Derbyshire News

Update no 19 as at the 12th of May 2021 - including additional Dingy Skipper and Wall Brown sightings in the County

With the weather finally changing to an April type with sun and heavy showers, at least the overnight frosts appear to be a thing of the past and consequently it has allowed additional Dingy Skippers to emerge throughout the County including sightings from Rose End Meadows (Martin Cobham); Lathkill Dale ( Chris & Sheila Ragg); Intake Quarry, Middleton Top (Dave & Sue Evans), Hay Dale and Longstone Edge (both Joanna Mackey), Hoe Grange Quarry (Ray Badger Walker & John Coupland), Doe Lea (Willy Lane), Pleasley Pit NR (Elaine Woods & John Kirby); The Forge site, Ironville (Sally Fisher & Deb Bliss), Whitwell Tip (Terry Evans) with the maximum count of 30 coming from Intake Quarry, Mercaston ( Kevin Morris).

It is not surprising that there has been a slow start to the appearance of the Wall Brown in the County but John Coupland saw an individual in Hoe Grange Quarry on the 7th of May 2021 (just 1 day later than in 2020) and Adam & Laura Saunders saw another individual on the 11th of May 2021 on the new transect in Tideswell Dale.

Green Hairstreak - Tansley Dale 6th May 2021 - Rod Dunn.jpg
Green Hairstreak - Tansley Dale 6th May 2021 - Rod Dunn.jpg

There have been few recent sightings of the Green Hairstreak in the County with sightings coming from Tansley Dale on the 6th of May 2021 (Rod Dunn) and at both Curbar Edge (David Bottomley) and in Lathkill Dale NNR (Chris & Sheila Ragg) on the 7th of May 2021 together with 4 seen on bilberry on the moor above Padley Gorge on the 11th of May 2021 ( Rob & Sharon Thatcher) just before the heavy rain arrived. A few more individual Small Coppers have been noted recently with sightings from Dronfield Woodhouse (Paul Townsend), Doe Lea (Willy Lane), Mercaston (John & Anne Coupland), Clough Wood (Alan Kitchen), Tansley Dale (Rod Dunn), and Chee Dale (Cate Beck et al), with the highest count of just 2 coming from Lathkill Dale NNR on the 7th of May 2021 (Chris & Sheila Ragg).

Very few day flying moths have been noted in the County so far this month but a Burnet Companion moth seen on the 6th of May 2021 on the Haddon Hall Estate was a pleasant surprise for Derek Whiteley – this moth has certainly expanded its range in the County in recent years as I used to see it at one of its only previous sites at Stony Clouds in Sandiacre on the border with Notts.

Male Green Long Horned Moth - Allestree Park - Bill Grange.jpg
Male Green Long Horned Moth - Allestree Park - Bill Grange

Another moth that can be seen during the day is the Green Long Horned Moth (adela reaumurella) which has huge antennae and it can be seen dancing around the outer branches of oaks and hazel – Bill Grange emailed me a photo of one that he saw in Allestree Park recently (see attached photo).

This month sees the start of the Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey (WCBS) project whereby volunteers survey general countryside sites that are selected by Butterfly Conservation and a walk is completed each month from May to August inclusive – ie the total commitment is to do 4 walks per year. The Sustainability Officer of the Devonshire Group which is based at Chatsworth House here in Derbyshire is looking for help with a project at Stony Houghton in the North East of the County whereby a butterfly survey is required in two 1 Km squares on the farmland there – if you could help with these surveys then please send me an email and I will put you in contact with the relevant person.

Green-veined White on dandelion - Sheila Ragg.JPG
Green-veined White on dandelion - Sheila Ragg

Other recent photos show the effect of the drought in April 2021 when some butterflies resorted to seeking moisture and minerals from areas which had turned into sludge ( Holly Blue and Small Tortoiseshell, as per the attached photos) whilst other species enjoyed the benefits of flowering dandelions before mower man arrived on the scene! ( Green Veined White and Orange Tip as per the

Orange Tip on dandelion - Eric Easom.jpg
Orange Tip on dandelion - Eric Easom

attached photos). Finally Rod Dunn managed to see and photograph a Green Hairstreak on an early purple orchid in Tansley Dale on the 6th of May 2021 – see attached photo). 


 

 

Update no 18 as at the 5th of May 2021 - including the first Small Heath sighting of the year plus the Derbyshire data for the last 5 years

Brimstone (F)- Shardlow - Roger Martin.jpg
Brimstone (F)- Shardlow - Roger Martin.jpg

With the weather feeling more like October rather than early May, it is not surprising that there have been very few butterfly sightings during the last week in the County. Having said that it was quite a surprise to receive an email from Sid Morris that the first

Small Heath -  Steve Plant.jpg
Small Heath - Steve Plant.jpg

Small Heath had been seen alongside the Chesterfield Canal at Whittington on the 2nd of May 2021 by Jon Hudson. Also seen this last week were Dingy Skippers

Dingy Skipper Derek Brownlee-.jpg
Dingy Skipper Derek Brownlee-.jpg

at both Intake Quarry, near Middleton Top (Dave Evans) and on the transect in Hoe Grange Quarry on the 2nd of May 2021 (Alan & Ray Walker – yes the Walker Brothers have had another hit!).

