2023 Hampshire & IOW Nature Notes Blog
New Forest Bolderwood 29th/30th November 2023
A chance to get out into one of my favourite places the New Forest, although I only visited one site, at Bolderwood where there is a Deer sanctuary, however I didn’t see any deer! I was also looking for any areas that may have good amounts of sallow and I’m afraid to say that it failed miserably. In the Inclosure the wood is at odds with the possibility of any Purple Emperors ever being on the wing there in the summer due to the fact that any possible growth of the sallow is immediately eaten or damaged, one by Grey Squirrels, and two eaten before they reach any decent height by Deer. There is a good deal of bird life though and I saw several very small Firecrests and Treecreepers on the very old Oak trees scattered across the Inclosure. It’s very ornamental in places with huge swathes of Douglas fir and Norwegian Spruce trees growing in large tracts along the footpaths that criss-cross the inclosure. I think the sallow is probably more dominant in wetter areas especially in the river valleys, like it is in and around Hawkhill Inclosure.
Milton Foreshore 28th November 2023
Another good day to get out and about and a look into the local wildlife patch and there were lots of Magpies up to 7 or 8 counted on a tree, it’s a long time since I’ve seen so many together. Redshanks and Brent Geese were feeding quite close to the shoreline. Walking around to the foreshore area, there wasn’t much to see as the tide had come in. Oystercatchers and Brent Geese were the main flyers and Great Crested Grebe putting in an appearance with Teal, Mallard, Black-Headed Gulls and Mute Swans were on the first lake and there didn’t seem to be any Kingfisher today. Rather disappointing really.
Out and about there has been Spoonbills seen at Keyhaven south of the New Forest, also one of the biggest surprises, a Sea Eagle passing over Titchfield Haven decided to alight for a while and a Bittern was also seen yesterday. In the middle of Winchester Salmon were seen going up river by the Mill in the River Itchen which must have been some sight, in the middle of the town. On the butterfly front Red Admirals Brimstones and Peacocks are still out and about in the sunshine, and a Purple Emperor caterpillar was found in Whiteley Pastures, and was found by the ‘dangleleaf’ method on a sallow tree.
Farlington Marshes / Langstone Harbour Thursday 23rd November 2023
Another visit to Farlington Marshes, the weather was against us in the morning, as it was quite overcast and it was distinctly cool. The Short eared Owl wasn’t showing either, and there was very little to see initially but as the day wore on the birds they were making themselves known and over the water there were good flocks of Oystercatchers Sandpipers, Knots and Turnstones, these seemed to feeding on the sea where the flats were not underwater. One of my favourite birds the Curlew was present and there were quite a few dotted around the site. Great Northern Divers were also seen by several of the wardens on Farlington Marshes.
Other birds of note were Stonechats, Goldfinches, Shovellers, Teal, Magpie, Mute Swan , Canada and Brent Geese, Pied Wagtails, Egrets, Lapwings and Redshanks. In the afternoon there was a completely different weather as the sun was shining and was relatively warm. Other birds seen in Langstone Harbour were good counts of Coot, Mallard, Black Headed Gull, and Grey Heron. Around the county there has been a sighting of Red Legged Partridge in somebody’s garden, and Brimstone Butterflies were also seen on the wing as well. On the Hampshire /Sussex border more Brown Hairstreak areas have been found, by locating their eggs, which are quite easy to see now that the leaves have fallen off of the Blackthorn bushes.
Milton Lock and Fore Shore 17th November 2023
A lull in the incessant rainfall we are having at the moment, so a quick venture out on my local patch. The Brent Geese were trumpeting well and there are now hundreds of them but they will still be coming to the UK right up into the depths of winter. Other birds seen were White Egret, Sanderlings, Turnstones, Redshanks and Curlews which are always quiet common along the shore-line, and of course the Oystercatcher.
Walking along past one of the lakes called Swan Lake and lo and behold a bright flash of blue greeted me, and would you believe it a Kingfisher in all its glory was flying close to the trees, and then it stopped on a branch facing me, and then flew off again into the reed area. That’s two Kingfishers I’ve seen in this area in the last 3 or 4 months, but neither have been very photogenic. It’s probably due to too much human activity especially the dogs, along the bank. I did manage to get a far off shot of it…but it won’t win any photo competitions!
I also saw another Red Admiral flying in the sunshine so they are still about!
Farlington Marshes Wednesday 15th November 2023
Another look for the Short Eared Owl at Farlington Marshes today, with the weather being good I was ever hopeful. The amount of rain we are still getting has made the grass very damp and sodden and this must hinder the Owls hunting, and it was suggested to me that the Owls haven’t been seen for a while in their usual place because of this and also disturbance by photographers and dog-walkers using a particular footpath which runs very close to where these owls usually hunt.
Now I am a dog lover, and the footpath is there to be used but you would think people would have more sense, and also photographers should keep away and stick to areas where they will not disturb them.
That’s it rant over….
The tide was out and there were good birds out in Eastney Lake like huge amounts of Sanderlings, Oystercatchers, Brent Geese, others I couldn’t Identify but there must have been Red and Green Shank Curlew. I also saw Avocets, and Lapwings, Stonechats, Wagtails. There was a large murmuration of starlings out in the estuary, amongst others. A single Common Tern was seen fishing, and over in the direction of Hayling Island Claire and I saw a Short Eared Owl being mobbed by a couple of black-headed gulls. Unfortunately he/she didn’t get too close to me so any photographs were minimal, but it was a great sight to see though.
Oh no he’s gone into bird mode!
In case anyone’s wondering why the sudden change to bird pictures there a distinct lack of butterflies and moths on the wing now, so with so many good bird watching opportunities like Milton Fore-shore and Farlington Marshes in and around me…and with the great opportunity to take pictures of Short-Eared Owls just around the corner, I consider myself a very lucky boy!
Anyway here are some waders taken today along the Milton foreshore when the tide was out Oystercatchers, Redshanks and Curlew, with Terns and Black Headed Gulls with Egrets in the mix. There were other waders like Turnstones, and Sanderlings but I couldn’t get close to them. The Red Admiral was still flying up and down the footpath close to the Falklands Memorial.
Garden and Eastney Beach 31st October 2023
A break in the continuing rainy weather with a day of sunshine which brought back the Red Admirals back on the buddleia bush. How they managed to survive the awful downpours of late is anybody’s guess. I decided to walk along Eastney Beach right to the end to see if the Little Owls were still there, unfortunately they weren’t. Whether they have left the area or not I don’t really know.
Walking along the beach I noticed a few Shorebirds and as I got closer there were a fair few Sanderlings, a couple Turnstones and the odd Oystercatcher to be seen. I was quite surprised to how close I could get to them, and as I walked further up the beach it turned out there were a lot of them , hard to say how many but a good hundred or more Sanderlings.
Garden and news of the Short-Eared Owls at Farlington Marshes
Almost through October now and it’s been a constant battle against the rain, with a huge area of low pressure stuck out to the west of us pulling in all the showers and torrential downpours every day, Except the one day a week where its bright enough to get out and look for Autumnal photographs. There has been some good reports of the rutting season is well underway, and many parts of the New Forest and other woodlands in Hampshire are echoing to the call of the male stags, as they round up their hinds and fight off any rivals that threaten their harems. In the garden there are still some very tatty Red Admirals to be seen, and the odd Painted Lady and over the past few days a nice fresh looking Comma.
Farlington Marshes welcomes back one of my favourite birds the Short-Eared Owl, where several have been seen quartering the reed beds for prey. Also the Bearded Tits are showing well as well, and won’t be long until multitudes of Brent Geese descend onto the Marshes, and swell in numbers into Eastney Lake.
