11 July 2013: Butterflies in Bernwood Forest

Leader: Richard Lewington 

A warm morning with lengthening sunny intervals tempted 25 members to a butterfly walk in the forest of Bernwood. It was a huge privilege to be guided by our president, Richard Lewington, whose expertise as a lepidopterist is second to none, though a number of other members of the party were quick to identify specimens, some of them flitting past at great speed. We followed the rides to Bernwood Meadow, and then re-entered the woods to complete a circuit. Nearing the end we had logged 15 species, notable among them a black hairstreak spotted on a grassy verge (not in blackthorn, where this rarity is normally to be found) and a good number of the beautiful, and much more conspicuous, silver-washed fritillaries. We had also seen a range of day-flying moths and some showy Odonata, especially around two new ponds recently dug in the forest to attract them: emperor dragonflies, broad-bodied chasers, black-tailed skimmers, brown hawkers, ruddy darters, large red damselflies.

However, the chief prize, the purple emperor butterfly, still eluded us. Then suddenly, on the home stretch, a black-and-white flash and one of them settled on the path in front of us. It soon becomed so engrossed by the dog-turd it had found that we could approach within a few feet. A splendid climax, and doubly appropriate in that Richard's postage stamps for the Royal Mail were issued that very day, and one of them features the purple emperor. No dog poo visible on the stamp though! 

Bob Evans

Download the report with full species list as pdf.