Small Copper - Ian White.JPG
Small Copper - Ian White.JPG

Small Coppers have yet to get going due to the spate of overnight frosts that have continued into May 2021 with the only recent sightings coming from alongside the River Derwent in Belper (Phil & Brenda Shore), Rose End Meadows, Cromford Hill (Martin Cobham) and in the NR at Woodside, Shipley (Rob Waldron) where an individual was seen on a dandelion – what would we do without these gems this year? 

Comma - Laura Saunders.jpg
Comma - Laura Saunders.jpg

So as to keep all the recorders informed, I have produced an updated Word document that lists all the tetrads (2km x 2km squares) that each species has been seen in Derbyshire during the last 5 years.

Derbyshire Species -Number of Tetrads Recorded from 2016 - 2020.doc

It is of no surprise that there was a slight fall in records in 2020 compared to 2019 due to covid restrictions but nearly 42,000 records is a tremendous achievement to all concerned and especially to Pat for inputting many of the casual sightings into the Butterfly National Database. You will see that the most widespread butterfly in 2020 was the Small Tortoiseshell with sightings from 496 locations – this being 77% of the total squares where sightings came from during the year and the total number of the butterflies seen came to nearly 14,000 individuals, which is great especially when you consider how rare this species was in Southern England in 2020!  Meanwhile the biggest decrease last year was the non-appearance of the Painted Lady which was noted at only 155 locations compared to 455 sites in 2019 and which represents a 66% decrease in sightings of this migrant butterfly.

Other items of interest noted from the 2020 Derbyshire data was the fact that the Wall Brown has suffered a 25% decrease in its distribution against that of 2019 and also the actual numbers of butterflies decreased by 47%, which is very disturbing. I will be sending out more details about the Wall Brown situation in Derbyshire and the rest of the UK in the near future as its main flight period should be commencing about now. Only your sightings will confirm its current status in the County.

Cuckoo Flower in Bradwell - Sally Pereira.JPG
Cuckoo Flower in Bradwell - Sally Pereira.JPG

Thanks again to all the recorders who continue to email me their great photos – some additional ones are attached to this email including a superb photo of a roadside verge in Bradwell by Sally Pereira who tells me ‘Ladies Smock is being much admired in Bradwell this year, thanks to the mowers reducing cutting in 6 small trial wildflower sites in the verges/open spaces. We have both Infant and Junior School children on organised wildflower walks and also a public walk planned over the next couple of weeks, to raise awareness and encourage direct involvement in our new village initiative... and then, fingers crossed if all continues to be generally well received, we will be allowed to continue and potentially expand the areas associated with the wildflower project into year 2. We are also working with other nearby village wildflower groups such as at Hope, Hathersage and Tideswell, with view to trying to get us all connected up with wildlife corridors by changing the road verge management. Hopefully with time, this approach could become more mainstream across Derbyshire?’ – it is most encouraging to hear of this worthwhile project which hopefully will be a catalyst for other Local Groups and Organisations in Derbyshire to get involved and expand this welcome green initiative! 


Update no 17 as at the 29th of April 2021 - including the first Small Copper sightings in the County this year.

Hello Everyone, It took until the 27th of the month to get our first April shower here in Derby in what has been a sunny but cold month with a mainly bitter northerly wind and at least 18 nights of frost compared to an average of 5 nights over the last 6 years. So with a very dry ground it has meant that both the grass and larval foodplants have shown very little growth and it has been left to the good old dandelion to provide nectar for our local insects before mower man arrives on the scene!

Speckled Wood underside - Allestree - Steve Plant.jpg
Speckled Wood underside - Allestree - Steve Plant.jpg

Despite all these odds stacked against them, the first Small Coppers have appeared in the County with the first noted on the 24th of April 2021 in Lathkill Dale (Kieron Huston), this date being 14 days later than the first sighting in 2020. There followed yet another sighting of the species at Godfreyhole above Wirksworth on the 26th of April 2021 (Jean Hurdle). The Holly Blue has managed to overcome the cold nights with recent sightings from 34 sites, mainly gardens, across the County albeit in ones and twos but the maximum count of 4 came from both the Duffield garden of Robert & Celia Reid and from Midway Sandholes (Tom Cockburn) all on the 20th of April 2021. Other recent records of note include:-

Dingy Skipper :- Sightings are now coming from the Peak District including Lathkill Dale (Kieron Huston), Tansley Dale (Gordon & Alison Rooke) and Longstone Edge (Siobhan Gallagher & Sue Walker) together with sightings from Whitwell Tip (Ian Hunt & Terry Evans) and pleasingly from Crich Chase Meadows, near Ambergate ( Kieron Huston). 