Shafts of morning sunlight cut through the canopy, scintillating motes of dust hang in the brilliant blades of still autumnal light and all is quiet for a golden moment before the distant belch of deer stags hacks through the silence. The deer rut, one of Britain’s great natural spectacles has begun, especially in the New Forest......
The rutting season, when stags face down and lock antlers with one another for the right to breed, starts in mid to late September and lasts until the end of October. As with all natural spectacles, it’s at its best at dawn and dusk and well away from people.
Needless to say, you shouldn’t approach any pair of large wild animals engaged in combat, but if you want to see deer rutting, you’ll probably have to lose yourself in some uncharted reach of the forest at crikey o’clock, wear muted clothes and be prepared to be quiet and patient.
The rest of us can derive the same sense of awe by just being in the presence of these magnificent beasts, and this short cycle trip in the New Forest is an easy way to spot our two most glorious species in a single afternoon. There’s even a cycle hire shop at the start of the route in Burley.
Back Garden and West Wood Sunday 22nd October 2023
It’s amazing to think that the year is nearly complete and the butterflies are still going strong not that there are countless to see but in the back garden there was up to 8-10 Red Admiral flying in and around my Hebe plant which is still blooming quite well, whilst the Buddleia is fading fast, but with what is left of the sunshine in the north facing garden these butterflies are making the most of it. There was also a Comma having his fair share of nectar as well, and he looked in very good shape.
In West Wood I was looking for Fungi on the forest floor and was quite successful as you may well see from the pictures seeing Fly Agaric and Penny Buns, plus others which remain nameless so far. Even here the Red Admiral was still flying and also seen was Brimstone, several small whites and Speckled Wood.
Garden Butterflies 8th /9th October 2023
The garden Buddleia tree has been a haven for butterflies over the past few days. I have been plucking old leaves and buds off of it over the past few weeks to encourage new blooms, which have so far paid off. Yesterday in the late evening when the weather seemed to be totally perfect with nil wind and the warmth just seemed to be right. I looked over the tree and there were surprisingly at least 4-5 perfect Painted Ladies, which were probably home grown ones, and at least 8 or 9 Red Admirals, plus Large Whites, Small Whites, Hummingbird Hawk Moths and Hornet Bee Mimics (V. zonaria)
This morning it took awhile for the sun to get up to autumnal strength and once the Red Admirals started to alight the Buddleia the Painted Ladies joined in. One particular one liked our Palm Tree, and sat still looking down at me for quite a time, it did remind me of a certain Purple Species that does the same thing, unfortunately not in our garden! But it was a treat nevertheless.
Along the seafront was a single Common Blue and Small Copper
Portsdown Hill Monday 9th October 2023
A glorious day was to be had on Portsdown Hill today as the sun beat down and next to no wind greeted us as the pursued one of the newest butterflies to be seen on the downland. The Long-Tailed Blue has been seen up on the down on and off over the last few years, and in 2023 it seems to have come of age, as many new foodplant sites have been identified. Fortunately we have had some good weather for it to breed into the late autumn, and today we saw the fruit of its labours. The site faces south and with several eyes all peering into the shrubbery we saw at least 7-8 individuals. Several were in very good condition which suggests these have just recently emerged. They were claiming territories, in a very similar fashion as the Duke of Burgundy, rising high up into the sky and intertwining on the way up, and then splitting and coming back down onto their perches. Several were quite worn, with very little of their tails to be seen.
We stopped in the area for a good hour seeing several mating and a third male trying to break up the party, he failed I hasten to add. The males in good condition posed quite nicely on the sun-drenched downland and seemed quite at home here, but it was a pinch yourself moment to really think these butterflies may well have become quite established here now. Other butterflies seen were another brood of Holly Blues, Brimstones, Meadow Browns, Peacock, Painted Ladies, and many Red Admirals, feeding off of the many Ivy bushes, and then flying down the hill.
Farlington Marshes Tuesday 3rd October 2023
Today was quite a cloudy day despite the weather forecast and very breezy and I walked around Farlington to see if I could see the Bearded Tits alas it wasn’t to be as the wind was very strong at times. The most noticeable thing today was seeing countless Red Admirals all heading south. This was quite a spectacle, as they seemed to zoom around me as if to say goodbye, for voting them the ‘butterfly of the year’. There were other butterflies still to be seen several Clouded Yellows were going in the opposite direction, and Small Copper and Speckled Wood was still on the wing.
Kingfishers were also out and about and there were lots of marshland birds to be seen like the Knot which were gathering with Redshank in numbers around the reed beds. Kestrels were out hunting so were families of Buzzards. Egrets and Curlews were fishing in the mudflats as the tide was out. Unfortunately I didn’t see my quarry the Bearded Tit as I think it was too windy. There were lots of Dragon flies still on the wing especially the Common Red Darter.
Eastney Beach Friday 29th September 2023
A break from the storms which are hitting the UK at the moment, although the South-East part of the UK has got off rather lightly so far. Along ‘my’ beach the butterflies have dwindled down to a handful, with no Common Blues or Painted Ladies seen today. The Clouded Yellows were patrolling up and down pausing every so often for a quick sup of nectar, where it could find some willing plant life. There were several female Small Coppers on the ‘bank’ one was the blue ‘spot ‘variant, which was good to see as it was different to a smarter one I saw later. A moth being a Rush Veneer noted to be a strong migrant was also seen. In the garden many Red Admirals are still feeding on the dwindling Buddleia, which won’t last much longer.
Eastney Beach Fort Cumberland 25th September 2023
It’s hard to admit that autumn just around the corner, and some of the trees are starting to show their yellow and rusty hues, and the bramble leaves are bathed in a red glow looking rather splendid. On the butterfly front it’s getting harder and harder to get a handful of species to count, the main ones seen on Eastney Beach and just around the corner at Fort Cumberland are, Speckled Wood, Common Blue, and the Clouded Yellow sometimes but not every day, the odd Small Copper, many Small Whites and the odd Large White, and on the beach the Painted Lady with Red Admirals still turning up in the garden. I know on the Isle of Wight and several downland sites on the mainland the Brown Argus and the Wall Brown are still being seen with the odd Small Heath, and even the odd Brown Hairstreak at Soberton, these being noted as ‘pristine’ which makes them extremely late emerging.
Birds seen over the last few days have been the White Tailed Sea Eagle patrolling the Solent, obviously one of the ‘introduced specimens from the Isle of Wight. Also the Bearded Tits are starting to show at Farlington Marshes as well, and it won’t be long before the Short Eared Owls are reported. On the mud flats many Sanderlings and Knots have been gathering, and good forms of Starlings along the Milton Shoreline, which should soon form a ‘mini’ murmuration.
Eastney Beach Friday 15th September 2023
Excellent hot weather on Eastney Beach and today and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky when I visited Eastney Beach. Today there was a lot of Kite Surfers as there is a International competition along the beach at Eastney. I had to walk a fair distance to find my quarry and sure enough there was at least 4 Clouded Yellows to be seen. Unfortunately they did not stop as the weather was very warm so they made the most of it! Other butterflies seen were several Small Coppers, Common Blues which seemed to have had another brood, and a first for me on this site was a pristine Brown Argus. I think this site has more broods than other sites as it perhaps has more sunshine.
The Common Blue and the Brown Argus must lay on other plants as I’ve looked for their host plants and there isn’t any. Other species of interest is the Bee Wolf which I find fascinating; they are constantly on the hunt and being sandy the slopes are littered with holes where the prey is kept.
