2021 Hampshire Nature Notes Blog
Thursday 16th September 2021 Portsdown Hill . Went looking for any late Brown Hairstreaks, on the northern facing areas of Portsdown Hill but the Sloes were facing either East or south but I feel they have probably finished now, but the area I was looking in was full of Blackthorn, and it was a job looking at all of the best areas whilst the best of the sun shone. There was a distinct Autumnal feel in the air with many berries being seen, in the hedgerows. The Toadstools and Bracket Fungus is now in evidence on trees and in damp areas of the woodlands. I did see some Vapourer moths, which are sometimes miss Id as Brown Hairstreaks. Butterflies there were Holly Blues, Common Blues, Small Coppers, Red Admiral, Peacock, Comma and whites flying everywhere Large and Small. No Clouded Yellows were seen either.
Tuesday 14th September 2021 Eastney Beach . After a lengthy spell of rain overnight and in the morning the sun came out in the afternoon and I decided to go distinctly local, Eastney Beach which is a short walk from my house. The site can be as big or as small as you like depending on how far you actually walk, but there is a distinct bank with grasses and plants and I have seen Clouded Yellows many a time here. However there wasn't any today, but I did see a Small Heath for the first time there, although they frequent the Fort Cumberland area just around the corner. The Small Copper was in evidence as well with three males and two females being seen, and Common Blues as well, with large amounts of Small White and Large Whites, with a sprinkling of Red Admiral. Foxes were also close by sunning themselves although when they saw me they decided to scarper...
Sunday 12th September Old Winchester Hill A last visit to Old Winchester Hill to see how the Adonis Blue and Silver-Spotted Skipper were doing on the car-park slope. The news is the Adonis Blue were everywhere probably the best count I've ever had from this area of the downland, well into the (70+) The Silver-Spotted Skipper not so good they have practically finished with just (4) being seen. The good news is that the Clouded Yellow was seen in three different areas, whether this one being seen in three different areas or three seperate ones. I think it was two on the wing here on the car-park slope, as two were seen in the same area yesterday 11th September. Other species seen there were still Chalkhill Blue on the wing with Common Blue and the odd Brown Argus. The best count of any species were the Meadow Brown Small White and Small Heath, these were all in their hundreds, the whites small and large, probably coming over from the continent, and the Meadow Brown another brood on the wing, and the Small Heath always does well at this site. Four Buzzards were seen quartering the sky over the fort area on the thermals, and the call of the Ravens were heard every now and then just to break the silence.
Wednesday 8th September 2021 More Moth trap news, last night was one of the warmest nights for many weeks unfortunately the moths are getting thin on the ground, although in 2020 I got Merveille-du-jour and Clifden nonpareil in September so I'm still plugging away. Today's tally was Maiden's Blush, Small Emeralds, Common Wainscot, Hebrew Characters, Copper Underwing, Yellow Underwing, September Thorn, Canary Shouldered Thorn, Large Yellow Underwing, Gold Spot, and Oak Hook Tip.
Also around the traps were Small Heaths, Green Veined Whites, Red Admirals, and Small Whites, and the Reeves Pheasant put in an appearance and the largest Hoverfly Hornet mimic.
Monday 6th September 2021 Bishops Waltham I visited a possible Brown Hairstreak site today, which was tucked away behind a major housing complex in Bishops Waltham. In Bishops Waltham there are several Nature reserves which give it very green credentials, with areas of old gravel pits converted into a lush wilderness full of aquatic animals and birds and lots of good flora and fauna, and an old Brick works has also been made into a nature reserve and I visited this site a month ago when a female Purple Emperor was seen, and here I noted good amounts of sallow distributed around the site, which could easily be capable of having a small population of the Purple Emperor butterfly.
The site I visited today is also owned by the County Council, so is somewhat protected, and the Blackthorn content was very impressive indeed, lots of young thickets of trees growing where if I was a female Brown Hairstreak I would be very happy! The area is within ear shot of Soberton where there have been good views of female Brown Hairstreaks laying eggs, over the past few years. Unfortunately I never saw the female Brown Hairstreak, which is always the nature of the beast, it always turns up when you least expect it. Probably too hot as I was melting by mid-day!
This is certainly an area to watch as I’m sure given time; the Brown Hairstreak will make it here if it isn’t here already, especially in an exceptional year, when the females will spread out more.
Sunday 5th September Old Winchester Hill Today was a sad day as it was the last field trip of the 2021 season, but we went out with a bang and saw all but one of the target species today. The Silver-Spotted Skipper was everywhere, seeing them without even trying, and the Adonis Blue graced us with his and her presence in grand numbers, well over (50) were seen just down and around the main southern slope of the main track. I know the species will frequent the car-park slope in good numbers as well so in all its coming back which is a triumph. Other species in good numbers were the Small Tortoiseshell which were feeding avidly on the small scabious dotted around the top of the fort area, and Red Admiral and Brimstones were also having feeding frenzies, talk about making hay whilst the sun shines...never a truer word today, we even had a late flyby from a Silver-Washed Fritillary! This season has lots of ups and downs weather wise, but I would like to thank everyone who has come on the field trips in 2021 and made them special, and my personal thanks to my little 'family' who has stuck with it through thick and thin. Hope to see you all in 2022.
Friday 3rd September Another moth trap at a time when the air is very cool and so the moths are not that keen to fly that much. However I did manage 16 or more species these being: Coxcomb Prominent, Brimstone Moth, August Thorn, September Thorn, Hebrew Character, Large Yellow Underwing, Black Arches, Small Emeralds, Swallow Prominent, Green Carpet, Bloodvein, Common Wainscots, Frosted Orange, Peach Blossom, Mocha, Canary shouldered Thorn.
The day before in the garden I espied a Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar.
Wednesday 1st September Beacon Hill NNR Field Trip. The penultimate Field trip today was cool and cloudy most of the time but battling through the grasses on the flowery downland we all managed to see very few Silver-spotted Skippers, along with Brown Argus, a few Common Blues, Chalk Hill Blues, Small Heaths, fresh looking Meadow Browns and Red Admirals along the footpath of the downland. We just managed 12 species of butterfly and a few moth species like Silver-Y Moths, Mint Moths and Common Carpets, with flocks of Goldfinches flying in and around the trees and bushes, with Red Kites and Buzzards overhead, and Swallows fattening up on anything that was flying, which wouldn't have been much as it was very cool. Rather disappointing with the weather as with more sunshine and a few degrees higher in temperature would have made all the difference. However we saw one of the three target species, and I would like to thank all who came.
Sunday 29th August Noar Hill NNR This like last year there hasn't been many reports of the Brown Hairstreak at Noar Hill, and by the way things are with the weather it is hardly surprising. Today started off very sunny and warm and I thought I was in for a chance. However by 11:00 it had completely closed in and the temperature had dropped several degrees. I am lucky in knowing most of the areas where the Brown Hairstreak tends to spend its time, although it can really turn up anywhere. I saw one fly across the road as I was parking up, and then again atop of an Oak tree, but it wasn't very active as it was very cloudy. There wasn't any chance of seeing them down as the weather was just too cold. Other species seen were several Red Admirals and there has been a good turn out of new Small Tortoiseshells, all feeding on the acres of Hemp Agrimony. Small Copper and Common Blue really made up the bulk of the interesting species. Its good to know the Brown Hairstreak seems to making inroads along Portsdown Hill, it will be in garden soon!
