|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"!
(Small Purple and Gold or Mint Moth)
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!).