What a great week of sunny and warm weather that we have just experienced – week 7 proved to be lucky for most of the transect recorders with some excellent results across the county – what a relief after the poor weather during week 6 of the transect season!
A couple of new species were seen this last week in Derbyshire – the Large Skipper appearing at Pleasley Pit LNR on the 15th of May 2019 (Mick Gamble per David Elliott)which was 4 days later than the first seen in 2018. This summer-flying skipper has a chequered pattern to its wings and the antennae are hooked at the end.
The other species to appear was the Grizzled Skipper which was seen on a transect for the very first time here in Derbyshire when Rob Waldron and Marilyn Horner saw an individual at Ticknall Limeyards on the 14th of May 2019. I was lucky to be in the area at the same time and I managed to get a photo:
It is some 50 years since the Grizzled Skipper has bred and been seen there and it is part of an official re-introduction programme agreed between Natural England, The National Trust, Butterfly Conservation and other conservation bodies. I sometimes receive potential sightings of this butterfly but it can be confused with some day flying moths such as the Latticed Heath and there have been sightings of the Grizzled Skipper over the years in north-east Derbyshire due to unauthorised releases by the ‘breed it and release it’ brigade.
Not to be outdone, the Dingy Skipper is having a good spring with sightings from over 60 locations in the county including a new site at the New Workings in Long Eaton Gravel Pits (Roger Martin) where 3 individuals were seen on the 15th of May 2019. Highest counts are coming from the ‘brownfield’ sites in north-east Derbyshire with in excess of 40 individuals coming from Whitwell Tip (Paul Townsend), Oxcroft Tip (Jim Steele) and Arkwright Tip (Mark Radford). Great news is that this BAP species has now established itself around the factory premises of BASF in Alfreton where 5 individuals were seen on the transect there on the 15th of May 2019 (Diane Rodger & Jason Richardson)
Other very interesting sightings recently include a new butterfly species at Hoe Grange Quarry (no 27) when a Green Hairstreak was seen on the 15th of May 2019 by Paul Robinson and Ray Walker. I managed to get a photo of the butterfly the next day, so all references to the first butterfly NR in the county should read 27 species now! Interestingly the Green Hairstreak was again noted on the Derbyshire side of Toton Sidings by Roger Martin who saw 3 individuals on the 14th of May 2019.
Great news is that our Derbyshire ‘speciality’ the Wall Brown butterfly has again stepped up to the mark for the start of another fine performance with records of 90 individuals already received from 30 sites including 12 seen at Hoe Grange Quarry on the 19th of May 2019 (Ray ‘Badger’ Walker).
Interestingly this BAP species is starting to occur in gardens in the county with sightings in Belper (Dan Martin), Two Dales (Peter Faulkner), Buxworth, (Vicki Leng), Hathersage (Robert & Margaret Davies), Steeple Grange, Wirksworth (Nigel Pratley) and Millington Green (Penny Northall). When you consider that probably half the UK population lives in central southern England and since the start of the new millennium probably not one of them has seen the once common Wall Brown butterfly, it is a great privilege to have it doing so well here in Derbyshire and it is even trying to extend its range within the county as witnessed by Roger Breen (per Pete Clark) who saw and photographed an individual at Erewash Meadows in Ironville on the 12th of May 2019 – naturally all sightings of this special butterfly will be gratefully received!
Other species of interest noted recently include:-
Brimstone:- Appears still to be widespread in the county with several observers noting eggs laid on the underside of buckthorn (purging or alder) and the highest count of 23 coming from Chee Dale on the 12th of May 2019 (Cate Beck et al)
Orange-tip :- A good spring for this species with recent counts in excess of 40 coming from Erewash Meadows, Ironville (Pete Clark), the Rowthorne Trail (David Elliott), Chee Dale (Helen Waterman, Cate Beck et al) and Lathkill Dale (Chris & Sheila Ragg) where the all time total record of 275 set up in 1985 is likely to be beaten on the transects there this year!
Small Copper ;- Not really doing particularly well although 6 were noted at Dene Quarry on the 14th of May 2019 (Jonathan Page) and 7 on a walk along Derwent Edge on the same day (Chris Perry)
Brown Argus migrating :- Sightings from just 12 sites in lowland Derbyshire with the highest count of 19 coming from Drakelow NR on the 16th of May 2019 (Andy Large & Nigel Cowl)
Brown Argus Peak District Race :- Still no sightings for this sub species although it is expected to be seen in the Peak District before the end of May?
Common Blue :- A slow start to the flight period of this butterfly with to date a maximum of 7 seen at Whitwell Tip on the 12th of May 2019 (Paul Townsend). Only just starting to appear in the Peak/Peak Fringe areas of the county with records from Hartington NR (Ruth Greaves), Redhill Quarry, Middleton Top (Steve Plant & Rod Smith) and on Crich Chase Meadows (Tim Brooks)
Holly Blue :- Still having a good spring with recent maximum sightings of 7 coming from New Sawley and Draycott (both Roger Martin)
Red Admiral :- A very poor start to the year for this species and no real improvement to date with only 7 recent sightings from Aston on Trent (Roger Martin), Drakelow NR (Andy Large & Nigel Cowl), Hazlewood (Chris Perry), the Rowthorne Trail (David Elliott), West Hallam Ash Tip (Pat & Ken Orpe), Hoe Grange Quarry (Ray ‘Badger’ Walker & Ken Orpe) and in Coombs Dale (Paul Townsend).
Small Tortoiseshell :- Slowly coming to the end of its current flight period although 12 were seen on the Rowthorne Trail by David Elliott on the 14th of May 2019.
Peacock :- Doing well in places with recent sightings of 11 from Mapleton (Sally Harrison et al), 12 from Erewash Meadows (Pete Clark) and 18 noted on the transect in Lathkill Dale on the 12th of May 2019 (Chris & Sheila Ragg)
Comma :- Not so evident in the county just now with a maximum of 4 seen on the 13th of May 2019 (Peter Brewster)
Speckled Wood :- It is difficult to establish the start and finish of this multi-brooded species but at the moment it looks as though a new brood has just emerged with the highest count of 10 coming from Drakelow NR on the 16th of May 2019 (Andy Large & Nigel Cowl)
Small Heath :- Again another species that has yet to get moving with the maximum count of 15 in the Peak District coming from Long Dale (Max & Christine Maughan) and counts in double figures coming from some of the ‘brownfield’ sites in North East Derbyshire with records of 10 from both the Blackwell Trail (Willy Lane) and Markham Vale North ( Sid Morris), and a maximum of 30 coming from Arkwright Tip (Mark Radford).
Finally most men, like me. do not like the idea of supermarket shopping but it looks like Morrisons of Belper are providing additional help for its customers as Maggie Campbell found out recently when a Small Copper was seen on the handrail of a shopping trolley there. Now that would present a different proposition for me to be involved with this weekly chore!
Despite an awful week of poor weather in Week 6 of the transect season, a brief opportunity of fine weather occurred on 7th of May 2019 which enabled Rose Williams (per Tom Cockburn) to check out the southern part of Drakelow NR and her results were pretty amazing with sightings of the Dingy Skipper and Small Heath (both BAP species) together with 3 species of the ‘Blue’ family, namely the Small Copper and first sightings in the county this year of both the Common Blue and the migrating Brown Argus. What is particularly pleasing is that the site had been fenced off earlier this year but following requests from a number of concerned lepidopterists, including Tom Cockburn and Jim Steele, the owners relented and allowed the transect to continue. So many thanks to all concerned including the owners of the site – E.ON, who recognised the importance of the area and agreed that the ‘show must go on’ – a great example of industry working with environmentalists.
Not to be outdone with events at Drakelow NR, another project to survey industrial sites for the rare Dingy Skipper came up trumps (sorry Mr President) when staff at BASF saw and photographed a Dingy Skipper at their Alfreton site – thanks to Diane Rodger and Jason Richardson for their ability to spot a rare insect on their property. Not sure which one of them got the bottle of bubbly from their M D though!
Naturally butterfly sightings this week have been rather thin on the ground but below are some of the more interesting records:-
Dingy Skipper :- Additional sightings this last week have come from Pleasley Pit LNR (David Elliott), West Hallam Ash Tip (Ken & Pat Orpe ),Cressbrook Dale (Lucie Sweet & Joanna Mackey) and on the 10th of May 2019 in Hoe Grange Quarry (Derek Brownlee) – this being 1 week earlier than the first sighting there in 2018.
