Out of hibernation…..or not?

Update Number 3.


Roosting Peacock Butterfly. Photo by Richard M. Jeffery

The winter of 2017/18 may well go down as one of the coldest and wettest for some time, and with the arrival of the Spring Equinox on the 20th of March (at 16.15 pm to be precise) and forecasts of a possible ‘white Easter’ it doesn’t show many signs of retiring gracefully. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that only two further butterfly sightings have been reported since the last update. A single Brimstone was reported by Tony Teperek in his Congerstone garden on the 11th of March, and another Brimstone was seen flying by Derek Spicer’s office window in South Kilworth on the 16th of March.

It has been left to the dedicated moth-ers in the county to provide us with information of species attracted to light traps. There have been fewer numbers recorded in comparison to this time last year, but a few of the hardier moths have taken advantage of brief gaps in the cold to visit garden traps. March Moth, Common Quaker, Hebrew Character, Clouded Drab and Oak Beauty have made up the bulk of the numbers recorded. Jools Partridge noted a Grey Shoulder-Knot in Melton Mowbray on the 14th of March. Graham Finch reported Yellow Horned and Oak Beauty in addition to some of the above on the night of the 14th of March at Charnwood Lodge, and on the following night he recorded Yellow Horned, Pale Brindled Beauty and the first Brindled Pug of the year at Stoneywell Wood.

It is interesting to see how our butterflies survive the ravages of winter, and I am sure that this winter will have tested their endurance to the very limit. Five of our resident butterflies over-winter as adults, although one, the Red Admiral is technically classed as a migrant, and those that do manage to survive the autumn and winter months (and most of them do not) can be seen early in the year on calm, sunny days. The Brimstone, usually one of the first to put in an appearance as the warmer days of spring arrive hibernates deep among evergreens such as Holly and Ivy, usually in wooded areas, especially where Buckthorn is present, but also in our gardens. Ivy, although it has been much maligned in gardens, is definitely worth planting where space allows, and it is not as harmful as myth would have us believe. The Small Tortoiseshell is one of man’s true companions and will usually hibernate in and around our homes, favouring garages, sheds and out-buildings, and even our local churches to keep out of the chilly northerly or easterly winds. Both Peacocks and Commas prefer to overwinter in woods and spinneys, or larger gardens, usually seeking out hollow trees or even holes in the ground (see photo above) to hibernate.

As and when the weather warms up, and it will, any of the above species may be seen to emerge both in the woods and hedgerows, and our gardens. Keep your eyes open and remember to submit your sightings for inclusion in future updates, either via our Facebook page (Butterflies and Moths of Leicestershire & Rutland) or using my email address which is on the Committee page of the East Midlands Butterfly Conservation website.

The Importance of Recording….

Update Number 2:

Another cold and damp couple of weeks meant that very few sightings have been made since the first Update of the year. A further Red Admiral was seen on the 28th of January (see Update Number 1 for the other two) by Jake Bull in Glebelands, Leicester, and the first reported sighting of a Small Tortoiseshell came in from Susan Bates who spotted one high up on the wall of her Coalville home on the 16th of February. A Brimstone, the first reported of the season, was seen in an Empingham garden on the 17th of February.

We are currently experiencing a mild but wet spell, which may not be good for butterfly sightings, but a cold snap is due by the end of the week, and if this is accompanied by bright sunshine then maybe a few hardy butterflies may show themselves.

I have been looking at the results of the 2017 butterfly transect season and have a few facts and figures to share with you. Last year, we carried out 12 butterfly transects over the season (running from the 1st of April to the 30th of September) and a total of 10,541 butterflies were recorded overall. The top 4 species, as a total recorded in all 12 transects were as follows:

Ringlet 3585

Meadow Brown 1537

Speckled Wood 1189

Gatekeeper 924

The most prolific transect was the one carried out a Croft Quarry Nature Trail with an average of 93.4 butterflies recorded per visit of a total of 22 species. The highest number of any one particular species was recorded at Sence Valley where a total of 869 Ringlet were noted. Incidentally, the Ringlet was the most popular species in 11 out of the 12 transects, with the only exception being at Cover Cloud, Sandhill’s Lodge where the Meadow Brown took the top slot.

