NEWSLETTER No. 42 - Spring 1999
WEST MIDLANDS BRANCH, BUTTERFLY CONSERVATION
Millennium Atlas Coordinators speak
The last season of the Millennium Atlas beckons. I know members
won’t let the project down and I must thank all of you for your efforts to date.
Most recording has happened over the last two seasons, which have seen variable
weather at best, but it proves what can be done. Look at Andy Nicholls’s
analysis for confirmation. It will also give you a good lead where to record
this year and what species to look out for, particularly overlooked species in
well recorded areas.
Giving special mentions for outstanding performance is always dangerous for two reasons. Everyone’s records are important, also I don’t know your individual circumstance. However, I do feel the following need special mention for their coverage of under-recorded tetrads judged by either numbers of tetrads or volume of species per tetrad. Jeff Andrews - Hereford, Jean Armstrong - Salop, Peter Darch - Worcester, Bill Davidson - Salop, John Dodgson - Birmingham, Colin and Helen Dolding - Worcester, Keith Heaven - Salop, Terry Knight - Worcester, Andy Nicholls - Hereford, and John Wills - Birmingham.
The good news is that an organisational infrastructure is now taking shape throughout our Branch. This will greatly benefit the Atlas project in 1999 and hopefully butterfly populations post - Millennium.
Hereford has Jeff Andrews and Andy Nicholls as local leaders, what about another volunteer?
Shropshire is taking off and now has three coordinators. Jean Armstrong in the south west, John Brayford covering Shrewsbury and west, and Rex Lane Harvey in the south east. Let’s all wish Jenny Joy the best of luck and thank her for her efforts in the County and the motivation she has given to members in the well recorded Telford area. Well done also to the novice recorders who responded positively to my requests to cover four tetrads. Cheshire Branch has also committed to record in some areas adjoining their county following a workday attendance at Prees Heath. We very much appreciate their involvement in north Shropshire, an area where it appears impossible to find anyone to take on the two vacant posts of local coordinator.
Staffordshire: David Jackson, who only joined the Branch last summer, has volunteered for the role of county coordinator and has already put significant effort into networking with various recording groups, including raising our profile with the Wildlife Trust. He needs the commitment of every Butterfly Conservation member living in the county in what is currently the worst recorded area in our Branch. He is writing to every member suggesting tetrads to be covered. Do support him like Worcester and Shropshire have. Any takers for a coordinator in the Stoke area?
Birmingham is reasonably well covered and Jim Chance is now the local coordinator. The task here is to increase the species count per tetrad. However if you do intend to walk the wildlife sanctuaries that abut the canal system I strongly advise you to go in an organised group! Those living in the Sutton Coldfield area do consider recording in nearby Staffordshire, David Jackson certainly could do with your assistance.
Worcester goes from strength to strength. The objective is 100 % coverage with every tetrad logging ten or more species. An average count of sixteen species for each tetrad in the county would put you near the top of the U.K. Premier League. Digby Wood is the coordinator for the southern half of the county and is targeting the Pershore - Inkberrow - Broadway triangle. My task is in the north with particular attention given to the area west of Abberley, glorious countryside but few records and fewer local members. County Biological Record Centre members have been urged to help us with recording in these areas. Let’s hope they respond positively.
Final thought: all you members who have stayed on the sidelines why not volunteer your services to the local coordinator. When the Millennium Atlas is published next year it will set new agendas of what can be achieved in the conservation movement. I defy anyone to look at the Atlas without trying to find evidence of their own contribution. Recording is teaching all of us what the real conservation issues are and also what the individual can do about improving the situation in local areas. We really can affect local Biodiversity. The future bodes well for Butterfly Conservation and our West Midland Branch, indeed we might eventually want to call ourselves Butterfly Abundance Society.
Richard Southwell, Branch Coordinator
Recording in Herefordshire is going well. Individual members will be contacted with details of areas needing special coverage this year.
Jeff Andrews and Andy Nicholls, Herefordshire Coordinators
South West Shropshire
Enthusiasm is supposed to be a good thing, but when it is not equalled by knowledge it can get you into trouble. I should have learnt this lesson with my enthusiasm for birds, but I didn’t, and now here I am in the same pickle with butterflies.
The Clun Wildlife Trust had a talk by Harold Hughes in September 1997. This interested all and left some of us inspired. Then we had a visit from Jenny Joy and Andy Nicholls. The expression on Andy’s face when he saw a White Letter Hairstreak told me that he was feeling the same as I did when I saw young goosanders on the Clun River. My passion began to focus on butterflies . We were off. Now the empty tetrads around Clun have been getting darker and darker.
