Monday, 1 July 2019

Butterfly Year 2019

Butterfly Year 2019


Common Blue



(male) June 2019


email for observations


Jan 2019

The year started in typical fashion with some early sightings by Howard, who's observations on his Bickley allotment near Virgin Active have been an invaluable addition to www.londonbutterflysurvey.org.uk. 

Most unusual was a painted lady migrant in late January, here shown on bramble in June, when many others migrated here from France.




Painted lady 
(influx - June)  



Feb 2019

By mid February this unusual sighting was followed by some of the more expected butterflies - Brimstones in High Elms and small tortoiseshells in Bickley on the allotment behind the Virgin Gym.

By the 17th February temperatures were climbing into the high teens 19º - and an all too obvious familiarity with the elevated temperatures in 2018 which after a short dip the sunny weather returned and provoked an outing of over wintering butterflies.


Comma 




  Mar 2019

Temperatures during March returned to more normal levels of 10º - 15º which meant no recording until the 19th when Brimstone butterflies were seen in Bromley Common and High Elms, where ragged Peacock butterflies also emerged.

Contractors instructed by Idverde to avoid cutting East of the Ravensbourne. This was after a false  start, similar to last year, when the entire area was decimated and several species lost when the contractors left the West side of the river, much less abundant in butterflies. Aquatic life still not back to pre 2015 levels when it was contaminated by motor show toilet effluent.

The last week in March saw temperatures rise to the high teens again and a whole list of butterflies were on the wing:

• Brimstone 10/15 butterflies peaking - WhiteHill - Lullingstone - High Elms - Bromley Common
• Small White (single) - Bromley Common
• Orange Tip (m)  (in singles) -  High Elms - Bromley Common -Bickley
• Holly Blue (single)
• Red admiral (single)
• Peacock (several, range  5-8) in WhiteHill - Lullingstone - High Elms
• Comma (several, range  5-8) in WhiteHill - Lullingstone - High Elms - Bromley Common

By the 28th March the clearing had a great tit occupying the blue nest box and frogspawn was appearing in local ponds. Long tailed tits were busy establishing a territory and had started building behind the clearing.


Holly Blue
Orange tip female





April 2019

By this time, mid month we had installed our new hide and trail cam which began recording the activity in the Scraginhall woodland clearing. It started off slowly but gathered pace as the month proceeded with the appearance of foxes and badgers from a nearby set. Deer also entered the clearing, first a male playing with the oak and later a pair of females frolicking and racing around. https://vimeo.com/352096958

April temperatures were once again modest until the 17th when uplifted to the high teens peaking at 20º around the 18th/19th Nick Davey joined me for his first foray to White Hill, Fackenden Down and Fackenden Bank, where I did so much original work in the 1970/1980's. 

• Brimstone - White Hill, Fackenden 5/8 - Green Street Green/Pratts Bottom A21 (while driving)
• Green Veined White (single) - Bickley
• Orange Tip (m)  (2/3) -  Fackenden - High Elms
• Green Hairstreak - (2) Fackenden Down, Dell, on Field Maple
• Holly Blue - (1) Bickley
• Peacock (several, range  5-8) in White Hill, Fackenden - High Elms
• Comma (several, range  5-8) in WhiteHill, High Elms
• Speckled Wood (1) Bromley Common

Long tailed tits lining nest in the hawthorn near the clearing. Activity in the rebuilt box in the willow. Lots of activity on the trail cam.

By mid month there were at least two blackcap sites and a wren in a large oak by the fence - later predated from below as is so often the case in this part of the woods. Lots of activity around the feeders and hide including a pair of shy jays and a robin.


May 2019 


Found eggs in a blackcaps nest by accident when flushing the bird from nettles, later disturbed another blackcap that simply hopped of the nest in a blackthorn hung around until I had got a mirror above the nest then hopped back on - this was by the entrance oak beyond the new planted scrub, where I had closed off the path using dead blackthorn.


Blackcaps nest with typical clutch of eggs

Butterflies on the wing
• Large skipper single fresh emergent ******
• Grizzled Skipper 5-8
• Dingy Skipper 15-20
• Brimstone 10-20
• Small white 3-5
• Green veined white single
• Orange tips 1-2's
• Green Hairstreak single
• Holly blue singles
• Small blue in abundance 30-40 in single stretch of Fackenden Bank
• Small copper 1
• Common Blue 10-15 Fackenden Bank
•  Brown argus 5-8 Fackenden Bank
• Peacock 5-8
• Comma 5-8
• Speckled Wood 3
• Meadow brown single BC HE
• Small Heath 5-8 Fackenden Bank



large skipper

five spot burnet moth

brown argus





Small blue


Small Copper

June 2019

Common Blue male

• Grizzled Skipper

• Dingy Skipper
• Large Skipper
• Small Skipper
• Brimstone
• Small White
• Green Veined White
• Green Hairstreak
• Small Copper
• Small Blue
• Common Blue
• Brown Argus
• Holly Blue
• White Admiral
• Red admiral
• Painted Lady
• Small Tortoiseshell
• Peacock
• Comma
• Dark Green Fritillary
• Speckled Wood
• Marbled White
• Meadow Brown
• Small Heath
• Ringlet