Old Winchester Hill Friday 8th September 2023
The heat was just so exhausting and even on the summit there wasn’t any sunshine at the time just a thin veil of cloud, which kept the heat in like a vacuum. It was good for the butterflies as they were enjoying the last days of the season, and most importantly the Silver Spotted Skipper was in good numbers. I walked over to the far slope facing south, and looked on both sides of the footpath, where the sheep had been grazing the sward was about 5-10mm in height and here there wasn’t any Silver Spotted Skippers of note, and very little wild flowers. On the opposite side the sward height was between 20-30mm in height and this is where I saw the majority of the Silver Spotted Skippers.
The rabbit burrows all seemed to be on this side as well. Next year the side where the sward is the shortest should yield some good results for the Silver Spotted Skipper and the Adonis Blue as well. I counted up to (40) individuals and there were still plenty of very fresh specimens only a day old I would say. There were good numbers of Adonis Blue still but dwindling numbers of Chalkhill Blue, fresh Small Copper and Brown Argus were also noted. There were no Clouded Yellows noted. On the summit I was witness to a large flock of House Martins and these for some reason had an interest in the local Kestrels, they were certainly mobbing them, maybe they though the Kestrel was a threat to eating their insect food.
Old Winchester Hill Tuesday 5th September 2023
Another visit to Old Winchester Hill to see the fading species like Silver Spotted Skippers, and Adonis Blues with the heat they are fading quite fast. The Adonis Blue seems to have done rather well here in 2023, but the Silver Spotted Skipper was rather hard to find so early in September. Usually that’s when I get my best counts but today sadly it was just (7). The butterfly which has made a big impact in numbers is the Small Heath, one of those butterflies that we barely give a nod to, just because we always know they are there. I find it a lovely little butterfly and deserves more rankings than it gets. Two Clouded Yellows passed me, when I had settled down for a rest, these being the first of the year, and they were not stopping only briefly for a quick drink on a thistle, or Scabious.
Old Winchester Hill Field Trip Sunday 3rd September 2023
It doesn’t get much hotter than this as we walked around Old Winchester Hill today without a coat in case it rained. In fact in the afternoon it was really too hot to do that much. We saw all but one of our target species, the Clouded Yellow will probably appear at the end of the week as there is some warm southerlies coming in, so hopefully they should appear then. There were some good numbers of butterflies today. The top prize I think went to the Small Heath, they were everywhere. A close second was the Meadow Brown. Also there was good numbers of Adonis Blues, mainly males and most of these were in good condition, and Silver Spotted Skippers were buzzing about mainly females, and several were seen laying eggs, along with a couple of female Adonis Blues on the short turf on the far southern slope. Several Painted Ladies were seen as well, but you do that feeling that despite the warm weather the ringing in of autumn is very close by.
Beacon Hill Field Trip Wednesday 30th August 2023
Another cloudy day with the threat of rainfall as we wandered around close to an area where there were sheep and goats keeping the sward short and sure enough there was a couple of Silver Spotted Skippers to be seen. There were small amounts of other species the best were Brown Argus and Chalkhill Blues, mixed with a few Common Blue. No Adonis Blues were seen along with the very illusive Clouded Yellow. We saw several moths Common Carpet, The Snout, Hebrew Character, Silver-‘Y’ and several micro moths as well. But we drew stumps again quite early as the weather was cool and cloudy and made searching for butterflies very hard.
Butser Hill Field Trip Sunday 27th August 2023
The ever increasing threat of rainfall as we all walked down to the bottom of Butser Hill was forever on our minds although we did see the sun, the wind was getting up and it was decidedly cool. The species count was quite low consequently but we did pick up two of our three target species. The Adonis Blue seems quite settled here now and there was at least twenty or more individuals seen, although I only saw males. We had to search high and low (literally) along very steep slopes to try and pin down a Silver Spotted Skipper. We did manage it with a lot of perseverance, and many of the group hadn’t seen one before, and it was really worth all the effort. We saw about three or four but I think this site is quite late, due to the fact the southern slope takes a while to see the sun. However after lunch we drew stumps as on the horizon the sky was black and we hot footed it back to the carpark.
Noar Hill Thursday 24th August 2023
A complete contrast in the weather today complete cloud cover, with the ever threat of rain…and boy did it rain. But not before we had seen a beautiful Female Brown Hairstreak sat on a leaf of Hemp Agrimony just waiting for the sun to appear, just so lucky to be looking in the right place at the right time as she took off as we approached never to be seen again. Also seen were Common Blues and Brown Argus in-between the showers. Never be put off by the threat of rain! Obviously it was too cloudy and cool to see any flying from any males over the Lecking trees, but the amount of butterflies and moths were a treat despite the weather, and we went home happy.
Portsdown Hill Field Trip Wednesday 23rd August 2023
A decent day with sunshine all the way and it was very warm for walking so we didn’t go too far and made our way to an area where I have always thought in the past that this would be a suitable area for the Adonis Blue. Over the last couple of seasons the species has been seen, but is it breeding? There is obviously their foodplant there as there is a lot of Chalkhill Blues to be seen. Also the species has turned up in reasonable numbers at other sites in the Meon Valley as well, so it could well be spreading by natural means. It took a few minutes to tune into the area where there was a lot of other blues Chalkhill Blues were very common and Common Blues were flying there as well. Then Bingo, a male Adonis Blue was spotted and he was in fine condition, probably a day or two old.
So that was one target species seen, along with several Autumn Ladies tresses, a very delicate Orchid seen on the short turf. We also saw a lovely Great Green Bush Cricket which posed rather nicely, and in the afternoon we espied several eggs laid by female Brown Hairstreak, but alas there wasn’t any luck seeing the female flying about or laying her eggs in the great swathes of Blackthorn on the northern slopes of Portsdown Hill, however several males were seen flying around a lecking tree close to the Churchillian carpark.
Meon Valley Tuesday 22nd August 2023
Cloudy and overcast as I approached this site and all of the species were laid out flat wings open and photography it was like shooting ducks at a fair. I won’t ever hesitate to come out again in a dull and dreary day…as long as it’s warm. However the sun did come out eventually and was really warm and this sparked a flying frenzy especially the Silver Spotted Skipper, which is always a joy to see. The Adonis blue seems to be really established now with several females seen as well, and many males in various stages of disrepair probably been out several days here. Still no Clouded Yellow and the Dark Green Fritillary seem to have finished. Along the side of the site where the woodland parts are I espied a Valezina Silver Washed Fritillary looking very warn. Several moths were seen the Common Carpet lived up to its name and I also saw a Green Carpet, along with Mint Moths.
Portsdown Hill Monday 21st August 2023
Second helping of visiting Portsdown Hill with Mark Tutton gleaning more information on where are the best areas are to look for the illusive Brown Hairstreak, and they are mostly in areas where I have long suspected where they would be over the years. We thought we saw a male over the top of an Ash Tree in one of the hedgerows on the border of Fort Widley, and the behaviour was certainly how I saw them at Noar Hill last week. But alas the weather, being mostly thick cloud, with very little sun to speak of, just about put paid to any possibility of seeing a female, going about her business.
We did find some eggs so they have been busy with egg-laying over the past few weeks. I did come across a yellow colouration Jersey Tiger Moth f. Lutescens which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. Last week we saw over 21 species today we barely made 10 what a difference a week makes!