Tuesday 24th August Old Winchester Hill Had a quick look around the far south western slopes of Old Winchester today in what can be only described as winter and summer in a space of two hours. No sun and it was windy and cold, and everything shut down except for the new broods of Meadow Brown and a few Gatekeepers, and when the sun came out whooooosh....every butterfly was clambering for nectar and territories most bizarre, and there were thousands of butterflies flying in the short summery periods. Mostly Chalkhill Blues some of which are still in very good condition. I only saw (4) Adonis Blues these havent really emerged yet, (a late site) but the Silver Spotted Skipper I only looked in a small area, and saw at least (40). Multiply that with how big the site is and you get some indication of how well this little whizzer is doing here. I just love the little butterfly feisty and with lots of character, both sexes were fighting with each other and with other males for territories and driving away Small Coppers which is a feat in itself as they are feisty as well. Next weeks Field trip should be good as the Silver-Spotted Skipper should be at its peak then and the Adonis Blue should be out in good number.
Sunday 22nd August New Forest Beaulieu Heath Another day of mixed weather, of cloud, wind, a bit of rain, and blazing hot sunshine, just what the summer should be really! Anyway we achieved seeing our target species again by some margin seeing in access of (40+) Grayling. Many were very faded but one or two were very fresh looking bright bold colourations when they landed with their forewings up they looked splendid and then when the flicked it down they melted into the landscape with their superb camouflage. We saw up to (13) butterfly species today and several moths one which having difficulty Identifying. With the Bell and Ling Heather looking splendid and seeing the last remaining Silver-Studded Blues two males and two females. Today it was a pleasure to be out in just a wonderful landscape. Thank You for all who came.
Wednesday 18th August Soberton Down and St Claires Meadow Field Trip I never really expected anybody to turn up at the car-park in Soberton today, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many on such a dull day. We made the best of it and on Soberton Down we saw up to (18) species of butterfly and a good moth count with some interesting caterpillars and many other invertebrates, including good numbers of Crickets, and Grasshoppers, Robber Fly, many bees feeding on the Hemp Agrimony all over the down. However the weather wasn't going to entice any female Brown Hairstreak to show themselves, and we didn't see any eggs on the Blackthorn, I dont think the Brown Hairstreak is having a good year in 2021 although there is still time if the weather improves. At St Claires Meadow on the River Meon we saw many more Crickets and Grasshoppers, and other invertebrates, and a few other butterflies we had not noted on Soberton Down. Thank You all for coming and as I said to you all today Sunday's field trip is looking dodgy so I've cancelled it as there is a large area of wet weather coming our way for Sunday.
Just a few notes on a moth trap I put out last night, which was highly successful, as it's taken me the best part of a day to sort out what I had managed to entrap. The highlights were Pine Hawkmoth, Poplar Hawk Moth, Garden Tiger Moth, Jersey Tiger moths, Many Many Black Arches in fact never had so many, female and males, Yellow Underwings, Autumn Thorns, Large Emerald, Brimstone Moths, Peacocks, Common Carpet, Willow Beauty, Lesser Swallow Prominents, Swallow Prominents, Pale Prominent,Coxcomb Prominents, Iron Prominents,Yellow Tail, Rosy Footmen, Common Footman, Common Wainscot, Coronet,Spectacle Moth,Burnished Brass (one of my favourites) Scalloped Oaks, Phoenix, Dusky Hook Tip and Oak Hook Tips. Not a bad haul I would say....
A Moth night in Hampshire August 16th 2021
Sunday 15th August Shipton Bellinger Field TripThe forecast today wasn't good the best I could see at 0800 this morning was cloud and even more cloud in the afternoon, but with every weather forecast its best just to hold on to your hat and hope for the best, and with twenty people on the walk today it turned out to be a great field trip with the weather turning out to be cloud but with good sunny intervals. As it turned out there was twenty species of butterfly seen today which is one of the highest I've ever recorded here. Brown Hairstreaks and Wall Brown were the target species and these were met with a great triumph and fanfare. No sooner had we got to the crossroads of the tank tracks we had two immaculate female Brown Hairstreaks on the Blackthorn and even on the grassy paths. Even more turned up at the main 'Lekking' trees along the ride with male clashes seen and males just sitting on the leaves looking down at us. Up to 10 Brown Hairstreaks were noted around the site, and with that at the border with Wiltshire we had our first Wall Brown. Also two Wall Browns were seen along one of the tracks of the main rides. Other species of note were good numbers of Magpie Moths which seem to be diving into the Blackthorn thickets and laying eggs. Other species of note were Small Coppers and Brown Argus in the meadows along with Common Blue, Green Veined Whites and Speckled Wood and many Holly Blues in the Blackthorn Rides. Dark Green Fritillary and Silver-Washed Fritillary were also noted along the way.
I' would like to thank all who came and braved the initial weather, and hope to see some of you again.
Wednesday August 11th 2021 Oxenbourne Down and Bishops Waltham I had intended to go to Shipton Bellinger today, but there was an accident on the A27 which was holding up the traffic so I branched off at the Alton turning and went to Bishops Waltham and had a look at the Nature Reserves around there and one can only say that it must be a female Purple Emperors paradise. There are swathes of Sallow and Weeping Willow all over the three major Nature Reserves there and will be investigating these in the season of 2022/2023, its hardly surprising a female was encountered there a couple of days ago.
In the afternoon I looked in on Oxenbourne Down again and the Silver-Spotted Skipper count had shot up to a conservative (25), with the Chalkhill Blues still occupying most of the downland, and it was difficult not to tread on counting pairs and individuals feeding on the host of wildflowers adorning the slope.
Oxenbourne Down Monday August 9th 2021 A day of taking chances, heavy rain when I arrived on site, nearly packed up before I started, but the glimmer of blue sky kept me on side, and in the two hours there it was mostly very windy and sunny. There were butterflies everywhere, with the Chalkhill Blue taking the Gold Medal by a mile; they were everywhere, thousands of them, all over the down. Other highlights were (5) Silver-Spotted Skippers, who made life difficult by not flying much in such windy conditions. Dark Green Fritillaries were still patrolling the scrubby areas, and several Silver-Washed Fritillaries including a Valezina were seen feeding on the Hemp Agrimony. This species aren’t associated with downland, but with a huge woodland across the A3 Motorway they haven’t far to go. Female Small Copper was observed laying eggs on Sorrell, but the wind did flatten an otherwise good few hours.
Purple Emperor in the last chance Saloon
Wednesday 4th August 2021 Goose Green Inclosure A last look at Alice today saw just four males in the Goose Green Inclosure Assembly Point, and there was very little activity, in fact if you hadn't seen them fly once around the vistas then you would never known they were there. Yesterday's battles were all about attracting the ladies, of which I witnessed a pairing close to and Assembly tree, although it was very brief , normally the female selects her mate and leads him away from the Assembly area, in a slow follow me flight, yesterday it was... 'come here you', and they disappeared from view.
Tuesday August 3rd Straits Inclosure and Goose Green Inclosure : The last chance saloon for the Purple Emperor for me in 2021 and it certainly paid off , although it wasn't seen in Straits Inclosure it more than made up for it at Goose Green. In Straits the Silver-Washed Fritillary is still in good numbers, although I would say the females out number the males by about 5-1 now, and most if not all the males are looking ragged, with the females still looking in good order. Three or four White Admirals were also so seen all females these were looking for good areas to egg lay as they were noted going deep within the Hazel thickets and Oak canopy to find good stands of Honeysuckle. At Goose Green the weather had closed in initially, but when the sun did come out at 13:30, the first male was noted on territory, and as the minutes rolled by then several others were noted in the area, and over a space of an hour I noted Purple Emperors in the air at least twenty times. At one point on a ridge I saw three males chasing each other, into a small vista close to a major Oak stand. This happened several times, and males were noted using the Way-leaves as a combat zone, just like old times. Two females were noted one passing through the area over to the other side of the road, and a male and female mating was seen very briefly. So in all it was about 6-7 males and 2 females. Not a bad ending!