Brimstone :- Maximum count of 5 came from Findern Footpaths on the 10th of May 2019 (Joan Tidy et al)
Orange-tip :- Still fairly widespread despite the poor weather of this week with the highest count of 13 coming from Poolsbrook Country Park on the 4th of May 2019 (Abby Bruce)
Green Hairstreak :- This small green undersided butterfly is still being seen in both the dales and on the moors with recent records from Cressbrook Dale (Liz Wheeldon), Deep Dale, Sheldon (Steve Orridge) and on the old rail track in the Goyt Valley (Tony Pioli)
Small Copper :- Just two additional sightings to the Drakelow NR record above which were from Deep Dale, Sheldon on the 10th of May 2019 (Steve Orridge) and at Aston Brickyards on the 11th of May 2019 (Ken Orpe & Will Rose)
Holly Blue :- Records have been received from 10 sites this last week with the highest count of 3 coming from the Belper garden of Nigel Davidson.
Now that we have both blue butterflies on the wing it is worth pointing out that the Holly Blue is quite a pale blue butterfly with a busy flight and is mainly seen around hedgerows in parks and gardens, whereas the Common Blue is mainly seen close to the ground where its larval foodplant, birds foot trefoil, grows – however the giveaway is the underside of the butterflies which are completely different – please see the attached photos!
Peacock :- Still fairly widespread in the county with the highest count of 8 coming from Holmebrook Country Park (Dave Wood & Jenny Hudson) and 7 noted in Belper Parks on the 7th of May 2019 (Adrian & Rebecca Rochford).
Speckled Wood :- Numbers not yet increasing but fairly widespread in the county with the recent highest count of 6 coming from Belper Parks (Adrian & Rebecca Rochford)
Finally on a personal note I am very pleased to inform you all that the distribution list of these updates continues to grow and I have just reached the 1,000 mark for email addresses which receive my bulletins and which represents at least 1030 interested people from all walks of life but with a common interest in butterflies, moths and the other pollinators which are so important to the life of everyone. So from small beginnings about 20 years ago when half a dozen friends decided to exchange butterfly records, the interest in the subject has risen dramatically together with the number of butterfly transects (in excess of 100) that are now carried out here in Derbyshire by at least 300 volunteers in all sorts of weather that the county can throw at them – a fantastic group of people.. It is not just wildlife organisations that take an interest these days but increasingly large companies such as the massive car factory of Toyota at Burnaston, Nestles Coffee at Hatton, Lubrizol Additive Complex at Hazlewood, BASF Chemicals at Alfreton and the Weleda flower rich fields at Shipley near Ilkeston who are all involving their staff as well as Butterfly Conservation volunteers to monitor what is happening in these current changing times of the local environment. In addition we have now got our first butterfly nature reserve at Hoe Grange Quarry thanks to the generosity of Longcliffe Quarries who also help with the creation of butterfly banks around the county – all this is well beyond my wildest dreams and thankfully I get massive support from my wife Pat who lovingly sends me emails to let me know that my dinner is waiting for me on the dining room table – and that is so very true!
Well what a change for the May Day Bank Holiday period compared to the Easter period – the cold northerly wind ensured that butterflies were keeping low and also the fact that we had an early frost in Derby on the 5th of May 2019 (that makes a total of 67 frosts since the beginning of autumn 2018 compared to 61 during the similar period during 2017/2018 – ie a 10% increase) No wonder many sites are still lacking wild flowers although the dandelion has shown itself in decent numbers where the grasslands were last cut in autumn.
What does this mean for our butterflies – well up to the 30th of April 2019 the sightings both on transects and casual were doing okay but again a change of month has brought about a change of weather pattern and it looks like week 6 of the transect season will again prove to be quite a challenge. Thanks to all the recorders who ventured out in Week 5 – the highest count of a massive 196 came from Lathkill Dale NNR on the 30th of April 2019 where Al & John Roberts noted a huge count of 95 Orange-tips on their survey!
Fortunately we have had a new species emerge this week in the county when Andy Large saw a single Small Heath butterfly on the transect at Drakelow NR on the 5th of May 2019 – this small orange BAP species always settles with its wings folded together and is mainly a butterfly of the short sward grassland of the dales in the Peak District but small discreet colonies exist in southern Derbyshire together with larger colonies on brownfield sites in north-east Derbyshire usually at sites where the another BAP species, the Dingy Skipper, occurs. (download provisional map for 2018)
Other recent interesting/ high counts are as follows:-
Dingy Skipper: Not surprising that given the current weather there have been very few additional sightings of this BAP species – recent records have come from Hay Dale (Jim Alder), Hartington Meadows NR (Derek Brownlee) and Longstone Edge (Phil Gilbert) in the Peak District, Pleasley Pit (David Elliott) and Poolsbrook Country Park (Sid & Colin Morris)in north-east Derbyshire and along the Erewash Valley at Ironville (Pete Clark) and Shipley View Lagoon (Jim Steele).
Brimstone: Maximum count of 8 at both Chee Dale (Lee & Helen Waterman) and Tansley/Cressbrook Dale (Gordon & Alison Rooke)
Green-veined White: A high count of 42 in Lathkill Dale NNR on the 30th of April 2019 (Al & John Roberts)
Orange–tip: In addition to the Lathkill Dale total mentioned above, other recent high counts include 45 in Chee Dale (Lee & Helen Waterman) and 30 in both Ironville (Pete Clark) and alongside the River Dove at Mapleton on the 30th of April 2019 (Michael Baines)
Green Hairstreak: Still doing well across the Peak District with sightings from 15 locations with at least 30 noted on the 30th of April 2019 at Lawrence Field/Padley Gorge (Jeanne Clark). Interestingly Jim Steele saw an individual on the 30th of April 2019 within the Stanton complex near Ilkeston and on the same day Alan Kitchen saw 2 individuals at Clough Wood in Darley Dale.
Small Copper: Just three sightings in the county recently with individuals noted at Stanton Ironworks (Jim Steele), in Denby Village (Stephen Bullock per Jane Rogers) and on the 6th of May 2019 in Lathkill Dale NNR (Martin Smith)
Holly Blue: This busy, small, pale-blue butterfly is still being noted across the county with 40 individuals seen recently from 22 sites including gardens in Matlock (Alan Kitchen) and Over Haddon (Janet Wheeldon) in the Peak District, with the highest count of 4 coming from Ashbourne Churchyard on the 30th of April 2019 (Sally Oates). It is not very often that I get a photo of a freshly emerged female Holly Blue but Frances Casey took a great photo of one in North London recently... ... which indicates the extended period for the species to emerge in a good year as the first one seen in Derbyshire this year was back on the 25th of March 2019 in Long Eaton.
Red Admiral: Still poorly represented this year with only a further 4 sightings including Trent Meadows, Long Eaton (Roger Martin), Clover Close, Elvaston (Mike & Julie Ireland), Williamthorpe LNR (Willy Lane) and in Lathkill Dale NNR (Al & John Roberts)
Small Tortoiseshell: Numbers diminishing now with the highest count of 4 coming on the 30th of April 2019 at both Markham Pit North (Sid & Colin Morris) and at Broomfield College (Abby Bruce)
Peacock: Still being seen in good numbers when the sun finally appears with 26 seen in Lathkill Dale NNR (Al & John Roberts) and 21 in Poolsbrook Country Park (Sid & Colin Morris) both on the 30th of April 2019.
Comma: Again numbers diminishing with the highest count of 4 coming on the 30th of April 2019 from both Williamthorpe LNR (Willy Lane) and at Swadlincote Woodlands (Peter Brewster)
Speckled Wood: Becoming slightly more widespread in the county with the maximum count of 20 coming from Belper Parks (Adrian & Rebecca Rochford) and also 10 on the 30th of April 2019 in Whitwell Wood (Dot Alderton).
Wall Brown: Just one sighting this week of an individual noted in Lathkill Dale NNR on the 6th of May 2019 (Martin Smith).
May is usually one of the main months for the appearance of day-flying moths in the county. Already the Cinnabar moth has been noted in South Normanton (Veronica Kavaliunas) and Pat and I saw our first Mother Shipton moth at Aston Brickyards on the 30th of April 2019 - this moth can be confused in the field with the Dingy Skipper butterfly.– (see the attached photos for comparison) Probably the most spectacular day-flying moth which is on the wing in the county at the moment is the Emperor moth which can be seen flying across many of the moors in Derbyshire including Beeley Moor. Meanwhile Stephen Warman decided to visit the moors on Cannock Chase in Staffordshire recently and having bought a pheromone lure, he opened the packet and after 10 minutes 2 male Emperor moths appeared.
Finally thanks to Chris Butler for sending me the link below – there is at last some good news coming out of London – Brent Council has decided to create a seven-mile 'bee corridor' to boost declining populations of pollinators - Read the full story
Wouldn’t it be brilliant for other local authorities throughout the UK to adopt a similar scheme to help our insects? Here in Derbyshire we already have lots of wildlife corridors in the form of trails so if local authorities cut back on the regular and unnecessary continual mowing of grasslands and verges and invested the money that they could thereby save by creating wildflower areas it could well be a win - win situation. Well done Brent! Fortunately for us here in Derbyshire, the National Trust (NT) at Kedleston Park is in the process of removing an area of general grassland and creating wildflower areas instead for pollinators (see the photo taken in March 2019) – so well done the NT.