Noar Hill Field Trip 16th August 2023
Very warm weather greeted us at a site which is full of wild flowers you don’t know where to look and looking for the elusive Brown Hairstreak is not an easy task. I had mentioned one of the ‘lecking trees’ in my brief and low and behold we got there and there was several Male Brown Hairstreaks having a chase and a battle intermingling with several Purple Hairstreaks as well. The Brown Hairstreaks were on an Oak so it was hardly surprising that they were being chased off as trespassers!
Close by there was an area full of Hemp Agrimony and from past experience there is normally a male or female imbibing on this and sure enough there was a male having a good old feast. Unfortunately we didn’t see a female Brown Hairstreak as this site tends to be quite late compared with Shipton Bellinger. There were lots of other invertebrates flying around, good numbers of Common Blue with small numbers of Brown Argus, and Small Copper. We also saw one of the last Small Blues in one of the pits. Many thanks to everyone for an excellent field Trip.
Portsdown Hill Tuesday 15th August 2023
Visited this site with Mark Tutton, on a very warm day, more like summer and he and I were searching for the illusive Brown Hairstreak. Over the last decade or so the species has had a tentative foothold on the area. The area is covered in Blackthorn thickets, in fact every hedgerow is Blackthorn, and there are suckers always growing in the meadows which are to their liking to lay their eggs on. We had been searching for about 30 minutes when something caught my eye and there she was a beautiful female Brown Hairstreak just landed in front of us typically well above our heads, but close enough to see the patterning on her wings. She stayed with us for a couple of minutes and then she flew off I suspect to start egg laying, although I lost sight of her.
We only saw the one in a couple of hours of searching. We also had good views of Oak Eggar Moths which fly around like crazy, being very hard to follow. Also a male Dark Green Fritillary made a pass as well which was a surprise. Other species of note were Chalkhill Blue, Small Copper, Brown Argus, formidable counts of Holly Blue, as Mark said’ one seen at every footfall!’ Also several lovely Jersey Tiger Moths were observed as well which seem to be having a bumper year as well as the Holly Blue , and Red Admiral.
Shipton Bellinger Field Trip Sunday 13th August 2023
When I looked out of my bedroom window this morning it had been raining and my initial thoughts were of a cool, wet windy and cloudy day with very little to see. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. An excellent turnout greeted me, and before we really got underway we had rescued an Oak Egger Moth which was trapped in the Village Hall, and I put it amongst some shrubbery as we set off. Even with the threat of rain on the horizon the sun did poke it head out on several occasions, which gave us glimpses of battling male Brown Hairstreaks in the main ride, these could be observed at close quarters, and several landed on a leaf and I could see they were looking quite battle scarred!
Several worn and fresh looking Wall Browns were also observed in the morning’s walk, along with Brown Argus, and Common Blue with Holly Blues skipping through the large areas of Ivy clinging from the tall shrubbery of Blackthorn. The Red Admiral was noted as being a lot scarcer today, being the butterfly of the year I suspect. Wall Browns became quite common dare I say it skipping along the hedgerows, and they did stop on several occasions to feed, but it was very brief. In the afternoon the sun did appear again on occasions, and we all had good observations of fresh Female Brown Hairstreaks well down on the ride and these were tasting the Blackthorn leaves with their feet and rubbing their abdomens up and down the stems of the blackthorn. In the end we counted up to 25 males and females which is a very good tally. Sadly for the second year running no Magpie Moths were observed, which is quite concerning, although we did see several Jersey Tiger Moths.
I’d like to thank all who came and made this a most enjoyable field trip.
Shipton Plantation Friday 28th July 2023
Although opposite to Shipton Bellinger the terrain at this site is different to Shipton Bellinger as it has more meadows and grassy verges along the tank tracks, and the deep cuts through the chalk look like miniature cliff faces which are just what the Wall Brown Butterfly likes. We saw up to three individuals flying up and down, however as the species become more numerous than they should spread out ideally suited to the meadows, which are full of Birds Foot Trefoil and Sincfoils. The Brown Argus is very numerous here as is the Small Skipper. However we never saw the Brown Hairstreak, looking at the area where I espied one female last year, there is plenty of Blackthorn here, and they are reported here quite often over the last few years.
There are plenty of Ash trees and Sallow and I suspect the Purple Emperor is around this site although I’ve never had any records of it, and there is plenty of scope for a an Assembly Point looking up from the car-park.
Let's hear it for the Chalkhill Blue.......
West Harting Down Field Trip Sunday 16th July 2023
Still blowing a gale In the tree tops as we set off with cloud cover covering three quarters of the sky but we were all in high spirits hoping for the best weather wise as long as it didn’t rain! Along the very long ride at the bottom of the site there are numerous spots where I’ve seen HIM but today wasn’t one of them despite looking skyward for most of the time. However the ride was full of invertebrates and one of the highlights was Dark Green Fritillaries, Small Copper and several White Admirals and Silver-Washed Fritillary.
The large areas of Sallow kept me on my toes hoping for a glimpse of the Lady Emperor, and we saw a very quick glimpse on a tract on a footpath going through many sallow stands, probably where a female was just getting ready to lay eggs at about 11:30. This led onto another good ride where the sallow was just everywhere and I’ve encountered good sightings of the ‘Empress’ and soon enough we encountered a female Emperor overfly some of us giving a good view of her underskirt, and then she disappeared into a sallow thicket. Almost immediately there was another a bit further down the ride but she scuttled off into a Hazel stand.
On to the summit the ‘butterfly of the year’ has to be the Red Admiral as they were absolutely everywhere.. As we ate our lunch I went for a wander and there were 7-8 feasting on something not very nice, and the buddleias were festooned with all the Vanessids, and Hummingbird Hawk Moths put in an appearance as well. Coming back I managed to save a pair of Commas in the road from being squashed as they were busy mating, and I would like to thank everyone who came for a very enjoyable trip even if it was the top end of 7 miles!
West Walk Wednesday 12th July 2023
This woodland is growing on me as time marches on with the Purple Emperor season in its final week or so, in Hampshire, and today with a very windy day and mostly cloudy I didn’t expect really much. I set off down the main ride from the car-park and had noticed before how much sallow there was in the ride and very tall mature oak trees. The Forest of Bere is ancient woodland going back hundreds of years, and it has many parts dotted over the southern part of Hampshire. I had seen a Purple Hairstreak descend down onto the ferns close-by and I managed to get photos of him, and there were several Red Admirals flying about, but no Silver-Washed Fritillaries and only one White Admiral observed. Halfway down the ride at 11:45 I saw a large male Purple Emperor sallow searching weaving in and out of a sallow not more than 20 feet above my head, he was seen for a few brief moments, but long enough to see he was in good condition. At 12:00 another male was seen a bit further down the ride, and the one we had seen previous was seen as well so we knew we had at least two Emperors sallow searching, in the breezy and cool cloudy conditions. These brief moments were our limit as the weather was getting worse and the spots of rain started and the wind was really lashing the tops of the trees so any observations now were going to be very limited. So we went back to the car-park for coffee and cake. (Mimi makes Bakes and cakes thoroughly recommended!)
Micheldever Wood Field Trip Sunday 09th July 2023
It was raining in the car park as we all gathered and were wondering what the rest of the day held….although it wasn’t long before patches of blue sky appeared and we set off in to pastures new for our quarry the Purple Emperor. There were lots of Coniferous woodland on either side of the main ride, and very little sallow, and then we had good stands of mature Oak interspersed with sallow further along the ride. There were good areas of Blackberry bushes where there were good counts of White Admiral and Silver Washed Fritillary. The Red Admiral count went through the roof, and we had to be careful in the ride not to step on them. There were several newly hatched Painted Ladies. In the last week or so there have been excellent counts of Purple Hairstreak, but today we really did struggle to find it. HIM never materialised in the morning, probably not warm enough.