Purple Emperor in Hampshire at the end
Sunday 1st August 2021 Abbotts Wood Inclosure This morning whilst working in the garden I was fortunate enough to see the amazing Jersey Tiger Moth, first it was on on of my white chairs, then it moved onto the Buddleia bush where it remained for awhile then it decided to alight on the garage wall, then onto the garden fence, where I took this picture. I then decided to see if the Purple Emperor had made it into August and went to Alice Holt Forest. I never looked down in the woods, I timed it so I would see them if at all at their Assembly Points. I arrived at midday and there wasn't any activity, it was partially sunny and quite warm, but the thick black clouds were a constant threat. I was there for 30 odd minutes, when I saw a male fly over the vista, going nowhere really he disappeared into the tree line by the road, and I never saw him again. Over an hour later I espied a female Emperor in the vista, flying in the opposite direction and she seemed to dive into some sallow , whether she was up here to eye up any talent, or press on with egg-laying, but there were no males flexing their muscles here so I suspect she was doing what came naturally, although I never saw her again, but very distinct from a male by size and flight pattern. I went down to Abbots Wood Inclosure car-park and spent an hour there but to no avail. Which says to me there all but done, I should have seen more activity, but three storms in a space of a week has really shot them to pieces. I can only hope that 2022 brings better observations.
Thursday 29th July Charlton Down and West Harting Down
A blustery day spoiling any sightings of his majesty or her majesty even, but on the downland at Charlton Down there was the best count of Chalkhill Blues I've ever had in 30+ years. The site was 'teeming' with them, impossible to count but there must have been thousands of them, plenty engaged in mating and pairs being interrupted by gatecrashers. Up to half a dozen female Dark Green Fritillaries were seen as well with the usual butterflies, except there were very few skippers to be seen, probably now past their best. On West Harting Down there were a few Silver-Washed Fritillaries, one White Admiral, but no Emperors. The season is late now, but there is still the potential for the odd male and certainly females to be seen on their rounds of the sallow stands after 11:00 o'clock laying their eggs. It was good to see many Digger wasps and Hoverflies on the many wayside flowers in the rides of West Harting Down.
Monday 26th July Straits Inclosure In what can only be described as perfect weather conditions, blue sky nil wind and butterflies in profusion, but the Purple Emperor is on the wane. Saw just one over the tops of the Oaks at Straits Inclosure today, and In Abbotts Wood just two Oak edging, so three in number over a period of 3 hours or so. Plenty of Silver-Washed Fritillaries, several rather worn female White Admirals, and plenty of Purple Hairstreaks, which are easier to see in Straits as the Vistas are wider, and the Oaks are a lot taller in places. Gatekeepers were very common, in the rides however the Forest is being harvested, but thankfully many of the sallow haven't been touched in the main ride and they look splendid.
Friday 23rd July West Harting Down Another visit to the site we had a successful field trip last week with HIM. However this species is one of those where it is so unpredictable. This site is not well renowned for it, but I’ve seen it on several occasions, and the sallow content here is really good mostly broad-leaved Caprea, the females favourite. Today it was quite breezy so this may well have been a factor, why I never saw one. There were several Dark Green Fritillaries in the ride, and Silver-Washed Fritillaries, and tatty female White Admirals, plus plenty of Red Admirals feeding on something awful, and Comma laying eggs on Nettle in the Hedgerows.
20th July 2021 Farley Mount Field Trip Another hot day, and it would seem the Purple Emperors are out and about really early like they were a few years ago during a hot spell. Unfortunately I couldn't start a field trip any earlier than 09:30, if I could I would. However despite this we all still managed to see 7 Purple Emperor's 6 males and 1 female in and around the rides. None more so than Ashley's ride (as described in the book of walks) They were patrolling in and around the large Conifer plantations in the wood, and taking up station in the Hazel bushes as the heat intensified during the mid-morning heat. We had one down at eye-level which looked as if he may descend on to the ground but I think he was spooked by so many people in the ride he decided to buzz off. We also had a Valezina Silver-Washed Fritillary in Crab Wood, and Scarlett Tiger Moths as well as the usual fare. We walked back to the car-park earlier than we normally do just to get some shade, and we were all busy talking and munching when another male Purple Emperor glided over the small car-park and gave us a little twirl, before getting out the heat over the road. I'd like to thank all who came and melted with me and made it a most enjoyable field trip.
Sunday 18th July Alice Holt Forest Field Trip Another great Field trip saw us count up to (16) Purple Emperors at various points within Abbotts Wood Inclosure. It was hard going during the hottest part of the day, gazing skywards, is very uncomfortable at the best of times but when you try to do it in a blast furnace, it's very hard work. Several of the people who came on the field trip had never seen an Emperor before, and were thrilled to see them Oak edging and Sallow searching, several came down to about 12 feet above our heads but the prize of seeing one on the ground was out of the question. By mid-day I noted that they had started to search in more shady spots, and coming down wasn't an option, far too hot. There were good counts of Silver-Washed Fritillaries but the White Admiral count is getting a little low now, some of the best counts were of Purple Hairstreaks which seem to be having a good year.
Friday 16th July Alice Holt Forest Today summer began, and the Purple Emperor upped its game. In the wood it was quite cool at about 08:45, but from the main car-park I saw two male Purple Emperors giving chase across the main ride. It was a while before I saw any other action, but once it did start it really kicked off, it was about 09:50 and I saw several male Purple Emperors sallow searching in and around the small triangle, and one constantly on the go back and forth, weaving in and out of the leaves, and then up and over the main Oaks on the side of the ride. At one point there were three males all giving chase over the ride and then settling down in the main oak tree. I saw a large female egg laying in some sallow, and other males were zipping about up and down over the crowns of the Oaks. We had three come very close investigating the human audience, I could hear the flutter of the wing beats after they had passed by but unfortunately they never came down on the ground. I saw 4 males on territory up at the Assembly Points, but it was quite breezy at one of them so consequently I think they were sheltering in the lee of the area. Other butterflies were many many Silver-Washed Fritillaries a few White Admirals, and the usual species in the rides. A grand total of 24 Purple Emperors were seen today.
Wednesday 14th July West Harting Down Field Trip It was nice to go on another field trip today after having rescheduled it after appalling weather in the past couple of weeks, and today it was perfect weather all the way. The butterfly specie count was rather impressive, and where we had parked next to a meadow, just before we had even started we had clocked up about 8 species, including Dark Green Fritillary, so we were onto a winner straight away! The walk is part of the Queen Elizabeth Country Park complex, built on chalk downland so there is a fair mix of species from both downland and woodland. Silver-Washed Fritillaries were very impressive in numbers, with gorgeous females flitting in amongst the bramble, and White Admirals also being seen in the Conifer plantations. Marbled Whites were in good number on the downland part with Meadow Brown and Ringlet, being uncountable! At 10:47 near that magical time of 11:00 right on cue a magnificent male Purple Emperor was seen gliding in and around several tall Ash Trees, he was seen about three times, and we were in an area with sallow by the bucket load, and it was all broad leafed Sallow as well 'Pussy Willow' the species that the female Emperor prefers to lay her eggs on. So the top prize was seen and I would like to thank all who came on the walk and hope it wasn't too tiring as we clocked up about 6 miles, which is by far the longest walk of any field trip.
Male Purple Emperor Whiteley Pastures 13th July 2021
Photo by Ian Williamson
Tuesday 13th July Abbotts Wood Inclosure Today I really found out about how depressed the numbers of Purple Emperors are in Alice Holt Forest. In the particular ride I usually sit in, I espied the grand total of three/four males in the space of two and three quarter hours. Granted the weather was mostly overcast but when the sun did come out for a good 30 minutes HIM didn't flex his wings much. I saw one or two Oak edging and sallow searching, but it seemed a half hearted affair, and when I was leaving the sun had been out for a good twenty minutes and there was no activity at all, and one can only assume they had all disappeared up to their Assembly points. I am now wondering will we be getting more action when the females come on stream, but I'm not holding my breath. Many thanks to Ian Williamson for his fab shot of a male Purple Emperor sitting in an Oak tree at Whiteley Pastures today.
