After a wet start with local flooding in the month and then a very cold end to January 2021, it might come as a surprise to some of you that a total of 10 butterflies in 4 species were seen flying outside in Derbyshire during the month which is similar to January 2020 when there were 7 Peacocks and 4 Small Tortoiseshells seen in the county. Interestingly no Red Admirals were seen in either January 2020 or January 2021 although this species spends most of the winter in crevices in trees in woodlands waiting for the sun to warm it up (see attached photo of one taking sap last summer).So the final count for January 2021 includes the following recent additional sightings seen outside since the last update :-
Brimstone :- A surprising addition to the 2021 sightings with a record of one on the wing at Draycott on the 21st of January 2021
(Ken Hughes) who was videoing the floods on the nearby River Derwent at the time, when the butterfly flew by.
Peacock :- 2 outdoor sightings of this species, both on the 22nd of January 2021 – one at Long Eaton Railway Sidings (Marion Bryce), and the other at Clough Lane, Wensley (Will Martin).
With a heavy fall of snow in the county on the 24th of January 2021, including southern parts of Derbyshire, it provided a number of recorders the chance to see their local patch in an unusual situation and Jerry Evans of Aston on Trent was quick to visit nearby Aston Brickyards LNR the next day where he took some great photographs of the site. It is hard to believe that this site supports 24 species of butterflies, many of which breed at the site, so let’s hope that the conditions that they encountered last week will not affect their numbers too much in 2021 – only by monitoring the site by means of a transect will we know for sure what effect that this recent severe weather will have had on them – please see the great photos of the site which were taken by Gerry.
With the evenings now staying light until about 5 pm it gives us some hope that spring is around the corner – in the meantime please stay safe,
Just after it finally stopped raining, a spell of sunshine was enough to tempt a Peacock butterfly out of hibernation in Belper on the 22nd of January 2021 when David Potton saw an individual sunning itself on a south facing window ledge at about lunchtime. Earlier on the 14th of January 2021, Ian Wildbur was working on a property in Ashover when he noticed a Small Tortoiseshell taking advantage of the sun even though the temperature was around only 2°c.
Although we are still all in lockdown in the region, our thoughts are concentrating on warmer days ahead when hopefully we will be allowed to get our daily exercise whilst carrying out our butterfly transects – this year the 1st of April falls on a Thursday so the transect weeks will be from Thursday to the following Wednesday. In 2019 Pat and I inputted 40,000 Derbyshire butterfly records and at the moment we have already inputted over 30,000 records for the county for 2020, so every little helps as they say!
With the cold weather still prevailing in the county, any short bursts of January sunshine can be enough to stir some butterflies out of hibernation despite the temperature not rising much above freezing point for only a couple of hours during the day.
The last 7 days have resulted in the following 2 species being noted here in Derbyshire :- Small Tortoiseshell :- On the 8th of January 2021 a specimen of this species was seen fluttering by a window inside the house of Alan Hobson in Barlow – in these circumstances it is difficult to know precisely what to do but it was released into the wild to hopefully return back into hibernation later in the day. Then on the 12th of January, Kevin Morris and Chris Brown were walking along the meadows adjacent to the River Derwent in the Darley Abbey/ Allestree area when they saw a Small Tortoiseshell in full flight.
Peacock :- Louis Heath noticed a specimen hiding around his pond filter box in his garden in Higham on the 10th of January 2021 and the butterfly obligingly opened its wings to enable Louis to get a photo of it.
With all the transect data already submitted to Butterfly Conservation/UKBMS, I have now produced a list of the highest number of species that have been recorded at sites in the county – not surprising that Lathkill Dale NNR tops the list with 29 species recorded as this transect was one of the earliest to be started within the UK back in 1979 ( transects were first commenced at Monks Wood in Cambridgeshire during 1976). A creditable joint second place is Hoe Grange Quarry, Derbyshire’s first Butterfly NR, which has recorded 28 species on transects since its inception in 2015 – see the attached list for all the details of the top 16 sites in the county
Ian Middlebrook of Butterfly Conservation has come back to me with the national results for transect numbers for 2020 – the list is :-
Hants & IOW - 152 sites (164 in 2019 & 162 in 2018)
East Midlands - 145 sites (157 in 2019 & 143 in 2018) – ( in 2020 :- Derbyshire – 104 sites; Notts – 26 sites; Leics 15 sites)
Surrey - 114 sites (128 in 2019 & 119 in 2018)
Dorset - 79 sites (82 in 2019 & 79 in 2018)
So yet again the East Midlands has produced the goods in a very difficult year for carrying out transects – indeed a number of new sites are being considered for 2021 so the enthusiasm and commitment remains very high locally.
