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saving butterflies, moths and their habitats
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Butterfly Conservation in Sussex

Thursday 31 December

Definitely our last butterfly of 2015. A Red Admiral flew past us at lunchtime at Wakehurst Place, Ardingly. Happy New Year. (Alan and Linda Loweth)

More news from foreign lands...

Here are a couple of pictures taken on Vancouver Island, again on the 25th August. This time an American Lady basking on a rocky bank in Ucluelet (meaning, "people of the safe harbour").
Happy New Year. (Patrick Moore)

Monday 28 December

A single Red Admiral in Kingston nr Lewes basking in the much welcome sun. First I have seen since November. This one should be easy to recognise with the wing damage. I wonder if I shall see it again and if it is the same individual I saw back in November?

December 2015 has not only been unusually warm with night temperatures more typical of June or September, an average of 5c warmer than December 2014 and 10c warmer than the average for December 2010 but it has been exceptionally dull!

The lack of sun, warm temperatures and damp could result in butterflies being more susceptible to pathogens. I hope 2016 will bring more clear, sunny, dry and colder conditions. (Crispin Holloway)

Exceptionally mild and sunny this morning. 1 Red Admiral at Rowland Wood. (Roy Wells)

News for 12 December 2015:

Perhaps this is a female Ostrinia nubilalis (European Corn-borer) that came to light 12 December 2015 Lewes. (Louise Holloway)
I thought that this was in fact a Bloxworth Snout so I checked with Colin Pratt and he agreed, which makes it a much more significant sighting. ed.

News from foreign lands...

Well, well! I was surprised - and delighted - to see the photo of a Pine White from Vancouver Island on the Sussex site. Yes, that is a Pine White, Neophasia menapia (Pieridae). The species is sexually dimorphic, so I can say that this one is a male. More info - including a pic of a female - is on my site at facweb.furman.edu/~snyderjohn/tatum/064-067.htm (Jeremy Tatum Victoria, British Columbia)

I spent sometime in the Vancouver area during the summer on a family holiday. Butterfly numbers were apparently down on previous years, the area being on the tail-end of a drought that had lasted since February!
The pictures were taken on Wickaninnish Beach, Vancouver Island, on August 25th. The local meaning of the name is "having no one in front of him in a canoe".
The butterfly I believe is a Pine White which we chased for quite a distance along the beach. Happy Christmas. (Patrick Moore)
Hopefully our VNHS correspondant might be able to verify this identification... ed.

Wednesday 23 December

Even in this extraordinary December, I was amazed to see a Speckled Wood on the wing in the sunshine today, on the Downs above Bopeep near Alciston at TQ494051.
Happy Christmas!
(John Kerby)

This Painted Lady was photographed at Halnaker Windmill at lunchtime today and posted on Twitter by a West Sussex County Council countryside ranger. (Michael Blencowe)

Monday 21 December

A weekend walk around the garden revealed a late Large White caterpillar girdled up and ready to pupate. By today (Monday 21st) it had done so. Also good numbers of Red Admiral caterpillars, now 3 to 5mm on average - well advanced on more recent years - and all feeding merrily in this balmy spell. (Dave Harris, Newhaven)

Saturday 19 December

I enjoyed a delightful walk in Hampden Park, Eastbourne with the local RSPB group this morning. We saw plenty of birds on the lake and in the woods but my Christmas highlight was without doubt a stunning female Brimstone flitting about some ivy on the edge of the woods. Much better than Xmas shopping! (Anna Grist)

Friday 18 December

There has been quite a bit in the press recently concerning the decline in the Wall Brown so with it being so mild I thought I would check out High and Over to see if I could find any larvae. As it was I found 3 as well as 7 moth larvae and the micro moth Agonopterix pallorella. Also hiding in the grass were several spiders, baby Froghoppers and a fly. Amazing to see all this a week before Christmas!!!! (Bob Eade)

...and here's an unseasonably weird photo from Richard Roebuck, taken at the A3 Esher turnoff on Thursday.

Wednesday 16 December

Yesterday I joined Nick Sherwin, Mike Hadley, Andy Sutton, John Murray and Paul Day at Heyshott escarpment for our final work party of the year. Mulled wine and mince pies were served courtesy of John and Mike. They are all now proud owners of the new Sussex BC pin badges! The clearance work this season has been impressive and we hope the Dukes and Pearls will appreciate the primulas and violets that should appear in the Spring. Afterwards I went on a fungi and lichen hunt and found some interesting new species, including the tiny (2mm) Eyelash Cup and small White Brain. (Colin Knight www.seapic.com)

Sunday 13 December

Huge thanks to all 21 who turned out for the last reserves work party of the year. I won't list them all individually, as I'm one name short and every hour that every person gives so generously is vital in getting things right here, in advance of our plans to restore the spring fritillaries to Park Corner Heath and Rowland Wood. There is still much to do and it will take another winter of hard graft before the scene is set for the return of these species. As part of my Fritillaries for the Future job I'm working with owners and managers over a much larger part of the Vert Wood complex, as it is vital to reinstate these species on a landscape scale if they are to really thrive and survive here in the longer term. One of the most exciting developments is the recent purchase of a very large area (70 hectares; 171 acres) of adjacent woodland, which is destined to become the Vert Woods Community Woodland. There will be a Walking the Bounds event here at midday on New Year's Day (see flyer above), so do come along and find out more! Finally, thanks to Carola for the consistently good cake-fuel, to Helen for the lashings of ginger beer, and to whoever else that provided goodies which magically appeared and then disappeared. A great deal was achieved and the area we have been working on this winter is beginning to look like seriously good habitat. (Neil Hulme)

