Saturday, 31 August 2013

Big Butterfly Count 2013

Last year's weather was so vile, I was determined to do more butterfly counting this year. Unfortunately, the period for the count coincided with a knee OA flare and an operation on the OA in my right big toe, so I haven't been as mobile as I would like.  Still, I got out when I could, and here are the results.

The count started on 20th July, so on 21st I took my stick and pottered out to one of our closer fields, which was still ungrazed, uncut, and covered with flitting butterflies. The count is very easy to do, really - just watch for 15 minutes and count the peak numbers of each specie.  Most of the butterflies flitting around were Meadow Browns and I got up to 12, but there will have been more around.  Keeping lower in the grasses were Ringlets (4).  All the others where whites, but which? I could look more carefully at the closest ones revealed 3 Green-Veined and 5 Small Whites, but I could see another 16 or so whites flitting around and could not tell at that distance which they were.

The next time I could get out was 8th August, 2 weeks after my operation, when I could just about get one of my elasticated sandals on my foot. With my camera, notebook and pen in a light bag to hang on my crutches, I tottered out to inspect the buddleias between the cottage and the barn, and by the side of the road. At the start of the count period, the buddleias showed a little colour, but hadn't opened their flowers, but in that couple of weeks they had opened and it was glorious to stand surrounded by their scent and the butterflies!

The bushes growing on rubble near the barn on the north side of the cottage had attracted a good crowd.
5 Peacock, 2 Red Admiral, 2 Small Tortoiseshell, 2 Large White, 2 Meadow Brown, 1 Small White and, just as I was leaving, 1 Comma, more interested in the bramble flowers on the fence than the buddleias. There was also a Silver Y moth whirring around.

The buddleias by the side of the road are south-facing and attract more butterflies. 7 Peacock, 3 Red Admiral, 4 Small Tortoiseshell, 6 Large White, 2 Meadow Brown, 5 Green-Veined White, 4 Small White, 3 Silver Y moths ( the Big Butterfly Count includes some of the day-flying moths). I probably stood for more than 15 minutes just enjoying the sun, scent and the way that the whites rose up in bickering clouds from time to time.

The next day, I had a consultant's appointment to check the progress of my toe and to trim the ends of the stitches.  Waiting for my lift with a cup of tea, I gazed out into the back garden of the cottage (such as it is - since I had to stop working on it, everything has grown so much!). A couple of bickering Speckled Wood rose from the weeds, there were 2 Large Whites around the Elder, a Ringlet and a Small Copper in a patch of sunlight and a Silver Y visiting the honeysuckle.

After the consultant's appointment, I had a bit of a magical mystery tour which involved a stop in Ammanford.  My friend parked next to a couple of small buddleias, apparently self-seeded in the municipal planting of the car park. While she dashed to the bank, I saw 2 Small White, 2 Large White, 1 Small Tortoiseshell, 1 Red Admiral and 1 Peacock.

According to the Butterfly Conservation site, the Big Butterfly Count officially finished on 11 August, but as I was inputting results today, I noticed that the results period runs for the whole of July and August. I was a bit confused by that, so I decided to test it by adding an observation from the week my parents were here, when in addition to the usual suspects on the yard buddleias, there was also a Painted Lady and more new-looking Small Tortoiseshells. Those results were accepted, so I went out to have a look at the roadside buddleias in the sunshine earlier and recorded those too: 1 Peacock, 6 Large White, 2 Green-Veined White, 8 Small Tortoiseshells and a Silver Y. The Small Tortoiseshells mostly looked very shiny and new. Herein lies the value of repeated observations in the same place; you see the changes in species' numbers over a couple of months, as new generations start to fly.

We've had lovely weather this summer, but I'm noticing the change now.  Night temperatures are down into single figures (Centigrade, not Fahrenheit!). It's getting darker earlier, the swallows are still here but look like they're thinking about going, blackberries are ripening and schools start back next week. Still, there is beauty in transformation and there will be other butterflies to see before I make do with memories until next summer.

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