In the afternoon we went to the Assembly point and as we arrived on the side of a very mature Beech tree I espied two male Purple Emperors having a good fight tumbling down and then splitting, this was at 13:45, by this time the sun was shining again after having a cloudier spell making it a lot warmer. We then got a low pass by a male swooping down just over our heads heading west at speed, at 14:00. We all gathered in the Assembly area but there wasn’t any action, just two males seen just flying over the tops of the oak and Ash tree. I suspect we missed a lot of the action when we were in the car-park having lunch when the sun was shining and it was a lot warmer.
Abbotts Wood Inclosure Friday 7th July 2023
Visited Alice Holt Forest on one of the hottest days of the year, and throughout the day looking up at the mighty Oaks today it became apparent that there were a lot of Purple Hairstreaks. Many were coming down to head height and feeding on the honeydew, and then alighting on the ferns and then feeding on Bramble. The other highlight today was seeing so many Silver-Washed Fritillaries, I haven’t seen so many I don’t think for many years. A magic moment along the main ride when I espied a lovely ‘Valezina’ and it was in perfect condition, she was so perfect I was struck by its beauty, just by the light shining through the foliage of the Oaks dappled her silvery grey colours, as she flitted from bramble to bramble and occasionally warding off potential suitors.
On the Emperor front I was in the wood early, but there was very little sign of HIM, until 10:20 when the first male was seen, and then it was just a few low passes as they were sallow searching and oak edging, one of the best passes was a large male in good condition passing right over the ride to follow the sallow line right to the back of the ride, this was on the time of 11:00, which signals the rush, although today it was just a dawdle around the ride for several of the males. I saw up to 9 Emperors, but this probably equates to about ¾ as there was probably more than one pass by several of the males.
The heat must have affected them as I visited 4 Assembly points in the afternoon and these were either empty or they were just too fagged out to bother squabbling over territories.
West Wood Field Trip Wednesday 5th July 2023
Another day of cool cloudy conditions, and there wasn’t much hope of seeing much at 07:00 in the car park of West Wood, however by the time the field trip started the blue sky had appeared but so had the windier conditions, but we were extremely lucky to get away without a shower! The Emperors now are reluctant to fly and when they do it for very short periods and with this in mind we scanned the tops of the trees for several hours falling short of anything resembling a Purple Emperor .On the magic hour of 11:00 the Emperors had suddenly got out of bed and we saw several, but just glimpses of them Oak edging and flying across the main ride. What we did see a few of were Scarlet Tiger Moths, several were roosting in the tall grasses but several others were flying down the main ride. There were Silver Washed Fritillaries mating and a couple of White Admirals, but on Pitt Down this year the Dark Green Fritillary was barely noticeable, only a couple being seen in the taller grasses where the Knapweed flowers.
I’d like to thank all who came especially the new faces and look forward to seeing you on the next field trip.
Straits Inclosure Monday 3rd July 2023
Following on from Abbotts Wood Enclosure, the following day I visited Straits Enclosure, where today it was really gloomy and breezy in the canopy. However there were several intervals of sunshine and after counting good numbers of Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral we saw at the magical time just after 11:00 a vista of up to 4 male Purple Emperors having little bundles over the oaks and then parting their ways to Oak edge and sallow search. As we waited for the next instalment of flying I noticed a strange looking White Admiral sitting on a Hazel leaf. After looking at it through my long lens, which I will be grateful for, it turned out to be an ab: Obliterae, of which Straits Enclosure is quite famous for.
There were several more instances where males were searching the tops of the oaks coming from the west and ones coming from the east and they would tend to bump into each other and have a little fight and then go on their merry way. Today I counted up to twenty males just ambling about and searching for that elusive female.
Alice Holt Forest Field Trip 2nd July 2023
A good turnout at Hampshire’s most prestigious Purple Emperor site, made it for an early start at 0930, and once in the ride the cloudy conditions were hampering any real sightings of our quarry. I first blew my whistle at 0950, with a male Emperor flying fast over the main ride. We walked along the main ride stopping at major points having a look at all of the flora and fauna, with plenty of Silver-Washed Fritillary including two aberration’s ocellatta and valezina, While White Admirals were tormenting those who were convinced what they were seeing were Purple Emperors, however these were certainly not confusing when several sightings came along with one male coming down halfway of a small Oak and clearly displaying all his regal Purple.
I espied many Purple Emperors Oak edging and sallow searching throughout the cloudy conditions but with sunny intervals with a stiff breeze at times. In the morning I counted up to (30) males and we made our way back to camp very happy about 12:50.
in the afternoon a few of us went back down into the woods and the breeze was well and truly battering the tops of the trees, hampering any further good counts, however I did find another Assembly Point and there was at least two males chasing and clashing with each other in the vista. The sun came out but for lengthier periods by mid-afternoon and there was still many males still Oak edging and sallow searching into the latter part of the afternoon. We had a close encounter with a Purple Hairstreak, on the way back.
As we went back to the carpark a male Purple Emperor came down from his lofty perch, and we got buzzed by him flying around each of us, and this was a marvellous experience, flying right down to waist height, although we were out of luck on the grounding front. I would like to thank all who came and made this a very enjoyable field trip.
New Forest Hawkhill Inclosure and Beaulieu Heath Field Trip Wednesday 28th June 2023
A lot cooler day for the field trip and with a glorious backdrop of the New Forest we were soon underway seeing our first Silver-Studded Blues many in very good condition, and also pairing up as well. In the woodland the Dark Green Fritillary showed itself feeding on the sparsely spaced Bramble bushes, and several White Admirals were seen, but oddly no Silver-Washed Fritillaries! In the Warts gutter stream there were numerous dragonflies and damselflies, the highlight of these were the Golden Ringed Dragonfly, and several females were observed laying eggs.
In the afternoon we were fortunate to see the Heathland in all its glory now the sun was shining, and the Silver-Studded Blue count shot up. We were fortunate to stumble upon a rare Clouded Buff Moth, which posed quite nicely for us. On the way back we came across one of the first emerged Grayling butterflies, just by the car-park, my first encounter with one of these butterflies in June I think! I would like to thank all who came and made this a most enjoyable field trip.
Old Winchester Hill Field Trip Wednesday June 25th 2023
On probably on of the hottest days of the year where there wasn’t many hiding places the butterflies were somewhat disappointing. There were a good few Marbled Whites and Small Heaths, and the fast flying Dark Green Fritillary for our efforts but there were very little else, although freshly emerged Small Tortoiseshell was seen on the car-park down in the bright sunshine. It was far too windy to see if there were any White Letter Hairstreaks on the Elms. In the Coombe, there were a token few Silver-Washed Fritillaries, Speckled Woods and Ringlets. We were hoping for a Chalkhill Blue outbreak but it wasn’t to be, as the other blues have all disappeared. I thank all who came and braved the heat!
Broxhead Common Thursday 22nd June 2023
A short visit to this site to see the Silver Studded Blue, on the way up to Alice Holt Forest. In this weather the blues were constantly on the go, but the count was quite impressive with up to a hundred seen in about an hour, but there was very little else of note, one Lattice Heath Moth, Small Copper, and Meadow Browns. The Bell and Ling Heather looks impressive in its Purple Colour and there were several female Silver Studded Blues laying their eggs on the foodplant.