Green Hairstreak - Hopton Quarry - Derek Brownlee.jpg
Green Hairstreak - Hopton Quarry - Derek Brownlee.jpg

Green Hairstreak :- This species is becoming  more widespread in the dales with sightings albeit in low numbers from Lathkill Dale (Andrew Woodhouse), Cunningdale (Steve Orridge), Millers Dale (Janine Morris), Tansley Dale (Gordon & Alison Rooke), Monks Dale (Ian & Joy White), and Cressbrook Dale (Chris Bent); also at Hopton Quarry (Derek Brownlee) and Longstone Edge (Sue Walker), whilst on the moors it has been seen on Combs Moss (Sheila Stubbs), Ramsley Moor (Terry Evans) and at Padley Gorge (John & Sylvia Green) and the highest count of 69 individuals came from Whaley Moor (Christine Bowen). A real surprise was in store for Jane Bailey when she saw and photographed a Green Hairstreak in her Grindleford garden on the 23rd of April 2021 – a nice addition to the garden list!

Orange Tip :- A large total of 55 individuals were noted on the Lathkill Dale transect on the 23rd of April 2021 by Aline & John Roberts and the overall total of butterflies on that transect came to a total of 109 in 7 species which also included 21 Brimstones – the highest total of butterflies on a transect so far this year. 

Orange Tips - Jim Mart NR - John Parlby.JPG
Orange Tips - Jim Mart NR - John Parlby.JPG

Red Admiral :- Still scarce this year with individual butterflies noted recently only at Mugginton (Mike & Julie Ireland), Woodside NR Shipley (John & Sylvia Green) and Lightwood, Buxton (Steve & Lin Orridge) whilst 5 fresh individuals noted by David Elliott on the 22nd of April 2021 at Pleasley Pit suggests either a new local brood or a release from captive bred specimens.

Small Tortoiseshell :- Despite the species remaining scarce in Southern England, in this region it has had a good Spring so far and on the 24th of April 2021 Kevin Morris saw 46 individuals checking out the new growth of nettles along the edge of footpaths in the Mackworth/Markeaton area of Derby – let’s hope that Sprayer Man from the Local Authority doesn’t kill them off soon.

Peacock ;- Still well represented around the area with recent highest counts of 52 from Markham Pit (Sid & Colin Morris) and 44 from Pleasley Pit (Ian Hurst) – both on the 19th of April 2021.

Speckled Wood :- Numbers slowly increasing with recent highest counts coming from Manor Farm, Long Eaton – 14 no seen by Marion Bryce, and at Goseley Cutting, Woodville – 12 seen by Kate Allies and Ruth Frudd.

 

Many observers have been commentating on the appearance of Bee Flies

Bee Fly - Ian & Joy White.JPG
Bee Fly - Ian & Joy White.JPG

in their locality this year – it is a species that I knew nothing about but Mick Ball informs me that it is an interesting species as it is a parasite of solitary bees and wasps and is on the wing between late March and late May. The female hovers over the nest of the host and flicks an egg into the entrance! which upon hatching, it crawls into the nest where it feeds on the larvae. I asked Steve Plant about its distribution and he replied as follows:-

We get the Dark-edged Bee-fly, there are some others further south currently, the Dark-edged is by far the most common, if you have a look at the NBN Atlas map Bombylius major : Dark-edged Bee-fly | NBN Atlas you will see they thin out around Cumbria and Northumberland, also in Scotland the records correspond with human habitation centres, so probably they occur all over but go unseen in the sparsely populated areas. Good that more people are seeing them in these parts of the UK. For those of you who are not sure of the species, Ian & Joy White have kindly emailed me a photo of one that they saw in Monsal Dale recently (see attached)

Emperor Moth - Lightwood - Steve Orridge.JPG
Emperor Moth - Lightwood - Steve Orridge.JPG

Moving on to moths, Steve Plant was fortunate to get a Puss Moth in his garden trap in Allestree recently (see attached photo) and   Steve Orridge tells me that he saw at least 30 day flying Emperor moths on the moors above Buxton this month, some of which were being chased by Peacock butterflies!

Puss Moth - April 2021 - Steve Plant Allestree.jpg
Puss Moth - April 2021 - Steve Plant Allestree.jpg

Finally yet again another set of great photos of our local insects including some butterflies have been attached to this email – thank you for sharing your expertise with us all.