Dingy Skipper are now recorded on 4 of our transects (namely Bardon Hill (3 individuals), Donisthorpe Woodland Park (1), Hick’s Lodge (9) and Pick Triangle Wood (1)).

Marbled White have continued their expansion and are now recorded at Croft Quarry Nature Trail (15) and Great Glen (14). There is every possibility that they could appear on other transects in the near future.

Another exciting find this season was the discovery of a solitary Green Hairstreak on the transect at Bardon Hill Quarry. It has long been suspected that the species ‘should’ be present here as there is an abundance of Gorse, Bird’s Foot Trefoil and a reasonable quantity of Bilberry present. It is hoped that this sighting will be repeated in the coming season (if it does, it will be reported in a future Update).

A transect (walking a fixed route on a regular basis) helps to build up a picture of the fauna (and flora) present on a particular site over a period of time, and by comparing the data recorded over several years, a reasonable assumption can be concluded on the status of each individual species, highlighting those that are prospering and those that are showing signs of decline. This in turn helps to develop future conservation programs on a local and national level. Occasionally, as in the case of the Green Hairstreak at Bardon Hill, an outstanding find makes the effort of carrying out a particular survey even more worth while and most enjoyable.

I know I have requested this many times before, but if anyone wishes to become part of an existing transect team, or would like to help set up a new transect, then please feel free to get in touch. My contact details can be found on the Committee Page of the East Midland Butterfly Conservation website (Butterfly Recorder for Leicestershire and Rutland) or you can reach me via our Facebook page (Butterflies and Moths of Leicestershire and Rutland). If you’ve never been involved in any form of recording before then do not worry as full training can be given.

I would also like to point out here that while we are talking about recording butterflies ‘in the field’, it is just as important to record butterflies in our own particular space, and by that I mean our gardens. Gardens used to be full of butterflies, but even here we are starting to see declines in numbers of some of the more common species. My Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) was virtually devoid of butterflies last summer, and this is worrying. In the next Update I will share a list of key plants that will hopefully encourage butterflies (and moths) to visit your garden. In the meantime, please keep looking for any adventurous butterflies that may make an appearance and please let me know.






First Butterfly Sightings of the Year

Update Number 1

Red Admiral Photo by Richard M. Jeffery

After what seems a very long, cold and wet winter so far, it is encouraging to be able to report the first butterfly sighting in the county. On the 28th of January the sunshine returned and Georgina Bland reported a sighting of a Red Admiral in her Burbage garden, and on the same day, Steve Lee also noted a Red Admiral in his garden in Narborough.

I am not aware of any other sightings as yet, and I am still awaiting my first, but if you have seen a butterfly, or you do over the coming days, then please let me know. You can use my email link on the EMBC Committee Page (Leicestershire Butterfly Recorder) or you can post your sighting on the ‘Butterflies and Moths of Leicestershire and Rutland’ Facebook page. The weather forecast for the next few days predicts another cold snap, but with the occasional sunny spells like today, you never know what may put in an appearance.

The new Butterfly Transect season is only a few weeks away, so if anyone would like to join us in helping to record butterflies on an existing transect in the county, or would like to help set up a new transect, then please feel free to get in touch. They are normally carried out on a rota basis so you’ll only need to commit to an hour or so once every two or three weeks, and the season runs from the first week of April to the end of September. Many volunteers work in pairs, so it can also be a shared experience. It’s a good way to see and study butterflies in their natural habitat, it gets you out and about in the fresh air and provides invaluable information to help us ascertain the status of our county butterflies.

Remember, these Updates are only possible because of nature lovers like you. It is your information that forms the basis of all the Updates, otherwise, without it, it’ll end up being my personal Blog and that is not what this Blog was set up for.

Enjoy your butterflying.

Ne’er Cast a Clout ’til May Is Out…

Update Number 7.


Well, who could have predicted how the month of May would have turned out after such a dry March and April. Sunny days, chilly nights (with the odd frost or two) and eventually, some welcomed rain (although June, so far, has provided perhaps a tad more than expected….). I have been inundated with records over the last few weeks, and having been away for a while and had other commitments too, sorting through them has been somewhat of a challenge. The only way I get through them was to focus on the key sightings and to eliminate some records of the most common species (White’s, Peacocks etc.), otherwise this update would have gone into three volumes. Please accept my apologies if you’ve submitted information and it doesn’t appear here (please keep sending your data in though..).

