NEWSLETTER No. 10 - Winter 1983/84
WEST MIDLANDS BRANCH, BUTTERFLY CONSERVATION
Members will have noticed the two very splendid Comma butterflies
which adorn the front and back pages of the newsletter and we would like to
thank Clive Thompson and Alan Cutler for all their hard work. Clive has
generously provided a stock of West Midlands branch car stickers incorporating
the new symbol and these are available for 20p each from either the Secretary or
Treasurer. They really look very impressive and should prove popular with
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we made our way into the wood, and toward an area where Duke Of
Burgundy Fritillaries had been seen in previous years, and on a private member's
visit the previous week. A fritillary crossed the path and was chased in a
disorderly fashion by about half the party. It was probably a Small Pearl
Bordered, but was never clearly seen. Whilst this chase was on, the balance of
the party proceeded in a more sedate fashion and saw what proved to be the only
Duke of Burgundy of the trip.
The party then went to the now-famous Black Hairstreak locality where we met several other kindred spirits on the same mission. It was, however, a West Midlands Branch member who found a newly emerged Black Hairstreak. A queue of photographers then formed, before the butterfly removed itself to higher branches.
The total species count for the day was fourteen including those mentioned and Wood Whites.
July 3rd - Wyre Forest / Catherton Common
Sunday, 3rd July was like one of those long remembered Summer days from childhood - where the sun never stopped shining, not a leaf stirred and it was too hot to be energetic. About 20 people met at the Hawkbatch picnic area in the Wyre Forest and were glad to park their cars in whatever shade there was to be had. Sunrise was before 5 a.m. and the butterflies had already done a hard morning's nectar collecting before the group got underway at about 11.20. Twelve species were seen in the morning but not in any great numbers, Meadow Browns and Large Skippers being the most numerous. Whilst walking across the BBCS Reserve meadow in Indian file, a Pearl bordered and Small Pearl bordered Fritillary were accommodating enough to fly along the line of conservationists so that we could all observe them. On the far side of the meadow we met another group of enthusiasts from the West Midlands branch who had journeyed from Birmingham by bus to spend the day in the Forest. Only a few people were fortunate enough to see a White Admiral, but most were able to observe Common Blues, Ringlets, Speckled Woods, a few Brimstones, Green veined Whites, Large Whites and Small Skipper.
After lunch we went to BBCS members' Ben & Joan Walker's Donkey Sanctuary at Catherton Common on Clee Hill. They had generously invited members for cups of tea and a look around their garden and small meadow, and to make friends with the donkeys. It was unfortunate that there was so little butterfly activity during the afternoon. Joan had seen the meadow alive with butterflies earlier in the morning, but the heat in the afternoon was too much for them and us, and we were grateful for the rest, shade and hospitality shown to us. Seven species were seen: Small, Large and Green veined Whites plus Meadow Brown and Speckled Wood. With a Green Hairstreak and a Small Heath it made 15 species for the day. An eagle eyed naturalist spotted a Chimney-sweeper moth amongst the rich flora in the meadow, and it was astonishing to see Devil's bit Scabious out so early. Somehow 2 hours disappeared in a flash, drinking tea, wandering around the garden and pools, and purchasing plants. Friendships wore forged with Ben and Joan and at least three people have been back to stay with them (including my own daughter!) to help with the donkeys and earn their keep working in the garden. Please contact Joan Walker by phoning Ludlow 890309 if You can help.
July 10th - Eastnor Park
This was a joint meeting with the London Branch to Eastnor Park, which is an area at the south end of the Malvern Hills. One of their members had travelled up from Hastings, leaving at 4AM calling in at Bernwood Forest en route. Our leader was Dr. Michael Harper with some of his natural history friends from Ledbury, who over the past few years, had done management work within the Park. Michael had a vast knowledge of nature, especially the micro - world and proved to be a fund of useful information all day. The Park has a herd of 250+ Red Deer and we had glimpses of them throughout the sunny day. We started out along the limestone ridge and climbed over the high fence into the reserve area in order to inspect the trees planted last winter by BBCS members. These were growing well including the Alder Buckthorn, food plant of the Brimstone, which it was hoped to encourage. Further along the ridge, clearings had been created and these had benefited butterflies, including the Small Pearl - Bordered Fritillary, which had been absent until seven or eight years ago.
Butterflies observed were Meadow Brown, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood, Large Skipper and Ringlet. We moved across the valley for lunch at the Deer Wallows where we had hoped to see the High Brown Fritillary. Our first of several sightings was at 1.07pm and good views were obtained by all of the party. Other butterflies recorded were Comma, Red Admiral, Small Heath, Large White, Small Skipper, White Admiral, Pearl - Bordered and Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries, these brought the days tally to 14 species. The six types of thistles were also pointed out to us on our travels and on our way back across the Park we passed the lakes, where we were fortunate to see an Emperor Dragonfly.
So after a successful day we were invited to sample the hospitality of the Harper household, where we had an added bonus with a tour of the estate. In the field above the house we saw Marbled Whites and many other butterflies. Then the highlight of the day (for me anyway) was tea and cakes served Sheila Harper. It was the perfect end to an excellent day.
July 17th - North Shropshire
Seventeen of us congregated before 11 o'clock for the excursion to an area of heath where, under the leadership of David Smith, from Pontesbury, who is the butterfly recorder for the Shropshire Trust, we were hoping to see the Silver Studded Blue. It would be the first sight of this butterfly for many of us.