Update no 16 as at the 21st of April 2021 - including the first Dingy Skipper sightings in the County this year

Brimstone on dandelion - Jean McMahon.jpg
Brimstone on dandelion - Jean McMahon.jpg

After 9 nights of continuous frosts recently here in Derby together with a month of minimal rainfall, you would think that there would be very little chance of new butterfly species emerging in the County this week, but no, Sid & Colin Morris visited Whitwell Tip in the North East of the County on the 20th of April 2021 and were delighted to see 11 Dingy Skippers on the wing there – no doubt the south facing sheltered slope with full sun had contributed to their early emergence ( first date last year was the 22nd of April 2020).

Green Hairstreak on dandelion - Matt Ros.jpg
Green Hairstreak on dandelion - Matt Ros.jpg

Pleasingly the Green Hairstreak has now appeared in some of the dales with recent sightings from Milldale on the 16th of April 2021 (Derek Brownlee), from Cressbrookdale on the 19th of April 2021 (Chris & Sheila Ragg)  and from Lathkill Dale on the 20th of April 2021 (Alan Peilow). Meanwhile the species has also appeared at additional moorland sites including Edale (Matt Ross) and at Whaley Moor on the 19th of April 2021 where Christine Bowen saw at least 20 individuals on the gorse there.

Dingy Skipper - Milldale - Derek Brownlee.jpg
Dingy Skipper - Milldale - Derek Brownlee.jpg

Also noticeable this week was that the fact that the Orange Tip has become more widespread across the County but still low numerically although 17 were seen at both Toyota Pond, Burnaston (Martin & Sue Hubbard) and in Deep Dale, Sheldon (Tony Pioli) on the 19th of April 2021.

Barbara Wager sent me an interesting link to an article on the Derbyshire Dales webpage whereby the cutting of verges is being reviewed in their part of the County and the Local Authority  is working with local people to address an alarming decline in wildflowers on local road verges and open spaces.
Read more >>

Holly Blue Underside - Christine Maughan.jpg
Holly Blue Underside - Christine Maughan.jpg

Also this week Jane Browne of Notts sent me some information from Plantlife who claim to have got many Local Authorities signed up to their project of protecting wildflowers in verges including Cambridge County Council  which announced a new project :-

a new verge management plan to support biodiversity, including cutting times sympathetic to the local flora and trials of collecting grass cuttings. Plantlife says that it is great to work with the council teams on this and see them bring their knowledge of the verge network to add to our best practice guidance to create a really promising new plan for Cambridgeshire’s verges. However looking at their list of supporters, which is very comprehensive, it is easy to sign up to a project but less so to implement it and whilst a number of councils in Derbyshire are named as being part of the scheme, in reality many recorders have been dismayed this week to find mower man seen at full throttle demolishing everything in sight and leaving masses of cuttings on the surface which will only help in fertilising the grass. We have a long way to get there in this part of the UK!

Orange Tip underside - Christine Maughan.jpg
Orange Tip underside - Christine Maughan.jpg

Attached are more great photos of some of the species currently on the wing in the County and illustrate how important the humble dandelion is to our local lepidoptera – I didn’t realise that it was a favourite of the Green Hairstreak! 

Speckled Wood - Mick Ball.JPG
Speckled Wood - Mick Ball.JPG

Finally, a Humming Bird Hawk moth was seen outside Mickleover Church on the 20th of April 2021 by the vicar Peter Walley (per Colin Bowler) – it seems strange that a migrant moth from Southern Europe could counter the recent northerly winds but it could of course have over wintered here, possibly in the church building??

 

Please take Care and Stay Alert,


Update no 15 as at the 16th of April 2021 - including first Green Hairstreak sighting in the County this year.

Dandelions on Verge - Broadway 12th April 2021 - Ken & Pat Orpe.JPG
Ken & Pat Orpe

Hello Everyone, After yet another particularly cold and frosty week, the overall feeling is that it looks more like early March rather than mid April at the moment and this is reflected in the number of transects carried out across the County whereby the volunteers recorded a zero count at 20 sites during Week 2 of the transect season. The highest counts during the last 7 days have come from Pleasley Pit (31 butterflies – John Kirby) and from Foxley Wood, Linton (29 butterflies – Chris Leverington)

Despite the current return of the arctic air across the UK, the first Green Hairstreak was noted on the 15th of April 2021 on the moors above Chunal (Dave Mallon), this date compares with the 5th of April 2020 and the 29th of March 2019. I have attached a provisional distribution map for 2020 which shows that the stronghold for the species is indeed the Peak District but there are signs that the butterfly is moving into brownfield sites on the eastern border with Notts.

