Sunday, 17 July 2016

Chalk Wood Butterflies

Clockwise from top left: Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Red Admiral, Comma

Clockwise from top left: Silver Washed Fritillary, Red Admiral, Silver Washed Frit, Comma
Clockwise from top left: Large Skipper (male), Silver Washed Fritillary (male), Ringlet, Marbled White
Clockwise from top left: Silver Washed Fritillary in our garden (female), Ringlet, Red Admiral, Meadow Brown (male),
The weather has been pants for flutters. They like it to be sunny but not too hot, dry and still. Instead it has been cold, overcast and windy. As a result there really haven't been too many of them around. The big butterfly count  is on from 15th July-17th Aug. I urge you all to get involved if you aren't already. 15 mins to count all the flutters you see then give the data to Butterfly Conservation. It makes a huge difference to their work.

It's Fritillary and Purple Emperor time (and Chalkhill Blue, CJ) and until yesterday I hadn't seen either of them. A Silver Washed turned up at home, looking battered from a run-in with a bird, and then in the woods today there were several of these big, powerful, ginger flutters soaring among the trees and coming down to nectar. 

Silver Washed Frits are flutters of broad-leaved woodland and although not rare they aren't especially common either. The larvae need violets to survive. Eggs are laid on mature trees close to where violets grow. When Spring arrives the caterpillars (which have over-wintered), climb down the tree to reach the violets where they feed. Once ready to pupate (in June), they climb back up the tree, turn into a pupa and then emerge as adult butterflies a short time later in July.

Violets flower March-June. The road verges where many violets bloom are often cut back in June. You see the problem? The plants the insects rely on are all too often destroyed by early cutting. No violets: no Silver Washed Fritillaries.

We have violets on our lane and last year a Silver Washed visited the garden, so it isn't an enormous leap to associate the presence of the butterfly with the presence of the food source. A few weeks ago, having plotted the whereabouts of the violets in a survey of our lane, I rang the council armed with my evidence, determined to get a stay of execution for the verges and ready to remind them of their duty as regards conservation. Eventually, after a couple of quite funny conversations with people who clearly had never heard of a Silver Washed Frit and didn't know anything at all about butterfly life cycles (but who were brilliantly helpful once I infected them with my butterfly obsession), I got through to the man in charge of grass cutting for the county. I explained the situation and before I could say anything about putting back the verge cut he asked me whether I'd like him to delay the cut and when would be the best time for the butterflies for them to do it? He was brilliant, and told me they'd reschedule our lane cut for the start of July, with the caveat that any dangerous vegetation would need to go sooner. Two weeks ago the verge was duly trimmed and yesterday the butterfly arrived. She was a female and hopefully that bodes well for eggs and more flutters next year. Good on the council for listening and doing their bit for conservation. What a difference they can make to the survival of our insect life.

I'm off to a different wood tomorrow with Uncle B (butterfly whisperer) to look for Emperors. Finger's Crossed.

Hope all are well?

CT :o)

20 comments:

  1. I have not seen a butterfly yet here in the Dales, so I have to content myself with your fabulous pictures.

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    1. The weathers not been great so far for them. Hope you see some soon.

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  2. You will have to send your council person a few photos of the butterflies to show him it worked a treat. Great to find someone who will listen. I haven't seen any butterflies in my garden.

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  3. Brilliant that the council listened to you. For the first time this year I am starting to see good things on verges and spare grass areas - more are being left to grow on. We were up on the common yesterday evening, but no sight of a chalkhill blue. It was chilly and breezy though. I shall try and steer everyone up to where I saw them last year soon. We were further along on the ridge this afternoon and saw red admirals, marbled whites, small tortoiseshells and a six spot burnet moth. The wildflowers were in great form. Love your ringlets, those spots are so pretty. Also the silver washed fritillary, I don't know if I've ever seen one of them. We'll be doing the Big Butterfly Count. The biggest boy wants to enter butterfly data on one of his bird websites as well that also records flutters. Fingers crossed the weather will improve for them all. CJ xx

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    1. I agree- more awareness on the value of green flower filled spaces seems to be visible recently. Plant life have done a job of that. Hope your flutter recording goes well. If you do one where the chalk hills are that will doubtless be useful too data- wise xx

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  4. We have some butterflies but not as many different ones.
    I know people have butterflies gardens and plant for them.
    But I have a bee garden and try to help the Arizona Bees. They are solidary.
    Wonderful photos !

    cheers, parsnip and thehamish

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    1. It's so nice to hear of folks who plant for wildlife. It makes such a differences To their survival rates and restores my faith in humanity as more than selfish beings x

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  5. I was wondering why there seem to be so few butterflies in our garden this year - now I know I can blame the weather! Good on you and Mr. Council Man for delaying the grass cutting. Heres to more violets and frittileries! xx

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  6. Super butterfly ID photos CT, thank you. I will do the Buuterfly count and usually do it in the garden, the allotment, the chalk downs (the Blues were out in force earlier in the year) and a woodland edge. Is it just me or is it an exceptional year for Small Tortoiseshells. I have clouds of them in the garden on a sunny day. They feed on lavender, Erigeron and verbena bonariensis and they rest on the wall to digest. Planning to go on a night jar walk tonight. The conditions are pretty near perfect with a full moon tomorrow. Excellent work on the verge cutting.

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    1. I've seen one small tort here this year and only two altogether so I'm v relieved you've been spotting lots. Wonder if it's regional?

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  7. Lovely photos of butterflies. Lucky you to get the Silver Washed Fritillary in your garden. They are really uncommon here, although I have seen a couple this year - but not around me. That is great that you've contacted the council about the verges and got a result. I wonder if your council man could come and speak to my council? I've contacted them (once again) about leaving the verges in our lane for pollinators until later in the summer and had a 'holding' response, which means I'll have to keep chasing (like a couple of years ago without any success)
    Good luck with the purple emperors. I hope you see one. I've had a couple of looks in known spots this year with no luck.

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    1. How depressing about the council. It might be worth contacting plant life and seeing if they can add your council to their list for working with? There was a thing around ecologically valuable verges set up with councils a few years back- worth checking if yours signed up to it? No joy with the Purple People in two local woods, but there was either a white admiral or an emperor in the garden here over the weekend. It moved before I could ID which it was.

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  8. Beautiful photos and so nice to hear about a council getting it right :-) xx

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  9. Hey CT,
    Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. The thing is though, why don't councils do this a matter of course?
    Leanne xx

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    1. I think they may be starting to appreciate the botanical value of verges more now so hopefully it will become more routine in future years xx

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  10. Recently a brown and red job and a white job were spotted in our garden. They cannot be identified from the photos! There are therefore two options, either the humans know nothing, or they were very very very rare and as yet unidentified species! More likely fast flying large whites and red admirals I suspect!

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    1. I'd say you were probably spot on with the red ad and it was either a large white or a brimstone for the other one :-) xx

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x