Field Event Reports

15 May 2016 - Whitecross Green Wood - Butterflies

Leader: Richard Lewington


Five members managed to find this elusive BBOWT reserve on time and a sixth rather later. The lateness of the season meant that there was little chance of seeing the target species, Black Hairstreak and so it proved. However, the sunny periods had brought out a selection of butterflies and other insects and, with Richard's keen eye and identification expertise, much else was seen.

The first was a mating pair of Bumblebee mimics, Volucella Hoverflies. A Speckled Wood soon followed. We followed the mown paths down the centre of the ride, avoiding trampling on the many flowers on both sides. A shallow ditch on one side was carpeted with Common Spotted Orchids. A Clouded Border moth was disturbed from the grass and a blue form of the female Common Blue. A still roosting Peacock was spotted. Tree Bumblebee, with its white 'tail' was seen as well as a Cuckoo Bumblebee.

Not easy to see were several of the striking male Banded Demoiselle damselflies fluttering over the bushes with their broad, dark blue wings or held roofwise over their bodies when settled.

We followed the ride a long way seeing Spotted Longhorn and Cardinal beetles on flowers, presumably collecting nectar and pollen. Moths were disturbed from the grass including Burnet Companion and Mother Shipton, confusion species with butterflies as well as Yellow Shell, Straw Dot and the immigrant Silver Y. Speckled Woods appeared at intervals and more Common Blues. Also seen were Meadow Brown, Large Skipper and Green-veined White. At a broad open area at the intersection of rides a number of the spectacular Emperor Dragonflies were zig-zagging over the grass. They sometimes settled nearby allowing us to admire the green bodies of the females and the blue males. Richard identified other dragonflies in flight but they most usually settled for us to see. These were Common and Brown Hawkers, Ruddy Darter and Blue-tailed Damselfly. We went as far as the very shaded and stagnant pond but only saw a couple of Blood-vein moths there.

We turned back here and near an open area Richard found the best butterfly of the visit, a locally occurring Grizzled Skipper. We wondered what linear pile of stones was for. Becky Woodell, who knows the reserve better than most, told me later that they were put there to encourage Creeping Cinquefoil to climb up and provide a warm environment for the Grizzled Skipper females to lay their eggs on it.

As we reached the last stretch the sun had gone in and a heavy shower began so we did not delay and avoided most of the rain so it did not spoil the interesting and enjoyable outing.

Without the keen eyes and expertise of Richard many of the species would not have been seen or identified by us.

Mike Wilkins

Sally Ainslie, Graham Bateman, Felicity Jenkins, Gillian & Michael Taylor, Mike Wilkins