Well what a month April 2019 turned out to be – cold and frosty till the middle of the month here in Derby then an exceptionally warm and sunny spell over the Easter bank holiday period and finishing off with storm ‘Hannah’ which at least helped to top up the reservoir levels before the weather reverts back to changeable with night frosts forecast for early May – ‘ne’er cast a clout till May is out’ is an old saying going back to just before my time in 1732! It could just be true in 2019 with the first 2 weeks in May looking distinctly cool on the medium range forecast.
All this weather has had a dramatic effect on most butterfly species in the county with both the Orange-tip and the Green Hairstreak emerging in good numbers together with the Holly Blue and Speckled Wood not far behind. The only new species to appear since the last update was the Wall Brown which was first noted on the 22nd of April 2019 at Totley Moor on the border with South Yorkshire (Clive Hallam) and also in cuttings along the Tissington Trail at Alsop Moor on the same day (Viv Evans) – not the earliest sightings ever as the County record is the 14th of April (2007). With the late changeable weather in April 2019 it has put a stop to further sightings of the Small Copper other than an individual seen on the 23rd of the month at Belper Lane Ends by Frank Hudson. Similarly the Dingy Skipper has only been noted at the following sites recently in ones and twos at Longstone Edge (Dave Mallon, Mark Radford and Mark Searle), Hartington Meadows NR (Derek Brownlee), Arkwright Pit (Mark Radford), Pleasley Pit (David Elliott) and along the Blackwell Trail (Nikki Mahadevan). As previously noted the 3 ‘white’ species are still well below their usual numbers with the possibility of them being attacked by the hymenopterous endoparisitic ichneumon fly which is responsible for heavy losses of Pieris Brassicae larvae. thought to overwinter as pupae outside the host corpse. As Pieris brassicae infestations build up so does the population of the ichneumon fly(thanks to Stephen Warman for this information).
Some of the recent highest counts of other species in the county are as follows:-
Brimstone - 18 seen at Hollinhill on the 20th of April 2018 (Dave Fenton); 16 in Lathkill Dale NNR on the 17th of April 2019 (Chris & Sheila Ragg); 15 in Chee Dale on the 21st of April 2019 (Robert & Margaret Davies).
Orange-tip - Many observers are recording at least 30 of this species along their transects but the highest counts have come from Seymour Pit, Markham Vale (65 seen on the 22nd of April – Mark Radford & Sid Morris) and along Lathkill Dale NNR (66 seen on the 21st of April 2019 – Richard & Jackie Box). Will the maximum yearly total of 275 Orange-tips set in 1985 be beaten on the transects in Lathkill Dale NNR this year?
Green Hairstreak – A great start to the flight period of this essentially Peak District butterfly with sightings from 24 locations across the moors and at 16 locations in the dales with the highest counts coming from the moors with bilberry present including 84 seen at Lightwood above Buxton (Steve Orridge & Shirley Johnson) and 40 noted at Toads Mouth, above Padley Gorge (Sid & Ellen Morris). In the dales 60 were noted at Hall Dale/Dovedale just below Milldale on the 22nd of April 2019 (Ian & Joy White). Pleasingly Roger Martin noted 2 individuals on the Derbyshire side of the boundary at Toton Sidings on the 22nd of April 2019. Even more surprising was an individual noted on the transect at Gnat Hole Farm, Glossop for the first time on the 22nd of April 2019 (Marc Whitlock) and also another noted on borage and heather in the Kinder, Hayfield garden of Brian Gee on the 19th and 20th of April 2019 – I wonder how many observers in the UK have Green Hairstreak on their garden list of butterflies?
Holly Blue - This busy small butterfly has been noted recently at 120 sites throughout the county with sightings mainly in gardens including those in the far north west of Derbyshire including Bamford (Joanna Mackey), Whaley Bridge (Angie & Alan Seymour), Taxal (Sheila Stubbs) and for the first time in 25 years in Dave Mallon’s garden in Glossop. The highest count has come from Swarkestone where Roger Martin saw 7 individuals on the 20th of April 2019.
Small Tortoiseshell - Still scarce in some parts of the county but the recent maximum counts of 16 individuals have come from Denby Village (Sarah Tucker) on the 19th of April 2019 and along an old ditch with a good covering of stinging nettles in South Wood, Calke Estate (Roger Martin) on the 18th of April 2019.
Peacock - Another success story of the spring of 2019 with several sites having counts of up to 2 dozen individuals seen regularly and with the highest counts of around 30 coming from Alderwasley (30 on the 21st of April 2019 – Dan Martin) and 31 at Markham Vale Pit (Sid Morris on the 18th of April 2019).
Comma – Numbers decreasing now with the recent highest count of 6 individuals coming from Bottom Moor Wood, Matlock on the 21st of April 2019 (Chris & Angela Bent)
Speckled Wood - This species is increasing in numbers across lowland Derbyshire with the highest recent counts coming from the Long Eaton area including 30 at Long Eaton Gravel Pits (Roger Martin), 30 at Forbes Hole NR ( Marion Bryce) and a massive 60 seen on the transect at Manor Farm LNR in Long Eaton (again Marion Bryce).
Moving on to migrant butterflies and moths, the Red Admiral remains very scarce with just 5 recent sightings from Swadlincote (Ron Lane), Coton Park LNR (Peter Brewster), Sinfin Moor Wetlands (Martin Roome per Colin Bowler), Allestree Park (Bill Grange) and at Brook Park in Shirebrook (Tom Adams).
With millions of Painted Lady butterflies heading through eastern Europe (see Update no 12), which John Kirby confirms whilst staying in Marmaris in Turkey in mid April, it was hoped that many would eventually reach our shores but here in the East Midlands there have been very few sightings. In Derbyshire there were just 3 sightings at Stanton Ironworks (Bill Grange & Steve Plant), Far Laund in Belper (Nigel Davidson) and at Mapleton (Sally & Daniel Harrison). Meanwhile John Haddon saw another on the 22nd of April 2019 at the highest point in Leicestershire (Bardon Hill) where the individual must have been ‘hill topping’ on its migration north towards us here in Derbyshire! Add to that with just one sighting of the rare migrant Humming Bird Hawk moth on the 26th of April 2019 at Northwood, Darley Dale where an individual was seen taking nectar from primroses in the garden of Christine Gregory, it has been quite a disappointing period for migrant butterflies and moths but let’s face it, we are still in April (just).
It has been pleasing to see the transect numbers gradually build up from a total of 26 on week 2 (Seale Brook Wood – 11th of April 2019 – Maxine Ellis), 92 on week 3 (Waingroves Wood – 19th of April 2019 – Shaun Walters) to 109 on week 4 (Seymour site Markham Pit – 22nd April 2019 – Sid Morris & Mark Radford). Also Roger Martin recorded 101 butterflies whilst doing a casual survey around Long Eaton Gravel Pits on the 19th of April 2019 – an excellent result for a pleasant stroll through the Derbyshire countryside during April.
Thanks to all the recorders who have sent me their butterfly photos whilst on their travels – I have attached copies of a few of the spring butterflies that have been seen recently for you all to enjoy.
So which butterfly species are we likely to see appear here in Derbyshire during early May this year given a decent spell of weather? – well Pat and I saw our first flower of Bird's-foot Trefoil yesterday at West Hallam Ash Tip and this is usually a sign that the Common Blue will soon appear and possibly followed by the migrating Brown Argus in lowland Derbyshire whilst up in the Peak District the Small Heath is likely to be on the wing very soon.
Only your continued efforts will again prove which new butterfly species have actually appeared in our fantastic County.
But a special mention must be made to those who reported the first Small Coppers of the year in the county with Sunday the 21st of April 2019 being the first date for their appearance this year with sightings from Rose End Meadows, Cromford (Martin Cobham), Lightwood above Buxton (John Bradburn per Steve Orridge), Longstone Edge (Mark Radford), Lathkill Dale (Richard & Jackie Box) and Eyes Meadow, Duffield (Mick Ball). Then on Monday the 22nd of April 2019 a further 2 were seen on Beeley Moor (Rod Dunn).
Undoubtedly the main item of interest currently is the fantastic numbers of Orange-tip butterflies on the wing with the other ‘whites’ being far outnumbered in possibly the ratio of at least 20 to 1 – amazing considering the huge number of ‘whites’ that were seen last summer but which have yet to produce a significant number of butterflies this spring.
With just one more day of the current warm and sunny spell left to enjoy, it would be good if the first Wall Brown was seen in the county as the current earliest date for this Derbyshire speciality is the 14th of April (2007) – good luck if you are able to get out and about tomorrow!
