May Stoke Ferry Butterfly Field Trip May 2017 - Norfolk Butterfly Conservation Society
After overnight rain showers, the sun came out and warmer than forecast temperatures augured well for our first butterfly spotting field trip of 2017 at the Cut-off channel in Stoke Ferry on Sunday 14th May this year led by BCS field trip organiser Ann. Our principal target butterflies were the scarce Grizzled skipper and the unfortunately named Dingy skipper, both threatened regional “Priority Action Plan” species that have been in long term decline.
As the good sized group of 20 gathered, we were greeted by a small flock of migratory garden warblers in the shrub. Along with the grizzled and dingy skippers, other early flying species on our radar included newly emerging Common blues, cheery Brimstones, diminutive Green hairstreaks and colourful nymph family butterflies such as Peacocks, Red Admirals.
Our first spot this year was of a Small copper, which seemed to be out in good number as we saw 7 over the course of our walk. We hadn’t walked much further along the Cut-off channel before the first Brimstone zoomed past at top speed and sightings were made of a Brown argus and Cinnabar moth.
We noticed with some concern that the banks of the Cut-off channel were much more overgrown with bramble this year and started to wonder if we might struggle to find our target Skipper species. Fortunately, soon after we spotted two Grizzled skippers at once! We continued hopefully, serenaded by the cooing of now rare turtle doves in the willows. Along the way we enjoyed plentiful views of Orange-tips, Peacocks and Green-veined whites.
Despite the breeze, on the banks at the far end of the channel a good number of us enjoyed lingering sightings of more checkered Grizzled skippers including females ovipositing amongst patches of wild strawberries a preferred host plant for their caterpillars. Dingy skippers, however, were nowhere to be seen, despite experienced eagle eyes in our group.
By the end of our walk our sightings tally had reached 10 Grizzled skippers (3 fewer than last year) and 10 butterfly species overall as well as at least 3 moth species, including several cinnabars and a carpet moth. We also enjoyed lovely views of electric blue coloured Banded demoiselles, Large red dragonflies, Common and Blue-tailed damselflies. A highlight of the day for a few of the group was spotting a basking grass snake! We were glad to spot a new Common blue and Red Admiral which were not seen last year but missed the sight of green hairstreaks, holly blues, Small whites and of course the Dingy skipper.
Norfolk branch of Butterfly Conservation hosts a variety of events throughout the year warmly welcomes new members and volunteers. For more information about butterflies or joining visit www.butterfly-conservation.org