Regular visits to High Elms, Fackenden, Bromley Common, Elmfield and Lullingstone Country Park yielded some exceptional data, especially in respect of the small blue butterfly, which was prolific in a way not previously experienced by me, with a colony of at least 40-50 individuals over the whole stretch of its breeding location on Fackenden Down. Also prevalent was the dingy skipper butterfly, which was present in a population in excess of a 100 across the entire Fackenden Down, far outnumbering the Grizzled Skipper which appeared in ones and two's. The green hairstreak was also present as individuals along the hedgerow at the foot of the down on whortleberry. At the end of the month a visit to Hayes Farm coppiced area yielded a solitary White Admiral, later unfortunately met with the allegation that High Elms management had inexplicably removed honeysuckle, the butterfly's food plant from the woodland. Meadow browns and Ringlets started to appear in all locations            


Small Blue mating

Ringlet underwing
Grizzled Skipper



July 2019




2019 butterfly year spreadsheet to July - click for enlarged view




10th July

High Elms -

• Small skipper
• Large skipper
• Large white
• Small white
• White letter hairstreak
• Comma
• Dark green fritillary
• Silver washed fritillary
• Speckled wood
• Marbled white
• Ringlet
• Meadow brown


Marbled whites were everywhere on the golf course and in the cleared areas. Both fritillaries were on the wing in sparse populations of two and three butterflies, the silver washed fritillary most in evidence in the woodland clearings, but with dark green fritillaries in the power line field - where I met Jeff Boswell, a stalwart butterfly man and somewhat kindred soul. Sharing anecdotes can be time consuming, but by delaying Jeff, i'm pleased to say a compensation happened which took the form of a fresh white letter hairstreak in the small managed clearing on the footpath to Green street Green - where I had spent half an hour just before, searching and not finding.


White letter hairstreak - High Elms
©Jeff Boswell 



Large skipper

Marbled White topwing
Marbled White underwing



Dark Green Fritillary


Silver Washed Fritillary



comma underwing


Shaggy Mushroom 

August 2019


High Elms

First Week -By contrast with the previous entry, the marbled whites are now limited to one single butterfly, seen today in the orchid field. The dark green fritillary was absent, but the signature butterfly for High Elms, the silver washed fritillary, was abundant in the dissected clearing, on burnt gorse and in the new buddleia clearing, estimated total population close to a hundred butterflies. Fresh peacocks are flying in all clearings with a total population of at least 50 butterflies, no tortoiseshells but a singular fresh red admiral and painted lady. Meadow browns continue to revive with the dissected clearing having an abundance of new and very faded butterflies.

• Small skipper 1
• Common Blue 2
• Brown argus 6
• Large white 3
• Brimstone 20
• Small white 10
• Comma 10
• Silver washed fritillary 100
• Red admiral 2
• Painted lady 1
• Peacock 40
• Comma 20
• Speckled wood 2
• Marbled white 1
• Meadow brown 100+
• Gatekeeper 100+


Common Blue male emergent second generation 


Peacock emergent


Silver Washed Fritillary 


Brown Argus 


White Letter Hairstreak (29th July)


Brimstone male

Second Week - before the storm. As with the previous entry, the marbled whites are now limited to one single butterfly at High Elms, though absent from Bromley Common and Fackenden. At Fackenden Down, the sudden sun and warmth produced some unexpected butterflies, out to feed after the hiatus of overcast skies and before Friday's storms. The dark green fritillary was there, in two's and three's, still energetic, but badly worn and tattered. The small blue was also present in two's and three's, the common blues also, but more numerous including a very blue female (below). The Brown argus was out in force on the plots both sides of the lane, but the signature butterfly for Fackenden Bank could hardly have been more numerous, small clouds fluttering up at every few paces, numerous enough to have to avoid underfoot as they rested on the pathways. As with the previous entry, the marbled whites are now limited to one single butterfly at High Elms, though absent from Bromley Common and Fackenden. The silver washed fritillary was abundant as before in the dissected clearing, on burnt gorse and in the new buddleia clearing, estimated total population now lower than before, maybe 50 butterflies as an estimate. Fresh peacocks are now limited to a few butterflies, feeding avidly in the clearings. No tortoiseshells, or red admirals, or painted lady butterflies and only an odd fresh comma or two on view. Meadow browns continue on in all spaces, but the gatekeeper is on the decline.