Green Hairstreak - 5th April 2020 - Tansley Dale - Gordon Rooke.jpg
Green Hairstreak - 5th April 2020 - Tansley Dale - Gordon Rooke.jpg

Just the odd Holly Blue has been recorded recently with sightings at Hardwick Park (Amy Ness) and in Chellaston o the 14th of April 2021 (Lesley & Phil Gretton). The Speckled Wood remains scarce with just a handful of sightings from Allestree Park (Margaret Cowley), The Forge, Ironville (Sally Fisher & Deb Bliss), in Netherseal (Dot Morson), Manor Farm, Long Eaton (Brenda & Mick Meakin), Toton Washlands, Long Eaton (Marion Farrell) with the highest count of 4 coming from Goseley Cutting, Woodville on the 14th of April 2021 (Kate Allies & Ruth Frudd). Meanwhile the Red Admiral remains even scarcer with just 1 recent sighting on the 12th of April 2021 at the National Stone Centre, Wirksworth (Sue Quick)

Orange Tips underside - Derek Brownlee.jpg
Orange Tips underside - Derek Brownlee.jpg

Strangely here in South Derbyshire the fields are beginning to turn yellow with oil seed rape coming into flower and dandelions now showing well on verges despite the lack of rainfall but the perennial problem of mower man has been sighted locally so that in order to keep a tidy green space and to allow H & S to ride roughshod over the provision of nectar for insects, the sea of yellow will soon become a distant memory – is this progress in the year 2021? So despite the fact that many recorders have yet to see an Orange Tip this year (including Pat and I) chances are being reduced by this annual carnage of one of our important early wildflowers.

Orange Tips underside - Derek Brownlee.jpg
Speckled Wood on Blackthorn 13.4.2021 - Marion Farrell.jpg

As a matter of interest, Derek Whiteley tells me that the photo of the brass band taken on the 2nd of April at Bull Tor is the Cressbrook Silver Band, and they are not rehearsing. They play Easter hymns every Good Friday - goes back decades. The rock is known to the locals as Friday Rock. They can be seen and clearly heard from the nearby villages – I bet that they have seen some weather up there over the years but it is good to know about a little known Derbyshire custom.

Yet again I have received some great photos of butterflies this week which I have attached to this email together with some items of general interest – thanks to all concerned for sharing these with us.

Wall shaped lichen at Longstone Edge - Sue Walker.jpg
Wall shaped lichen at Longstone Edge - Sue Walker.jpg

Butterfly Conservation has this week launched their Spring campaign ‘Nurture for Nature’ with Dobbies garden centres and TV’s Dr Amir Khan. The objective is to attract interested members of the public and potential supporters who might want to get involved as members or in other ways in the future. To attract people to the website they are offering a free downloadable gardening and wellness in nature guide, all about how looking after our butterflies and moths helps us to look after ourselves too. The campaign will run for three weeks. We could all do with something to improve both the environment and our own feel good factor during these difficult times – so please stay safe and alert.


Update no 14 as at the 8th April 2021 - including first Holly Blue sightings in the County

2nd April 21 brass band at Bull Tor - Chris Ragg.jpg
2nd April 21 brass band at Bull Tor - Chris Ragg.jpg

The last 7 days has seen quite a dramatic change in the weather conditions with 23c and hot sunshine on the 31st of March 2021 here in Derby whilst a week later the maximum temperature reached a paltry 6c at lunch time on the 7th of April 2021 following on from minus 4c the night before. We struggle to cope with such variations but how will our local butterflies fare in the coming days?

Blackthorn in bloom - Ripley greenway - Mary Foster.jpg
Blackthorn in bloom - Ripley greenway - Mary Foster.jpg

It comes as no surprise that the Green Hairstreak has yet to appear on the moors of North Derbyshire but 10 sightings of the Holly Blue did occur in late March 2021 until the 4th of April 2021 when the arctic wind  finally set in – the first record came from the Duffield garden of Robert & Celia Reid on the 30th of March 2021 followed by sightings on the 31st of March 2021 at North Wingfield (John Kirby) and at Lower Kilburn (Peter Johnson). Other sightings mainly on the 4th of April 2021 came from Lowland areas of the County including Clover Close, Elvaston (Robin & Sally Bryce), Mickleover (per John Barker), Midway (Michael Williams), Foxlow Ponds, Staveley (Mark Radford) and in Belper (Dan Martin). Further north there were a couple of unexpected sightings at Furness Vale ( 31st March 2021 – Patrick Anderson) and also at Kelstedge (4th April 2021 – Tony Sinnott).

Brimstone (F) - Ian & Joy White.JPG
Brimstone (F) - Ian & Joy White.JPG

I have totalled the number of the hibernating butterflies that were seen in the first 3 months of this year here in Derbyshire and due to the late flurry of activity in late March 2021 the overall totals are as follows :-

Small Tortoiseshell – 930 number (39%); Peacock – 712 number (29%); Brimstone – 282 number (19%); Comma – 81 number (11%); and Red Admiral – 7 number (2%). The overall total of 2012 butterflies this year is second to the year 2014 (2068 butterflies) and is second overall since I started noting the numbers back in 1995.(see the attached excel chart). So the very cold winter that we have just experienced appears to have helped the hibernating butterflies to survive but will the current arctic conditions change all that? – only your records will prove what is happening to our local butterflies.