Saturday 10 July Milton Lock NNR With the wet weather cancelling the planned field trip, I endeavoured to visit my local patch in the afternoon after the weather had cleared up a bit. I visited Milton Lock NNR which some might say is a complete mess due to Covid restrictions on groups getting together and of course no conservation work has been attempted consequently its very overgrown, with grasses, Bramble and other trees and shrubs all getting taller than they should be. However seeing past this I saw some of the best counts of Small Skippers there, and several Essex Skippers thrown in. Plenty of Marbled Whites, Meadow Browns, and a fresh Small Copper. In the Allotment area the council have stopped cutting the grass and this is now a complete meadow of yellows and purple wildflowers, and I had a good look at the Wych Elm on site, it doesn't seem to have been affected by the Dutch Elm disease, but alas I failed to find the White-Letter Hairstreak at home here.
Purple Emperor comes of age in Hampshire
Today the 9th July would seem to be when the Purple Emperor's response to the call to arms....and appeared in several woods, in Basing Forest great sightings by Michael Duffy, and again in Alice Holt Forest where the butterfly was seen at several locations and in total about 18 individuals were seen. Several were seen at the Assembly Points in the afternoon, but the weather stayed warm and quite like summer for a change, which made all the difference. I suspect there were other sightings around the county but I haven't received any yet. In Alice there were plenty of Silver-Washed Fritillaries on the wing and a few White Admirals, and the usual Browns in the rides, plus a fresh summer Peacock.
Thursday 8th July Alice Holt Forest Another attempt at Alice Holt Forest today but I was defeated by the weather. It looked OK to start with, but then it always does, never get fooled by the skyline at Portsdown Hill!. When I got to Alice the black clouds were thick and the last remnants of the sun were just disappearing behind the large scale rain clouds. It was just the last glimpses of sun and the start of some rain when I espied a male Purple Emperor flying over some large sallow thickets. He didn't hang around long, and in the distance there was the Song Thrush which has been singing in the ride now for the past few days. Also seen were several Greater Spotted Woodpeckers obviously finding shelter before the heavens opened up, which it did. Ringlets and Meadow Browns were still playing in the ride, but I was hiding under some mature Oaks, and then legged it to the car before I could get any wetter, I stayed just barely an hour.
Frustrating start to a Purple Emperor season in Hampshire.
Wednesday 7th July Operations room. As you can see I'm in the Operations room again on another frustrating day, with cool temperatures and cloudy conditions. In normal circumstances, this would be one of the best weeks for the Purple Emperor , and as things stand the days aren't going to get any better in the week or so. This could either be the shortest season on record or the longest...lets hope its the latter. I feel like Linford Christie on the starting blocks, the gun goes off but its a false start!
Mark Tutton managed two Males flying over a ride today in Alice Holt Forest they were both chasing each other, the weather wasn't great, and it was just a quick glimpse. One Male was seen in Whiteley Pastures on the 5th July.
If anybody is reading this you may be scratching your head as to what's happened...I'm afraid that's the nature of the beast. I'm as frustrated as anyone...and from what I can gather as global warming kicks in the summers are going to be warmer and wetter. Well they are certainly wetter!
Monday 5th July Alice Holt Forest Deep Purple!. At last the first signs that Hampshire is going Purple! Today at 1330 a lone male was seen on territory at one of the many assembly points in Alice Holt Forest today, he was seen twice in the space of about 30 minutes. It was overcast most of the time and windy with small brief periods of sunshine, and with no other Purple Emperors to engage with he was very reluctant to move about.
In the woods there was no sign of any doing their usual thing Oak edging or sallow searching, or just making their presence felt. Its either still very early, or there is a very small emergence this year, that if you not lucky to be standing in the right place then you will not be seeing many if any at all.
Purple Emperor Season so far in Hampshire
Date: 03 rd July 2021 Operations room at home!
Thirty years ago on this date I used to celebrate seeing the Purple Emperor on my mothers birthday, in Butterwood in North Hampshire for many years this happened, then global warming set in and then HIM started to nudge into the latter days of June in Hampshire and in the last five or six years he has been rather early, along with other counties bordering Hampshire we thought this was going to be the norm.
However in 2021 there seems to be an absence of the butterfly even on this late date, there hasn’t been any confirmation of the illusive Purple Emperor in Hampshire, despite visiting Alice Holt Forest on three consecutive occasions 30th June, 1st July and 2nd July absolutely nothing. Meanwhile the insect has materialised in Sussex, Surrey, Essex and even in London, albeit in very small numbers.
The weather obviously has played a big part in its fortunes in 2021, with a very cold April, and a rather wet May, and then another coolish month of June with very few days of warmth and sunshine, and July seems to be following on in this pattern.
Looking at the sallow in the wood at Alice Holt they seemed to have bypassed the problems they have had in other woods in Sussex and other counties where the drought in the Autumn of 2020 had made some the leaves fall in the spring, and the ‘Caprea’ certainly looked healthy when I looked yesterday on the 2nd of July.
As I write these notes the weather is overcast and the sky is full of rain, and the long range weather forecast seems to indicate there is no prospect of any high pressure over the country giving us a window of opportunity to see the Purple Emperor in all its glory…just yet.
Friday 2nd July Abbotts Wood Inclosure ...Another day another blank, again in perfect weather after a slow start with fog and mist and being very cool in the wood. Once the warmth filtered around the rides the Silver-Washed Fritillaries and White Admirals were on display and a few Meadow Browns and Ringlets and the Large Skipper. HIM is not even on the starting blocks yet. With the weather being cool and wet over the weekend it's going to be well into next week before any of us get a sniff I feel.
Many thanks to the lovely people I met in the wood today which made the waiting around for the Emperor much more interesting, and hope to see you all again in the not to distant future.....
Thursday 1st July Abbotts Wood Inclosure.. A second day of reckoning in perfect conditions,no wind ideal temperatures, and still no Purple Emperor. I think it may appear in small numbers in the first weekend of July but could well be a protracted emergence and we could see the Emperor still emerging well into July and so it will fly into the weeks of August weather permitting of course!. Today was my first 2021 encounter with the White Admiral, and the numbers of Silver-Washed Fritillaries are mounting. Plenty of Meadow Browns and Ringlets and a few Large Skippers, also saw several hungary Painted Lady caterpillars, what they find nourishing on a Thistle is beyond me, still it was good to see this species in another form.
Wednesday 30th June Abbottswood Inclosure With gloomy dark clouds over head I went to Alice Holt Forest on the off chance of seeing HIM but to no avail. I did get some sunny periods but the butterflies were very scarce, with just a handful of Silver-Washed Fritillaries imbibing on the Bramble blossom, Ringlets doing battle with the Meadow Browns in the ride side grasses, the odd Common Blue and Small and Large Skippers going around like little doodle-bugs. The Purple Emperor is quite late this year, although it used to appear around about this time in the 1990's and 1980's when I used to frequent the woods in the northern part of Hampshire. I've got so used to it being well out by the end of June now, it seems very strange, and just hoping for some summer sun, which does not seem to be on the horizon at the moment.
Saturday 26th June Butser Hill NNR Today I defied orders, which were off to the woods you go!....however I thought I would give the scrubby areas on Butser Hill to look for any evidence of Duke of Burgundy caterpillars and eaten cowslip leaves before I bury myself in the Purple Empire. Today I was lucky, Cowslips are very hard to find now most of the scrubby areas are now covered in layers of grasses and an abundance of wild flowers. I found several gunshot scattered leaves and one solitary caterpillar, in its first Instar. I shall endeavour to have another look again after the Purple Empire has quietened down. On the wing today were Dark Green Fritillary (15) Small Heaths were everywhere, Meadow Brown (20) Common Blue (40) Brown Argus(3) Large Skipper (8) Dingy Skipper (2) Red Admiral (1) Brimstone (2) Green Hairstreak (2) Yellow Shells were quite common 6-and 5 Spotted Burnet Moths and the odd Silver Y Moth. The Downs look a picture with Orchids, and other wild flowers like Horseshoe Vetch and Wild Strawberry, Buttercups and Hawkbit, Common Thistles, Greater Knapweed and Vipers Bugloss all coming into flower.
