Wednesday, 18 May 2016

A whole lot of finger crossing

Mother Shipton moth (Callistege mi) by the A41 on 12th May 2016

Yikes! Where did the last 12 days go?! Although butterfly numbers are low and late, I still seem to have spent inordinate amounts of time devoted to them. Last Monday, the 9th, as part of the preparations for Duke of Burgundy (re)introduction, I scoured Roughdown Common and Bovingdon Brickworks for representative foodplants (Cowslip and Primrose) that females might choose for egg laying. It was then a case of labelling, photographing and mapping them all with a view to returning every 2 weeks to capture (photograph) their progress. The idea is that we’ll then have evidence to show that the sites can support the larvae right through to pupation….so long as these foodplants remain lush and edible (rather than desiccate in sun or drought). Fingers firmly crossed, prayers dispensed and mind set to "optimistic"!


Pyrausta aurata 
(Small Purple and Gold or Mint Moth
Roughdown 16/5/2016
Dingy Skipper, Brickworks, 12/5/2016. A male, indicated by the dark scent/sex-brands running through the forewings. These contain the androconial scales used during courtship

What else? Well, having religiously visited the A41 Bourne End/Boxmoor junction every weather-appropriate day since the beginning of May, the first Small Blues took flight on the 12th. Just 3 of them and they were feeding feverishly on Grass Vetchling, Common Mouse-ear, Red and White Clover, Cowslips and Buttercups. Despite having no influence whatsoever on the survival of these little creatures, it hasn’t stopped me willing them through the winter, hoping all those tucked away larvae stay safe, and I felt as though I were greeting dear friends returned from a perilous adventure. I was so pleased to see them. Incidentally, 60-70% of the Kidney Vetch we planted at Roughdown and the Brickworks has taken, so, once again, fingers crossed for the future.

The best bird of the last week was the arrival of a Lesser Whitethroat jangling/rattling away at the western edge of the Brickworks. I wonder if it’s the same bird that turned up last year?

Not a Lesser Whitethroat but one of the many singing male Blackcaps around the Brickworks. This one hiding in a mess of Buddleja on Monday

On the botany front, I found a new patch of Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) at the Brickworks. This, along with plenty of Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria), Creeping Cinquefoil (Potentilla reptans) and copious Bramble (Rubus fruticosus) is surely going to be tempting to any half-sane wandering Grizzled Skipper (a rare and restricted species in Herts and absent from BMT land). You guessed it, fingers firmly crossed.

Finally, I walked the Brickworks late afternoon yesterday. The Common Blue butterflies have yet to emerge and there’s still no sign of Brown Argus. The latter theoretically emerges the first week of May but my first sighting last year was the 10th. This year, I’m anticipating that they’ll be slightly late but we’re definitely getting to the end of the window of expectation. All I can do is stay optimistic and hope for the best (no more fingers left to cross!).

6 comments:

  1. Need to see if there any grasshopper warblers rolling on the old Hawton Works site near me. We get grizzled skippers along the cycle path, but Notts isn't renowned for mega butterflies.

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    1. Hi Si, there seem to have been a few Grasshopper Warblers reported in Herts this spring but no luck around the sites I visit. Good luck!

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  2. Some great work there Lucy backed up by some nice photography work.

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    1. Thanks Marc. It's amazing how busy the spring and summer can get.

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  3. Fingers crossed for the brown argus. I had a wonder over there a week or so back, but nothing of note to report. It was all very quiet. There were tadpoles in the ponds - hope they develop quickly as I don't think the water will last long this year!

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    1. With a bit of luck, the spawn that was laid at the end of February should be reaching juvenile frog stage now but, you're right, the later spawn will likely not make it, sadly. Thanks for the positive hopes for the butterflies, Martin...

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