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Confessions of a butterfly recorder

August 10, 2011

Author: [Lloyd Garvey – volunteer warden]

Orange Tip in the Chase April 2011

It’s now August and we are well through the Butterfly monitoring season, but what does this mean and how do we monitor butterflies at the Chase

Butterflies on the Chase are recorded following a nationally recognised formula called the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS). There are over 750 sites across the country that follow the same method providing valuable data in butterfly population trends nationally.

The butterfly recording season starts on the 1st of April and continues throughout the summer till the 30th of September (26 weeks).During that period a butterfly recorder (there are 7 of us at the Chase) walks a specified route (called a transect) around the Chase every week recording all the Butterflies they see within an imaginary 5 metre box around themselves. This provides consistency between the surveyors and allows comparisons over a number of years.

The improvement work that has been undertaken over the last year should help attract more butterflies to the Chase. Most butterflies are not truly woodland lovers but prefer the wooded edge or sunny rides. The new clearings and rides will allow more light to reach the ground and in turn allow flowering plants to grow this will benefit not only butterflies but a wide range of insects.

So it’s August and the Chase is about to open so what butterflies can you expect to see in the Chase. One of the most abundant and a real lover of woodland rides is the Speckled Wood.  This small Brown butterfly is on the wing from April to October and is highly visible as it gambols along in pairs.

The Holly blues has 2 broods a year. The first early in the year lay their eggs on Holly flowers. The second brood which we will be seeing now lay on ivy. These are small blue butterflies and the only blue butterfly to have blue on the under wings. It also tends to fly higher than its counterparts (approximately shoulder height)

The Comma is a medium size butterfly about the same size as a Peacock butterfly and is easy to spot because it has rough wing edges that make it looks as though it’s been nibbled on.

The Comma are fairly common and with luck you should all see them. The next are a bit more elusive:

The Purple hairstreak is a tricky to one to spot though there are reasonable numbers in the Chase. This butterfly is totally reliant on Oak in which it spends its life. The under sides of the wings are silver so look up at an Oak tree that is in sunlight and look for little silver 10 pence’s that seem to be bobbing about above you. These will undoubtedly be Purple hairstreaks.

The White Admiral is big and black with two white stripes that travel from the back to the front. This is another butterfly of mature woodlands where it spends most of its time feeding on honeydew amongst the canopy, but it does travel down to occasionally feed on Bramble and seeks out Honeysuckle on which to lays its eggs.

My last one is one to look out for though I have never seen one in the Chase. The Purple Emperor. This really is a prize for all butterfly enthusiasts.  Similar in appearance to the White Admiral the male has a purple iridescence and a small orange circle at the back of each wing. They spend most of their time in the tree canopy only descending to drink from a puddle or to feed on animal droppings or even a carcass.

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