really late in 2021, and the Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary was no exception. The sad state of the species here that I never saw another one is very sad. I fear for its existence in the next couple of seasons.  Bentley Wood must try to close the site to butterfly tourism for a few season’s if possible and try to encourage this nationally rare and important species back from the brink, how easy this would be I have no Idea.

On a field trip to Abbotstone Down we saw the rise of the Dark Green Fritillary in good numbers in amongst the meadows on the 23rd June on a perfect day for weather. This started the Marbled White in small numbers, good numbers of Green Hairstreak also greeted us, and lots of Small Tortoiseshell as well; summer had really begun……

 

Dark Green Fritillaries were extremely common on Oxenbourne Down on the 24th June with a conservative estimate of at least (70) being seen on the downs. Silver-Washed Fritillaries were in evidence on the 30th June at Alice Holt Forest, but the weather seemed to be stuck in a cloudy period with no end. The Purple Emperor was certainly still stuck in the starting blocks…. The Purple Hairstreak had also made an appearance, and then bang the Purple Emperor appeared briefly twice in 30 odd minutes in Abbotts Wood Inclosure on the 5th July.

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Male Purple Emperor 

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Field Trip to West Wood and Pitt Down

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The weather was still stuck in a gloomy cloudy period, although it did break in the afternoon at Alice Holt Forest on the 8th July when I saw at least (8) male Purple Emperor’s so when the sun shone this brought out the Silver-Washed Fritillaries and the Ringlets could be counted in their hundreds, and the White Admiral was also noted in small numbers.

 

We even had periods of wet weather, which hampered anything vaguely to do with Purple Emperor spotting, but the sunshine came back as a mini heatwave on the 17th July and lasted until the 20th July, and this is when I concluded you had to be out in the woods very early, possibly by 09:00 and this obviously paid off for many recorders as they saw the Purple Emperor doing its thing very early.

 

Towards the end of July the Purple Emperor was almost burnt out due to playing catch up with the weather, however a visit to one of the top sites in Hampshire proved to be almost fruitless, with just one seen Oak edging briefly in Straits Inclosure. Again the Forestry Commission had been logging in the southern part of the woods, but luckily the main ride had been virtually untouched and the sallow are still intact, so hopefully this will bode well in the future. However the Silver-Washed Fritillary had done very well they seemed to be everywhere, and so too were the Ringlet and Gatekeeper, although the White Admiral was still playing catch up.

The general picture though throughout Hampshire was the Purple Emperor did not do very well, which is reflected in how many sites the species were seen in compared with 2020, which was supposed to have been a bad year, despite the summer being one of the best on record!

Painted Lady Caterpillar

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Female Brown Hairstreak

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Wall Brown

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Magpie Moth

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Longhorn Beetle

August started with rain wind and lots of cloud; however despite this the Silver-Spotted Skipper was seen in small numbers on Oxenbourne Down and the remains of the Silver-Washed Fritillary and Dark Green Fritillary were still enjoying the flowery areas on the downland. The Chalkhill Blue just exploded and didn’t seem to mind what the weather threw at it. By the 11th August the Silver-Spotted Skipper had increased to well over (25) on the down. The Chalkhill Blues were now well into the thousands, and were seemingly everywhere, being very careful not to tread on them there were so many!

 

A field trip to Shipton Bellinger after another field trip which I had to cancel and rearrange after another rain soaked day. This proved to be a triumph and we managed to see up to a dozen Brown Hairstreaks, many of these were in a lecking tree, and playing tag with each other. Along with the Brown Hairstreak there was the other target species the Wall Brown which we also managed to see in the small rides and along the border with Wiltshire.

 

A visit to the New Forest at Beaulieu Heath also produced good numbers of Graylings, despite they having been out for some period of time, also the Silver-Studded Blue put in an appearance as well. The Bell and Ling Heather was starting to look a picture a purple carpet as far as the eye could see. Also seen in the woodland were basking Common Lizards, which were a treat as these shy creatures are somewhat overlooked.

Adonis Blues were seen towards the end of the month of August as the weather was still very unseasonal with cool winds blowing in off of the North Sea, blanking everything with a seemingly unshiftable blanket of cloud.

 

The weather shifted into a warmer period at the beginning of September and the Silver-Spotted Skipper and the Adonis Blue were in excellent numbers on Old Winchester Hill, along with excellent views of Wheatear, Ravens, and Redstarts in the fields on the far southern slope. We even espied a very late Silver-Washed Fritillary as well, one of the latest I've ever recorded.

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Silver-Spotted Skipper

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Grayling

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Male Adonis Blue

Spring Nature Notes in Hampshire and Isle of Wight 2020

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Orange Tip male

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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.

   

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Green Hairstreak 

Male Kestrel before hunting

Redshanks flying along Milton Foreshore

Summer  & Autumn Nature notes for 2020

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Female Purple Emperor

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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

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Male Brown Hairstreak

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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 & 2022

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