Derbyshire News 2020

Update No 43

20th October 2020

Ken Orpe

Despite the lockdown earlier in the year, the remoteness of Hoe Grange Quarry provided an opportunity for the Warden (Ray Badger Walker) to get some regular exercise there, whilst maintaining social distancing, and also ensuring that the site wasn’t being used by undesirables and was still safe for genuine wildlife observers to enjoy. It also meant that, along with the Butterfly Conservation volunteers, a full 26 week transect was carried out and the details are shown on the attached excel spreadsheet. Interestingly there was a 21% increase in butterfly numbers largely due to the excellent year that the Small Tortoiseshell had there (plus 212% on 2019) along with most other parts of the County (High Peak area being the exception). Pleasingly most other species did well at Hoe Grange Quarry compared to 2019 but unfortunately the Wall Brown was down from 83 individuals to just 51 – in fact what has happened is that the first brood in the last couple of years has done better than the second brood – is this yet another twist in the changing lifestyle of this iconic Derbyshire butterfly? Is the weather getting too warm for the caterpillars during the period May to August and/or is too much grass being killed off on the high ledges due to the heat?

For those of you that haven’t been to Hoe Grange Quarry, Derbyshire Life & Countryside did an article about the site in April 2020 and it can be seen by clicking on the link below ;-

Hoe Grange Quarry

For those of you who visited Hoe Grange Quarry this year, Longcliffe Quarries, who own the site, are requesting any photographs that could be used for their 2021 Calendar – they could be of wildlife or even just general site photos. Please let me have anything that you think could be suitable and I will ensue that full recognition is given if your photos are used.

As you all know we have a great number of quarries here in Derbyshire and one of the abandoned quarries near Eyam is the property of the British Mountaineering Council and wildlife enthusiast Rob Greenwood is the Advertising Manager for UK Climbing who both use the site for their usual activities as well as studying the wildlife which is resident on the site. Inspired by the survey work at Hoe Grange Quarry, Rob, together with volunteers from Butterfly Conservation, decided to carry out a butterfly transect there in 2020 – not the best of years to commence but amazingly they recorded 24 species there including the BAP species of Dingy Skipper and the Wall Brown as well as Peak District specialities such as Green Hairstreak and Brown Argus. Rob has written an article about the site for the British Mountaineering Council website and you can view it by clicking on the link below:-

Horseshoe Butterfly Transect

Please keep sending me your late butterfly sightings for this year – since the last Update, sightings have been made of the following 8 species in the County:-

Brimstone :- A late sighting at South Wood, Calke Estate on the 15th of October 2020 (Alan Roe).

Large White :- An individual was seen flying across the Darley Dale garden of Rod Dunn on the 15th of October 2020.

Small White :- Just a couple of sightings recently at Stones Island, Carsington water on the 13th of October 2020 (Simon Roddis) and another seen in the Grassmoor garden of Brian Cuttell on the 17th of October 2020.

Small Copper :- 13 individuals were noted at 4 sites across the County recently with the maximum count of 7 coming on the 15th of October 2020 at Clough Wood (Mark Searle).

Red Admiral :- The only recent sightings up to the 15th of October 2020 have come from Grassmoor (Brian Cuttell), Draycott (Roger Martin), Hoe Grange Quarry (Mark Searle) and in the Godfreyhole garden of Jean Hurdle.

Small Tortoiseshell :- Despite being scarce in Southern England this year ( the demarcation line for increases in the population appears to be around the Northants/Oxford/Warwick areas) this species is still be seen in Derbyshire up to and including the 15th of October 2020 with records from Stones Island, Carsington Water ( Simon Roddis), Middleton by Wirksworth (Chris Monk), Grassmoor (Brian Cuttell), Hoe Grange Quarry (Mark Searle) and with up to 3 in the Godfreyhole garden of Jean Hurdle.

Comma :- Just 1 recent sighting which was in the Godfreyhole garden of Jean Hurdle on the 15th of October 2020.

Image of Speckled Wood
Speckled Wood - Hilton 19th October 2020 - Wayne Cooper.

Speckled Wood :- Just 3 sightings of this multi brooded butterfly with a tatty one seen in the Grassmoor garden of Brian Cuttell on the 15th of October 2020 and a mint individual seen in the Darley Dale garden of Rod Dunn on the same day. Yet another mint butterfly was seen in the Hilton garden of Wayne Cooper on the 19th of October 2020 (see attached photo).

Moth wise there have been a couple of additional sightings of the Humming Bird Hawk moth recently in the County with records from Belper (Rod Smith) and another (in the drizzle) in the Bamford garden of Sue Mitchell on the 13th of October 2020.