Oxenbourne Down Wednesday 21st June 2023
After a week abroad in Sicily where it wasn’t as hot as the UK at the time, it was nice to get back just in time as the Purple Emperor season seems to have just kicked off in Hampshire. Several were seen today one at Straits Inclosure, and another at Longstock Stockbridge.
Today I visited Oxenbourne Down just to check out the Dark Green Fritillaries and I’m pleased to say they were on the wing although not in great numbers, about a dozen or so seen, several feeding on thistles. The Marbled White was in great numbers and they are still emerging. The blues seemed to have disappeared quickly in this heat. There were still good numbers of Small Heath, Meadow Brown, and Large Skippers are building nicely.
Coulters Dean Field Trip Wednesday 7th June 2023
Never known a spring like this one with sunny periods and a constant North-Easterly breeze blowing off of the North Sea and at times today it was quite hot. There were hundreds of 5 spot Burnet Moths seeming on every plant with nectar and few Small Blues were in the mix with the last of the Green Hairstreaks and Dingy Skippers, also showing were Burnet Companions in good and faded condition. The lovely carpet of Cowslips has now gone over, making way for the many Orchids that abound this site. We even saw the rare Cheese Snail today, a speciality in this area, although there not easy to find!
Bentley Wood field trip Sunday 4th June 2023
A field trip to a place I used to love which is sadly in decline and has been for many years, although it’s not conservation work or management to blame, it’s the weather and global warming to blame I fear. Eastern clearing is now so dry and there are so few wild flowers, in the rides or in the meadow.
Once you used to see the Pearl Bordered Fritillary in great numbers but sadly have been reduced to an alarming few now we did manage to see about 6-8 individuals all in poor condition, as they have been flying in exceptional warm weather for well over a fortnight now. We did see (16) butterfly species but there was a good amount of moths as well, with Long Horn Moths, 4 dot Footman, 5 and 6 spot Burnet Moths, Cinnabar Moths, Silver ‘Y’ Moths, Drinker Moth larvae, Common Carpet, Speckled Yellows, Yellow Shell, Mother Shipton, Burnet Companion, and Brown Silver-line.
We walked to the Elm tree area in the afternoon, but sadly these are succumbing to Dutch elm disease, although several trees seemed to be OK in their present state. There were some leaves that had evidence of White-letter Hairstreaks being present, and some sallow was seen with evidence of Purple Emperor larvae damage.
Mottistone Down Isle of Wight Wednesday 30th May 2023
Setting off on the ferry the forecast was good weather but the wind was still very keen and the clouds were still in evidence. However once we got around to the southern side of the Island things began to pick up and the sun shone even though it still felt cool. Visited the small car park at the bottom of Afton Down first but the weather wasn’t good at this time with the wind and there was very little of note a Large Skipper or two and the odd Common Blue. Once on the down the sun was out and the wind had abated, and in the chalk pits of Mottistone we were in our own little world.
The Glanville Fritillary were everywhere, and it was hard to count them but guestimate was up to 40 plus. They were very active, however I didn’t see any females and their foodplant was rather scarce, but it must have been around. Common Blues Small Blue, Brown Argus, Dingy Skipper the odd Grizzled Skipper, Large Skipper, Green Hairstreak, and Small Heath, added to the totals. The Moths there were Silver ‘Y’, Common Carpet, Speckled Yellow, Cinnabar Moth and Burnet Companion.
Other sites visited were Afton Down again, where the odd Adonis Blue was noted along with Wall Brown and Small Blue. But the Glanville was again the most populous butterfly, flying amongst the Rock Rose and Horseshoe Vetch stands. The Ribwort Plantain was everywhere here along with a host of other plants but parts of the down seem to be getting rather overgrown; although I only saw a fraction of this downland other parts are probably very short turf which would be more of the liking for the Adonis Blue, especially in front of the Military road facing south where there is good amounts of Horseshoe Vetch.
Martin down Friday 26th May 2023
Visiting Martin Down on such a perfect day, well there was a stiff wind blowing at the start of the walk, and there was very little seen. However once we had changed direction many of the Small Blues and Grizzled Skippers and Brown Argus’s started to appear along Bockerley Ditch. A baby Adder was seen under a tin shelter near to the rifle butts, and there were lots of Skylarks flying high over the downs.
In the fields where the farmers were cutting the grasses for silage, and there were lots of Red Kites and Buzzards flying in very low in and around the ditch and fields looking for insects and other potential prey disturbed by the tractors. (17) Species of butterflies and a few moth species were seen, these being mostly along Bockerley Ditch. Every Hawthorn bush seemed to have a Green Hairstreak or two. Fresh Adonis Blues were just starting to fly and these looked very pristine... Small Blues were everywhere once I got my eye in, unfortunately I never saw a Duke of Burgundy but these are quite rare here, so you have to be very lucky to see one.
Martin down Field Trip Sunday 28th May 2023
Despite it being a hotter day today at Martin Down the species count wasn’t as good, although the moths seemed to be better. With an excellent turn out today we beat a path towards the Rifle butts and we saw our first Marsh Fritillaries along with many other species. There were plenty of Skylarks in the meadows and Corn Buntings and Stonechats in the hedgerows. A Cuckoo was heard almost all of the time we were walking around but we never got a glimpse of him. In all 19 species of butterfly were seen along with at least 10 species of moth including Forester Moth and Wood Tiger Moth. Good Adonis Blues were battling with Small Heaths and Common Blues, but the Green Hairstreak didn’t seem to be as common as Fridays visit.
I would like to say a big thank you to all who came and made this a most enjoyable field trip.
Stockbridge Down Field Trip Wednesday 24th May 2023
Probably the hottest day of the year with little or no cloud cover as we set off over the down, with rising temperatures it still took an hour or so before we were chalking up good numbers of invertebrates. Like most sites this year the Holly Blue seemed to be quite common and when we got our eye in the Green Hairstreak was extremely common, along with Grizzled Skipper. Other species of note were Brown Argus, more Common Blues certainly living up to their name, Orange Tips were in evidence after a short absence. Moths of note were the Yellow Shell, Common Carpet, Silver-Y and the 5 Spotted Burnet Moth.
At Woolbury Hill the Duke of Burgundy was in evidence but the Cowslip count there is rather thin on the ground, but it was nice to chalk up another site for the species. In all we had 16 species of butterfly and 5 or 6 species of moth.
We didn’t see the Adonis Blue today but I suspect it won’t be long before they have emerged here, and the Pearl Bordered Fritillary has now gone, but there is a faint hope it will return with management of the site.
West Wood Pitt Down Field Trip Sunday 21st May 2023
A chance to see the Woodland Duke, which is such a rare event these days. A small copse in West Wood has a medium number of these delightful insects, in in a plantation amongst small and medium sized Oak, Beech and other natural woodland trees. The trees are starting to get quite tall in places and it won’t be long, maybe five or more years that the undergrowth and especially the Primroses will be shaded out, and the Duke colony may be lost.
However The Forestry Commission have started to cut a ride through the plantation and over to the eastern side of the wood, and here in amongst the shrubbery of Bramble, Wood Spurge, and other plants it was good to see about four males interacting with each other. It is hopefully planned that this will continue into Crab Wood and the Duke should have a safe corridor from West Wood into Crab Wood.
Pitt down Sunday 21st May 2023
There wasn’t a lot to see on Pitt Down it is getting quite overgrown in places with Dogwood and other shrubby plants, even though there are Ponies grazing on the site. We saw many Holly Blues, which the butterfly of the year at the moment with several seen in and around the Dogwood plantations laying eggs. Several Green Hairstreaks were seen, along with Grizzled Skipper, and Small Copper. There were many moths to be seen like, Treble Bar Moth, Mint Moth, Burnet Companion, Cinnabar Moth, Mother Shipton, and in the wood the Drab Looper could be seen flying about.