Thursday 24 June Oxenbourne Down Made the most of the bright morning today and ventured up to Oxenbourne Down to see if there was any leaf damage to the cowslips by Duke of Burgundy caterpillars.I found some damage on the leaves but alas no caterpillars probably wasn't warm enough. I was sidetracked most of the time by the amount of Dark Green Fritillaries flying about. If I saw 50 then that's no lie, I gave up counting after this figure, there were many more. A mating pair and several at rest on buttercups gave me a chance to observe there fantastic patterning underneath their wings. Oxenbourne Down was a picture with so many wild flowers out, and many different Orchids. I saw twelve species of butterflies, and several species of Moth, 6 spotted Burnet Moth and Silver-Y moth to name a few.
Wednesday 23 June Abbotstone Down Field Trip...I certainly picked a good day today with perfect weather, and the invertebrates were flying around in very good numbers in the many meadows at this little Gem of a site. (17) species of butterfly were seen on the wing and at least 9 moth species with several caterpillars seen eating their way through their foodplants. The highlight of the day were the Dark Green Fritillary of which we saw at least (10) all males on the wing, but they were flying fast and purposeful, stopping to refuel at the many Hawkbit flower heads in the meadows. Other delights were many Green Hairstreaks buzzing around the Hawthorn bushes and alighting on the Ant Hills and imbibing on the Wild Thyme flowers. There were good numbers of Small Tortoiseshells as well which is encouraging as in the spring I saw very few on the wing.Three Silver-Washed Fritillaries were also seen in the wooded glades in the car-park area whilst we were having lunch. But obviously we were too early for HIM as its roughly the second week of July when the Purple Emperor will allow us his presence.
I'd like to thank everyone for coming on this lovely field trip which has to be one of the best of the season.
Wednesday 16 June Bentley Wood Visited Cowleys Copse in the late afternoon about 16:00 when it was cooler and there was nobody there, and it was quite pleasant walking around. However the site is so dry now, and the butterfly count was very disappointing. I managed just one brief glimpse of a Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary on the ground and he took off never to be seen again. Gone are the days when you didn't have to look for them, they came to you, some butterflies are really struggling due to many factors. Butterflies and moths seen were Grizzled Skipper, Dingy Skipper, Large Skipper, Speckled Wood, Small Heath, Painted Lady and the one Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary. Many Six and five Spotted Burnet Moths, Burnet Companions, Treble Bar Moths, and Common Carpet. Alas no Argent and Sable Moths.
Monday 14 June Hinton Ampner A visit to the Natural Trust site was a very warm day with many butterflies on the wing and birds as well. In the eaves of the outhouse of the main Stately home were some swallow nests and the Swallow's could be seen zooming in and out and catching many flies on the wing and then returning to their nest feeding their young. There were also Swifts seen as well doing the same thing. One quite rare bird these days was seen a Thrush feeding on the garden lawn, I dont see these lovely birds as nearly as much as I used too many years ago. Butterflies seen were Red admirals and Painted Ladies on the Red Valerian on the walls of the buildings and Common Blues were seen in the buttercup filled meadows dotted about. Large areas of woodland supporting very old Oak trees, and in the hedgerows were re-generating Wych Elm. I wonder if there are unknown colonies of White-Letter Hairstreaks here. Other butterflies seen were Holly Blue, Brimstone, Peacock, Comma, Meadow, Brow, and Speckled Wood. If you interested in Stately Homes then this is worth a visit which is close to Alresford half-way between Petersfield and Winchester.
Saturday 12 June Oxenbourne Down NNR Visited Oxenbourne Down NNR for the last time for the adult Duke of Burgundy of which I saw (5) all in a woeful condition, which isn't surprising really. Today was a good day for invertebrates, and the butterfly count was as follows : Small Heath (7) Common Blue (45) Brimstone (10) Large White (1) Speckled Wood (3) Dingy Skipper (5) Grizzled Skipper (8) a mating pair, Dark Green Fritillary flying at great speed over the down, Comma, Red Admiral, Large Skipper (3) Meadow Brown (2) Green Hairstreak (2) Moths were quite good as well with countless Speckled Yellows, the most I've ever seen I think. Common Carpet, Burnet Companion, Six spot and five spot Burnet Moths, and Cinnabar Moths
Tuesday 8 June Compton Chine and Afton Down Isle of Wight
A beautiful day greeted me today as I set off on my annual pilgrimage to the Isle of Wight.Compton Chine looked splendid with all the wildflowers in bloom like Thrift, Horseshoe and Kidney Vetch and Birds-foot Trefoil sprawled all over the site. The butterflies were equally impressive with well over (50) odd Glanville Fritillaries seen on the wing. many of them still in excellent condition, and others a little worn. There were Large Skippers, Common Blue, Small Blue, Meadow Brown, Dingy Skipper, Red Admiral, Small Heath, White Plume Moth, Cinnabar Moth, Stonechats, Rock Pipits, Skylarks, Broad Bordered Chasers, Blue Damselflies, and Bee Orchids all at Compton Chine keeping me rather busy for many hours. At Afton Down there were at least a dozen or so more Glanville Fritillaries to be seen especially close to the main road, and also good numbers of Adonis Blues, which looked in good condition as well, Green Hairstreak and the usual Dingy Skipper Small Heath, Common Blue and last but not least Brown Argus.
Sunday 6 June Portsdown Hill Field Trip The day started with rain and the sky was a heavy lead colour so things didn't look too promising from the word go. However even at Portsdown Hill we decided to give it a go even though the threat of even more rain looked almost certain, we set off around Fort Widley and saw Small Blues, Common Blues, Holly Blues, Burnet Companion Moths, Common Carpet Moths, Pyramidal Spotted Orchids, Common Spotted Orchids, Early Purple Orchids and all of the Vetches were in bloom looking like a yellow carpet all over Portsdown Hill. Some of us attempted to go down into the large chalk pit to see the varied bird life, but our main quarry was absent from being on the wing, probably too cold. We did see some more Small and Common Blues, and Bee Orchids,but three butterfly species was the grand total. I'd like to thank all those who were brave enough to come along despite the weather.
Saturday 5th June Meon Valley In near perfect conditions today in the Meon Valley and the butterflies are becoming greater in numbers, especially the Small Blue and Small Heath, and Common Blue. On the wane now is the Duke of Burgundy with several seen in worn condition, although there are still some specimens in very good condition Dingy Skippers are looking ragged as well, but it was good to see more moth species today like 5 spot burnet moth, Mother Shipton, Burnet Companion, and Common Carpet. There are some lovely wildflowers starting to come into blossom most of the vetches and Orchids and Twayblade. Mother Roe Deer were seen in meadows tending their Calf’s.
Wednesday 2nd June Old Winchester Hill Another visit to the last Meon Valley site which now completes all of these Duke of Burgundy sites in 2021. Old Winchester Hill is not well known as a Duke of Burgundy site, but it had small pockets of the insect and if you know where to look then they will turn up in not great numbers (7) today but its a tick in the box. Today I found the area where they are breeding on the Eastern slope, where there is plenty of Cowslip in amongst the scrub. It not for the faint hearted, as some of the slopes almost go up vertically. Anyway I found the Duke and surprise surprise, they were all in pristine condition... I've been looking and studying this butterfly now for 25 odd years and this year really takes the biscuit. One male was probably new today, and the butterfly has obviously been emerging, as I met a Natural England ranger, who was doing a transect and he had seen at least two in a copse about a fortnight ago..so they then stopped because of adverse weather conditions, and then the warm weather comes along and they start to re-emerge. Other butterflies seen were (25) Adonis Blues including several females, Small Heath, Small Coppers, Grizzled and Dingy Skipper, Brimstone, Small Blue, and Common Blue was really living up to its name.