Not having learnt from experience, the writer made the fatal mistake of walking with Mike Williams to the site and ended up "volunteering" to record the species seen. Prior to this week-end we had had three week's fine weather with sunshine every day but unfortunately today was dull with the threat of thunder storms. Nevertheless it was fairly warm and no sooner were we on the site than the first Silver Studded Blue was observed and the camera shutters were soon clicking. Unfortunately the rain came down at about 11.45 and it rained heavily enough to send some of us back to the cars. Luckily the sun was back out at 12.15 although the thunder could still be heard up in the distance. We met a "commoner" by the name of Geoff who lives locally and grazes cattle on the common. He advised us that he had seen Collectors there during the week and wondered if there was anything he could do to help guard against collecting. Apart from the Silver Studded Blue we also saw Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Small Heath, Small Tortoiseshell, Small Skipper and Common Blue. Some of us had no trouble at all in confusing the two Blues.
After lunch we formed a convoy and headed for the Shropshire Mosses. Unfortunately the weather was still dull and overcast although it was warm. We were hoping to see the Large Heath.
After a long and arduous walk we had all but given up hope of seeing this species. Some were of the opinion that its season had finished, whilst others thought that it was no longer breeding in this particular Moss. Most of the party had turned back and Pete Salmon and the writer were photo-graphing some peat cutting when Peter observed and chased a butterfly which up till then was unfamiliar to him. After a good deal of chasing he was eventually able to confirm that it was a Large Heath and several individuals were seen near its food plant which is white beak sedge. The other species seen here were Meadow Brown, Small Skipper, Gatekeeper, Large White, Green-Veined White, Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell. The sun did eventually break through just as we were leaving but it is doubtful that we would have seen any further species and the writer went home very happy having seen and photographed two different species for the first time.
July 24th - Worcestershire Mystery Trip
On Sunday 24 July eleven West Midlands branch BBCS members set out on a day of "showers with bright intervals" to look for the White Admiral, in Worcestershire, with Jack Green.
In between sheltering from the showers we were lucky enough to see about a dozen types of butterflies as follows: Small White, Green-Veined White, Meadow Brown, Ringlets Gatekeeper, Small Skipper, One Painted Lady, Comma, 2 White Admirals, Speckled Wood, Large Skipper. We also saw a Dragonfly and Damsel-fly, a Silver Y and a Yellow Tail Moth.
After lunch we moved on, and saw one more White Admiral at the top of an Ash tree, and also one or two Purple Hairstreaks. Unfortunately the weather was not in our favour as the sky was grey by this time so we decided to call it a day.
August 14th - Cleeve Common Survey Area
A small group of nine people perused the Hatton's Cleeve Common Survey Area. Because we were early before joining the main group those in my car investigated a nearby hill. The many small hollows in this old hill camp provide shelter for the butterflies from the wind and a good tally was recorded here. This comprised Chalk-Hill Blue, Common Blue, Brown Argus, Small Copper, Small Skipper, Large White, Clouded Yellow, Brimstone, Peacock, Red Admiral, Marbled White, Gatekeeper, Grayling and Ringlet. On the steep slopes below Cleeve Common the same species were seen with the addition of Speckled Wood, Wall Brown, Small Heath, Green-Veined White, Dark Green Fritillary, Silver Washed Fritillary and Small Tortoiseshell. The second brood of the Small Blue was searched for in a known site but not found, so was probably over. After a belated lunch we paid a short visit to a site the other side of Cheltenham but little of note was flying and the thistles were strangely deserted as early as 4pm. Ron Hatton and Colin Marsay claim a possible Pale Clouded Yellow so hopefully we may see more migrants in addition to the very common this year Clouded Yellow.
August 20th - "Mothing" Night in the Cotswolds
Our thoughts were very optimistic indeed, regarding this evening's mothing activities. Although temperatures were moderately mild, a full moon and clear skies impaired any consistent activity. However, after meeting at our specified rendezvous we sought out a nearby site representing an open woodland type habitat bordering on pasture land.
On this occasion a 9 watt actinic lamp was used in conjunction with a white sheet, placed on the ground. A sugar round was also established which proved quite productive. The arrival of visitors to our sheet was sparse to say the least but contained some interesting species, notably several early Autumn Green Carpet, and 2 Blue-bordered Carpet. There was a fair sprinkling of Geometers, consisting mainly of Common Carpet, and July Highflyer, and also one Rivulet (a late date for this species). Noctuids were poor in number and were represented mainly by Large yellow Underwing, and Lesser broad bordered Yellow Underwing.
Sugaring proved very interesting and produced about 15 Copper Underwing, 2 of which were Svenson's Copper Underwing. Several The Mouse were noted and one Dark sword-Grass. Other species recorded at sugar were The Herald, The Angleshades, Dark Arches, Flame Shouder, The Clay, Common Wainscot and Common Rustic. Square - spot Rustic proved very common.
About 12.30 am the trap was resited a few yards away near a stream resulting in only 2 additional species being recorded; these were Common White Wave, and Orange Swift. Although a meagre 28 species were recorded, an interesting and enjoyable evening was had by all. By the way, anyone interested in conducting some sugaring themselves will find the following recipe right royal beverage.
21b. Brown demerara sugar.
21b. Rotten bananas.
1 Large can brown ale.
2 teaspoons amyl acetate. (or alternatively methylated spirits - "To be added after the main ingredients have been boiled.")
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