During the last week the weather has seen a constant nagging easterly wind, despite some strong sunshine throughout the county. This obviously had an effect on butterfly numbers and indeed week 2 of the transect season resulted in about 15% of the transects still resulting with a nil count but at least the maximum counts on transects has risen to a maximum of 38 individual butterflies which were seen at Drakelow NR North on the 11th of April 2019 (Andy Large). Nevertheless a couple of species have done well in the last week – namely the Orange-tip and the Peacock with many of the latter species being seen in mint condition due to their early disappearance into hibernation in late July/early August of last year. This was because in lowland Derbyshire this species couldn’t stand the constant hot weather which can also be a major factor in the appearance of aberrations. Then on the 8th of April 2019, Pete Clark saw an unusual Peacock basking on his lawn in Ironville – a quick rush to his car to get his camera resulted in an excellent photo of a remarkable aberration which I believe is Exoculata – Weymer (see the attached photo and a ‘normal’ Peacock for comparison).
A quick summary of the species seen in the county during the last week includes :-
Brimstone :- 69 individuals seen at 29 sites across the county is quite a reduction compared to recent weeks with the highest count of 10 coming on the 8th of April in Cunningdale (Rachel & Dave Purchase)
Large White :- Still very scarce with only 4 individuals seen at 4 sites due, probably, to the current night frosts that are still occurring here in Derbyshire.
Small White :- Slightly more common with 44 individuals noted from 24 sites across the county.
Green-veined White – Still scarce with just 13 individuals seen at 6 sites recently.
Orange–tip :- Over 250 individuals seen at 80 sites including some attempts at mass copulation (see below), with the highest count of 24 coming on the 9th of April 2019 at Markham Pit (south) (Mark Radford & Sid Morris)
Holly Blue :- Just 2 recent sightings both on the 11th of April 2019 with one in a garden at Buxworth (Vicki Leng) together with a couple flying around the holly bushes in Darley Park (Pat & Ken Orpe)
Red Admiral :- Following on from its disastrous year in 2018 (a 90% reduction in numbers on transects compared to 2017), this species still remains scarce with the only sighting that I have received recently coming from Swadlincote on the 29th of March 2019 (Ron Lane)
Small Tortoiseshell :- A total of 126 individuals have been noted recently from 60 sites across the County with the highest count of 11 coming on the 8th of April 2019 at Eyes Meadow, Duffield (Mick Ball)
Peacock :- The success story continues with 312 butterflies seen recently from 95 sites with the highest count of 18 coming from Hartshorne Wood on the 8th of April 2019) (David & Heather Bird)
Comma :- Still making a decent showing with 79 individuals seen at 44 sites across Derbyshire with the highest count of 5 coming on the 8th of April 2019 at Hartshorne Wood (David & Heather Bird)
Speckled Wood :- This species has now appeared at over 40 sites across Derbyshire including Whaley Bridge (Angie & Alan Seymour) and Gnat Hole Farm near Glossop (Marc Whitlock), both in the far north-west of the county, with the highest counts of 7 coming from the Trans Pennine Trail near Staveley on the 12th of April 2019 (Mark Radford) together with 8 individuals on the 11th of April 2019 at Drakelow NR North (Andy Large).
At this time of the year recorders can be confused into thinking that they have seen an early Small Copper butterfly as there is a day flying moth called the Orange Underwing which is about the same size as a Small Copper with orange showing when it settles on the ground. The caterpillar of this moth feeds on birch so if you are in a woodland ride which has birch trees nearby you could well see this moth during April.
As often happens, a change of month means a change in the weather patterns and this is certainly true of the first week of April 2019. This obviously coincided with week 1 of the butterfly transect season but volunteers still ventured out and to date over 30 sites were walked in the county during the last week which was a great achievement with the highest counts coming from Pleasley Pit (18 butterflies – Ian Hurst et al) and Manor Field LNR Long Eaton (17 butterflies – Marion Bryce) although 11 sites produced a nil count due to the poor weather.
The surprise was that on the last days of March and the first day of April the Green Hairstreak appeared in both Derbyshire and on Cannock Chase in Staffordshire (Derek Brownlee and Brian & Jean Hallam). The first sighting in Derbyshire was on the 29th of March 2019 on bilberry at Chunal followed by another sighting on the 1st of April 2019 at Lantern Pike on the moors above Glossop (both records by Jane Hewitt).
Meanwhile in lowland Derbyshire the Holly Blue was seen recently, busily flying along hedgerows at Foxstone Dam (Mark Radford), Langley Common (Nick Brown & Kath Patrick), the Strutt Centre in Belper (Dave Evans) and at the Tara Centre in Etwall (Pete Clark). The Speckled Wood has managed to make an appearance at just 8 sites in the county recently including Wyver Lane, Belper (Dave Newcombe), South Wingfield (Eric Easom), Norbriggs Flash (Paul Townsend), Hilton (Pat & Ken Orpe), Denby Footpaths (Jane Rogers & Sarah Tucker), Lubrizol, Hazlewood (Megan Williams et al), Manor Farm, Long Eaton (Marion Bryce) and at the New Workings at Long Eaton Gravel Pits (Roger Martin).
Interestingly the low temperatures at night have probably prevented many of the ‘whites’ from appearing in the county recently – indeed frosts here in Derby this last winter have amounted to 61 mornings which was exactly the same number as the winter of 2017/2018.
The total sites where whites have been noted this last week are as follows:-
Large White – just 3 individuals seen at Sawley (Brian & Jennifer Sewell), Thurvaston (John & Wendy Abrehart) and at Over Haddon (Janet Wheeldon)
Small White – only noted at 12 sites throughout the county
Green-veined White – only seen at just 6 sites in Derbyshire recently in just ones and twos.
Orange-tip – has been slightly more widespread than the other ‘whites’ with sightings from 22 sites in the county with the highest count of a mere 5 coming from the New Workings at Long Eaton Gravel Pits on the 1st of April 2019 (Roger Martin).
As previously recorded, the 4 hibernating butterflies have done the best during the first 3 months of the year – indeed the total number of 1686 individuals seen is second only to the first 3 months of 2014 when 2068 butterflies were seen (see the attached excel chart). The only blemish is that the Red Admiral has performed poorly with only 16 individuals noted although this is on a par with the 17 seen in the first 3 months of 2014.
For the record, yet again the Peacock has been the most common butterfly seen recently in the county with 211 butterflies noted at 53 sites including a maximum count of 20 at Williamthorpe on the 29th of March 2019 (Bill Grange & Steve Plant). Then followed the Brimstone with 123 butterflies seen at 52 sites including a maximum of 31 individuals noted at Scarcliffe Park on the 29th of March 2019 (Roy Frost & Christine Parsons). Not far behind was the Small Tortoiseshell with 122 butterflies noted at 47 sites with a maximum count of 18 at Norbriggs Flash on the 29th of March 2019 (Mark Radford).
The Comma was noted at 30 sites in the county and consisted of 63 individuals of which 17 were seen at Scarcliffe Park on the 29th of March 2019 by Roy Frost and Christine Parsons. The over-wintering Red Admiral was again conspicuous by its absence with sightings from just 4 sites including Ticknall Limeyards (Mathew Harpin), Allestree garden (Dave Roberts), the Weleda site in Shipley ( Lindsay Billsborrow) with the highest count of just 3 coming from Eyes Meadow, Duffield on the 29th of March 2019 (Mick Ball).
Following on from my note in the last update, Brian Hallam has sent me an article which has appeared in Cyprus regarding the mass migration noted there recently of the Painted Lady butterfly
Whilst on the subject of migration, Keith Hall was pleasantly surprised when he saw a Humming-bird Hawk-moth taking nectar from a patch of Aubrietia in King Street, Duffield on the 31st of March 2019 – no doubt it arrived here in the UK during the warm spell of weather that we experienced at that time.
Less welcome to these shores is the Harlequin Ladybird which has invaded Britain from the near Continent, where they were introduced from temperate eastern Asia as an aphid controller on farmland. Also, as well as feeding on native ladybirds, they are suspected of predating butterfly larvae - so they are not good news but it is impossible to do anything about them now though. To give you some idea of the over-wintering numbers locally, Matthew Birkin saw lots in Ilkeston Cemetery recently (see the attached photo) where they were seen soon starting mating so as to increase their numbers even further.
Butterfly Conservation East Midlands have recently produced a list of their Field Trips for 2019, 5 of which will take place here in Derbyshire including the 3rd Open Day at Hoe Grange Quarry, Longcliffe on the 21st of July 2019.
