Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Big Butterfly Count 2016

You would think, would you not, that a period of three weeks at the height of summer (15th July to 7th August) would be ideal for seeing loads of butterflies? Yet again, this year was, for me, a bit of a wash-out! I did lots of 15 minute observations with no results. Not a single butterfly! I know the 15 minute time-slot is to limit the potential for counting the same butterfly twice, but when they're scarce, it's so frustrating!
I attempted my first counts down in Neyland on 19th July, a really hot day (I hung a thermometer on the washing line and it was showing 30 degrees by late afternoon, even with a breeze!). I started at Brunel Quay and went up past the Yacht Club to the car park right at the end, checking each Buddleia or patch of grass or scrub. Not a single butterfly! Not one! A friend down in Surrey visited Clandon Park to do a count and there were loads of butterflies, including Silver-Washed Fritillaries, Marbled Whites, Purple Hairstreaks and White Admirals. I think I would just about die from excitement if I saw any of those here!

Over the weeks, I had a couple more sessions watching for butterflies in my garden, but apart from the occasional white, too restless and distant to be able to tell large from small, there was nothing. Not even on the splendid Buddleia in the front garden a few doors down. Perhaps they were all there once I'd gone away, but I doubt it. I let the Ragwort in the garden grow and flower to increase the sources of nectar (and in the hope I might get Cinnabar Moths) but nothing seems to want it very much, so that's my next job - onto the compost heap with it, before it seeds!

I left the Buddleia growing under the washing line to see what colour it would be. It got its roots down this year and grew ridiculously long flower spikes which opened into the usual lilac-coloured flowers right at the end of the three-week period. On the last day of the Butterfly Watch, it was nice and warm and I was rewarded by visitors:

3 Large White
2 Small White
2 Red Admiral (very fresh and gorgeous!)
1 Peacock

A result to record, at last!

True to form, as soon as the three week period was over, I've seen loads of butterflies. There must have been a hatching of Small Tortoiseshells, with Peacocks and Large Whites, all enjoying the Buddleia in the sunshine and impossible to photograph because of the stiff breeze blowing!

I'm leaving and encouraging any caterpillars I find (although sadly didn't notice the Gooseberry Sawfly until they had completely defoliated my two small gooseberry bushes!) and plan to have several Buddleias around the garden, as well as other nectar rich flowers. We all need more butterflies!

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