I’ll list them by species and in chronological order.

Small Copper: (species number 14 for the year).

04 May: Saharima Roenisch at Beacon Hill C.P., Adey Baker (6) at Croft Quarry N.T. 11 May: Ben Devine at Bath Yard, Moira. 20 May: Alan Cann at Lea Meadows.

Green Hairstreak:

04 May: Eliot Taylor (4) at Warren Hills. 10 May: Matthew Harpin at Bardon Hill (not knowingly recorded at this site before). 11 May: Ron Stevens (7) at Ullesthorpe Stewardship Farm. 14 May: Matthew Harpin (3) at Warren Hills. 21 May: Dave Griffin (5) at Ketton Quarry. 22 May: Richard Jeffery at Bardon Hill (confirmation of the above record?). 23 May: Geof & Margaret Adams (6) at Bittesby Wood. 24 May: Richard Jeffery (7) at Bittesby Wood. 26 May: Martin Russell at Asfordby Sidings. 31 May: Martin Russell at Asfordby Sidings.

Dingy Skipper: (species number 15 for the year).

04 May: Matthew Harpin at Bagworth Heath C.P. 07 May: Eliot Taylor (2) at Bagworth Heath C.P. 10 May: Richard Jeffery (5) at Bardon Hill. Richard Jeffery (2) New Lount Nature Reserve. 11 May: Ben Devine (15) at Bath Yard, Moira. Pete Leonard (12) at Brown’s Hill Quarry. 14 May: Matthew Harpin (7) at Bardon Hill. Sarah Proud (12) at Bloody Oaks Quarry. 18 May: Bill Bacon (11) at Clipsham Quarry. 22 May: Richard Jeffery (8) at Bardon Hill. 26 May: Eliot Taylor (9) at Bagworth Heath C.P. Sarah Proud at Bloody Oaks Quarry. Martin Russell (5) at Asfordby Sidings. 27 May: Geoff Cave (2) at Bardon Hill. 28 May: Bill Bacon (2) at Stonesby Quarry. 31 May: Martin Russell (5) at Asfordby Sidings.

Wall Brown: (species number 16 for the year).

10 May: Richard Jeffery at Bardon Hill. 14 May: Matthew Harpin (4) at Bardon Hill. 22 May: Richard Jeffery (4) at Bardon Hill. 23 May: Richard Jeffery (2) at Warren Hills. 27 May: Geoff Cave (10) at Bardon Hill.

Speckled Wood:

03 May: Margaret Volunteer at Charnwood Lodge. 07 May: Eliot Taylor (4) at Bagworth Heath C.P. 30 May: Lyn Bull at Kirby Muxloe.

Common Blue: (species number 17 for the year).

14 May: Matthew Harpin at Bardon Hill. 15 May: Steve Lee at Croft Quarry N.T. 21 May: Dave Griffin (3) at Ketton Quarry. 23 May: Geof & Margaret Adams (5) at Bittesby Wood. 24 May: Richard Jeffery (14) at Bittesby Wood. 26 May: Sarah Proud (6) at Bloody Oaks Quarry. Eliot Taylor (20+) at Bagworth Heath C.P. Martin Russell (20+) at Asfordby Sidings. 28 May: Bill Bacon (3) at Stonesby Quarry. 31 May: Martin Russell (30+) at Asfordby Sidings.

Grizzled Skipper: (species number 18 for the year).

18 May: Bill Bacon (3) at Edith Weston Quarry Farm. Bill Bacon (4) at Geeston Quarry. Bill Bacon (2) at Clipsham Quarry. 21 May: Dave Griffin at Ketton Quarry.

Brown Argus: (species number 19 for the year).

18 May: Bill Bacon at Edith Weston Quarry Farm. 21 May: Dave Griffin (2) at Ketton Quarry. 26 May: Sarah Proud at Bloody Oaks Quarry.

Small Heath: (species number 20 for the year).

