Summer Butterflies

Yesterday, after collecting my son from nursery, we went for a short walk down a single ride in Beckley Woods. It’s a lovely, narrow ride that’s only really useable in the summer as horseriders make it too muddy the rest of the year. It’s also the best place to see White Admiral and Silver-washed Fritillary in the whole wood.

As we got out of the car we saw Speckled Wood and Red Admiral in the little pools of sunlight near the entrance. Rides like this one, that have been allowed to close in, leaving some sunny areas, are just perfect for White Admiral. This butterfly has really thrived since the general cessation of coppicing, in stark contrast to many others which have seen a big decline for the same reason.

As we came to the first of the scalloped areas, we came across this White Admiral on the track.

_MG_8023Then, within a few moments, two Silver-washed Fritillaries appeared to our left, along with a Comma. The SWF flies quite quickly and doesn’t have the graceful gliding flight of the White Admiral which is instantly recogniseable in flight when you’ve seen it once.

As we walked further down the ride we saw more of both species feeding on Bramble flowers and patrolling up and down the ride – a total of six Silver-washed Fritillaries and four White Admirals – our first of the year.

_MG_8028

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.

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.

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!

Butterfly Conservation’s Rother Woods Project… in the Brede and Tillingham Valleys

May as well begin with the longest titled post ever!

The purpose of this blog is to record sightings, propagate news and generally raise awareness of the Butterfly Conservation Rother Woods Project – with specific emphasis on the area spanning the Brede and Tillingham Valleys. These two valleys are separated by a ridge which runs from Rye (in East Sussex), through Udimore and along towards Sedlescombe.

There are plenty of sites – links provided here where possible – that are excellent resources for identification of butterflies and moths as well as recording, so there is no intention to compete with those sites. However, I intend to record my personal sightings in the area on this blog (as well as properly for BC) and post anything else of interest or potential usefulness.