Tuesday 1st June Oxenbourne Down They say mad dogs and englishmen, go out in the midday sun, today about 12:00 I had just about melted so I stepped into Oxenbourne Down at about 08:30 this morning with a much cooler atmosphere and it was delightfully pleasant. The butterflies were on the wing and my quarry the Duke of Burgundy had its best count of the season, (16) were seen most of them were quite fresh females, but some of the males were quite tatty now, a few days of warm weather and they soon become tatty. I dont know whether it was the heat of the moment or what but it was quite bizarre seeing a female laying eggs on Wild Strawberry.! Yes you did read that right, there were plenty of cowslip leaves about but she opted for the Strawberry leaves. Also a female was seen imbibing on Hawthorn blossom, another oddity, although I usually see them on Hawkbit or Wild Strawberry flowers. Other butterflies seen were Small Heath(40) Common Blue(50) Brimstone(22) Peacock(2) Red Admiral (2) Green Hairstreak (6) Grizzled Skipper (10) Dingy Skipper (25) Small Copper (4) Speckled Wood (1) Brown Argus (1), Treble Bar Moth(2), Cinnabar Moth (1), Mother Shipton(1), Burnet Companion(1), but the Speckled Yellow Moth was very numerous.
Sunday 30th May Martin Down Field Trip Where do you start on a day like today, perfect weather, perfect company, and glorious scenery and butterflies,moths,and birds to boot. We started off at Sillens Lane but it was a bit crowded, and there were lots of people about however we branched off into the wilderness, and soon got into our stride with butterflies being seen in the grasses like Small Heath many Small Blues, and Small Copper, with the Skylarks overhead. In fact by the time we had got to Bockerly Ditch the Small Blue was the most numerous butterfly, and I had soon counted well over a hundred, along with Grizzled Skipper, and Dingy Skipper which just as numerous. The surprise was on a scrubby bank with lots of Cowslips was a male Duke of Burgundy. What a triumph, it has been seen at this site over the past few weeks, and I was just lucky enough to see it sat on a leaf for a quick photo, but I've been here for 30 odd years and always left with nothing. Other butterflies with good numbers were Adonis Blue although they were only just really emerging along with the enigmatic Marsh Fritillary, we saw up to (17 or more), Brown Argus were about and Common Blue, and the most Green Hairstreak Ive ever seen in one day (9). There were a few Moths like Mother shipton Moth, Cinnabar Moth, Yellow Shell, Common Carpet,Burnet Companion, and Speckled Yellow. In the Hedgerows there were Yellow Hammers, Redpoll, Linnets, Blackcap, Skylarks, Whitethroat, Corn Bunting,and the odd Roe Deer on the grassy plain. I want to thank everyone for coming along today, to make it such a magical day.
Saturday 29th May Butser Hill NNR Today I concentrated on Butser Hill having a look at some scrubby areas I've never really looked at for the Duke of Burgundy. The species has had a bad spring and consequently numbers have been extremely low at all sites visited. So I thought I would look at the best site in East Hampshire, the weather was a thin veil of cloud, very warm and sunny at times, which really boosted the temperature. I looked at West Butser Hill which is a scrubby escarpment , which is usually good for the Duke when its out in good numbers, but alas today I only saw (2) here both females. I then went to a SSSI close-by and here there weren't any Dukes to be seen which is normally an overspill from the main colonies. I then looked at the scrubby escapement behind the large copse of Beech trees in the coombe. Here I found the scrub was ideal for the species, and I saw (7) here including a mating rejection.From there I was down in the valley floor, the 'coombe' is where I see most of the specimens. It didn't disappoint, here there were (25) which doesn't sound a lot, but when the species is having a poor season then this is a triumph. So all together there were (32) Dukes, and they were all in remarkably good condition. Ramsdean Down has a good reputation for a good count so I could have easily have had twice to three times as many counts of Dukes today.
Other species seen were, Dingy Skipper (65) Grizzled Skipper (25) including a mating pair, Small Heath (25) Common Blue (58) Small Blue (1) first one of these I've seen at this site, Small Copper (1) Brimstone (20) Brown Argus (20) Green Hairstreak (3) Orange Tip (2) Large White (1) Speckled Wood (2) Common Carpet Moth(2) Silver-'Y' Moth (1) Cinnabar Moth (2) Mother Shipton Moth (1). All in all a very satisfactory day.
Thursday 27th May Meon Valley. One of the few days where it was warm enough to walk around without a coat on, and we're nearly into June! In the Valley I saw a few Duke of Burgundy’s but this year they really are scarce, the combination of a drab winter, very cool March and April with temperatures at night at times well below zero, and then the gales and howling winds and the deluge, has not stood them in good stead. A couple of Small Blues were seen, and Orange Tips are still on the wing, along with good numbers of Brimstones, however the Dingy Skipper seems to be hard to find now. My only second Holly Blue was spotted today, and a Common Carpet and a Silver ‘Y’ moth.
Wednesday 26 May Bentley Wood It seems an awful long time since I've written 'Field Trip' in my notes but today was really the first official one which was allowed more than 6 people. We went to Bentley Wood in pleasant sunshine to start the trip with, but alas it soon clouded over with short intervals of sunshine. Only one of the target species was seen due to the weather having delaying many species this year. (15) Pearl-Bordered Fritillaries were seen, along with several Grizzled Skippers, Small Heaths, Marsh Fritillary (1) Brimstones, Treble Bar Moths, Speckled Yellow moths, Mother Shipton Moths along with several Slow Worms, Common Lizards, Broad Bordered Chasers, and I heard the Cuckoo for a lengthy time at last. In the book at the car park there wasn't any mention of the Duke of Burgundy being seen, probably still too early, even at this late date, and certainly no Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillaries, if they are seen at all this year here. The wood was alive with bird song which is so pleasing in itself, but it is very wet underfoot, almost like it was in the 1980's.
Monday 25 May Oxenbourne Down It's been well over a week since I ventured out which goes to show how bad May has been, but today there were small pockets of sunshine between the heavy leaded clouds, which gave me some views of some species, mostly of which were roosting and were just waiting for the sun to shine long enough to warm them up. I saw (5) Duke of Burgundy's, all of which were in very good condition, Small Heath (6) Brimstone (8) Small Copper (3) Common Blue (2) Small White (2) Dingy Skipper (7) Grizzled Skipper (2) Speckled Yellow Moth (3) Cinnabar Moth (1) Treble Bar Moth (3). The weather is looking better in the next week so watch this space....
Monday 17 May Oxenbourne Down There are very few little windows of opportunity at the moment when the sun is out when out and about, that you really have to grasp the nettle and take a risk of being soaked for about 10-20 minutes of butterflying. On Oxenbourne Down today, it was obvious is was going to rain so I had to risk just going up to the top of the down so I wouldn't be too far from some form of shelter.But taking that risk was certainly worth it, as I saw in about twenty minutes, and only ten minutes of actual sunshine, there were, (6) Duke of Burgundy's, (4) Small Coppers, one female looking to lay eggs, (5) Dingy Skippers, (1) Grizzled Skipper (2) Peacock's (1) Small Heath and several treble bar moths. I got back to the car just in time when the heavens opened up. I could hear a pub lunch calling!
