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Nature NOtes - enjoy your butterflies while you can

Nature Notes

Nature Notes

Have you ever noticed how a clear blue summer sky is less interesting than one flecked with light, fluffy cloud? The cloud adds depth.

That was the delightful setting with which we began one of our regular short walks. From the old bowling green in Shernbourne the route along permissive and designated footpaths plus some road walking covers about five miles.

The old bowling green clubhouse is being renovated so parking there in the future will no longer be possible.

The route makes its way north west towards Park Farm in Snettisham.

As July ended this route promised to be good opportunity to catch up with a handful of our local lepidoptera.

Anyone who has rambled in continental Europe will be aware of our rather limited

species list. The total British butterfly list amounts to a paltry 70 species or so.

Over the past seven decades modern agriculture has depleted our list. However, attempts to re-introduce less intensive methods have been rewarding.

This stroll takes in many examples of field margins providing valuable wildlife habitat.

Landowners deserve credit for this and within minutes we were aware of good numbers of ringlets.

This butterfly always appears rather dark and non-descript. Only when the ringlet rests all too briefly can one see the seven tiny yellowish rings on the underside of brownish wings.

Mostly a forest species they do love the rough grassy field edges where knapweed, salad burnet, chicory, mallow and a host of our wild flowers flourish.

Many of the butterflies on the wing right now are of brown/orange mixture. Some are second brood populations.

One particular field has a very generous margin, no doubt cover for game birds such as pheasant and red-legged partridge.

We were fortunate enough last year to glimpse grey partridge which these days is sadly scarce. Meadow browns were less plentiful than ringlets.

Like the ringlet the meadow brown at first appears uniformly dark brown, some almost black in flight. When settled, orange patches are evident especially on the female, black spots with tiny

white centres show on the forewing.

The gatekeeper is a fairly common species and easily recognised. Like the meadow brown black spots are present on the forewing set in orange patches, paler spots can be seen on the hind wing if a good view is offered.

This set of brown/orange butterflies includes the small heath which we had recorded at this site previously but were absent on this occasion. In all of these the female is

sometimes noticeably larger than her partner.

The Wall (formerly “Wall Brown”) is a delicate pattern of brown, orange and grey. This is another of those species which will be seen into early autumn, August is usually its best month.

It has the luxury of being a two brood butterfly. The first brood may appear as early as May. On this occasion we noted only two, right at the start of our walk.

Two skippers are regular now. They are both very similar again being brownish. As the name

implies they are rarely still, skipping from flower to flower.

Worth spending some time on however, males in both cases have obvious dark diagonal lines on the forewing.

Skippers unlike others

mentioned here have the curious habit of resting with forewings raised and hindwings like other butterflies flat.

Small coppers are unmistakable with the black speckling on orange wings. About the same size as the small skipper but easily differentiated, male can be especially greyish on the underwing.

The easily recognised peacock and small tortoiseshell will also be abroad into early autumn, maybe too the beautiful comma with its punctuation mark easily seen on the underwing.

Painted ladies (migrants) may also fly until autumn’s chill.

A few weeks ago naturalists were excited at news from Minsmere. One of the sharp-eyed RSPB staff had noticed something unusual about what he at first thought was just another tortoiseshell. On closer inspection a rare visitor, a yellow-legged tortoiseshell had appeared far from its normal territory in eastern Europe and Asia. Others have now been identified.

Any buddleia bush will now be a magnet for any butterfly including of course everyone’s favourite.

Yes, like all gardeners I just love to watch those lovely delicate whites laying their delicate yellow eggs onto all those lovely cabbages and lettuces I have been nurturing since April.

This report will appear in the midst of the annual Big Butterfly count. Organisers are requesting as many counts as possible from the public.

1 For further information visit www.bigbutterflycount.org.

1 Any readers who fancy joining King’s Lynn Ramblers should check the listings in Lynn News.

We’re a very mixed bunch offering various degrees of expertise on all sorts of countryside observations. Meanwhile enjoy our butterflies while you can.

 

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