New Forest New Copse Inclosure and Pig Bush Field Trip 17th May 2023
A warm day in a new part of the New Forest, although not a million miles away from Pignal Inclosure, where I normally I go for the Pearl-Bordered Fritillary. The Pearl-Bordered Fritillary was out in good numbers once we all got our eye in, there were several females seen egg-laying in the scrubby leaf litter, and the slopes of the rides were covered in Common-Dog Violets. The woods at the moment I think look their best with the leaves still not turned a dark green colour, which signals summers arrived.
Many of the male Pearl Bordered Fritillaries were in excellent condition, but they were very active only feeding on Bugle plants momentarily, before flying off and seeking out any unmated females, which seemed to be quite common in the undergrowth. In the Hawthorn bushes dotted around the rides the magnificent Rose Chafer beetles were busy feeding on nectar and mating. A new generation of Speckled Woods were dancing amongst the sunlight rides as we walked along and the bird song was tremendous, with one Cuckoo heard before the field trip started. In the end the Pearl –Bordered ruled the rides, and we all went away happy.
In the afternoon it was decided to go and look for some more Emperor Moths of which we did at Pig Bush in an area of excellent heathland habitat. Once on a small hill the pheromone lures got to work and it was about five minutes before we were ‘buzzed’ by at least half a dozen of these magnificent moths. An excellent way to end the field trip, and I want to thank everyone who came.
Field Trip Old Winchester Hill Sunday 14th May 2023
A good turn out today and it always seems to happen when the species don’t seem to want to come out to play. The mist cleared just as we started off at 10:30 but the weather didn’t seem to have any influence on the species count especially in the morning as the temperature played a part. We really did struggle to see anything in the first hour or so, a couple of Small Coppers and a Dingy Skipper or two.
In the afternoon the weather was a lot warmer, and the species count had gone up, we had encountered our one and only Duke of Burgundy, Small Heath, Common Blue, Grizzled Skipper, and Green Hairstreak were all out by now and several species their the numbers were getting higher. By the time we had got close to car-park where we rested after climbing up the slope, here we counted several other species like Orange Tip, Holly Blue, and Speckled Wood.
We also had several Kestrels on the hunt, Red Kites and Buzzards, Chiffchaffs were chiffchaffing in the hedgerows, Yellowhammers, and Dunnock sang a decent melody in the thickets. Sadly there were no Cuckoos heard or seen, which is very worrying. On the moth front I saw several Silver Y Moths, Mint Moths, but the Emperor was not to be seen, so my bait may be wearing off a bit by now. I would like to thank all who came, especially the new faces may it continue, and look forward to seeing you all in the New Forest on Wednesday.
Emperor Moth in the rain on Oxenbourne Down 10th May 2023 Despite cancelling the field trip and the gloom and showery conditions I decided to risk a visit to Oxenbourne Down today. There was mostly black clouds and a few gaps where the the sun shone through keeping the temperatures up to a reasonable level. When the showers started it was just a very light shower, and I was surprised what I did see, Red Admiral (2) Peacock (1) Duke of Burgundy (15) including two females amongst the Cowslips. (8) Brimstones, (1) Small White, (1) Holly Blue (1) Dingy Skipper (4) Grizzled Skippers, and last but not least an Emperor Moth buzzing around me attracted to my Lure which is still attached to my Camera Bag. It landed on my trousers, an my Lure itself, but it still flew away unable to ascertain where the pheromone was. So I've seen this beast now at Broxhead Common, Oakhanger, Butser Hill, and Oxenbourne Down.
Butser Hill Field Trip Sunday 7th May 2023
The field trip was nearly cancelled, the weather was going to be cloudy up to about 2:00 pm, and with a field trip starting at 10:30 am were we going to find anything? I needn’t have worried the just immense vista that greeted us as we walked around the rim of Butser Hill admiring the ‘millions’ of Cowslip plants all stood to attention in a still atmosphere, along with many Early Purple Orchids, and finding many caterpillars of the 6-spotted Burnet Moths crawling along the lush green chalk downland, looking for somewhere to pupate no doubt. We got to the bottom of the slope and there wasn’t much to see, except one Duke of Burgundy had managed to emerge from the gloom of the cloudy skies, and it was warming up by the time we took lunch, and then the skies parted forcing the Sun to do its duty and away we went on a counting spree. With the ever present twitter of Skylarks and the Yellowhammer singing in the distance we were disappointed by no singing Cuckoo, which is normally a presence here in the bowl of the site.
By the time we had started to ascend the slope to go home we had notched up (25) or more Duke of Burgundies, many Brimstones, dancing in pairs in the warm sunshine, Grizzled and Dingy Skippers, Green Hairstreaks, Red Admirals, Peacocks, lovely Orange Tips zipping through not stopping, several Small Coppers, in all 11 species of butterfly. On the moth front we saw several Silver ‘Y’ moths, several Mint Moths, and to crown it all two Emperor Moths, these had been alerted by my ever present ‘lure’ still attached to my camera bag. We had one at Grandfathers bottom, and I had one in the car-park just as I was preparing to go home. In all it didn’t turn out too bad I thank everyone who came, and Butser Hill is still just as unforgiving, but we all made it, and we have to be thankful for that!
Oxenbourne Down Wednesday 3rd May 2023
A rare event today a warmish day without much cloud, just a breeze and the Duke of Burgundy turned up. (8) Were observed over a period of two hours which sounds rather poor, but they have only just emerged, and on a site like this it’s very difficult to find as they are very spread out, and the dreaded Dogwood is raising its ugly head over much of its range.
The Cowslips are definitely looking healthier, and several female Dukes were seen in the area, testing the leaves ready for egg laying at a later date. One male and female were seen trying to copulate, but looking at my photos later it would seem the female may well have had a deformed, or damaged abdomen so she rejected his advances, anyhow I don’t think she had ovulated, as the abdomen is normally quite fat full of eggs when they mate, and this certainly wasn’t the case.
Other species seen for the first time this year were, Small Copper, Grizzled Skipper, Large White, and Green Hairstreak. It was nice to get (11) species on the board.
Portsdown Hill /Southwick Estate Tuesday 1st May 2023
Somehow I don’t think it’s going to be a Duke of Burgundy year, with only a small window of opportunity to fly, the weather at the moment seems to be rather cruel. Today it was more traditionally April weather with showers and small spells of sunshine. Went up to Portsdown Hill to see the Woodland planted 40 years ago as a Falklands memorial and to see some bluebells there, however there wasn’t any bluebells, which was quite a disappointment. I then went over the hill to look at some woodland on the Southwick Estate, which is a massive Estate and has been in the ownership of the Thistlethwayte family for nearly 500 years – over generations, they have run the 8,000-acre agricultural estate centred on the village of Southwick in Hampshire. Butterflies there were a couple of Speckled Woods and some Small Whites feeding off of the Bluebells and Garlic Mustard. The Bluebells were a picture and so was the Garlic Mustard. On a lake there was a Grey Wagtail feeding on flies which was a highlight today.
Purple Cloud Moth seen on the Isle of Wight
Purple cloud!! Bonchurch Isle of Wight 30.04.23. So lucky that another amazing moth has come to my garden mv, and it is so beautiful as well. A very attractive species, this moth is a rare migrant to Britain, having occurred about 20 times. Most of the records appeared on the south and south-east coasts in May or June.