Tuesday 11 May Oxenbourne Down The weather turned out better than I thought today, still lots of cloud and heavy rain in the distance, but I managed to avoid it and saw plenty to keep me satisfied. On top of Oxenbourne Down I saw (7) Duke of Burgundy's these were in two areas where I hadn't seen them before both look good scrub wise and there is a lot of cowslips now growing up there. Two were also seen in the Gorse strewn area which is becoming almost impossible to get through now in places, but still two Dukes braved the terrain. All the Dukes seen were almost certainly males very fresh even today or yesterday emergence. Peak won't be until 20th May or later at some sites. Other species seen were Orange Tip (1) Dingy Skipper (20) Small Copper (4) Silver'y'moth (1) Small Heath (11) Grizzled Skipper (11) Brimstone (10) Speckled Wood (1) Painted Lady (2) Peacock (3) Small White (1)
Friday 7th May Meon Valley Visited a site in the Meon Valley today to be greeted with a few very freshly emerged Duke of Burgundies. However they are really struggling with these temperatures. The month of April really did knock them back with average temperatures at night in the Meon Valley was (-4 ) at most sites, which has the the species quite late to the party, in present terms. Although if you back in time records will tell you in the last 60-70 years that the species never emerged much before May 10th. Because of the Global warming situation it has moved into April and could if winters become even milder males could be seen at the end of March! Other species seen today were good numbers of Brimstone and Peacock, Dingy Skipper, and several Small Heaths.
Thursday 6 May Oxenbourne Down A chance with the weather, but for an hour the sky was just a blanket of cloud but the magical time of about 11:00 seems to be the time when the weather changes for the better, and today it became quite warm and at Oxenbourne Down with very little wind I was on the hunt for the Duke of Burgundy again. I managed to find it in a new area, in a very scrubby area, with some good cowslips stands. Two males and two females were observed, and they seemed to be enjoying the sunshine once it broke through the veil of cloud. Other species weren't great in number, but the following were observed: Small Copper (3) Common Blue (1) Dingy Skipper (6) Grizzled Skipper (3) and of course the Duke of Burgundy (4). The top of Oxenbourne Down was once covered in a Conifer tree plantation, it was clear felled and twenty years on there are numerous areas of Cowslips generating and last year I discovered females laying eggs in a new area, and this year another area is looking good for the species. There is probably now at least 5-6 areas on site all well separated from each other so this species looks well established on site.
Wednesday 5th May Beacon Hill NNR Exton: Another very cool day with ever threatening rain clouds marching over the sky, drenching Bishops Waltham in the distance as I took in the magnificent scenery that is the Meon Valley. I never saw any butterflies until I got around to the southern part of the Hill Fort where there are some sun traps and this is where I saw all of the following species, which to be honest for May is very poor to say the least. Small Heath (3) Peacock (3) Duke of Burgundy (1) Brimstone (2) Small White (2) Orange Tip (3) Green Hairstreak (1) Small Copper (1) Brown Argus (1) Dingy Skipper (12) Grizzled Skipper (8).
The main part of the down the scrubby northern part is shut off with grazing so any Duke of Burgundy's there are off limits, but the Cowslip count is very good here, in fact all over the downland. Once all of the Ash dieback trees are eventually cut down this landscape around the site will look totally different.
Sunday 2nd May Butser Hill NNR Another day of good periods of warm sunshine interspersed with cloud cover when the temperature dropped by several degrees. Butser Hill was quite busy but once down in the scrubby coombes the butterflies were out in moderate numbers. It's still very cold at night I think this is hampering emerging butterflies especially Duke of Burgundies. Butterfly count was as follows: Grizzled Skipper (18) Dingy Skipper (16) Duke of Burgundy (9) including a mating pair Small Copper (2) Orange Tip (1) Small Heath (3) Brimstone (2) Peacock (2). I heard and saw the cuckoo several times which is better than in 2020 as I never heard it last year.
Saturday 1st May Meon Valley It really looked promising today, despite below temperatures at night, in fact it’s been the coldest April since 1970 and the month has been the frostiest on record. Despite this I had high hopes for my species the Duke of Burgundy to start a bit of movement, but in places today about mid-morning it was really sunny and warm in the Meon Valley, but looks are obviously deceptive. This was the first time I’ve been out butterflying in nearly 40 years and drawn a blank not just on my species… but on anything! I was glad to see a few beautiful Hares, in fact I stalked one and he took no notice of me until I got to about 50 yards from him. I saw at least three, and a Roe Deer. In the skies the Buzzards are very common now out hunting looking for carrion to feed any chicks that have been born, and the very common Red Kite was out doing the same.
One thing I will say the Cowslips are now looking a picture in the fields and downland, and with the promise of rain in the forecast they should really perk up ready for any female Duke to lay her eggs.
Thursday 29th April Oxenbourne Down Another very cool day, and the threat of rain clouds were never very far away, and so the butterfly count was quite minimal. Peacock(1) Duke of Burgundy (1) in Wascoombe Bottom, Brimstone (1) Small Copper (3) one was a female and she was laying eggs on Sorrel in Wascoombe bottom. Dingy Skipper (4) and last but not least one Grizzled Skipper. All in all the butterfly count in April has been really poor, and it's been the coldest April since 1970. Last year in 2020 was one of the hottest how things change!
Monday 26th April Oxenbourne Down and Wascoombe Bottom Still a very cool breeze keeping the temperatures down and in the morning at Oxenbourne Down I was wandering around for a good 90 minutes without seeing anything. But the sun did warm up a bit as the temperature went up a few degrees which made a difference. One Duke of Burgundy was seen and also down in the Coombe known as Wascoombe bottom there was no breeze at all and very warm indeed. Here there were Grizzled Skippers (12), Dingy Skippers (9), Orange Tips (7), Peacock (8) One Small Copper, and Speckled Wood, and several Brimstones.This is the best count so far in 2021.
Sunday 25th April Butser Hill NNR Gale force winds and really cool temperatures kept any sign of the Duke of Burgundy down today,and for that matter most other species. The only species of note were well over (30) Grizzled Skippers so they have emerged in good numbers, and I had a Emperor Moth buzzing around me down in the coombe opposite Ramsdean Down, obviously he detected my Lure which is attached to my camera case, first time I've ever noted one on Downland before.Other species of note were a couple of Speckled Woods in the wooded area around the car-park and a couple of Dingy Skippers as well. I noted one Early Purple Orchid and many Hairy Violets the best i've ever seen on the downs. We seriously need some rain, as this photo shows its bone dry and all the Cowslips are really stunted.
Ive been taking some pictures of foxes close to home and think these two are males which have become too old to breed and tend to wander off doing there own thing.
Thursday 22nd April Oxenbourne Down A warmish day once the sun had risen above the Coombes of Oxenbourne Down today. The site has had a lot of serious scrub bashing and large swathes have been cut, so here the Silver-Spotted Skipper has a larger area to utilise once the areas flora and fauna comes good .. after its rained. The Cowslip content on the down is very poor, but on the lower slope there are good swathes of Primroses which have escaped from gardens. Butterflies seen today were Speckled Wood (1) Orange Tip (1) Large White (1) Grizzled Skipper (2) and Peacock (1). The down is a few days behind many areas of the Butser Hill complex, so it was little wonder I never saw the Duke of Burgundy today.
Tuesday 20th April Noar Hill NNR My first outing to Noar Hill today in perfect weather conditions, and the butterflies didn't disappoint. The Duke of Burgundy was located about mid-day, when it was probably the warmest, and after about three hours on site, and on a second pass of the area where I saw it. The male was flying and having a go at several bee-flies that came too close but most of the time it was settled enjoying the warm sunshine giving me good views of its exquisite patterning on the underneath of its wings. Other butterflies seen today were, Brimstone (10) Peacock (5) Holly Blue (3) Orange Tip (5) and of course the Duke. There is a lot of management going on in the pits at the moment, lots of scrub is being cleared, by Hants and Isle of Wight Nature Trust.