21 May: Dave Griffin (4) at Ketton Quarry. 24 May: Richard Jeffery (4) at Croft Quarry Nature Trail. 26 May: Sarah Proud (2) at Bloody Oaks Quarry. Eliot Taylor (5) at Bagworth Heath C.P. Martin Russell at Asfordby Sidings. 27 May: Geoff Cave at Bardon Hill. 31 May: Martin Russell (3) at Asfordby Sidings. Steve Lee at Croft Quarry N.T.

Painted Lady:

23 May: Richard Jeffery at Warren Hills. Sarah Proud (2) at Somerby. 27 May: Geoff Cave at Bardon Hill. 28 May: Pete Leonard at Plungar. 30 May: AJ Cann in Leicester.

Red Admiral:

14 May: Matthew Harpin at Bardon Hill. 15 May: Steve Lee at Croft Quarry N.T. 22 May: Lyn Bull at Kirby Muxloe. 31 May: Richard Jeffery (2) at Croft Glebe Meadow.

Holly Blue:

03 May: Stuart Sinclair at Ketton Quarry. 04 May: Adey Baker (2) at Croft Hill.

Large Skipper: (species number 21 for the year).

31 May: Richard Jeffery at Croft Glebe Meadow.






An Icy Blast From The Past….

Update Number 6

Male Orange Tip showing underwing markings…
Photo by Richard M. Jeffery

Just when you thought winter had retreated and gone into dormancy, it has awoken from its slumbers and reminded us that it’s not quite time for bed yet. Needless to say, butterfly sightings have been non-existant over the last couple of days. The back end of last week and the weekend did prove fruitful to those who ventured out. Sunny days accompanied by a keen northerly wind meant numbers were low, but a few sightings did come in.

Lyn Bull reported 3 Green-veined White from Blaby on the 18th, and the following day she was ‘buzzed’ by a low-flying Holly Blue. On the same day (19th) Toby Carter encountered his first Holly Blue of the year whilst on ‘Peregrine Watch’ at Leicester Cathedral (not a bad afternoon in my humble opinion…). Also on the 19th, Matthew Harpin paid a visit to Cloud Wood and noted a couple each of Orange Tip and Peacock.

Steve Lee ventured out onto Croft Quarry Nature Trail on the 19th where he recorded 6 different species…..namely, Speckled Wood, Green-veined White, Holly Blue, Orange Tip, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell.

Up until the last few days, it has been a good spring for Orange Tip butterflies. Lady’s Smock (or Cuckoo Flower) seems to be fairly abundant this spring, and the Orange Tip seem to be taking full advantage. Croft Quarry has good numbers of Lady’s Smock this year, and over 50 Orange Tip have been recorded in the last 3 weeks on the butterfly transect (I counted 24 this Sunday 23rd)……especially lower down by the boardwalks. It appears that it is not just Leicestershire that is experiencing this…..having checked with the County Recorder for Northamptonshire, it would seem that they are getting similar numbers. I just hope that this cold snap doesn’t bring about a premature end to their flight period. I’ll keep you posted.

It would appear that Green Hairstreaks have been enjoying the early spring sunshine too, with over 10 individuals being recorded by Matthew Harpin on Warren Hills on the 22nd. This site has always been a stronghold for this delightful butterfly, but there must be other sites in the county where the butterfly is (or should be….) present. Please keep an eye out on sites where Bird’s Foot Trefoil is abundant, and also where there is plenty of Gorse. You never know, you may spot one of these little emerald jewels.

I looks like the cold spell will be with us for a few more days and then temperatures will gradually become more ‘spring-like’. Please continue to send in your butterfly sightings through the usual channels, either directly by email (to winrich168@btinternet.com) or via the Facebook page (Butterflies and Moths of Leicestershire and Rutland), and I’ll keep you posted on what’s happening.

Until then, wrap up warm…..


Butterfly Bank at Moira Furnace

Update Number 5.

Moira Furnace lies in the heart of the new National Forest, in the west of the county, bordering Derbyshire. Monitoring flora and fauna is one of the keystones to the development of the National Forest and will directly influence future action plans as and when the need arises. As far as Lepidoptera are concerned, we already have butterfly transects set up at Hicks Lodge, Sarah’s Wood, Pick Triangle, Donisthorpe Woodland Park and Willesley Wood, so we should be able to build up an accurate picture of the status of our butterflies and moths in the Leicestershire section of the Forest. So why, then, do we need a Butterfly Bank?

