Big Butterfly Count on the Horsefield
I was hoping today to be able to carry out my first Butterfly Conservation count of the season on the Horsefield so I was delighted when the day turned out to be warm and sunny, albeit with an indifferent start. It turned out to be, perhaps, one of my best butterfly days on my edgeland patch.
As I squeezed through the fence behind the lockup garages and crossed the first field of barley it was very dry and the crop is just showing the first hint of gold as it ripens. Hoepfully it will be a good harvest as we have had plenty of rain but sun too. It will be fingers crossed, though, as spring was very dry. In fact I was amazed when the seed was drilled, to see green shoots only a few days later; I couldn't believe at that time that there was enough moisture in the ground. When I reached the Horsefield it could be seen that we are definitely in high summer: gone are the fresh greens of spring and the meadow grasses have grown up and produced ripening seed stalks, the meadow a riot of purples, golds, bronzes and fawns with a sprinkling of yellows from buttercups, mouse-ears and trefoils as well as the bright purple of large clumps of tufted vetch. The hedges are a tangle of bramble with some still in flower, whilst others are laden with full, ripe and juicy blackberries. Either way they are a wonderful attraction for butterflies. Sloes are forming in the blackthorn hedges and it looks like being a good year for these too. Large patches of knapweed are grown up now and the flowers beginning to open; these too are attractive to butterflies. I was pleased also to find a patch of figwort and, nearby, tall yellow spikes of mignonette.
Butterflies were numerous, especially meadow browns and ringlets. I have been waiting patiently (or, perhaps, not so patiently!) for gatekeeprs to emerge and today they were on the wing in very good numbers; in fact more than I can remember on the patch. I am used to seeing them more often in the woodland burial ground over the fence. A few yellow shell moths were flying and I found singles of comma, small white and peacock. I am hoping for more peacocks soon as in the middle of June there were large tangled masses of peacock caterpillars, black and spiky, on the brambles. Several burnet moths were busy on birds foot trefoil and knapweed and a large southern hawker dragonfly helicoptered past but didn't stay for a photograph. Goldfinches must have been successful as I saw a couple of charms of both young and adult birds. Hopefully they will feed on the plentiful teasels when they are in seed and pose for some photos. At one point I stood on a mound of soil in order to secure a better angle on a meadow brown butterfly - to my cost. Suddenly I was aware that I was being bitten by ants who were not appreciative of my standing on their nest. Good news to find it though.
During my 15 minute butterfly count I found the following:
- Gatekeeper 6
- Small skipper 3
- Meadow brown 18
- Ringlet 5
- Yellow shell moth 3
- Large white 2
- Small white 1
- Comma 1
My most exciting find of the day, though, was essex skipper. Looking very much like small skippers they are difficult to differentiate, so I was delighted to find a definite two so there must be more there.
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Essex SkipperEssex Skipper