Despite some cold nights with slight frosts, the mainly sunny weather of the last week has encouraged 2 new butterfly species to emerge in the county – the first sighting of the harbinger of spring (aka the Orange-tip) was noted on the 23rd of March 2019 at Causeway Lane in Matlock (Gareth Hirons) followed by others on the next day (24th of March 2019) in Long Walk Wood at Aston on Trent by Roger Martin and also at Slaley in the Peak District (Paul Goodwin). On the following day (the 25th of March 2019) a couple more sightings of this unmistakable male butterfly were seen on Stones Island at Carsington Water by Brian Hobby and also in the Duffield garden of Keith Hall (see the attached photo of a male Orange-tip taken last year by David Hatfield). Further sightings this week have come from West Hallam Ash Tip (Ken & Pat Orpe), on the Blackwell Trail at Hilcote (Ian Wilson) in the Wakebridge garden of Fred & Gill Dyson, at Creswell Crags (Jim Anderson), in the Denby garden of Jane Rogers, and also in the Whaley Bridge garden of Angie & Alan Seymour. Interestingly 2 Orange-tips were seen and photographed in cop at Broomfield College (Ben Thomas per Paul Foskett) on the 28th of March 2019 so they obviously take advantage of the weather at every opportunity to ensure future generations are produced! (see attached photo). Then on the 25th of March 2019 a couple of Holly Blues were seen in the Long Eaton area by Marion Bryce – one in her garden and the other at Forbes Hole LNR.
Strangely there have been very few further sighting this month of ‘whites’ following on from when Pete Clark saw a Small White at Codnor Park on the 20th of March 2019. The next sightings of this species came on the 28th of March 2019 at Carr Vale NR (Mark Beevers) and at Breadsall Cutting on the same day (Ken & Pat Orpe) together with singletons at Mickleover Meadows (Colin Bowler), Codnor Park (Pete Clark) and in Long Eaton (Marion Bryce). Just 1 further sighting of a Large White recently with an individual seen on the 28th of March 2019 at West Hallam Ash Tip (Ken & Pat Orpe) and just 3 sightings of the Green-veined White on the same day at Whaley Bridge (Angie & Alan Seymour), at West Hallam Ash Tip (Ken & Pat Orpe) and at Mickleover Meadows (Colin Bowler).
Also the Speckled Wood is still infrequent in the county with the only recent sightings coming from Miller's Dale on the 23rd of March 2019 (Rod Dunn), at Brierley Wood near Sheepbridge on the 24th of March 2019 (Paul Townsend) and in the Whaley Bridge garden of Angie & Alan Seymour on the 25th of March 2019.
Pleasingly the 4 hibernating butterfly species have maintained their presence in the county recently with the Peacock proving to be the most common with sightings of 147 individuals from 48 sites including 12 at Codnor Park (Pete Clark), 11 in Coombes Dale (John & Al Roberts) and 10 at Denby Pottery(Jane Rogers) – the majority of this species are in mint condition having gone into hibernation early at the end of July 2018 / beginning of August 2018. (see the attached photo taken by Eric Easom of an individual seen at South Wingfield earlier this week). The Comma has also been seen at 31 sites and consisting of 112 individuals, the majority of which (50) were seen by Ian Wilson along the Blackwell Trail at Hilcote on the 20th of March 2019. The brightly coloured Brimstone is unmistakable and was seen recently at 31 sites and consisted of 88 individuals of which 12 were seen at Markham South Pit (Sid Morris) and 11 at both Clough Wood (Bill Grange & Steve Plant) and along the Blackwell Trail at Hilcote (Ian Wilson). However the Small Tortoiseshell has been less common with only 62 individuals seen at 33 sites across the county with the maximum count of 6 coming from Poolsbrook Country Park on the 25th of March 2019 (Mark Radford).
However, sightings of the Red Admiral seemed to have dried up so Pat and I were pleasantly surprised to see an individual taking nectar from the many flowers within the garden centre at Chatsworth on the 25th of March 2019.Interestingly Colin Bowler has sent me a link to an article on the recent migration of billions of Painted Lady butterflies through Israel whilst on their way to Europe. It could be said that the numbers were of biblical proportions!
John & Al Roberts have confirmed to me that one of their friends saw 72,000 Painted Lady butterflies on migration during a single day whilst on holiday in Cyprus last week!
On a less positive note, Nick Brown has sent me a link to an article on the reduced number of butterfly species seen in agricultural areas. Meadows adjacent to high-intensity agricultural areas are home to less than half the number of butterfly species than areas in nature reserves. The number of individuals is even down to one-third of that number.
If you would like to participate within a team to carry out a butterfly transect this year, there is still time to volunteer for the rota at a few transects in the county, especially in south Derbyshire – let me know if you can help at Mickleover Meadows and/or Allestree Park in Derby and also Coton Park LNR near Linton where both the Dingy Skipper and the Small Heath have been recorded. The existing volunteers will be able to show you the route of the transect together with the procedure for carrying them out.
Finally Mick Ball has amended the id of one of the butterflies of Peru that were stated in the last update :-
No 3 – Should be the Boeotia Sister - Adelpha boeotia. As for the swallowtail, it is one of the subspecies, the King Swallowtail - Papilio thoas cinyras.
Staying on the theme of the butterflies of South America, David Oulsnam has kindly sent me some photos of butterflies that he took in the Amazonian area of both Peru and Brazil – enjoy!
One swallow doesn’t make a summer is a familiar phrase and hopefully Wednesday the 20th of March 2019 will not be all the fine weather that we get in the county this Spring but with a temperature of up to 18°C here in Derby on that day, the butterflies duly obliged and appeared, in reasonable numbers, despite the heavy rain of the first 2 weeks in March 2019, and thus gave many recorders a fillip, just as the sun crossed the equator for 6 months here in the northern hemisphere.
A total of about 250 butterflies were seen across the county on the 20th of March 2019 with about 100 being Brimstones which were seen at 36 locations including 10 at Creswell Crags (Jim Anderson) and 12 in Cunningdale (Steve Orridge et al). The next species with the highest number seen was the Peacock of which about 70 were noted from 28 sites including 9 seen at the National Stone Centre, Wirksworth (Jan Hall & Martin Cobham). Then followed the Small Tortoiseshell with about 50 noted at 27 sites across Derbyshire with the highest count being 6 which were seen nectaring on Coltsfoot in a field in the Cromford area.(Jenny Emerson). The other hibernating butterfly, the Comma, was only seen at 12 sites within the county which consisted of about 26 individuals with the highest count of 4 together coming from Creswell Crags (Jim Anderson).
There have been no further sightings of the Speckled Wood recently after an individual was seen on the 4th of March 2019 at Forbes Hole LNR in Long Eaton (Marion Bryce) and just a couple of ‘whites’ were seen on the 20th of March 2019 including the first Small White of the year in the Thurvaston garden of John & Wendy Abrehart whilst a Large White was seen flying along Acorn Way in Chaddesden by Ken & Pat Orpe.
So before the month of March 2019 finishes, which species could make an appearance in the county given a fair wind and some decent sunny spells? The first sighting of a male Orange-tip is always special as it is the lepidoptera event heralding the arrival of Spring, whilst on the moors of the Peak District amazingly the Green Hairstreak can appear on bilberry, and in urban gardens the Holly Blue can be seen busily moving through shrubs especially where there is plenty of holly around – only your sightings will confirm these possibilities.
However if you are tempted to visit one of the main dales in the Peak District very soon, be warned that the River Lathkill is in full spate at the moment with a torrent of water emerging from the cave near the top of the dale as Chris & Sheila Ragg found out on the 17th of March 2019. (see the attached photo).
Thanks very much to the members of this egroup who came up with answers to the ID of the butterflies that were shown on the last update – the consensus is that the names are as follows and amazingly photo 4 was of a day-flying moth that resembles a Swallowtail butterfly!
Attached this time are a couple of photos that were taken locally – one of a pair of Small Tortoiseshells that were deciding to be more than friendly with each other (taken by Guy Badham) and a photo of a Herald moth taken by Sue Davey which she found recently hibernating in her shed.
Always great to end up with some good news – Derbyshire County Council has declared that Aston Brickyards will become a Local Nature Reserve. This is as a result of some amazing work that has been carried out at the site over the last 7 years by members of FAB (Friends of Aston Brickyards), of which Pat and I are pleased to be part, having done a butterfly transect there since the new millennium and where we have recorded 24 species including the rare White-letter Hairstreak which is present on the site.(see the attached photos of before and after in relation to the grassland)
With the jet stream in full blast carrying storms across the Atlantic towards the UK since the start of the month it looks like we are getting winter weather now instead of what should be spring weather, despite the fact that the vernal equinox is only a few days away on the 21st of March 2019. One good effect of all the recent rain is that our reservoirs are filling up nicely with Carsington Water at 90% capacity, Derwent at 99.9% full and Howden at 91% capacity. Even the huge Ladybower Reservoir is now 80% full so the drought of the summer of 2018 seems a long way off now!
What has happened to all the 400 or so butterflies that emerged in February 2019? The hibernators have probably looked for a crevice to hunker down and sit out the poor conditions. So it is unlikely that they have gone back into full hibernation - more likely that they have gone into over-wintering mode like the Red Admiral has done over recent winters. However the other species that emerged in February 2019 would have probably perished as there is a limit to the time that you can sit underneath a leaf in a force 8 gale with teeming rain!
