2023 Field Trip Highlights
The weather played a big part in the field trip programme again in the spring and several trips were cancelled, but several went ahead despite the weather being less than adequate. One of these was the first gathering at Broxhead Common, where we managed to see one Emperor Moth, and the weather was no better at Butser a week later where the cloudy conditions made the counting very easy as there wasn’t anything to count. However in the afternoon the sun did come out and it was a totally different day with lots of Duke of Burgundies, and other chalk downland species to see, and with that two Emperor Moths were also seen!
In the New Forest the Pearl Bordered Fritillary was seen in reasonable numbers, with a visit in the afternoon to Pig Bush Inclosure and hey-presto 20 or more Emperor moths visited us! At Coulters Dean there were excellent counts of Green Hairstreaks, and Small Blue amongst the rare Orchids. Into the early summer the sun was now sizzling, and brought out many summer species early including Grayling, Silver-Studded Blue and the Purple Emperor, which was seen at West Wood and Alice Holt Forest, and a new site for many at Micheldever woods, where Assembly Points became the centre of attention. One of the highlights for me was seeing two aberration Silver-Washed Fritillaries on one field trip, at Alice Holt Forest. The 'Valezina' which was a very fresh specimen, and a very rare 'Ocellata', which got everybody's attention, this is what field trips are all about everybody seeing something new and unusual.
A good turnout at West Harting Down saw several female Purple Emperors which were searching good areas of Sallow to lay their eggs. Unfortunately the weather turned again and the summer became quite damp, but the later target species like Brown Hairstreak still appeared at Shipton Bellinger in good numbers along with Wall Brown, this site is a very popular field trip, and I always look forward to it, as it a site where being flat makes the trip a bit more enjoyable, looking for that elusive Brown Hairstreak. Unfortunately we haven’t seen the Magpie Moth for several years now which is quite worrying.
The weather at the end of August turned back to summer and the beginning of September it was clear blue skies and was very hot. The last of the walks were done with plenty of water to hand and the butterflies were flying in a frenzied manner especially the Silver Spotted Skippers which I love to see. Several females on Old Winchester Hill were observed laying eggs and also mating. The site has now managed to save the Adonis Blue from disappearing from the Meon Valley, and can be found now at several other sites like Butser Hill, Oxenbourne Down, but it seems to be reluctant to breed on Beacon Hill, maybe the grazing regime can reverse this trend.
I would like to thank all who made the effort to come and join me on my walks and look forward to seeing some of you again in 2024.
Ashley Whitlock Hampshire Field Trips Organiser
Photographs of field trips in 2023 by Donald Simcox
2022 Field Trip Highlights
Photo: Bryn Jones
2022 had a full programme of walks starting in late April in the New Forest with a look at the Emperor Moth where we saw several fresh males on the heathland. Into May and the Duke of Burgundy was seen at two sites visited in one day, Beacon Hill and Stephens Castle Down, we also saw another (14) species of butterfly. One of the best spring field trips was at West Wood looking for the woodland Duke of Burgundy and a count of (25) were seen in the small clearing where they breed on Primrose. Stockbridge Down turned out to be sublime, with another impressive amount of species counted (19). Cool overcast weather greeted us at Martin Down in the last week of May but we managed to see our quarry the Marsh Fritillary and Adonis Blue.
The summer field trip programme started in Bentley Wood, but we were unfortunate not to see our target species, the Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary and the Argent and Sable Moth, however later in the month the Silver-Studded Blue impressed at Broxhead Common. The biggest prize in the field trip calendar, the Purple Emperor turned in a good performance at West Wood with up to (8) individuals being seen, along with Silver Washed Fritillaries, White Admirals, and Scarlet Tiger Moths. In the afternoon we were entertained by good counts of Dark Green Fritillaries skimming over the tall grasses at Pitt Down. Now we were into a long hot summer and we all sweltered at Pamber Forest although not seeing our quarry, the Purple Emperor. Although hot at Creech Wood we were luckier and saw the Purple Emperor at one of the Assembly Points.
West Harting Down is a walk not for the faint hearted, but the view and the species count is well worth the effort, we had a good count of Purple Emperor for once, with two on the ground, and other species making it an impressive (20) species in total. Several field trips had to be rearranged as the heatwave broke due to low pressure systems. However at Shipton Bellinger, the Brown Hairstreak and Wall Brown were counted in good numbers and at Broughton Down the Silver-Spotted Skipper was whizzing about keeping everybody happy. Butser Hill NNR turned out to be a triumph as the site was covered in a veil of cloud at 10:30 but as the morning wore on the sun came out as the mist lifted, and the butterflies were flying in droves, including in the list were Silver Spotted Skippers, Clouded Yellows and Adonis Blues.
2022 was a successful year and I would like to thank all of you who came and hope you will join me again in 2023, my 10th anniversary year of arranging field trips.
Ashley Whitlock Hampshire Field Trip Organiser
2021 Field Trip Highlights
Abbotts Wood Inclosure Field Trip July 2021
Another season of field trips, several of which had to be cancelled due to the inclement weather we have encountered in 2021.
We started in the New Forest in April looking for the Emperor Moth, this was during the period when only 6 people could meet outside due to Covid. We were successful in attracting one fresh male with my ‘lure’. In early May the Duke of Burgundy's were beginning to emerge in reasonable numbers on the slopes of Butser Hill and later in the month the rearranged Bentley Wood and Martin Down trips turned out to be rescheduled luckily for the better weather.
At Bentley Wood Pearl-Bordered Fritillaries were past their best and we didn’t see the Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary as to was too early, but the Martin Down trip on the last day of May was a triumph, seeing the Duke of Burgundy at this site for the first time and also plenty of Marsh Fritillaries and Adonis Blues plus other flora and fauna.
In mid-June Dark Green Fritillaries adorned Abbotstone Down which also appears to be one of the best sites for the Green Hairstreak. However due to the wet weather several summer walks were rearranged but this turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the Purple Emperor was late to emerge in 2021!
In July we had two Purple Emperor field trips to Alice Holt Forest and West Wood in the space of three days and saw an extraordinary (24) Purple Emperors, and also another male of this impressive species was seen at West Harting Down the following week. In addition the beautiful Silver-washed Fritillary Valezina was seen in Crab Wood on the West Wood field trip.
August was no better weather wise but we managed to get in one of the best Field Trips at Shipton Bellinger where all the target species were seen. The Brown Hairstreak was noted about a dozen times despite the weather being cloudy with short periods of sunshine, and the elusive Wall Brown was encountered at least three times, along with good counts of Magpie Moths.
The New Forest at Beaulieu Heath produced the Grayling and in September the Adonis Blue and the lovely Silver-Spotted Skipper were seen in reasonable numbers at old Winchester Hill and Beacon Hill.
I would like to thank all those who joined me in 2021 and hope to see you all in 2022.
Field Trip Co-ordinator