Interesting that yet another special moth has been seen and photographed here in Derbyshire – the rare Clifden Nonpareil (see attached photo) – it was seen by Iain McGowan in Calke Park on the 14th of October 2020, possibly only the third sighting ever of this moth in the County following others that were seen in 2012 and 1966! This follows on from the first Jersey Tiger moth to be seen in the County on the 9th of September in Clowne (per Marc Pearson) – as mentioned in Update no 41 (photo attached). Most caterpillars can be somewhat dreary in colour as they seek to seek to blend in with their surroundings but the Pale Tussock moth caterpillar is definitely garish but beautiful as can be seen from the photo below!

Image of Pale Tussock caterpillar
Pale Tussock caterpillar - John and Ann Wood.

Please Stay Safe and Alert,


Ken Orpe

Update No 14

31st March 2020

Ken Orpe

Following on from the disappointing news that transects are on hold at the moment, it was great to get a week of full sunshine which both lifted our spirits and also enticed many butterflies to come out of their hibernation. Over 800 butterflies were noted throughout the County during the last week of March 2020, of which 95% came from observers gardens with the remainder coming from recorders whilst they were carrying out their 1 hour local walking in order to get some vital exercise, whilst maintaining social distancing of course. Both Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells numbered about 300 of each during this period and Brimstones and Commas numbered around 100 of each.

Image of Brimstone
Brimstone well camouflaged - Belper - Dan Martin.

The highest recent counts for these species are as follows :-

Brimstone – 7 seen at Aston on Trent on the 23rd of March 2020 (Roger Martin) – see the attached great photo by Dan Martin of a Brimstone in his Belper Garden with perfect camouflage!

Small Tortoiseshell – 20 seen in Duffield area on the 24th March 2020 (Keith Hall)

Peacock – 38 seen in the Staveley area on the 26th of March 2020 (Mark Radford)

Comma – 13 seen on the Derbyshire side of Toton Sidings on the 23rd of March 2020 (Mark Searle)

Other species noted recently were a couple of Red Admirals, one in a garden at Overseal on the 23rd of March 2020 (per Ruth Moore) and one on the 24th of March 2020 in a garden at Buxton (seen by Brian Shepherd) together with a Painted Lady noted by David Goldstraw on the 27th of March 2020 at Belper Lane Ends which is the high ground above the town of Belper.

The Small White has been seen as singletons at 10 sites in the County during the last week, whilst first sightings of the other 2 whites were as below :-

Large White – noted on the 24th of March 2020 in his Heanor garden (Gary Wain)

Green Veined White :- First noted on the 22nd of March 2020 in the Sandiacre garden of Ian Viles followed by another individual in Chesterfield on the 26th of March 2020 (Paul Townsend)

The other new species that were seen this last week were both seen on the 26th of March 2020 – a Holly Blue was noted in the Allestree garden of Eileen Emery and Orange Tips were seen at both Langley Common (Nick Brown and Kath Patrick) and at Northwood, Darley Dale (Chris & Sheila Ragg).

Alan Kitchen is monitoring the Orange Tip pupae in his Matlock Garden which must be ready to emerge as fully fledged butterflies very soon (see attached photo of one of them).

Image of Orange-tip pupa
Orange Tip Pupa - Alan Kitchen.

So in relation to the emerging hibernating butterflies, how does the first 3 months of 2020 compare with other years? The provisional numbers of each species are shown on this excel spreadsheet and indicate that this year there were 60% of the total butterflies seen during the same period within the County when compared to 2019, with only the Small Tortoiseshell showing a modest increase in numbers so far this year.

Whilst we are all too well aware of social distancing in these turbulent times, it appears that Mother Nature has other ideas – see the two Small Tortoiseshells that were photographed by Chris Ragg getting to know each other in his Northwood garden, and in our garden pond in Allestree, Pat and I have been watching the frogs multi tasking in complete ignorance as to what is happening to the human race at the moment.

Image of Frogs
Frogs Mating in pond 27th March 2020 - Ken Orpe.

Now for some bad news – due to the corona virus situation, Longcliffe Quarries have decided to cancel this year’s Open Day in Hoe Grange Quarry which was scheduled for Sunday the 5th of July 2020 – hopefully this will be held again in the summer of 2021.

Finally let’s finish on some good news – in early March 2020 before the lock down, John & Sylvia Green visited Longstone Edge where they were delighted to see that the scrub that was invading the limestone grassland there had been cut down over the winter months (see attached photo)

Image of Longstone Edge
Longstone Edge - March 2020 - John Green.