However it was quite a surprise that a Painted Lady was seen taking nectar from a flowering heather on a patio in the Darley Abbey garden of Keith Dodd on the 1th of March 2019 (per Alan Jones). As was proven recently this migrant butterfly returns to North Africa in the autumn as they cannot survive our winters so this individual must have come into the UK during the warm weather of late February when at least a couple of dozen individuals were seen in England as far north as Lancashire and Barnard Castle in County Durham (per Mark Searle).
Not to be outdone, a local Peacock was seen on the same day in the Kinder, Hayfield garden (in the High Peak) of Brian Gee, this after the day began with a temperature of 3°C complete with snow and hail – so they are made of sterner stuff than what we think!
Pleasingly the anticipation of carrying out a butterfly transect in our fantastic county is still on the minds of many of the 300 volunteers who did just that last year. Indeed, following on from the recent transect training sessions across the county which attracted over 100 volunteers including staff from at least 4 local companies, there are new transects being set up in readiness for the start of the walking season on the 1st of April 2019. So if you are interested in being part of one of the teams that cover at least 100 sites in Derbyshire then please send me an email to confirm your interest. Local co-ordinators are now drawing up the rotas so if you haven’t heard anything yet then please contact your local person or alternatively let me know.
Finally I was very interested to receive some more photographs of butterflies from around the world – Peter and Kath Cartlidge visited the rainforests of Peru late last year. I have attached some of the photos taken but unfortunately neither the guide or anyone else in the party knew what butterfly species they were. So here’s a challenge for you – please let me know the names of the butterflies! Meanwhile, Joan Gibson visited Patagonia in November 2018 where she managed to photograph what she thinks is an Andean Foothills White which was seen taking nectar from a native dandelion plant – unless someone else can provide a different I D?
Now that Storm Freya has left our shores, it looks like our local lepidoptera have decided to lay low and wait for better conditions to materialise as there have been no butterfly sightings so far this month in the county. I have been informed of a couple more interesting sightings though – another Speckled Wood was seen by Jim Steele on the 26th of February 2019 at Shining Cliff Wood, Ambergate, and just over the county border at Ashby de la Zouch in Leicestershire, Martin Vaughan saw a Humming Bird Hawk moth nectaring on winter honeysuckle in his garden on the 1st of March 2019 – no doubt the species had arrived in Southern England during late February 2019 when the temperature was hitting 18°C instead of 8°C as of now and the airflow was from the south and not the north-west as it is at the moment.
This time of the year is really important for our local toads, frogs and newts and Kelvin Lawrence, Toad Crossing Coordinator for Derbyshire Amphibian and Reptile Group, has asked me to put out a request for help over the next few weeks (please see the attached poster). They would like people to give one or two evenings a week over the next few weeks to rescue toads, frogs and newts from road traffic in their local area. They have sites in most areas of Derbyshire and often struggle to cover them all on busy nights. For info please email firstname.lastname@example.org
As promised we can look at some more great butterfly photos that have been taken by members of this egroup – this time they have been taken in South Africa by Norman Jones. It would be great to see something like the Yellow Pansy flying in our county!
Finally, a quick check with Butterfly Conservation revealed that here in Derbyshire during 2017 we provided 28,434 butterfly records at the 2km resolution for inclusion in the national database – this puts the county in 9th position out of a total of 55 counties that are contributing to the project in the UK, bearing in mind that Derbyshire is 20th in the table of county populations in England. Another fantastic effort by members of this egroup!
After an amazing spell of Mediterranean style weather recently, with cold nights but very warm and sunny days including a record 18°C here in Derby on the 26th of February 2019, many recorders have emailed me their sightings in the county and a total of 390 butterflies have been seen in February 2019 compared to just 6 in February 2018 when we suffered extreme cold as a result of the ‘Beast from the East’ The overall total for the first 3 months of 2018 was just 184 butterflies seen so we have more than doubled the overall numbers seen during February 2019 alone. As we are about to enter a new month it looks like the Atlantic weather systems will prevail but at least the ‘Pest from the West’ should ensure that we get a few decent sunny days in the near future alternating with wet and windy conditions.
What was really amazing for Pat and me was the fact that we saw all 4 hibernators (Brimstone, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma ) together with an overwintering Red Admiral during the month of February 2019 – the first time that this has happened to us in 40 years of recording in Derbyshire!
Whilst the number of flowers for butterflies to take nectar from was somewhat limited, most species managed to take advantage of early flowering blossom on trees, catkins and also early emerging pussy willows(see some of the attached great photos that I have been sent recently).
As well as the species mentioned above there have been a couple of new county records recently with a Green-veined White seen on the 24th of February 2019 in the Buxton garden of Bob Billing, this being nearly 4 weeks earlier than the previous record of the 19th of March (2003). Similarly a Large White was seen on the 26th of February 2019 in the gardens at Hardwick Hall (Ian Hunt) which again is about 4 weeks earlier than the previous record of the 23rd of March (2003). Additional sightings of the Speckled Wood this year have come from only Forbes Hole LNR, Long Eaton where 2 individuals were noted by Marion Bryce on the 25th of February 2019. Again sightings of the Red Admiral have been scarce so far this year, no doubt as a result of the poor year that the species had in 2018 – recent records have come from Forbes Hole LNR Long Eaton (Marion Bryce) and at Ironville (Pete Clark).
The most common butterfly seen in Derbyshire since the last update was the Small Tortoiseshell with 122 individuals seen across the County at 74 sites with the maximum of 7 coming from Salter Wood, Denby on the 26th of February 2019 (Jane Rogers) and also 7 along the Chesterfield Canal at Staveley on the 27th of February 2019 (Sid Morris). Similarly there were 116 Brimstones noted across the county from 72 sites with the maximum count of 8 coming on the 26th of February 2019 at Markham Pit South (Mark Radford & Sid Morris). Not too far behind was the Comma of which 80 individuals were noted across Derbyshire at 41 sites with the highest count of 11 being seen around the village of Ironville on the 27th of February 2019 (Pete Clark). However not so common was the Peacock of which just 34 were seen from only 31 sites and mainly as singletons – are they scarce now as a result of their decision to enter hibernation early last summer due to the extreme heat which meant that they failed to take enough nectar to sustain them over the winter? Or is it a case that they have been predated heavily by birds and spiders this last winter?
The recent plume of warm air from the Azores and Canary Isles allowed some Painted Lady butterflies to spread into the UK during February 2019 as far north as Lancashire but unfortunately none were seen in Derbyshire. However Pete Clark sent me a photograph of one of them which was taking nectar from Coltsfoot which, as many of you will know, is a very early flower here in the UK.
Recently Chris Butler kindly sent me a link to an article on the planting of disease-resistant elms in Hampshire for the rare White-letter Hairstreak.
Please see the link below:-
Conservationists fight to save rare butterfly from regional extinction BBC Wildlife Magazine - Two charities are working together to plant elms for White-letter Hairstreak butterflies in Hampshire. Read the full story.
Whilst it is great news that 50 new elm trees are being planted there, we, here in Derbyshire, have been well ahead of the game as over 400 Disease Resistant Elms have been planted across South Derbyshire during the last 8 years and the great news is that after flowering for the first time last year at a couple of sites in the Derby area, the White Letter Hairstreak was seen to be flying around the new elms ready to use them for their life cycle.
Indeed, to increase awareness of this rare resident butterfly, Ruth Rolls has produced a Press Release for Tree Warden Networks across the Region as per the attached document. Recently Mick Ball sent me a photo of one of our planted D R Elms at Eyes Meadow, Duffield which showed the tree in flower on the 14th of February 2019 well in advance of its usual flowering time of late March – does this mean that it was too early for use by the caterpillar of the White Letter Hairstreak? I must admit that we are all out of sync with the recent warm spell of weather and with the lack of plants last summer due to the drought it will certainly be interesting to see what effect all this fine weather will have on our local butterfly populations this year – yet again your sightings will illustrate what is actually happening in our County.
Due to the continued interest in carrying out butterfly transects in the county and in order to accommodate as many volunteers as possible, it has been decided to change the venue for next week’s training sessions. They will now be held in the Exhibition Hall at the main Cromford Mills complex where there is a large pay and display car park. To remind you, the dates and times are as follows:-
Wednesday the 6th of March 2019 from 1.30 pm to 4.00 pm
Friday the 8th of March 2019 – from 10 am to 12.30 pm
In view of the additional capacity, it is not too late to book these free events - please telephone Elizabeth Woodward on the Reception at the DWT (01773 881188) for details and bookings.
However if you live in the NE of Derbyshire you might be interested in attending a similar event that is being held on the 14th of March 2019 from 12 noon until 4.30 pm at Poolsbrook Country Park – this free event is being organised by the DWT when local enthusiasts Mark Radford and Sid Morris will be doing the training - please see leaflet for details.
Finally, due to the number of excellent photos of UK butterflies that I have received recently, I have postponed the issue of the promised South African butterflies until the next update.