The species is fairly common in continental Europe, where there are two generations between May and August. The larva has not been recorded in Britain, but abroad it feeds on St. John's-wort (Hypericum).
Oxenbourne Down Saturday 29th April 2023
Another visit to see if the Duke of Burgundy had emerged and it seem that it hasn’t yet, but a few days like today and it should be emerging, as it seems very odd that we haven’t had the presence of this delightful butterfly at most sites in Hampshire yet despite the fact we are right at the end of April. Last time I came up to Oxenbourne I was greeted with a nil count, today was totally different, the warming temperatures soon made a difference and I was soon seeing (6) Species with counts of Peacock (10), Comma (2), Brimstone between (30-50), Small White (1), Orange Tip (8) and Holly Blue (2). Highlight was watching the female Brimstones laying their eggs, (see photographs)
Milton Allotments and Milton Foreshore Friday 28th April 2023
A warmer day and on my local patch the species count of butterflies was (7) which is roughly were it should be at this time of the year, highlights were the Painted Lady and several Peacocks. Green Hairstreaks have been seen on the Isle of Wight, but not the usual species for the end of April, well not yet anyway, as there is a High pressure system coming in which should keep the temperatures a bit higher. This time last year we were in the middle of a mini heatwave
Oxenbourne Down and Portsdown Hill Tuesday 25th April 2023 – Where are all the butterflies?
Good weather today despite the breezy conditions which took the top off the temperature as it did feel quite cool at times. I proceeded to go to Oxenbourne Down and here there was very little to see certainly no butterflies, which must have been a first for me….almost the end of April and the butterfly count was zero, just how can this be? I managed to see a couple of slow worms; I just hope May is a good month! I then went to Portsdown Hill and went around the back of Fort Widley and was struck by how the Cowslips have taken over in the meadows, looking a picture. I managed just three species of butterfly which was hard work, one Small White, one Small Tortoiseshell, and last but not least on the way down past the hospital I espied a female Orange Tip…hurrah!
Noar Hill / Oakhanger 20th April 2023
Today was Duke of Burgundy day with one male being seen in one of the large flint pits. However after leaving Noar Hill Jackie and I decided to go for some lunch at 'The Chocolate Frog' for Tea, and after we had finished Jackie decided to look around the few shops there. I decided to go back to the car and take a few Photographs of the surrounding area. I opened the boot of the car and my Emperor Moth Lure was still attached to my bag from yesterday's field trip. After taking a few photos of the area, Jackie came back to the car and shouted 'butterfly! er no it wasn't it was a randy male Emperor Moth and he had detected my Lure and was flying in and out of my boot of the car , up my trouser leg, I even managed to cup him in my hands, but he escaped, and sat on the tarmac for a minute or so, where I was extremely lucky to get a few shots of him...better than yesterday where they were so frenzied in an attempt to find the female Emperor Moth. It was an area I would not associate with Emperor Moths, however it isn't a million miles away from the Heathland where I was yesterday, so it was a great surprise and joy to find my lure still worked, even when I had forget it was there!
Noar Hill Wednesday 19th , Thursday 20th, Broxhead Common Field Trip A third time of asking at Noar Hill today but success at last with my first Duke of Burgundy which was in one of the first pits you come to from the South-Western end. I have been there three times and today was obviously the best day weather wise. Two Dukes had been seen on the 18th April but yesterday's weather was so cool and windy I don't think they were about. On the field trip front it was nice to see everybody again at Broxhead Common after a 7 month break. We were successful in seeing the Emperor Moth however that's all we did see, as the weather was very cloudy and quite cool. One was seen in the morning and one in the afternoon, both were very agitated and would not stop flying around our lures and on my camera bag and other places where they thought there was a female. Other interesting flora fauna seen were Kites and Buzzards, Wood Larks and Stonechats, along with a Slow Worm, and Toadstools. It was very early for Toadstools and I put this down to the very wet weather we have had over the past few months.
Noar Hill Tuesday 18th April 2023
A blue sky but a keen wind greeted me as I entered Noar Hill, but when the wind abated for short periods it was really warm, but I could just tell it was going to cloud over by mid-day and it did. Butterfly wise it was very poor, Three Peacocks, Several Brimstones, and one Small White. If the Duke of Burgundy was anywhere it was not very evident, especially in the keen wind. I feel there is another week yet but we do need some warm weather to kick start its season. The site has had a lot of Blackthorn removed, and many of the pits have been laid bare for more re-generation of Violets and Cowslips to grow. I saw several Yellowhammers, and Red Kites were cruising over the site on the hunt. On the way up and back I don’t know how many dead Badgers I saw on the edge of the roads a very sad sight in this day and age, something that’s certainly not acceptable especially as they have young now.
Its that time again the field trip season is almost upon us. If you haven't tried it then it's time to give it a try. Make new friends and learn some new facts on flora and fauna of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Field Trips are for everyone, and I would like you to come along, novice or expert. Photographers, children (with adult supervision)and first timers, You are all welcome! Please wear suitable footwear and please bring a packed lunch. Walking over rough ground could regrettably make it difficult for those with mobility issues. Please check with me if in doubt. The branch field trips are on page 24 of the April Newsletter.
Milton Allotments and Foreshore Saturday 15th April 2023
A small window of bright sunshine and warmth from the sun paid dividends today along my local patch with (4) Small Tortoiseshells, two of which were a courting pair and also a couple of Peacocks one of which looked as if it had had a bird strike, as it was torn in the same fashion on both wings. There are lots of Small Whites now being seen, but alas still no Orange tips in my area.
On the Island there has been reports of two Clouded Yellows, these are possibly migrants from France on the strong winds coming across the channel at the moment.
Milton Allotments and Milton Lock Nature Reserve Thursday 13th April 2023
Weather is still cool in the windy showery weather and I caught a small window of sunshine yesterday walking around , however there wasn't much to get excited about, a couple of Speckled Woods, a courting pair of Small Tortoiseshells, and of course the Small Whites were starting to come out in good numbers. Orange Tips are starting to appear but not very evident as yet as was the Holly Blue as well.
Broxhead Common Sunday 9th April 2023
Visited one of my favourite sites today in the last of the good weather for a while, and its rather a hit and miss affair trying to bait the Emperor Moth as you just don’t know how many if any are going to turn up…although I’ve had a 100% success rate here and in the New Forest over the years. Arriving at 10:30 and after about 5 minutes a male was flying in circuits around us. He unfortunately didn’t stop and was totally confused with my pheromone trap as after about 10 minutes of flying around he flew off never to fall for that trick again…today at least! We put the trap in several different areas but no luck…so my theory is it’s rather, early for these at this site, or my trap is not working to its full potential as I’ve had it for several years now. There were several Brimstones seen and Peacock and Small White, but very little else.
Photo Holly Blue A. Thornbury
Portsdown Hill Thursday 7th April 2023
Lovely weather over the Easter Bank Holiday should kick start a few species into action, meanwhile on Portsdown Hill the migrant birds are in song Chiffchaffs were noted and many Skylarks along with Yellowhammers and other small birds. There was a distinct absence of birds of prey, but I was impressed with the good clumps of Hairy and Common Dog Violets on the downland and small areas of Cowslips beginning to appear. Meanwhile on the Isle of Wight there has been another report of Large Tortoiseshell, these are in good condition (see photo) suggesting they may well be home grown specimens, obviously hibernating throughout the winter.
Today at Milton Common I saw my first Speckled Wood Butterfly.