We’ve revelled in the delicate magic of the Green Hairstreaks dancing and settling among the thistles, of fragile Wood Whites flitting low over edges of rides, of Silver-washed Fritillaries in our gardens, of unexpected Wall Browns, Dark-green Fritillaries and a White Admiral. We are now poised, anxious and awaiting the next season, hoping it will be a better year for butterflies and that even more recorders will join in for the last year of the Millennium Atlas.
Most of you know I am contacting you directly to see what can be done in our area but I am delighted with our recording efforts in 1998. A great many thanks, I look forward with optimism.
Jean Armstrong, South Shropshire Coordinator
Shrewsbury and West
Late last year I was approached by Richard Southwell and asked to co-ordinate the Millennium Atlas recording for Shrewsbury and West Shropshire. Shortly after this, I received the membership list of nine people in ‘my’ designated 600km2 area. Subsequently I have also discovered that one member has moved and that I owe another member money.
Reviewing the challenge of getting all those tetrads recorded, I was feeling sorry for myself. Then I spoke to Rex Harvey and discovered I didn't know I was born! At least I had membership. Enlisting some help recording seemed to be the next sensible step and a letter to existing members was duly posted. Acting on an idea from Richard Southwell, I contacted Shropshire Wildlife Trust. They have agreed to send out 'fliers' recruiting recorders with their newsletter in early April.
In addition, the Countryside Volunteer Centre in Shrewsbury has agreed to 'sponsor' the production costs of this flier and also mail it in 'Shropshire Stile' magazine. Total readership of these two publications combined is about 3500. Touch wood for a positive response.
Personally, I had a fragmented year recording last year. My work on Rights of Way meant I was flitting about all over the county. Records were collected as and when sightings occurred and therefore were most often of the commoner species.
I found nothing really notable except a few Walls, Lasiommata megera, in the Oswestry area. This was a pleasant surprise (to me at least). A romantic Valentines Day walk deteriorated into a recording session as Peacocks, Inachis io, and Tortoiseshells, Aglais urticae, showed during a sunny afternoon on Wenlock Edge. (Sorry Paula).
Interestingly, in chatting to a Shropshire ‘countryman', I was told of sightings of Purple Emperors in the Longnor area some thirty years ago and Dingy Skippers at Lyth Hill in the 70's. Knowing the gentleman involved well I have no reason to doubt his word or identification skills.
Anyway enough of these ramblings I'm off to get to grips with my new edition of Skinner to see what moths are likely to be flying at the moment. Here's to a halcyon summer, good luck and happy recording.
JP Brayford, Shrewsbury and West Coordinator
South East Shropshire
My interest in our country’s butterflies and moths began over 40 years ago, when my friend Tony Pickles suggested that we start a butterfly collection. I had from a very early age loved the outdoors and had been introduced to our natural history from my first days at primary school, as the head had a passion for the subject.
I moved to Shropshire about three years ago, from Cradley Heath in the West Midlands (before that I spent most of my life in Kent until 1990) and began to run two mercury vapour moth traps in our extensive gardens, submitting my records to the county museum. 1996 was a very good year and my records for that first year have turned up seven new species for the county. Some of them were migrants, but others notably the Waved Black and the Clouded Buff gave me quite a surprise.
As far as butterflies are concerned we have about 22 species as regular visitors to the garden. I am not unhappy with this, but I do think that our modern farming methods are robbing us of many species that were common in my youth.
Thanks to the efforts of Richard Southwell, I am greatly looking forward to being able to “get into” the local Apley Estate in the coming season. For I am sure that this area will give up much useful information regarding local butterfly and moth species. Any like minded members living in the area would be most welcome to assist in this unique opportunity to gain access to an area that has been closed to the general public for many years.
Rex Lane Harvey, South East Shropshire Coordinator
Whilst talking to Phil Drabble recently, I asked him if he could remember the last time he had seen a Pearl – bordered Fritillary around Bagot’s Park near to his home. He could not recall, adding that most of the Park had now been “agriculturally developed”, but suggested that I speak to John Herbert who had carried out surveys in the area on his own and with the late County Recorder Richard Warren. Mr. Warren's 1975 text recorded Pearl-bordered Fritillaries at Bagot's Park at least up to the 1960's. I asked John what he thought the chances were of locating them now? His response was “probably nil”. I fear that this delightful insect is now lost to the County and other species like High Brown Fritillary and Grizzled Skipper may also be on their way out. Atlas records would allow us to take steps towards helping to protect our remaining vulnerable species and to monitor populations in general. In the County mapping table, so to speak, we are potential wooden spooners and any butterfly records will be much appreciated.