Since the first Orange Tip was seen back on the 29th of March 2021 it is hardly surprising that numbers have been depressed with most sightings of ones and twos coming from Lowland Derbyshire and a few from the southern part of the Peak District – Darley Dale (Rod Dunn), Starkholmes (Jill Horton), Bonsall (Sue Quick), Dovedale (Helen Keep) and the National Stone Centre at Wirksworth (Alan Walker) with just one sighting further north on the 4th of April 2021 in Tideswell Dale ( Laura & Adam Saunders)

Recent Red Admiral sightings have come from only Grindleford (Paul Townsend), Monks Dale (Tim Brooks), Hilcote (Ian Wilson), Breadsall (Peter Johnson), Toton Washlands (Joan Breakwell) and Holmebrook Valley Park (David Shaw)  – still rare in the County.

Just a couple of additional Speckled Wood sightings recently from Whatstandwell (Don Zmarzty) and from Belper Parks (Adrian Rochford).

Mind you such is the interest in carrying out transects in the County that out of approximately 100 sites being covered at least 75% were walked in Week 1 despite the cold conditions although 10 sites were unfortunate not to record any butterflies at all. The highest count on a transect came from Foxley Wood, Linton in the sheltered far south of the County with 52 butterflies seen by Chris Leverington of which 34 were Peacocks – this compares with a zero count at the exposed Alsop Moor on the Tissington Trail (Viv Evans & Michael Glendenning).

 

Finally I have attached yet another set of interesting photos of butterflies together with an unusual photo of a brass band seen rehearsing at the top of the exposed Bull Tor on the 2nd of April 2021- a pity that I didn’t hear them on my birthday!

Take care and please stay alert everyone,


Update no 13 as at the 31st of March 2021 - including first sightings of the Orange-Tip, Speckled Wood and Wall Brown in the County

Comma Hilcote  24-03-2021 - Ian Wilson.jpg
Comma Hilcote 24-03-2021 - Ian Wilson.jpg

The end of March 2021 has certainly provided us all with some great butterfly weather and with the covid restrictions being eased a little, it meant that many recorders were able to get out and about in the countryside whilst maintaining social distancing. The 30th of March 2021 was the warmest March day in these parts of the UK for about 10 years and the surprise was the sighting of a Wall Brown at Lea Rhododendron gardens by Dave & Sue Evans which is a new County record (previous being the 14th of April (2007)). Meanwhile a Speckled Wood was seen on the 29th of March 2021 at Holmgate by Peter Kidd  (last year it appeared on the 5th of April 2020) and the harbinger of Spring – the Orange–Tip has been recorded at Pride Park, Derby (Antony Pooles) on the 29th of March 2021 followed by sightings on the 30th of March 2021 at Creswell Crags (Jim Anderson) and at Straws Bridge, Ilkeston (Steve & Andrea Plant).

Holly Blue (F) - Steve Plant.jpg
Holly Blue (F) - Steve Plant.jpg

Pleasingly there has been a large increase of sightings of the 4 hibernators (Brimstone; Small Tortoiseshell; Peacock; Comma) but the only recent sighting of the Red Admiral came from Hilcote on the 30th of March 2021 (Ian Wilson). The whites are not yet very conspicuous with only a few recent sightings in Lowland Derbyshire and just a single Green Veined White from the Glapwell garden of David Elliott on the 29th of March 2021.With at least one more warm and sunny day in the current spell of weather, perhaps the Holly Blue will be seen on the wing in the County – it is usually seen flying along hedgerows and around shrubs. (first sighting in 2020 was the 26th of March 2020) .

Orange-Tip male  - Rod Dunn.JPG
Orange-Tip male - Rod Dunn.JPG

With the transect season starting tomorrow (1st of April) it does look as though the weather will take a turn for the worst but I am sure that many intrepid recorders will still be able to get out and about during some sunny intervals in Week 1. For those of you who would like to be involved in a butterfly survey, but not a full transect this year, I have been approached by the Sustainability Officer of the Devonshire Group to enquire if some volunteers would like to survey parts of the Chatsworth Estate – it would be similar to the Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey whereby just 1 survey a month is required for the 4 months of May to August inclusive. Let me know if you are interested and I will then put you in contact with the relevant person at Chatsworth.