Following on from the recent Atlantic storms, this week has seen a drastic change in the weather with spring like conditions and temperatures up to 14°C here in Derby – ideal weather for butterflies to emerge from their slumber and take to the wing. Pat and I were pleasantly surprised when we saw a Red Admiral taking nectar from snowdrops in Allestree Park on the 11th of February 2019 (see the attached photo). Then followed a week of brilliant sunny and warm days which meant that a number of observers were very pleased to see their first butterflies of the year including another Red Admiral on the 14th of February 2019 in the Little Eaton garden of Brenda Shore.
A total of 9 Small Tortoiseshells have been noted this week, 6 of which were seen in the Peak District at Thorpe (Barbara Wager), Hoe Grange Quarry (Ray Badger Walker), the Main Shopping Street in Buxton (Michael Glendenning), Birchover (Phil Gilbert), Hopton Hall (Anita Aked) and Froggatt (Bryan Barnacle), whilst the others were in the Grassmoor garden of Brian Cuttell, the Belper garden of Dan Martin and at Pleasley Pit NR (Ian Hurst). Similarly a total of 9 Peacocks have been seen recently with all of them noted in the Peak District at Hoe Grange Quarry (Ray Badger Walker), Darley Forest (John & Jessica Barker), the Buxton garden of Shirley Johnson, Biggin Dale (Roger Dennis),the Bakewell garden of Angela Bird, Gang Mine NR (Gary Atkins), Cromford Canal (Angela & Chris Bent) and remarkably at 360 metres above sea level at the top of Kinder Scout where Brian Gee saw 2 individuals enjoying a flypast on the 14th of February 2019!
Just a couple of Commas seen this week on the 14th of February 2019 with an individual noted in the Goyt Valley (David Hatfield) and another at Press Manor on the same day (John & Sandra Kidd). Also 4 Brimstones were noted recently with one seen in a Kirk Hallam garden on the 14th of February 2019 by Alison Devine (per Paul Shaw) and others on the same day in Birchover Way, Allestree (Jenny Emerson) and Ironville (per Pete Clark),which was then followed by a fourth individual in the Overseal garden of Dot & Barry Morson on the 16th of February 2019. This means that 5 butterfly species were noted in the County during the last 7 days which consisted of 26 individuals of which just 10 were noted in lowland Derbyshire compared to 16 in the Peak District and Peak fringe areas– is this the sign of things to come this year as a direct result of the summer of 2018 when the lower temperatures in the higher parts of Derbyshire resulted in more nymphalid butterflies being seen there rather than elsewhere in the county, with the exception of the Brimstone which presumably was able to reflect the heat, similar to the Whites? Only your sightings will indicate what is actually happening here in Derbyshire!
Interestingly the reservoir levels here in Derbyshire are currently about what they ought to be for the time of the year following on from the earlier rainstorms with both the Derwent Valley reservoirs (Derwent; Howden and Ladybower) and Carsington Water running at 84% capacity compared to 74% capacity at the end of 2018, and this despite the driest January for 13 years and the current dry spell of weather.
Butterfly Conservation has advised me that now that all the 2018 transect results are safely gathered in from across the UK, we in the East Midlands have retained our second place behind Hampshire and the Isle of Wight in the overall table of transects completed last year. With Derbyshire on 100 sites, Notts on 28 sites and Leicestershire on 15 sites, the East Midlands total is 143 sites with Hants/I of W on 162 and Surrey in third place on 119 – yet another great result for the 300 or so volunteers who maintain their interest and enjoy the experience of carrying out butterfly transects which helps us all to understand what is happening to our local Lepidoptera in these changing times. Did you know for example that the migrating Brown Argus was seen and photographed by Patricia Sharp on a transect along the Cromford Canal between Ambergate and Whatstandwell in July 2018 – this shows that this species is very close to linking up (again) with the Peak District version of the Brown Argus which was seen on the transect at Rose End Meadows a few kilometres away in Cromford, where the caterpillar uses Rock Rose as its foodplant as opposed to cranesbills for the migrating version.
With the new transect season just 6 weeks away from commencing again, invitations have already been sent out to many volunteers who cover the 100 sites in Derbyshire, and for those of you who organise rotas in the County, other than myself, I have attached a blank rota form together with a blank recording form for use in 2019. Also attached is an example of a casual recording form for use where an observer is making multiple sightings in the County – this can be emailed to me on a regular basis and preferably no longer than once a month so that I am aware as to what is happening in your part of Derbyshire.
Finally, to whet your appetite further, Chris & Clare Cooper of Nottingham kindly sent me some photos of butterflies seen on a recent trip to Tasmania which has only 39 species present but Chris managed to photograph 3 of them (see the attached photos). More excellent photos to come from Norman Jones who visited South Africa last year, on the next update.
Little did the mass ramblers who trespassed on Kinder Scout in 1932 realise the effect that this would have on British Society and 87 years later we can all enjoy the walks and transects on open land both here in Derbyshire and also in most other parts of the in the UK. It was mainly as the result of the combined efforts of both ‘Mancs’ and ‘Tykes’ that 500 ramblers, led by Benny Rothman, turned up on the 24th of April 1932 at Hayfield.
They wanted to highlight the fact that walkers were denied access to areas of open countryside and the result of their actions eventually led to the passage of the National Parks legislation in 1949 and the first National Park (The Peak District) was established in the year 1951.(there are now 13 National Parks in England & Wales)
A few weeks after the ‘mass trespass’ on Kinder Scout another gathering of ramblers met at Winnats Pass near Castleton – this time there were 10,000 of them – the biggest gathering of walkers in history! Each year the Wardens and Rangers of both the National Trust and the Peak District National Park hold a walking event to mark the anniversary of the ‘mass trespass’ and this year it will be held on Saturday the 27th of April 2019 at Winnats Pass from 2 pm till 4 pm – also included are talks and live music – for details go to the National Trust website :- nationaltrust.org.uk
Another butterfly themed talk with take place on Wednesday the 17th of April 2019 when Max & Christine Maughan will give a talk on ‘Gardening for Butterflies’ for the Mid Derbyshire Badger Group at the Strutt Centre in Belper at 7.30 pm (£2 for members and £3 for visitors)
With the cold weather of mid to late January 2019 still prevailing into early February 2019 our local butterflies have not been tempted out of hibernation with no sightings at all in recent days. Indeed with 35 mornings of frost here in Derby since the beginning of October 2018 till the 31st of January 2019 the overall figure is similar to the same period during last winter when there were 36 mornings of frost in Derby. Just 10 miles north of Derby, it is a different story with Dave Evans who lives in the Peak Fringe area of Middleton by Wirksworth, who has recorded 46 mornings with frost from the beginning of October 2018 till the 31st of January 2019.
So as to retain interest in butterflies during this current spell of weather, I have attached some photos taken by Ian Hurst in Lesbos, Greece – future Updates will include photos from South Africa, South America and Tasmania – all of which have been sent to me by members of this egroup!
Finally with February being the shortest month of the year it won’t be long before March arrives and all the transect rotas will then be sorted, ready to start the new walking season on the 1st of April which this year means that every transect week starts on a Monday. If you have not already done so, could you please contact your local co-ordinator to confirm your availability so that the new rotas can be agreed – to this end I will be including a blank Rota Form and a blank Recording Form for 2019 on the next Update.
It is not surprising that there have been no further butterfly sightings in the county during January 2019 given that we have had frosts on 12 mornings so far this month here in Derby (compared to 10 mornings in January 2018), some of them being a hard frost which meant that the maximum daytime temperature didn’t get above 3°C. It was even colder in the Peak District with lying snow adding to the very cold conditions in that part of the county.
However a lack of sightings hasn’t prevented a number of events relating to butterflies being organised for 2019 including the following:-
1. The Annual Transect Training Sessions by Pat & Ken Orpe in the offices of the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (DWT) at Middleton by Wirksworth will take place on the following dates : – Wednesday the 6th of March 2019 from 1.30 pm to 4.00 pm. To book this free event please telephone Elizabeth Woodward on the Reception at the DWT (01773 881188) – places are limited to 30 volunteers for this event and it will be on a first come first reserved basis. If you cannot make the last date, then another has been arranged at the DWT offices at Middleton by Wirksworth – Friday the 8th of March 2019 – from 10 am to 12.30 pm – details all as the last item.
2. Wednesday the 13th of March 2019 – an illustrated talk on ‘The Butterflies of Derbyshire’ by Pete Clark at Riddings Park Community Centre, West Street, Riddings DE55 4EW commencing at 7.30 pm – entrance fee is £2, students and children free.
3. Friday the 12th of April 2019 – an illustrated talk on ‘Monitoring the Changing Status of Butterflies in Derbyshire’ by Ken Orpe at the Evergreen Club, Cornhill, Allestree, commencing at 7.15 pm for Derby Natural History Society - entrance is free to members and guests are charged at £2.