I have listed below, the main areas were there is a real need for you to help - It’s hard to believe that no records for Large or Green-veined Whites or Small Tortoiseshells have been submitted from some of these sites, let alone uncommon species. Just think, you will be putting part of your county on the map! Who knows, you may locate a hitherto unrecorded and important colony.
A tetrad is just four 1 km squares on an O.S. map. Do not be put off by the requirements of working to tetrads or providing a map reference. If you have any difficulties in doing so, I will help with references if you contact me. Please do go to the following areas, with or without maps, preferably with of course, and send Andy Nicholls your records. If you haven't recorded before, you should have a lot of fun searching on warm sunny days for our winged wonder sprites around the lovely country lanes, disused railway lines, canal towpaths and woodlands.
I am optimistic that together we can fill the gaps for the Atlas. Please let me know if you require recording sheets and are willing to record in specific areas, so that I may arrange visits to sites not covered.
Records for all species are requested from the following districts:
Knotbury to Flash.
Between Kidsgrove, Biddulph, Biddulph Moor, Stanley and Tunstall. Werrington, Brown Edge and back to Biddulph.
Leek to Cheadle and north to Colshaw and around Warslaw and Alstonfield. Bloor to Wooton, Mayfield and Ellastone.
Uttoxeter down to Blithfield, Bagot's Park and Stow-by-Chartley.
All outlying districts around Rugeley - Hamstall Ridware, Abbot's Bromley, to Alrewas. Barton-under-Needwood, Tattenhall, Dunstall, down to Fradley, Longdon and Armitage.
Tamworth and all outlying areas to Croxhall, Clifton Campville, Thorpe Constantine to Whittington.
Lichfield to Tamworth, Drayton Bassett, Shenstone, Stonall, Wall and Hammerwich.
Stafford to Gnossall Heath, Weston Jones to Adbaston, Eccleshall and Great Bridgeford.
Stafford south and east to Penkridge, Colwich, Shugborough and up to Stow-by-Chartley.
Wolverhampton all outlying districts to Pattingham, Burnhill Green.
Weston-under-Lizard to Belvide reservoir.
David Jackson, Staffordshire Coodinator .
Could I encourage all of you WMBC members in the Birmingham area to send local butterfly records for inclusion in the Millennium Atlas. What do we in the city contribute? Many records of common butterflies, certainly. A look at the 1998 Birmingham records from you all shows hardly any totally unrecorded tetrads, but many containing very few recorded species. By far the most recorded butterfly was the Orange Tip, observed in 90% of Birmingham tetrads, are you surprised? - I am. The lowest record of the widely distributed butterflies was the Ringlet at about 10% of tetrads. Are these records valuable? I know for certain that they are, far beyond the millennium.
Half-way up our stairs is a photograph of a Wall Brown, in our garden, from 1985. Nobody sees them now in our region. Which species are currently declining (or increasing) in Birmingham - the Ringlet? Or is your impression different? We could tell the experts before they have found out the hard way.
Probably the key to collecting butterfly records in Birmingham is garden observations. I wonder if I could persuade some of you to ask reliable and interested people that you know to keep notes of what they see. The essential information is Species, date of observation, numbers and location? If recorders care to send me casual records, I would be pleased to turn road names etc. into grid references for Andy Nicholls, using the new Ordnance Survey street map of the West Midlands (review, p 10 ). Our Christmas card list has been an invaluable database, including some potential butterfly recorder friends. Please send Andy Nicholls or me all the records that you can by September; good use will be made of them - best wishes for the season.
Jim Chance, Birmingham Coordinator
It is easy to become complacent, on the 10km square basis Worcestershire appears to be complete, but sharpen up the focus to 2km squares (tetrads) and the holes begin to appear, and as for 1km squares………..! So let’s get down to filling in those last dozen patchy areas. To give you a lead they are listed below..
10km square Recording area
7050 Teme valley/A44. From Knightwick east to Lulsley, Broadwas and Cotheridge.
8050 West of Worcester. Rushwick north to the Broadheaths, Shoulton and Moseley. North of Worcester, laines, Fernhill Heath and Hindlip.
9050 South of Worcester. Norton east to the Wolvertons, Peopleton and Bishampton.
9040 East of Pershore. Stoulton south to Wadborough Besford and Defford. West of Pershore. Little Comberton north to Cropthorne and Fladbury. North of Pershore. Wyre Piddle, Lower Moor and Throckmorton. South of Pershore. Eckington, Great Comberton and Birlingham.