• Small skipper (1) FD
• Common Blue FD
• Brown argus FD FB HE
• Small copper
• Small blue FD
• Chalk Hill Blue FB FD
• Small white 
• Brimstone  FB HE
• Comma HE
• Silver washed fritillary HE
• Dark green fritillary FD
• Peacock HE FD
• Comma HE
• Marbled white HE
• Meadow brown
• Gatekeeper




Common Blue female 


Brown Argus


Chalk Hill Blue m


Chalk Hill Blue f



Small Blue m


AUGUST 19th/20th

A Sunday stroll looking for fungi and expecting rain resulted in an unexpected burst of sunshine and a butterfly transect on Elmfield, where the prescribed lack of cutting has had great results for the second generation common blue - a success all round this yearA day later, a visit to High Elms on Monday with improving weather still got me soaked. This was followed by a similar deliberate outing Tuesday to Fackenden with now much improved weather after the relative hiatus of the previous fortnights changeable and often destructive wet and stormy conditions. Surprisingly, the hiatus in the warm August weather, did not create the sort of disruption to butterflies I expected. 

Monday was highlighted by a meeting with Fred OHare who reported clouded yellows on Burnt Gorse and also accounts of the brown hairstreak breeding at Keston, where over a hundred eggs were collected and redistributed on spinosa that was NOT going to be flailed, as the hedge on which the were found soon was. I also met Donna Cook of Idverde who is taking a keen interest in the butterfly life of High Elms and reported another site for the white letter hairstreak where there were larvae and also passed on some spreadsheets of sightings, which I will include on the website and data sheets. Notably the silver washed fritillary was still doing well and was active in all the clearings. Common blue butterflies were scarce on Burnt Gorse and it is hard to imagine looking at the field now what a cropping it had overwinter. The complexion of Fackenden Bank could not have been more different, overgrown, but with chalk hill blues in abundance. The star on Fackenden Down is the brown argus, which is present in large numbers wherever its foodplant grows. 

Butterflies


• Common blue FD
• Holly Blue HE
• Brown argus FD FB HE
• Small copper FD
• Chalk Hill Blue FB FD
• Small white FD HE FB BC
• Brimstone  FB HE FD
• Silver washed fritillary HE FB
• Red admiral FD
• Painted lady FD BC
• Comma HE
• Meadow brown FC HE BC
• Small Heath
• Gatekeeper
• Small heath




 brimstone f


 brown argus

 common blue 



small copper



  chalk hill blue f


AUGUST 29th

High Elms 

A short walk onto the meadow opposite the golf club opened up a new and more accessible area.
The wind was keeping the butterflies in check but there were a few common blues, a small heath, declining meadow browns and a gatekeeper. On the way back to the club however, a fresh speckled wood was sheltering in the little orchard meadow opposite the lodge.


• Small White
• Common Blue
• Small Heath
• Meadow Brown
• Speckled wood 


AUGUST 30th 

Fackenden 


As anticipated, the populations of mid summer butterflies on all three sites are now in decline. The star performer however is still the chalk hill blue, but it was interesting how the males had moved down the bank in the afternoon sun. In the morning they are found at the top of the bank, presumably because as the sun sets on the West horizon they move into the last rays of the sun. The common blue is still doing well, mid second generation. The brown argus was less evident, but I saw a female egg laying. The meadow brown is diminishing and there is a mixture of very old butterflies and some far fresher butterflies. Day flying moths were in evidence on the downland and the buzzard from the other week was flying lower than formerly. No brimstone butterflies, fritillaries or small blues  

• Small White
• Small Copper
• Common Blue
• Chalk Hill Blue
• Brown Argus
• Small Heath
• Meadow Brown

The privet larvae have burrowed down and I coincided this with printing some new moth pictures for the wall.



August 31st 2019

Red letter day - new species for the area - Brown Hairstreak on Jackass Lane Keston. Pictures thanks to Jeff Boswell.





September 13th 2019


Transects at White Hill and High Elms.

Despite the lovely late summer weather with temperatures in the twenties only a few straggling butterflies remained to take advantage. The strongest flyers were the red admirals who seemed intent on some sort of journey, though it's overstating it to think these fresh butterflies were flying south back to France, some were warming on paths, others feeding on the nectar bearing Ivy flowers. Brimstones were tempted onto the wing on burnt gorse where a pair of males were fluttering and feeding on the late flowering scabious. There was one female common blue in the orchid field I rescued from a spiders web but it was flying very weakly.

Fackenden Bank also had a few stragglers - chalk hill blues, mostly female, with a couple of late emerging males and one brown argus. The Down was similar with meadow browns still most in evidence, with a few common blues and two small heaths. A female common blue was by the gate weakly flying around the bramble accompanied by a comma.

• Brimstone HE
• Large white HE FACK
• Small white HE FACK
• Common blue HE FACK
• Chalk Hill Blue FACK
• Brown argus HE FACK
• Red admiral HE FACK
• Comma HE FACK
• Speckled wood HE FACK
• Meadow Brown FACK HE BG
• Small Heath  FACK HE BG