Speckled Wood - Pete Clark.JPG
Speckled Wood - Pete Clark.JPG

Please stay safe and alert,

 

Update no 12 as at the 28th of March 2021 - including first Small & Green Veined White sightings in the County

The last week certainly had some good sunny periods and despite the overall feel of the weather remaining relatively cold, a number of our local butterflies decided the time was right to make their maiden flight of the year. Indeed 2 new species emerged during the week – the first Small White was seen in the Thurvaston garden of John & Wendy Abrehart on the 20th of March 2021 followed by other sightings of the species at Little Eaton (Brenda Shore) on the 24th of March 2021 and then along the Ripley Greenway (Mary Foster) on the 25th of March 2021. Meanwhile in Darley Dale, Rod Dunn saw a Green Veined White in his garden on the 22nd of March 2021. (last year’s first sightings were Small White – 16th of March 2020 and Green Veined White – 22nd of March 2020)

The total number of butterflies seen in the County during the last week amounted to 179 individuals which is the most for a week so far this year but well behind the total for 2020 – the overall figure for the first 3 months of 2020 was 1369 butterflies whilst at the moment the overall figure for 2021 is about 1,000 less. Looking at this year’s sightings approximately 44% have come from North East Derbyshire followed by 34% from South Derbyshire and the balance of 22% coming from the Peak District.

This week’s total includes  76 Small Tortoiseshells with the highest counts of 11 from Foxlow, Staveley on the 24th of March 2021 (Sid Morris) followed by 10 on the 22nd of March 2021 at Markham Pit (Mark Radford). Peacocks did okay with 50 individuals seen and the highest count of 12 coming on the 22nd of March 2021 at Markham Pit (Mark Radford). Brimstones were fairly widespread in the County with 36 individuals seen including 4 at Litton Mill on the 25th of March 2021 (Ian & Joy White) but Commas were limited to 11 individuals in ones or twos from just 8 sites in Derbyshire. Finally a couple of Red Admirals were seen this last week with sightings on the 22nd of March 2021 from Newton (Julia Wilson) and at the National Stone Centre, Wirksworth (Natalie Windsor).

With the temperature expected to rise to the low teens early next week before it gets colder at Easter (nothing unusual about that situation!), who will be the first to see a male Orange –Tip (first date last year was the 25th of March 2020) whilst the other species expected to appear this month is the Holly Blue (first date last year was the 26th of March 2020) – only your sightings will confirm!!

Please still stay safe and alert,


Update no 11 as at the 22nd of March 2021 - including more March 2021 sightings in the County

 

With a large high pressure system anchored just to the west of the UK for the last week, it was somewhat disappointing to get mainly concrete coloured skies over the area most days with only a few sunny periods making an appearance. As the sun has now crossed the equator to give us 6 months of lighter and longer days, at least both the Meteorological and Astronomical dates mean that we have finally entered Spring after a long and cold Winter, but the countryside remains in a semi dormant situation with very few wild flowers about which means very little nectar for our butterflies – indeed blackthorn blossom appears to be a major source of sustenance at the moment. It feels more like early February rather than late March although Jean Hurdle tells me that she has seen hares boxing in the fields above Wirksworth this last weekend. 

Small Tortoiseshells - Allestree Park - 16th March 2021 - Felicity Jackson
Small Tortoiseshells - Allestree Park - 16th March 2021 - Felicity Jackson

Nevertheless some recorders managed to see their first butterflies of the year with recent sightings of 33 insects, again with mainly Small Tortoiseshells being represented by about 50% of this total, plus sightings of 9 Brimstones at Aston on Trent (Rob Waldron), Calke Park (Meurig Palin), Markham Vale (Debbie Giles), Toton Washlands (Marion Bryce), Overseal (Dot Morson)  and at 2 sites in Staveley (Mark Radford). Individual Commas were noted at Allestree Park (Felicity Jackson), along the Chesterfield Canal (Al & John Roberts), Toton Washlands (Marion Bryce) and at Staveley (Mark Radford).

Peacocks fared little better with 4 sightings outside at Poolsbrook and Staveley (Mark Radford), Mapleton

Peacock, on drive, Ilkeston - Nigel Downes
Peacock, on drive, Ilkeston - Nigel Downes

(Wendy Astill) and one individual with just 3 legs seen in Ilkeston (Nigel Downes) – see attached photo. To illustrate how species are just as confused with the weather as we humans, Felicity Jackson photographed 2 Small Tortoiseshells in Allestree Park in mating mode, although the female didn’t seem to be very impressed by the efforts of the male (no comment needed!), whilst over in Ironville, Pete Clark saw and photographed a Peacock on a piece of sawn wood in his shed and which has shown no signs of coming out of hibernation to look for a mate! However a Red Admiral seen at Ogston Reservoir by Dan Martin on the 20th of March 2021 was notable as sightings of this species so far this year amount to just 4 individuals seen in the County.  