Sunday 18th April Matley Heath New Forest A visit to the New Forest in almost perfect conditions. The morning the wind was a little cool, but by the time mid-day came around it was quite warm. Lack of rain makes the New Forest look very barren and 'grey' in colour and certainly not very welcoming. However I had my trusty Emperor Moth Pheromone slung on to the side of my camera case. It took awhile before anything to happen, but after about an hour a very fast moving object started taking an interest in my camera bag, and once I had put it down it Identified itself and it was a perfect Emperor Moth, and settled down on some very dried up Heather at first, and then disembarked and flew onto my camera bag, where it stayed and settled down, and was very tame. Other butterflies seen were good numbers of Brimstones, and Peacocks were seen also. Bird life was quite good a couple of nesting Lapwings were seen on the ground and flying, Woodlarks, Redstarts, several Stonechats, and several birds not readily identifiable. Back at the car-park another Emperor Moth was seen flying like fury in and around the cars, it must have sensed my pheromone and was hunting it, but sadly it lost contact and disappeared.
Saturday 17th April Milton NNR and Foreshore A Walk along my local nature reserve today , I saw very disappointing numbers, the best count was Small White (12) Peacock (3) Comma (1) and Small Tortoiseshell (1) and last but not least Green-Veined White (1). Still no showing of Speckled Woods or Holly Blue yet. The cool weather and drought is keeping the many flowers very stunted at the moment. In my garden the Bee house is hatching out bees which is a great only after six months.
Thursday 15th April A few pictures from today at a private site that I am helping in conservation circles, ie re-wilding. The weather was very cool again but when the sun did come out for lengthy periods it did warm up, bringing out many Orange Tip males and a few Peacocks, along with the odd Comma and Brimstone. A Long Tailed Tits nest was found amongst some Blackthorn thickets. Some Roe Deer were seen but other than that there wasn't much else.
Tuesday 13th April Portsdown Hill Looked promising at first with bright sunshine, but the threat of cloudy and wet weather was on the horizon, and I could see in the distance Gosport getting a soaking at times during the morning. However on Portsdown Hill there were modest numbers of butterflies, however now we are into the middle of April I would normally expect something a lot better but it hasn't been a normal year so far, with cool winds blowing from the the North. The Brimstone was the most common butterfly seen with numbers seen (10) then came the Peacock with a count of (8), then the Small White (6) two female Orange Tips were seen at the base of the large chalk pit area, these were seen settling on Dandelions, but were quite jittery. A Painted Lady was seen on the slopes of the downland with a Comma as well. The Cowslips are becoming more common due to the grazing regime up there. The Kestrels were giving some lovely flying displays, and Buzzards were seen but the Peregrines were not seen.
Friday 9 April 2021 Milton Lock NNR A warmer day today and out in to the local Nature Reserve at Milton Lock but sadly like this year it was a big disappointment, with no butterflies recorded at the NNR except one small White, there was however Whitethroats singing in the Hedgerows, with Goldfinches and Robins in chorus. Along the foreshore there was a pair of Small Whites mating, and by the allotments I sniffed out a female Small Tortoiseshell laying eggs on Nettle. At home I found a lovely fresh Angle Shades moth on my Porch windowsill sunning itself, but other than that its been one big disappointment.
Monday 29th March Milton Foreshore: Beautiful warm day today with plenty to see and hear, many birds are now nesting and the trees and shrubs about are in full bloom. At Milton Lock Nature Reserve there were Comma and Peacock butterflies seen, and along the fore shore Small Whites are now becoming more frequent, along with Brimstone, more Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshell. I've seen a report that Mediterranean Gulls have been seen with the Purple Sandpipers still at Southsea Castle which I must get to before they fly back to whence they came!
Monday 22nd March 2021 Portsdown Hill (WEST) Almost a summer's day as another trek up Portsdown hill finds good amounts of butterflies, although still only four species. These were Peacock (12) Brimstone (8) Small White (2) and Comma (1). Peacocks were feeding mainly on Pussy Willow buds, and the Brimstones were patrolling up and down the rides on the down. Plenty of Birds of Prey to be seen as well with my first Red Kites being observed, along with other Kestrels and Buzzards, plus the Peregrines were seen flying in a pair westerly, but were not settled down. Lots of Honey bees on the Pussy Willow flowers just covered in nectar.
Friday 19th March Milton Lock NNR and Foreshore. A warmish day with a slight cool wind blowing in off of the sea, where the NNR reserve at Milton Lock there was a Brimstone flying in and around the bramble. Also passing through was a Small White and also sunning itself on some concrete was a lovely Comma. On the foreshore there were plenty of Hawthorn bushes well out in blossom where there was a disappointing total of just one Small Tortoiseshell feasting on nectar in a very sunny position.I've noticed so far there has been a distinct lack of Peacocks, whether they didn't like the cooler winter, or I've just been unlucky, but this specie I normally see the most of in the March and April months. There were hundreds of Brent Geese in the fields, by the waters edge, and Starlings were doing small 'murmurations' close to the Falklands memorial. Swans have paired up and were testing their flight feathers and going from the salty sea to the fresh water lakes.
Wednesday 17th March 2021 Portsdown Hill The weather today was once again a big let down, it was promised a nice sunny day and what we got was an overcast day with a cool feel. There was very little in the way of invertebrates to be seen, there was one Small Tortoiseshell but it wasn't very active. The birds were about but not in any great number lots of Robins in the hedgerows, and Stonechats were heard and seen. One Peregrine was seen hunting in the field behind James Callahan roundabout. And several Kestrels were seen in the Chalk Pit. Skylarks were singing on the wing which always gives me hope for a good spring.
Tuesday 9th March 2021 A visit to Portsdown Hill today just to exercise the muscle called the heart after my scare in January. I'm pleased to say everything went well, no huff's or puff's so the flora and fauna seen was Small Tortoiseshell (3) and the Peacock (1). The best count came from the Brimstone where I counted up to (8) all males flying in and around the areas of scrub bashed hedges. There was also some Bee flies seen, and several Hummingbird Hawk Moths and the birds of prey were very impressive, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine Falcon, Buzzard.
Saturday February 27th 2021 another warm day in Cosham and would you believe it the Large Tortoiseshell was back for another sunbathing session. This time Graham had his camera ready with a lens which highlights the beauty of this rare butterfly. It was in his next door neighbours garden so it had not travelled far. As you can see from the photographs its in superb condition and I have highlighted the wing patterns for ID purposes.
This butterfly has obviously overwintered as an adult, where I hear you ask, well there may well be areas like Hilsea Lines and North Harbour, which are very sheltered and have lots of trees and shrubs in which to hibernate.They could even have Elms in which these butterflies could breed, as we know North Harbour has the White-Letter Hairstreak breeding on the Elm trees there. Could we have a small population of Large Tortoiseshell butterfly breeding in Portsmouth?
Photo copyright Graham Roberts and I thank him for allowing me to put these wonderful pictures on my new web site! What a way to start the year!
Saturday February 27th 2021 Milton Lock NNR and Allotments
Another warm day and the first Brimstone Butterfly was seen flying in and around the NNR today. Also there is a lot of Female Bumble Bees flying around and necturing on the sparse wild flowers.The Kestrel was still on patrol over the Allotments, and there were Grey Squirrels in the trees, enjoying the sunshine. Also around the Allotments there was a Comma butterfly as well.
January 2nd 2021 - Eastney Beach, with it being Saturday I strolled down to Eastney beach where there were lots of people getting out and about , obviously getting exercise because of Covid. I saw at least a dozen to two dozen Turnstones out along the pebbled shore line quite close to the waters edge. I sat very close to them and they were obviously quite tame, and used to people strolling up and down the beach. The weather was just perfect, with no wind and the sun was just breaking through the clouds. They patrolled up and down the beach and then took off, and then landed again a bit further down the beach.
Covid -19 Restrictions
January 7th & 8th 2021 - with the Covid crises in full swing I am obviously lim