4. Hoe Grange Quarry Open Day – Sunday the 21st of July 2019 from 11 am to 4 pm (see the attached leaflet for details and parking etc). Last year this event attracted over 450 butterfly and wildlife enthusiasts and it has become quite a social event with teas and free ice creams available courtesy of Longcliffe Quarries. Steve Orridge and Ray Walker will be carrying out a moth watch during the previous night (Saturday the 20th of July 2019) so we should have some live moths to show visitors on the following day.
I have been carrying out some research on Hoe Grange Quarry this month with the idea of creating an interpretation board on the history of the site and unbelievably back in the year 1902, the site was found to have bones of 27 animal species present including lion, rhino, elephant, grizzly bear, wolf, wild boar and hyena which could have been located in a den within a sinkhole some 1 million years ago – interesting that some animals still exist in the quarry including badger, rabbit, frog, redwing and robin. There is an exhibition currently at Buxton Museum on the ‘Wonders of the Peak District’ and this contains a display of some of the bones that were found in Hoe Grange Quarry all those years ago. Well worth a visit according to Ray ‘Badger’ Walker, the Warden of Hoe Grange Quarry. I have also had some help from David McPhie of the bookshop at Brierlow Bar near Buxton whereby David has confirmed that there was indeed a railway siding into the quarry off the High Peak Railway and there was also a narrow gauge system within the quarry – I understand that the lines were removed in the 1950’s when road transport became easier.
During this winter Mick Ball, Butterfly Conservation Moth Officer for Derbyshire and Notts, has been compiling a detailed summary of the current status of the ‘Moths of Derbyshire’ – if you would like a copy of his Report then please send me an email and I will forward to you a copy of the document which contains details of the status of approx 500 species of macro moths that have been recorded in the county during the last 30 years.
Finally I have attached some more photos of butterflies that members of this egroup have seen in Europe – this time they are of relatives of species that can also be found in other parts of the UK.
Now that we are in the midst of ‘General Winter’ with snow on many of the hills in the Peak District, I was quite surprised to receive a couple of additional butterfly sightings in the county recently with a Brimstone noted flying at Pleasley Pit NR on the 15th of January 2019 (Loz Brooks) and a Peacock seen at Clowne on the 18th of January 2019 (Marc Pearson).
As I have finished analysing the transect data for 2018, I have attached a (downloadable) excel sheet which shows the comparison for the results between 2017 and 2018 and again the Ringlet remained in poll position as the most species seen on the 100 transects carried out in Derbyshire during 2018 despite much lower numbers seen overall, no doubt due to the drought conditions on the grasslands (15,604 compared to 21,246 in 2017), whilst the Small White rose to second position from sixth in 2017 (14,385 compared to 4,104 in 2017), mainly as a result that it managed to fly during the hot weather.
Unsurprisingly the Red Admiral was the worst performer with a massive 90% decline in numbers compared to 2017 (285 butterflies against 2,808 in 2017) but the second worst performer, the Comma, was somewhat of a surprise (988 compared to 1548 in 2017 – a decline of 36%). Moving on to individual sites, the Rowthorne Trail had the most butterflies where David Elliott counted a massive 4,801 individuals on the transects there with nearby Pleasley Pit NR in second place having a total count of 3,489 butterflies thanks to Mick Gamble and his enthusiastic team of volunteers. The new transects carried out at Markham South Pit organised by Mark Radford and Sid Morris and their team did really well with a total of 4,835 butterflies seen overall at the 2 sites that are being monitored there on behalf of Derbyshire County Council. The site with the most species seen was Lathkill Dale NNR with 28 species recorded in 2018.Finally it was interesting to note that in lowland Derbyshire 33% of transect sites had fewer butterflies in 2018 whereas in the Peak District the decline was at only 16% of the sites – this being no doubt due to the fact that the higher ground of the Peak was some 4 degrees cooler than sites in lowland Derbyshire which meant that the drought in the Peak had a lesser impact on the ability of butterflies to keep flying, take nectar and hopefully find a mate – it will be interesting to see what effect that the summer of 2018 has on numbers throughout the county in 2019 – only your efforts will again produce this data!
For interest I have also attached the (downloadable) transect data for the 100 active sites in the county during the period of 2013 to 2018 inclusive and which shows that over 400,000 butterflies have been counted during this period on over 10,200 walks which averages at 39 butterflies seen on every transect in Derbyshire during the last 6 years – what a fantastic achievement by over 300 volunteers who find the experience truly rewarding and for which Pat and I thank you all so much – it is great to know that we inspire volunteers to get out and about in our great county!
Yet another set of brilliant photos by members of this egroup are attached for your continued interest in the hope that they will prevent you all from suffering the January ‘blues’ – great to see variations to our Wall Brown and the Comma from Europe!
If we wanted further proof that climate change is upon us here in Derbyshire, it was certainly confirmed again on the 8th of January 2019 when amazingly a Speckled Wood was seen nectaring on mahonia in the Smalley garden of Stephen Jackson (per Jim Steele) – this sighting is at least 2 months earlier than the previous record (9th of March (2010)) and was totally unexpected! This could be a spin off from the exceptional summer of 2018 as this species can over winter as either a caterpillar or a pupa, so the New Year message is – expect the unexpected! What makes it all the more interesting is that despite the fact that Derbyshire is the furthest from the coast in any direction (Ordnance Survey), there have been no other sightings yet in the rest of the UK where many counties have a coast line and hence a slightly milder climate than us here in the middle of England.
Other butterfly sightings in the county during the first couple of weeks of this year include an additional Brimstone at Poolsbrook Country Park on the 6th of January 2019 (per Mark Beevers), a Peacock seen flying along the High Peak Trail near the Stone Centre, Wirksworth in poor conditions on the 7th of January 2019 (Nigel Pratley) together with another Peacock seen in the Smalley garden of Stephen Jackson on the 8th of January 2019, and finally a Red Admiral was noted in Shirebrook on the 8th of January 2019 (per Mark Beevers), this taking the species total to 5 already this year!
As we have now passed the half way mark of the close season for transect walking, arrangements have been made for the Annual Transect Training Sessions in the Offices of the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (DWT) at Middleton by Wirksworth – Wednesday the 6th of March 2019 from 1.30 pm to 4.00 pm. To book this free event please telephone Elizabeth Woodward on the Reception at the DWT (01773 881188) – places are limited to 30 volunteers for this event and it will be on a first come first reserved basis. If you cannot make the last date, then another has been arranged at the DWT Offices at Middleton by Wirksworth – Friday the 8th of March 2019 – from 10 am to 12.30 pm – details all as the last item.
With all the data from 100 active transect sites in Derbyshire already submitted to the National Database at Butterfly Conservation and UKBMS (United Kingdom Butterfly Monitoring Scheme), it now gives me a chance to analyse our Derbyshire data – yes there was a 29% increase in butterfly numbers in 2018 compared to 2017 (104,432 butterflies seen compared to 81,030 in 2017) but if you take out the totals of the 3 ‘white’ species for 2018 (33,837 butterflies seen compared to 12,303 in 2017) then the other 29 species recorded increased by only 1,868 butterflies which is only 3%. So as expected the ‘white’ species managed to withstand the high temperatures whilst the coloured butterflies were less fortunate. Full details of how each species fared will be sent out on the next update. So a huge thank you goes out to the 300 volunteers who carried out all 2,410 transects that were walked in Derbyshire during 2018 – this represents a massive 93% total of the possible transects, against 87% in 2017.
Finally I have attached some more great photos from Dave Goddard of his trip to Bulgaria which hopefully will help you all get over the January ‘blues’.
With cool overnight temperatures and mainly cloudy skies during the short hours of daylight of late, there were very few opportunities for volunteers to get out and about looking for butterflies but Mark Radford informs me that Kevin Navin saw a Peacock flying along a road in Staveley on Boxing Day 2018, whilst during a sunny spell on new year’s day 2019, Peter Burton saw a Small Tortoiseshell in full flight across the moors at the top of Heyden Clough on the Derbyshire side of Holme Moss at an elevation of 1600 feet above sea level – so the 2019 season has already started on the 1st of January (the same species was also seen on the first day of the New Millennium in the County).
Meanwhile over in North Notts, on the 1st of January 2019 Phil Lee saw a Peacock on the wing at West Stockwith. The next time that the sun briefly appeared in the area was Sunday the 6th of January 2019 but it was sufficient for another Peacock to appear, this time at Brimington, which was seen by Alan Wood (per Sid Morris) and also surprisingly on the same day a Brimstone was seen flying at Markham North Pit by Mark Radford. With more sun forecast for tomorrow (8th of January) it could be that we get further sightings of additional butterflies in the county. Pleasingly yet more amazing photos of butterflies have been sent to me by members of this egroup – many people are pleased to share butterfly photos of their far away trips which include eastern Europe, South Africa and even Tasmania. So limiting the attachments to 6 photos, here are some great shots from Dave Goddard of his trip to Bulgaria – enjoy on these dismal days of January!