Peacock in Garden Shed - 18 March 2021- Ironville - Pete Clark
Peacock in Garden Shed - 18 March 2021- Ironville - Pete Clark

Finally, Butterfly Conservation and UKBMS have agreed that transects will be operational throughout the 2021 season, and transect walking will be permitted provided:

  • recorders have permission to access the sites that they monitor,
  • they adhere to all Covid-19 restrictions that apply in their area and
  • they take all sensible precautions to reduce the spread of Covid-19

 

A full communication will be issued shortly on these lines ahead of the new season which starts on the 1st of April 2021.

 

In the meantime, please stay safe and alert,

Update no 10 as at the 15th of March 2021 - including first Large White sighting of the year in the County

With a powerful jet stream and accompanying gale force winds, which sent heavy rain bands across the UK during the last week, it is hardly surprising that there have been very few butterfly sightings in the County recently but a Large White flying across the Shirebrook garden of Ian Hunt’s house on the 7th of March 2021 was somewhat a surprise, although the species did first appear here in 2020 on the 12th of March at Pilsley (Jaimie Bingham). The only other recent sightings were all of Small Tortoiseshells with records from from New Mills (Vicki Leng), Linton Heath (Dot Morson), Farnah Hall (John Coupland), Hilton (Peter Hendry), Rowsley (John Attiwell) and the Haddon Hall Estate (Derek Whiteley), all of which yet again illustrates how well this species did in this part of the UK last year.

So that you know to whom you should send your butterfly records to in the Region, the following is a list of the Butterfly Conservation County Recorders:-

 

Derbyshire :- Ken Orpe :- @email

Notts :- A new recorder has been recently appointed – Steve Mathers :- @email

Leics :- Richard Jeffery:- @email

Yorkshire :- David Smith :- @email

Cheshire :- Rupert Adams :- @email

Staffs :-  Nigel Stone :- @email

 

Moth records and I D requests should be sent to :-

 

Derbyshire & Notts :- Mick Ball :- @email

Leics :- Adrian Russell :- @email

 

 

It would be really helpful if your casual butterfly sightings could be entered on to a simple excel sheet set out in the format of the attached example – you could email this to me as often as possible so that I can both use the information for my regular Updates and also it enables the records to be inputted directly into the National Database – thanks in anticipation!

Please Stay Safe as hopefully some easing of the lockdown will soon be upon us – just in time for the transect season!


Update no 9 as at the 8th of March 2021 - including first March 2021 butterfly sightings in the County

 

After a week of leaden skies coupled with a cold north east wind, it was hardly surprising that our local butterflies were keeping a low profile but a brief sunny interlude over the last weekend tempted out a few of the intrepid insects although sources of nectar such as dandelions and coltsfoot remain scarce with only a few lesser celandines showing their yellow faces. 

Small Tortoiseshell 28 Feb and 6 March 2021 - Ian White

However on Saturday the 6th of March 2021 a brief sunny interval in Buxton allowed Ian White to see and photograph a Small Tortoiseshell in his garden – when Ian checked the photo, markings on the wings proved it was the same insect that he had seen a week earlier (see the attached).Then a sunny day on Sunday the 7th of March 2021 resulted in sightings of Small Tortoiseshells at  Matlock (Alan Kitchen) and 2 individuals seen on Bunster Hill on the Staffordshire side of Dovedale (Wendy Astill) and 2 seen at Great Longstone (Richard Gosney – per Colin Bowler), plus individual sightings of the Peacock at Norbriggs (Mark Radford) and at West Hallam (Martin Hall) together with 2 in the Killamarsh garden of Peter Furniss (per Colin Bowler). The surprise was that a Red Admiral with nicks in its wings suggesting that it had been in the mouth of a bird recently, was seen alongside a public footpath near to Shardlow by Colin Bowler on the 7th of March 2021 and another in the Darley Abbey garden of Andy Butterton (per Colin Bowler) – only the third of the species to be reported in the County during the first 3 months of this year.

Figures to date for this year include 76 Small Tortoiseshells; 28 Peacocks; 18 Brimstones and 4 Commas – the totals no doubt reflect  the excellent year that the Small Tortoiseshell had in this Region of the UK during 2020.

With the 1st of April 2021 bearing down upon us very quickly now, many of the 100 or so butterfly transect rotas have been sorted and issued to the 400 or so volunteers who take part in this very rewarding way of both getting vital exercise in the Derbyshire countryside as well as gathering equally vital data on the changing status of our butterflies in the County. If you are thinking about joining this growing ‘army’ of willing volunteers then have a look at the attached list of sites where additional help is required – the transect in Cressbrookdale NNR is particular rewarding as it contains virtually all of the butterflies that can be seen in the Peak District together with an array of the fantastic wildflowers that occur on the calcareous grassland there!