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Derbyshire Butterfly Transect Report No 19

Including the First Large Skipper sighting of 2015

Hi Everyone,
In meteorological terms, today is the last day of Spring and May 2015 will go down as a cold and wet month generally (similar to 2013) which explains why the transect results have been particularly poor for what is normally a very productive month for butterflies. Surprisingly, the total number of species seen in the month has been 20 with the addition of the Large Skipper during the last 10 days, the first sighting being on the 21st of May 2015 at Williamthorpe NR (Willy Lane).only 4 days later than the earliest date for this butterfly in 2014. This is the first of the summer skippers to emerge and it is somewhat larger than the other 2 golden skippers – namely the Small Skipper and the Essex Skipper. It also has a chequered pattern on both the upperside and underside of the wings which the other 2 skippers do not have. Also the tips of the antennae, although black underneath, have a hooked end. They are also usually seen perched on foliage, rather than grasses, with bramble being a favourite plant. The other 2 skippers are not expected to be on the wing until mid June (for the Small) and early July (for the Essex) so any golden skipper that is seen in the next couple of weeks is likely to be the Large Skipper.
It is pleasing to note that the Dingy Skipper has managed to survive at most of its known areas in the County with recent sightings coming from 21 sites, mainly brownfield, with a maximum count of 15 being noted on the 22ndth of May 2015 at Ashbourne Airfield (Gary Atkins) and 14 being seen on the 27th of May 2015 at Drakelow NR (Tom Cockburn).
Records of another BAP species, namely the Small Heath are mainly being received from brownfield sites in Lowland Derbyshire but the first sighting from the Peak District and Peak Fringe areas have come from Clough Wood (Peter Faulkner), Northwood Hillside, Darley Dale (Christine Gregory) and at Longstone Edge
(Brian & Jean Hallam).
Even the Holly Blue has managed to take advantage of the odd day that proved to be sunny in May 2015 with a reasonable number of recent sightings coming from a total of 15 sites in Lowland Derbyshire but no recent records from the Peak DIstrict or Peak Fringe areas where presumably the wind chill factor and consequently the temperature had an adverse effect on its appearance there.
However, the Brown Argus migrating has only been reported in very low numbers from a few discrete colonies in Lowland Derbyshire including Drakelow NR (Tom Cockburn), Woodside NR, Shipley (Jim Steele) and Stanton Ironworks (Steve Plant & Ian Hunt).
Common Blues are now being more regularly sighted in the County, although the first record from the Peak District is still awaited, with the Blackwell Trail proving to be a ‘hot spot’ for this species with 73 being seen on the transect there on the 23rd of May 2015 (Helen Naylor) and over 100 noted at the same site by Willy Lane on the 30th of May 2015.This site has benefited by both the current owners, Hall Construction, together with the eventual owners,Derbyshire County Council, working together including taking on board advice from both the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation to produce a really good habitat for wildlife generally and butterflies in particular, so this site is well worth a visit at sometime during the forthcoming summer (whenever that arrives!)
Only a couple of the ‘blue spotted’ Small Copper were seen recently with sightings at Eyes Meadow, Duffield on the 21st of May 2015 (Mick Ball) and at West Hallam Tip on the 30th of May 2015 (Pat & Ken Orpe) and only a few sightings of the normal version of this species coming from only 6 other sites in the County.
No sightings have been received yet from the Peak District for either the Brown Argus or the Dark Green Fritillary, but the Wall Brown has been noted at Clough Wood (Peter Faulkner), Chee Dale (Robert & Margaret Davies) with a maximum count of 12 at Longstone Edge on the 30th of May 2015 (Brian & Jean Hallam).
Fortunately the poor weather of May 2015 has not curtailed the flight period of the Green Hairstreak with recent sightings up to and including the 30th of May 2015 coming from Northwood Hillside, Darley Dale (Christine Gregory), Coombs Dale (John & Aline Roberts), Hall Dale (Nikki Mahadevan), Padley Gorge (Jim Steele & Karl Proctor) and at Longstone Edge ( Brian & Jean Hallam). Similarly the Orange-tip is still being noted in many parts of the County, albeit in low numbers.
It is pleasing to confirm that a handful of fresh Red Admirals have been seen during the last 10 days including sightings at Aston Brickyards (Pat & Ken Orpe), Hatton Meadows (Alex Charles-Roe) and at Rosliston Forestry Centre (Felicity Towns).
Fortunately the small numbers of butterflies seen on transects have been supplemented by some day flying moths including Burnet Companion, Mother Shipton and Latticed Heath (photos of which were attached to Update no 17) and, in the Peak District, the Speckled Yellow, and recently the Cinnabar moth has emerged (photo attached) to add some colour to the general countryside, especially at those sites that contain the much maligned ragwort plant, upon which this moth depends as it is the main foodplant of its caterpillar, the colour of which are bright yellow with black bands which warn predators that they are very distasteful!
Finally, it will probably not be too long before the first sighting of our most common butterfly is made in the County – namely the Meadow Brown followed by the almost equally abundant Ringlet. both of which were flying by the 9th of June in 2014.
Only your records will be able to confirm whether the above mentioned butterflies have emerged yet within the County – thanks again in anticipation of them!
Ken Orpe