7030 South of the Malverns. Pendock, Berrow, Birtsmorton, Rye Street and Chase End Street.
8030 South East of Malverns. Eldersfield, Hardwick Green, Cold Elm Gullers End and Marsh End.
9030 Bredon area. Bredon, the Westmancotes, Bredons Norton and Overbury.
I can’t believe that there are no Whites or Small Tortoiseshells out there. If you have a chance to visit any of these last remaining areas, do make a note of what you see so that Worcestershire stands out of the Millennium Atlas as being 100 % recorded.
Digby Wood, South Worcester Coordinator
Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, Redditch
The involvement of the Redditch Group of the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust with Butterfly Conservation's Millennium Atlas project was almost accidental. After a number of years with the group, I had been involved in all of the usual local group activities, i.e. fund raising, work parties, organisation of local talks, as well as some quite adventurous field trips to all parts of the country. However, I felt that the activity which was missing was species recording, and this is an area where local knowledge would be advantageous.
I voiced the idea of a local recording effort in a committee meeting early in 1995, and fellow member Martyn Hodgson suggested that I could organise a local butterfly survey. The philosophy was that birds are well recorded under a number of schemes and the next easiest group are the butterflies (which to our knowledge were not widely recorded). He wrote to Butterfly Conservation for advice and got an enthusiastic response giving details of the Millennium Atlas project and some recording forms. I was encouraged by the fact that, according to recent records (or the lack of), Redditch was considered to be virtually butterfly-free. So here was a unique opportunity to make a difference and the Redditch Butterfly Survey was born. The Local Group committee were immediately "volunteered" and tetrads allocated to them.
Despite our lack of experience, within weeks we were all finding species we had not seen in Redditch before, e.g. Purple Hairstreak, White Admiral, and Marbled White. There were also reports of a single Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary and a single Wall Brown. Both were positive sightings in areas where the species had been seen before, but sadly, neither species has been recorded in the area since. I would have guessed that we would find between 15 and 20 species in the area, so a total of twenty six, with only half the area visited, was more than I had believed possible. Beginners luck was well demonstrated at a work party at lpsley Alders Marsh. On a Sunday morning in September, most of the recorders were treated to the sight of a Camberwell Beauty flying around in the willows. At the end of the season, it was very satisfying to find that the "butterfly free zone" was now (temporarily) Worcestershire's butterfly capital!
Repeated articles in our local newsletter and a talk by Mike Williams, produced several new recorders for 1996, and coverage of the area was increased significantly. Further inspiration came from a meeting with Richard Southwell who was in the planning stages of organising the rest of Worcestershire. Richard gave me lots of encouragement and showed me how a survey should be organised! By the end of the season, although we were unable to repeat the Camberwell Beauty, Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary or Wall Brown, experienced eyes had picked up White Letter Hairstreaks in several sites and the lucky few found Clouded Yellows drifting through the area.
Another two recorders volunteered for 1997 and the remaining areas were surveyed. Some of the third year "veterans" had been thinking of potential sites all winter and this resulted in the discovery of two sites for Brown Argus (the 29th species) and a very large previously unknown colony of Marbled Whites. This also lead to a significant discovery of orchid species. By the end of 1997, the coverage of Redditch and the rest of the SP06 tetrads in Worcestershire was very nearly complete. Butterfly Recording in 1998 was seriously hampered by the dismal weather, and few species were added to any of the tetrads. However there is still a keen rivalry to find the thirtieth species in Redditch. So far, no Brown Hairstreak eggs have been found, and all of the Small Skippers really are Small Skippers!
The group now has surveyed 19 tetrads, all but one of which has records for more than 10 species. 12 of the tetrads have more than 15 species and 7 have more than 20. Although I could have predicted good results for the butterflies, I could never have predicted the spin-offs from this work. This was an introduction to recording for most of us, and fortunately coincided with the relaunch of recording activity at the Worcestershire Biological Records Centre (WBRC). Currently, at least five of the butterfly recorders are actively involved with the WBRC, with interests including plants, snails, dragonflies, grasshoppers, woodlice, and spiders, as well as butterflies. Four of the recorders are also involved with BTO Breeding Bird Atlas work, and a number of us are still attempting to fill gaps in butterfly recording outside the area. I would not say that this has happened as a result of the Butterfly survey, however in some cases, it probably speeded up the process.
The whole project has provided immense satisfaction for me, and I would like to thank anyone who has been involved with the survey in any way. The final satisfaction will come from identifying "our" dots on the maps in the Millennium Atlas!
Patrick Taylor, Redditch Recording Group Coordinator