Butterflies – sightings down
Butterflies – sightings down
It has been a disappointing year for butterflies, although all the usual kinds have put in some appearances.
There were good numbers of the jewel-like Green Hairstreak on Otley Chevin and a few on Ilkley Moor. It is now time to see the elusive White-letter Hairstreak, a small, dark butterfly with a white W on its hind-wings. Usually they fly around the tops of elm trees – their food-plant – but in this area they are seen on flowers, notably thistles, but sometimes garden flowers.
The ‘common’ whites have been few and far between, but the Speckled Wood, a relative newcomer here, has been seen widely, often in gardens. Peacock, Comma and Small Tortoiseshell have been around, but there have been no reports of Red Admiral as yet.
I ventured into Upper Wharfedale this week and saw a few of the rare Northern Brown Argus – a small brown butterfly – on a couple of sites. We have been worried about its survival since breeding last year was cut short by the torrential downpours.
The Common Blue has been another concern – it has reappeared at Sun Lane Nature Reserve, in Burley, this year and on other local sites, but in very small numbers. Like many insects, they really need a good summer. At Ben Rhydding gravel pits, the working parties have made a good job of reducing the balsam that was shading out other plants. We are hoping in time that the area can be restored to its former glory when it was a haven for wildlife. There used to be thousands of orchids there, but now it is difficult to find any.
We walked round looking for butterflies this week – there were very few. But a large, bright yellow insect appeared – not a hornet, but a female broad-bodied chaser dragonfly, a newcomer to the pits. That is what it is like, being a naturalist. Something of interest will always turn up. Our son relieves a stressful job by walking out in his lunch hour to a nearby brownfield site that is now full of marsh and spotted orchids. So we in turn have looked at local sites and exchanged pictures of orchids by email with Philip, who lives in Shropshire.
Wharfedale has many good orchid sites, notably at Kilnsey Park where the trail is open to the public. But orchids can turn up anywhere – a 60cm high broad-leaved helleborine is appearing for a second time in our garden.
Our bird feeders have been busy since we stocked with niger seed, the goldfinches, greenfinches and bullfinches competing for this. Earlier in the year, a pair of reed buntings were visiting another of our feeders. When we went on holiday the supply was interrupted and they never returned.
Modern technology has been a boon for many naturalists. Digital cameras have been improving steadily and, with a pocketable model, excellent pictures of birds, plants and insects can be obtained by amateurs. With the internet you can always have an expert at your elbow and with email you can exchange information and pictures instantly with fellow enthusiasts. Those of you who come along to our winter meetings will know what a difference the digital projector has made to lecture presentations.