Despite indifferent weather during the first week of the month I continued my quest for better and better photographs of my local butterflies. A gatekeeper, seen near my home on the 1st, was the 27th and last of the species that completes its lifecycle on my 'local patch' to be recorded in 2020. Numbers of chalkhill blues increased on The Heath to around 30 (all males) on the 2nd, most being found on the south slopes of Church Hill and in the small, 'rough' field at the bottom. Small and Essex skippers were seen at a number of locations and the first of the second generation of brown argus appeared on the 2nd, only a week or so after I had seen the last of the first generation! Fresh peacock, red admiral and comma butterflies were on the wing, but marbled whites were looking rather tired and there was a noticeable decline in numbers of dark green fritillaries. No more silver-washed fritillaries were seen on my regular visits to Church Hill, although weather conditions were far from ideal for this species. At home a rather attractive (albeit destructive) box tree moth took up residence in my house, but sadly passed away overnight on the 4th.
Male Chalkhill Blue, Church Hill, 2 July
Brown Argus (2nd Generation), Royston, 3 July
Box Tree Moth (Recently Expired), My House, 4 July
My Local Wild Flower and Butterfly Meadow
Just to the south of the housing estate where I live lies a large arable field, which generally contains a crop of wheat or (in 2020) oats. An unofficial path goes around the field and I sometimes use a section of it as a short cut to access the Greenwich Meridian Trail, which heads up towards Hatchpen Farm. However, before 'lockdown' I had never walked all the way round this field, which looked rather uninteresting from a wildlife point of view. During lockdown my daily walks occasionally took me all round the field and I noticed a grassy patch of apparent waste land at the far side. As spring arrived wild flowers started to appear here and I started to take a bit more notice. Now, in early July, this bit of waste land has turned into a wondrous wild flower meadow of about one acre, with copious amounts of knapweed, clovers, lady's bedstraw and many other wild flowers including the important butterfly food plants bird's foot trefoil, horseshoe vetch and rock rose. Nettles and brambles are nearby. Not surprisingly, this patch of land attracts many common butterfly species! So far I have found small skipper, Essex skipper, large skipper, brimstone, large white, small white, small copper, brown argus, common blue, small tortoiseshell, peacock, marbled white, gatekeeper, ringlet, meadow brown and small heath here - that's 16 species! The proximity of this meadow to my road explains where the occasional blues and skippers that I see there have come from. Other insects, in particular moths and hoverflies, have been seen there in the past few weeks. I don't know how long this meadow has been waiting for me to discover it, but it's only taken me 34 years to find it! I guess that it may have been created not so long ago, possibly as part of an agri-environmental scheme?? With orange tip, comma, painted lady and green-veined white still to be seen there I believe that the meadow and its immediate surrounds may support at least 20 butterfly species - watch this space!
Chalkhill blue numbers steadily increased during the first week of July, although most were still at the western end of The Heath. I saw my first female on the 6th. On Church Hill I noticed quite a bit of variety in the sizes of the spots on the hind wings of the males (for example see the image of two males, roosting on the same blade of grass, below). Sometimes some of these spots are missing completely on male variants, although the greatest variations are seen in the females. I will be looking for variants in both chalkhill and (second generation) adonis blues in the next few weeks.
Two Male Chalkhill Blues, Church Hill, 6 July