Butterfly Banks can be regarded as an ‘all-in-one’ butterfly habitat, providing places to bask in the sunshine, and to provide both nectar and larval food plants. Stepping stones in the natural landscape. Moira Furnace adjoins the site of one of our existing transects, namely the one at Donisthorpe. One of the key species we hope to attract to the Butterfly Bank is the Dingy Skipper, and this has been recorded on the transect at Donisthorpe, a mere half a kilometre away. It is no great leap of faith to expect the Dingy Skipper to appear at Moira Furnace.

The Project was a joint venture between East Midlands Butterfly Conservation, the National Forest (Black to Green Project), OPAL (Open Air Laboratories) of Nottingham and the Ashby and Coalville Lions. Work began in March when the construction process took place.

Removal of the existing Topsoil

I would say the simplest way to describe the process of constructing the Butterfly Bank is to think of gardening ‘in reverse’. Normally you would expect to have the nutrient rich soil on the top and poorer subsoil below. To give the wildflower plants the conditions they need to grow in, these have to be reversed. Too much nutrient would give lush, rich growth that would succumb to pest and disease attack, and also result in fewer flowers. Low nutrient levels mean tighter, more compact plants and greater flower production and seed set. Once the topsoil had been removed and stacked, a trench in the shape of a large ‘C’ or ‘armchair’ was taken out and the subsoil set to one side.

Topsoil being placed in the bottom of the trench

The topsoil that had been removed was then placed in the bottom of the trench and covered with the subsoil forming a ridge approximately 75 cms (30 inches) high. The ridge was higher in the centre (forming the back of the ‘armchair’) and tapering to about 40 cms (16 inches) on the ‘arms’. Once the soil had been shaped the whole Bank was covered with TWO layers of stone. The first layer was of crushed limestone (similar to Type 1 roadstone). Calcareous stone is most suitable for Butterfly Bank construction, but in this case there was far too much fine material (almost dust) and the fear was that under heavy rains this would compact and become impenetrable to plant roots. It was also a concern that the action of winter rains and frosts would cause further fragmentation. The decision was taken to add a layer of harder ‘drainage’ stone (granite) to cover this layer, giving protection from the harsher elements whilst still allowing moisture through to the plant roots below, and to provide a rough surface for plants like Bird’s Foot Trefoil and Creeping Cinquefoil to scramble through. This layer was also more aesthetically pleasing, taking into consideration that the site will be subject to considerable passing foot-flow.

Calcareous sub-layer


Granite Top layer

Once the bank was covered it was left for a couple of weeks to allow for settlement prior to planting.

The completed Bank prior to planting.

The wildflower plug plants duly arrived and with the help of the Lions and the local Scout group, planting took place on an overcast but dry morning (perfect conditions, I’d say….). The areas adjoining the bank and directly opposite were also to be planted to create wildflower meadows to compliment the Bank. Plant species were selected to attract some key species of butterfly. Bird’s Foot Trefoil was planted specifically for the Dingy Skipper; Sheeps Sorrell for the Small Copper and Common Rock Rose for the Brown Argus. Perhaps more ambitiously, or even optimistically, Creeping Cinquefoil was planted to attract the elusive Grizzled Skipper. The latter species may never appear here, but ‘you never know’. The meadows were planted with a host of nectar and larval food plants for butterflies and moths, and also by default, bumblebees.

Healthy wildflower plug plants sourced locally from Naturescape in Notts.


Local Scouts planting on and around the Bank.


….and in the Wildflower meadow…

The measure of success of the Butterfly Bank will only become clear as we monitor the butterflies and moths that move in over the coming months and years. To ascertain this, a program has been set up to record the Bank throughout the season. Visits will be made on a fortnightly basis to record species using the bank and neighbouring meadows. Should the Bank prove successful, plans are afoot to create another in neighbouring Donisthorpe Woodland Park, and subsequently in other key sites in the National Forest, creating ‘stepping-stones’ for our region’s butterflies and moths and aiding their survival and potential expansion of territory.