During February 2021, Butterfly Conservation/UKBMS are introducing a new website for the online entering of transect data In a bid to get the data earlier and also it will help me with the inputting. If you would like to help this year at your site then please send me an email – I will then send you some guidance notes during next month. The actual method of recording and producing and verifying the record sheets does not change but inputting the data will be different if you have already tried this method in the past.
Despite the cold snap continuing well into the New Year, we even have a sprinkling of snow here in the suburbs of Derby, it has not prevented three early butterfly sightings in the county already this year together with a very late butterfly sighting at the end of December 2020 – some are new county records for the species involved :-
Peacock :- John Parlby informs me that a specimen of this species was seen by Ian Wildbur on the 31st of December 2020 (latest county sighting for the species) on the recently constructed butterfly bank at the Jim Mart NR near Press at around 9.30 am when the temperature was still minus 2c despite the sunshine. Also seen inside the butterfly bank were some hibernating newts so these structures are important habitats for a number of wildlife species including dragonflies and grass snakes which can be seen basking on the limestone, much of which in the county has been kindly donated by Longcliffe Quarries. Then on the 6th of January 2021, Iain McGowan saw a Peacock in the sun at Calke Park at 2 pm after there had been a dusting of snow there earlier in the day!
Small Tortoiseshell :- The first outdoor sighting of a butterfly in the county this year was of a Small Tortoiseshell on the 1st of January 2021 when Chris Johnstone saw an individual in flight at Gang Mine NR, Cromford Hill – this date equals the existing record of the 1st of January (2019)
Comma :- Nick Brown & Kath Patrick were walking in Hilton Gravel Pits NR on the 3rd of January 2021 when they came across a Comma basking on a muddy path there – pleasingly they carefully picked it up and placed it into a nearby log pile so as to hopefully continue its slumber. This sighting is a new County record as the previous earliest sighting for the species was the 18th of January (2000) – it is quite unusual for the Comma to appear early in the New Year as they normally spend the winter well camouflaged inside a dense thicket of ivy (hence the shape of their wings) – similar to the Brimstone of course.
With all the 2020 transect data for Derbyshire being verified and sent off to Butterfly Conservation/UKBMS, I have now prepared a report for everyone to study – in summary, the overall situation is that 104 (110) sites were monitored and 1,962 (2572) transects were walked which resulted in the sighting of 32 species with a total of 102,615 (124,356) butterflies seen at an average of 52 (48) butterflies seen per transect. The figures in brackets are the numbers for 2019 in order to do a comparison with 2020 – whilst there was a 24% reduction in transects walked in 2020, there was only an 18% reduction in butterflies seen which is why the average number of butterflies noted on the total number of transects walked is 10% higher in 2020 despite the corona virus effect! What a great effort by all the volunteers involved – I am so pleased that many enthusiasts were able to get out and about in the countryside whilst doing their daily exercise and still maintaining social distancing although this was difficult on occasions at sites such as the Cromford Canal towpath and Lathkill Dale on a Bank Holiday! I have attached a summary of the transect results for the past 4 years which shows that 12 species increased in number during 2020 compared to 2019 with the biggest resident species winner being the Small Tortoiseshell (+145%) and the biggest resident species loser being the Brown Argus (migrating) (-90%).
The highest number of species seen on transects in 2020 was the Meadow Brown (23,978), a fall of 10% on 2019, followed by the Ringlet (13,500) a fall of 41% on 2019. Also attached is a Report for 2020 which contains data on the sites in the county which had the highest number of butterflies per site together with the sites which had the best counts for each of the 32 species recorded in 2020.
In view of the current lockdown it is vitally important that you all keep safe and alert after all hopefully help is on the way and the new transect season is now closer to us rather than further away from us! Here’s to a safe and butterfly filled new year in 2021.