The question is – who instigated this very necessary work and who carried it out? Local expert Dave Mallon has been unable to find this out from his many contacts in the area and the possibility is that British Fluorspar, who mine nearby, could be involved – can anyone throw any light on this subject as it means that one of Derbyshire’s best limestone grasslands for butterflies and plants could well be saved just in time!

Image of Small Tortoiseshells
Small Tortoiseshell X 2 - Chris Ragg.
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Update No 10

13th March 2020

Ken Orpe

Whilst we have endured yet another week of changeable weather, at least there were a few hours of reasonable sunshine now that the yellow ball in the sky is getting higher every day! Thankfully it enabled at least 24 recorders to see their first butterfly of the year here in Derbyshire with sightings of 6 Peacocks from 6 locations in the County, and 10 Small Tortoiseshells noted from 8 locations here in the County. Additional species noted recently include 2 Red Admirals seen at Forbes Hole NR on the 6th of March 2020 (Marion Bryce), 2 Commas noted, with an individual seen on the 6th of March 2020 at Elvaston Country Park (Marilyn Horner) and another seen on the 12th of March 2020 at Norbriggs Flash NR (Mark Radford), and finally 5 Brimstones were seen in the County, including one emerging from ivy prior to its maiden flight of the year on the 11th of March 2020 at Wyver Lane, Belper

Image of Brimstone
Brimstone emerging from ivy. David Goldstraw.
(David Goldstraw – who managed to get a great photo of the butterfly moving about in the ivy ready for take off. Other recent sightings of the Brimstone came from the Derby garden of Alf Bousie on the 6th of March 2020, the Hope garden of Helen Perkins on the 11th of March 2020, the Duffield garden of Keith Hall on the same day and finally at Scarthin Pond, Cromford on the 11th of March 2020 when Roger & Chris Martin saw an individual whilst they were on their way to the transect training in Cromford later in the day! If you want to attract the Brimstone into your garden then why not plant an Alder Buckthorn (or Purging Buckthorn) – you can always put them into a plant pot on a patio as the female Brimstone will nearly always find them!

Yet again the transect training was well attended at Cromford Wharf this week with 31 attendees on the Monday and 25 attendees on the following Wednesday – this brings the total number of interested volunteers across the Region who participated this year to 116 (56 in Derbyshire; 38 in Notts and 22 in Leics) – so thanks very much to all those that attended, as it will hopefully help us push for the crown for the most transects in the UK which the East Midlands Branch of Butterfly Conservation is aiming for! Latest figures for 2019 from UKBMS are as follows :- (2018 in brackets)

HANTS & ISLE OF WIGHT= 164 (162)

EAST MIDLANDS = 157 (143) (DERBYS=110 (100); NOTTS=31 (28); LEICS=16 (15))

SURREY = 128 (119)

DORSET = 82 (79)

There are a few sites in Derbyshire where additional volunteers are required for 2020 – these include the Mead site adjacent to Shipley Country Park,

Poulter Country Park in the North East of the County and a proposed new transect on the wildflower meadows at Staunton Harold Reservoir for Severn Trent Water.

With the promise of some decent sunny weather next week, then why not get out and about in the countryside and avoid any contact with the threat of corona virus and send those butterfly sightings in to your local recorder, an example of a simple excel casual sighting form is available on the recording page.

Derbyshire – Ken Orpe –

Notts – Sue Halfacre -

Leics – Richard Jeffery -

Finally, Jane Rogers has kindly sent me a link to a project ‘Go Wild For Butterflies’ – a joint effort by the Wildlife Trusts and the RHS – please check out the following link for further details:-

Update No 8

28th February 2020

Ken Orpe

With the impending arrival of storm ‘Jorge’ this weekend it looks like being the wettest February since 1977, and as well as it being a traumatic time for many people and their properties to endure during the recent floods – it could also be a disaster for some of our local butterfly populations as up to half of the 30 or so species that occur here in the Region will spend the winter months as tiny caterpillars within leaf litter, within grass stems or on their low growing larval food plants. We won’t know the true effect of them having to survive up to 4 feet of water over their bodies for a long period of time but most at risk are the Skippers, the Blue family and also the Brown family of butterflies. This year will be even more important to monitor butterfly populations by a transect so thanks go out to all those volunteers who have already offered their services and expertise to ensure that we in the East Midlands are very much on the front foot in this very rewarding method of gathering important data – Hampshire, we are after your crown!

With 4 training sessions about to commence in the Region, there is a growing interest in transect walking in both Notts and Leics in addition to the regulars here in Derbyshire – however if you want to get involved you have just enough time to attend one of these free events - all the details are on my Update no 1 dated the 7th of January 2020. Additional butterfly themed meetings to be held in March 2020 include:-

Monday the 16th of March 2020 – ‘The Quest for the 58 breeding butterflies in the UK’ an illustrated talk by Max & Christine Maughan at Darley Dale Methodist Hall, Darley Dale commencing at 7.30 pm, admission £3 including refreshments – dowload the details here.

Saturday the 21st of March 2020 – UK Butterfly Recorders Meeting in Birmingham – a full day of events and talks including one by myself on the ‘Creation & Management of a Butterfly NR’ at Hoe Grange Quarry here in Derbyshire – see the details here.

There are a few more sites that require additional volunteers for this year’s transects – namely Dene Quarry/Gang Mine on Cromford Hill, Carr Vale NR in the North East of the County and a proposed new transect on the wildflower meadows at Staunton Harold Reservoir for Severn Trent Water – let me know if you are interested in helping out on a rota basis on any of these sites in the County.

Not surprising that there have been very few outdoor butterfly sightings here in Derbyshire during the last 2 months – only 2 Red Admirals, the last being on the 27th of February 2020 at Toton Washlands in Long Eaton (Marion Bryce), just 12 Peacocks and only 6 Small Tortoiseshells, the last one being seen deceased on a pavement in Matlock Town Centre by Simon Roddis on Monday the 24th of February 2020, this after another lengthy spell of rain earlier that day which must have caught out the poor insect unawares.

Hopefully March 2020 will produce some dry warm and sunny days as some trees are certainly starting to bud and the birds seem very active in our garden now that the sun is relatively high in the sky when it is out! – only your sightings will confirm that our local butterflies have finally decided that it is worth appearing hopefully in good numbers again!

Update No 4

31st January 2020

Ken Orpe
News from Previous Years
Image of Tuscany buterfly
Tuscany butterfly 2. Dave Gilbert .
Image of Tuscany buterfly
Tuscany butterfly 3. Dave Gilbert .

With few flowers about to provide nectar for our local lepidoptera, it is good that very few butterflies have been noted on the wing during January 2020 – a total of only 2 species consisting of 7 Peacocks and 4 Small Tortoiseshells. However most species remain in either their winter slumber or are literally waiting for Spring to arrive (like most recorders!) – witness the pupae of the Orange –tip that Alan Kitchen has got on some hedge garlic that fortunately he didn’t cut down and put in his re-cycling waste bin – the attached photos show both the plant and the pupae attached to it. Apparently they have been there since last July in his Matlock garden so it is definitely a case of the waiting game! Also Alan & Karen Roe visited the tunnel at Calke on the 20th of January 2020 and they noted 9 Peacocks and 52 Herald Moths ( see attached photo of the moths) still firmly in hibernation there.

Image of Orange-tip pupa
Orange-tip pupa. Matlock garden. January 2020. Alan Kitchen.
Image of Orange-tip pupa
Orange-tip pupa. January 2020. Matlock garden. Alan Kitchen.

Meanwhile on the 24th of January 2020 Pete Clark and Pete Eley were enjoying a coffee about 2pm in a garden in Ripley when they observed a Peacock emerge from a wood shed and fly around as if looking for a sunny spot -but there was no sunny spot. It went back in again only to come out a couple of minutes later and do the same thing. A Robin was trying to see where it went, but happily for the Peacock it failed to find it. The Peacock did a mini-venture like this several more times, before it gave up on the cloudy weather and went back into the log shed, probably grumbling about the fickle British weather! This proves how important log piles are for hibernating butterflies – indeed a couple of years ago at Aston Brickyards there were 19 Small Tortoiseshells hibernating within a bug house which had been made by the Friends of Aston Brickyards (FAB) from old timber pallets!

Other recent January 2020 sightings outside include single Peacocks at Gunby Lea Wood, Netherseal (Dot & Barry Morson), in a garden at Woodseats, Sheffield (per Dennis Dell) and finally on the 29th of January 2020 at Rosliston Forestry Centre (Elaine & Geoff Cann), plus single Small Tortoiseshells at Swadlincote Woodlands (Yvonne Waring) and at Bradwell in the Hope Valley (Cate Beck).

Image of hibernating Herald moth
Hibernating Herald. Calke tunnel. 20th Jan. 2020. Alan & Karen Roe

Finally, Dave Gilbert has emailed some photographs of butterflies that he took in Tuscany in May 2018 – anyone like to ID the 3 butterflies that are attached to this email?

Image of Tuscany butterfly
Tuscany butterfly 1. Dave Gilbert.
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