I will keep you updated on the progress of the Bank and on the species recorded on and around it……..and should a Dingy Skipper appear, you’ll be the first to know.


A Wonderful Weekend……

Update Number 4

Speckled Wood Photo by Richard M. Jeffery

I don’t know about you, but I am finding it increasingly more difficult to understand and predict our weather patterns. The weekend of the 8th and 9th of April brought us almost summer-like conditions with warm sunshine and blue skies, albeit accompanied by keen cool breezes, yet a few days later temperatures had dropped by almost 10 degrees, reminding us that we have only just left winter behind us. Looking ahead, we can expect a few sunny days and maybe even a few frosty nights. How the county Lepidoptera cope with these fluctuations is beyond me………but cope they certainly do.

Saturday 8th April:

Orange Tip butterflies took advantage of this sunny spell and were reported by Adey Baker (Burbage), Alison Rhodes (Anstey), Eliot Taylor (4 @ Glenfield), David Scott (3 @ Great Glen) and Toby Carter (Leicester). More Holly Blues took to the wing as recorded by Adey Baker (4@ Burbage), Alison Rhodes (Anstey), Eliot Taylor (Glenfield) and Craig Howat (Oakham). Speckled Wood sightings are beginning to increase, and Adey Baker trumped everyone with over 20 specimens noted on his Burbage visit. Other sightings came in from Eliot Taylor (3@ Glenfield) and from David Scott (Great Glen).

This day also brought sightings of Peacock (Adey Baker, Alison Rhodes, Lyn Bull (Barnsdale Gardens), and David Scott (5)), Brimstone (Adey Baker, Alison Rhodes (2), Lyn Bull, Eliot Taylor and David Scott (6)) and Small Tortoiseshell (Adey Baker, Alison Rhodes and David Scott (5)). A solitary Comma was noted by Adey Baker at Burbage.

Sunday 9th April:

A glorious day that wouldn’t have been out of place in early summer, and a day that encouraged more of us out into the great outdoors. Orange Tips were noted by Vanessa Parkinson (Leicester), Claire Install (2@ Mountsorrel), Toby Carter (2@ Leicester), Lyn Bull (Kirby Muxloe) and Stephen Rawlinson (Aylestone Meadows). Brimstones continued to be seen as reported by Claire Install, Toby Carter (3), Lyn Bull and Paul Walsh (2@ Huncote). Holly Blue were seen by Claire Install, Lyn Bull (2), Mark Tricker (Wigston) and Stephen Rawlinson. Small Tortoiseshell sightings came in from Claire Install, Toby Carter (3) and Mark Tricker. Only a couple of Peacocks were reported on this day, by Claire Install and Toby Carter.

This day also brought more ‘firsts’ for the county. Stephen Rawlinson noted the full set of ‘whites’, including the first reported Large White (species number 12), along with 4 Green-veined White and a solitary Small White. Matthew Harpin reported the first Green Hairstreak (13) of the season, with 4 individuals being seen on Warren Hills.

Only one more report of Brimstone has come in since this weekend and this came from Adey Baker who spotted several at Croft Hill on the 10th. Speckled Wood were noted by Ben Devine on the 11th (Moira Furnace) and John Hopkins on the 13th (Burroughs Wood). AJ Cann recorded an Orange Tip on the 13th at Lucas’ Marsh.

Steve Lee visited a Narborough garden on the 14th and recorded Orange Tip, Speckled Wood, Peacock and Holly Blue.

Only a single Red Admiral sighting has been reported, and that came in this morning (16th) when Derek Spicer spotted a solitary specimen on his nursery in South Kilworth.


The latest ‘First Sightings’ list is as follows (and includes a slight amendment to last weeks list):

10. Small White – David Foulds – Brocks Hill C.P. – 3rd April

11. Speckled Wood – Various – Various – 5th April

12. Large White – Stephen Rawlinson – Aylestone Meadow – 9th April

13. Green Hairstreak – Matthew Harpin – Warren Hills – 9th April


Please continue to send in your sightings information via the usual channels (either directly by email or the Facebook page ‘Butterflies and Moths of Leicestershire and Rutland’), and I’ll keep you posted. Watch this space……




%d bloggers like this: