National Moth Night – A Tale of Four Orchards

On Saturday night, four moth traps were run across the Rother Woods Project area. One in Brede High Woods, another at Great Dixter, a third at Iden and a fourth between Cripps Corner and Robertsbridge. The last of these was my responsibility. All were with the kind permission of the landowners.

Other than the occasional light drizzle that I experienced, the weather was mild, overcast and dry. We all met at Great Dixter at 8.30 on Saturday evening and then went our separate ways… I went off towards Robertsbridge to meet the landowner and then drive out into his marvellous organic orchards. We finally turned the trap off at 00:40 and I headed home, more than a little weary, with a full trap ready to be evaluated by folk more expert than I on Sunday morning.

We all met up at 8am on Sunday, back at Great Dixter to compare results and identify the contents of the traps. Full details of all catches will appear at www.rotherwoods.org – highlights from my trap, which contained 30 species, included a Small Elephant Hawkmoth and a Spectacle.

The stunning Small Elephant Hawkmoth
Small Elephant Hawkmoth

The obviously named Spectacle!Spectacle moth

A Windy Day in Beckley Woods

The official launch of this important project took place on Saturday 24th May in Beckley Woods. A reasonable crowd of enthusiastic butterfly hunters arrived by around 10am on a very blowy morning.

Steve Wheatley (Project Officer), resplendant in khaki complete with pith helmet, gave a brief welcome and we all then wandered off for what was expected to be a fruitless search, given the poor weather.

Project Officer Steve Wheatley

However, one eagle-eyed observer suddenly noticed a Green Hairstreak fly up into the trees! There then followed twenty minutes of staring at a sea of green leaves, waving around in the gusty wind, trying to get a view of a small, green butterly edge on. No easy matter.

Once seen though, it’s surprising how easy it is to find it again. After it had become bored with our attentions, it flew up into the air, only to be joined by a companion! Cue more happy butterfly folk.

Rother Woods Project – Official Launch – 24th May

The Rother Woods Project will be officially launched at Beckley Woods, at 10am on Saturday 24th May.

The event will be a get-together for project volunteers and supporters and I’d be really pleased if any branch members/web visitors could come along. There’s also the chance we’ll see some Grizzled Skippers (possibly aberration taras or aberration intermedia) and some other lovely butterflies. Visitors can also have a walk around Beckley Woods to see the challenge ahead or they can head off to a different site to record butterflies or just enjoy the start of the Bank Holiday weekend.

– Steve Wheatley (Rother Woods Project Officer)

Grizzled Skippers at Beckley Woods

A visit to Beckley Woods today to see Grizzled Skippers was well worthwhile. I’d visited the previous evening, but a little late to see more than one individual that disappeared almost immediately. We had encountered a Slow Worm however, which was missing part of its tail.

Grizzled Skipper (ab. intermedia)

On a lovely warm morning, there were a number of Grizzled Skippers meandering about the entrance area to the woods. This particular type is an aberration (ab. intermedia); a variety determined by environmental conditions and heredity which only appears in a few locations. Examples of this and other aberrations can be seen on the Natural History Museum website.

This butterfly flies quickly close to the ground and changes direction rapidly, making it quite difficult to spot and to see where it has settled. A factsheet on the Grizzled Skipper can be obtained from the Butterfly Conservation website.

Pearl-Bordered Fritillaries at Abbots Wood

“This little Fritillary is one of the commonest of our woodland butterflies in the spring and early summer months” – Frohawk, British Butterflies, 1934.

Sadly, this is far from the case today! So, this morning we drove off to Abbots Wood to see one of the few colonies left in the south-east at this mixed woodland site, managed by Forest Enterprise. We were not to be disappointed, seeing plenty of butterflies in flight along a ride and in a sheltered clearing. Occasionally, one or two would take to the trees, pausing for a few moments on an oak leaf before returning to low flight over the ground. Rarely do they seem to have the time to settle long enough for us to have a good look at them.

Pearl-Bordered Fritillary

There were probably as many members of Butterfly Conservation and other butterfly enthusiasts visiting the site today as there are fritillaries to see, judging from the number of people we bumped into during our two hour visit!

Let’s hope that one of the benefits of the South-East Woodlands Project is a return of this once common species to some more woods in Kent and Sussex.

A factsheet is available for the Pearl-Bordered Fritillary from Butterfly Conservation.

Butterfly Recording Workshop at Great Dixter

From Michael Blencowe:

“I spent an enjoyable morning today delivering a butterfly recording workshop to 15 people at Great Dixter house. The owners of this amazing building kindly allowed us use of a rather grand room and I gave a presentation (while sat amid the antiques and giant rubber plants) about the importance of recording butterflies in this area of the county.

After the presentation it was time to put our i.d skills to the test and we took a walk around Great Dixter House and nearby Weights Wood where I talked about the panic that sets in when I see a white butterfly in the distance, the love life of the Peacock and the importance of woodland management for butterflies.

It was great to meet an enthusiastic bunch of folk who were all very keen on getting out and recording butterflies.”

Guided Walk around Brede High Woods

On Saturday 26th April, Patrick Roper led a fascinating walk around parts of Brede High Woods, organised and co-led by BC’s Steve Wheatley and accompanied by Dave Bonsall from the Woodland Trust.

This walk was an introduction both to this marvellous woodland complex, recently acquired by The Woodland Trust, and more importantly the first butterfly surveying walk for people interested in recording as part of the Rother Woods Project.

The walk was very well attended and thankfully the weather was perfect. As always, Patrick was enthusiastic and informative, with Steve managing the assembled participants and enthusing them all along the way.

Butterfies seen included Brimstone, Holly Blue, Orange Tip, Peacock, Speckled Wood, Comma and three suspected (though unconfirmed) Clouded Yellows. More details and a few pictures at the Sussex Butterflies Sightings page.

We also stumbled upon a surprisingly active Slowworm!