Butterfly Transect Report

Photograph by Steve Orridge

We have been taking part in the Derbyshire Butterfly Survey, and Steve Orridge has been organising a group of volunteers to carry out a weekly survey in Grin woods. We have attached the latest report for the county wide survey, though at this stage Grin woods do not feature , mainly because the weather has been poor. The report has been compiled from reports across the county by Ken Orpe, the county recorder.

We will be posting these reports on a regular basis and also highlighting the results from Grin woods.

Hi Everyone,
With still no let up in the cold and wet conditions already experienced during May 2015, this has meant that several recorders failed to see even one butterfly on their transects during the last week. Despite this 2 additional butterfly species have managed to defy the odds and emerge recently in the County. First of all Simon Roddis was very surprised to see a fresh Wall Brown in his garden in Darley Dale on the 15th of May 2015 and then on the following day a mint Brown Argus (migrating) was seen by Pat and Ken Orpe at the Stanton Ironworks site, this bringing the May 2015 total to 19 species which is quite a surprise given the very unfavourable weather conditions experienced during the first 3 weeks of this month.
Not surprising but only a few Green Hairstreak sightings have been made during the last week including in Lathkill Dale (Ian White) and at the excellent site in South Derbyshire, namely Stanton Ironworks (Lyn Martin).Similarly only a few Small Copper sightings have been made including Rose End Meadows (Martin Cobham) and Lathkill Dale (Ian White), none of which were noted as being of the ‘blue spotted’ form. Just a handful of sightings of both the Common Blue and Small Heath were made recently including the former species at Stanton Ironworks (Lyn Martin) and the Derbyshire part of Toton Sidings (Brenda Meakin), whilst sightings of the latter species were made at Langley Mill Tip (Colin Penny) and at Stanton Ironworks (Pat & Ken Orpe). Although there have been no further sightings of the Painted Lady in the County recently, it is pleasing to report that Red Admirals were noted at Carsington Water (Brian Romans) and at Buxworth (Damian Hughes) during the last 7 days.
The highlight of the last week has been the number of sightings of the Dingy Skipper including at a new site at Ashbourne Airfield (Trevor Taylor) together with those at known brownfield sites in Lowland Derbyshire including Kilburn Tar Pits (Austin Thomas), Langley Mill Tip/Station (Colin Penny), the Derbyshire part of Toton Sidings (Brenda Meakin & Richard Rogers), West Hallam Tip/Peewit Carr Complex (Pat & Ken Orpe), Stanton Ironworks (Lyn Martin; Pat & Ken Orpe),
Drakelow NR (Tom Cockburn), Williamthorpe NR (Willy Lane), Poulter Country Park (Andy Laking & Shell), Poolsbrook Country Park (Glyn Morris), Barlborough Links (Colin Morris) and the Avenue Washlands, Wingerworth (Sam Ellis). In the Peak District sightings have been made at Cheedale (Steve Orridge) and Rose End Meadows NR (Martin Cobham & James Bradbury)., whilst in the Peak Fringe area, this species was noted at Crich Chase (Ross Pearson) and interestingly in an open area on the woodland walk at Crich Tramway Museum (Ian Hunt).
Finally although not actually to do with Lepidoptera, many recorders enjoy the sight and noise of ‘screaming’ swifts as they swoop around the rooftops of our area having travelled to us from Equatorial Africa. The Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and the Derbyshire Ornithological Society are running a project on Swifts, which is a rapidly declining species. While they have only two and not four wings (!), should you see any flying BELOW roof height or even entering buildings please send full details (including property numbers/street names, post codes) to the survey organiser, Nick Brown
Also, recently a definitive book on the Flora of Derbyshire was launched which is the first book on the subject since 1969 and it describes over 1900 plant species that can be found in the County together with over 1100 distribution maps of most of the species. In this connection it is possible to compare food plants of the caterpillars of Lepidoptera with the current distribution maps of particular butterfly species with, for example, Common Rock Rose and the distribution of the Brown Argus in the Peak District. With permission of Nick Moyes, one of the authors, I have attached the distribution map of Common Rock Rose for comparison with the distribution of the said butterfly. It can clearly be noted where the plant has been seen and then it is possible for searches to be made to establish whether the butterfly is also resident in those areas – clearly a challenge if recorders want to contribute to the knowledge of this Peak District speciality butterfly!
If you wish to purchase a copy of this excellent new hardback book, please look for the "Buy The Book" tab here:
Ken Orpe

Refuge for Wild flowers on Grinlow

In the next month or so Alan Walker and the BCA woodland volunteers will be out and about working on the Woodland Glades, in Grin Low,. giving them their all important annual cut back. These beautiful wild flower glades, that we have created and work hard to preserve and maintain, are becoming all the more important in the light of the recent news about the loss of much of our remaining wild flower meadows to intensive farming.

The woodland glade areas are associated with the 17th & 18th century lime burning industry on the hillside. Below each kiln is a wide area where waste limestone ash was tipped. Slowly the lime tips were colonised by lime loving species of herbaceous plants and grasses such as Northern Marsh Orchid, Burnet Saxifrage, Globe flower, Mountain Everlasting, Creeping willow and Juniper creating a unique habitat which unlike the neighbouring farm land is not grazed or fertilized by animal livestock.

The area of Grin Low was designated by the Nature Conservancy Council (now Natural England) as a site of Special Scientific Interest in 1983 recognising the Juniper as the only surviving example in Derbyshire and was re-designated by Natural England in 1981 under the Wildlife and Countryside act.

With continuing advice from Natural England it was recognised over 15 years ago that without careful management the glades would be encroached by rank species of grasses and invasive trees species such as Birch and Ash and these valuable areas could be lost.

Since then a project which was originally funded by Natural England has seen the glades annually cut using power brush cutters and the cuttings raked and removed from the glade. This is important to prevent the thin soil layer from becoming too enriched and therefore able to support invasive species.

This is a highly labour intensive time and the BCA woodland volunteer group are invaluable in assisting with the grass clearing and cutting back saplings on the glade edges.

We have now bought back eight or so glades to good condition which total around 7 acres of the 100 acres of Grin Low wood and hope to enlarge some of these areas further. Sadly funding is not currently available for this project which makes the need for volunteer help even more important so if anyone has a few hours to spare anytime in September and October please contact Alan at Poole’s Cavern visitor centre on 01298 26978.

June Noble has produced an excellent guide to the Wild Flowers of Grin Low accompanied by some wonderful photographs by Lyn. The Guide is available from Poole's Cavern Visitor Centre for £3.00.

BCA Members enjoy a guided walk through through the Wild flower glades of Grin Low

A Frog Orchid, one of the many wild flowers that thrive on the lime rich soil in the glades in Grin Low

It was a perfect sunny summers Sunday afternoon, ideal for the guided walk through the wild flower glades of Grin Low, led by June Noble and ably supported by husband Lyn for members of the Buxton Civic Association.

The woodland glade areas in Grin Low, are associated with the 17th & 18th century lime burning industry that used to dominate the hillside. Below each kiln is a wide area where waste limestone ash was tipped. Slowly the lime tips were colonised by Lime loving species of herbaceous plants and grasses such as Northern Marsh Orchid, Burnet Saxifrage, Globe flower, Mountain Everlasting, Creeping willow and Juniper creating a unique habitat which unlike the neighbouring farm land is not grazed or fertilized by animal livestock.

As well as being able to see a wide range of species, June gave members tips on wild flower identification and spoke about the importance of the glades, explaining how the management of the glades by giving them an annual cut using power brush cutters and the cuttings raked and removed from the glade, is vital in preventing the thin soil layer from becoming too enriched and therefore able to support invasive species.

Lyn and June have produced an excellent introductory guide to "The Wild Flowers of Grin Low Country Park" which is available from Poole's Cavern Visitor Centre.

Nest Box Cam Ready for Action

We have installed our nest box cam with a feed through to a screen in the cafe. All we need now are some occupants. So fingers crossed that a pair of blue, coal or great tits decide that this is the perfect location for them and take up residence and start a family. We will keep you posted, or better still pop into the cafe and have a look for yourselves.