The Friends of Coldean Woods, yet again enhance the woodland structure by removing more Ash saplings. We are looking for an increase in common woodland butterflies in the near future, e.g. Orange Tips, Brimstone, Speckled Wood, Peacocks, Comma, Purple and White-letter Hairstreaks. (Dan Danahar)

Wednesday 9 December

This winter Peacock was flying around in the sun at Pulborough Brooks and then settled for a photo. Complements the daffodils I saw at Winkworth Arboretum on Monday. (Arthur Norton)

Today I joined a smaller work party at Heyshott escarpment. Other team members were Paul, John, Nick, Andy and Naomi and we cut, raked, burnt and got smokey! Afterwards I continued my quest for new fungi species and was rewarded with Stump Puffballs at the base of a beech. Next Wednesday morning is our traditional mince pie and beverage day for those who are interested in joining us. (Colin Knight www.seapic.com)

No butterflies, but plenty of evidence of climate change: scabious is still flowering in our back garden here in Hove, along with strawberries (there's even some green fruit), rosemary, dandelion & gazania. While they are hangers-on from autumn, but some of our plants which normally flower after Xmas are out already: daffodil, narcissus & primrose. (John & Val Heys)

Monday 7 December

A Red Admiral flew across my garden in Horsham this afternoon. (Vee Willis)

Sunday 6 December

We've had a Peacock in our kitchen and a Small Tortoiseshell in our living room for the last couple of days. Not quite Fuerteventura but to the three of us it's home! (Nigel Symington)

News from afar:

I've just returned from a fabulous ten day break in Jandia, at the southern tip of Fuerteventura. This was my fifth winter visit to the island and as always it provided welcome respite from the worst of British weather. I had every intention of continuing my pursuit of the Long-tailed Blue and that looked to be on the cards when I found a fresh specimen roosting on an Aloe vera plant in the hotel grounds before checking in. That was the last Long-tailed Blue I saw during my visit! I also saw about a dozen Painted Ladies and a Red Admiral, but it was the African Grass Blue (Zizeeria knysna) that stole the show. In the past I've only ever found this species in ones and twos around the Canarian hotel gardens, and they've usually been worn and torn individuals. However, after spotting a few on the bank behind the sports area I decided to investigate a small patch (c.1000 square metres) of rough but irrigated ground adjacent to the hotel. I'm glad I did, as I was treated to one of the most spectacular displays of butterfly abundance that I've ever experienced. The ground over this entire area was literally swarming with these minute butterflies, with concentrations of up to 10 per square metre in flight and up to 30 per square metre while at roost over some patches of grass and low scrub. The flight was probably beyond its peak as the vast majority were faded, but a careful search revealed a few fresh specimens and mating pairs. Over the course of several days I did my best to calculate the number present, always ending up with a conservative figure of 3000 - 5000. There were also some interesting birds around the hotel and adjacent area, including Fuerteventura Stonechat, Berthelot's Pipit, Trumpeter Finch, Sardinian Warbler, Hoopoe and Southern Grey Shrike, the former two species being very tame. As always, this quieter end of the island provided plenty of sunshine and the chance to unwind. Once the naked Germans (Michael would have appreciated the extent of full frontal nudity) had retreated to their hotels, the beautiful sandy beaches became surprisingly uncluttered. The sunsets were consistently spectacular. With only a four hour flight time I'll be returning to Fuerteventura many more times in the future. (Neil Hulme)

Saturday 5 December

I saw a Red Admiral butterfly battling against the warm winds as it flew over my house in Sedlescombe(TN33 0RF) at 11am today. (Isabel Fisher)

Friday 4 December

Crawley Down - Just 1 Red Admiral today, feeding on Viburnum in the morning sunshine in calm conditions. Have managed to record butterflies in this small garden every month this year. (Jonathan Ruff)

Wednesday 2 December

Yesterday I joined Paul Day and Murray Downland Trust members at the Wednesday morning work party at Heyshott escarpment. It turned into a smokey affair as we were gathering greenery from the banks of the paths. Hopefully this will result in more primroses, cowslips and violets next year for the Dukes and Pearls. (Colin Knight murraydownlandtrust.blogspot.co.uk)

Monday 30 November

Saturday 28 November: 1 x Red Admiral seen flying around front of bungalow in Eastern Avenue, Polegate at 10.52am, in full sun. it was a bit tatty around the edges and today (the 30th) saw a Lesser Celendine in full flower in Westfield Close, Polegate. I had to do a double take. (Peter Farrant)

Friday 27 November

A fantastic evening on Friday as a sold-out crowd of 65 people joined us for the Butterfly Conservation Wine Tasting / Quiz in Lewes. Andy from Harvey's provided a commentary on the 7 glasses of wine we tasted. Quizmaster Michael Blencowe put our brains to the test with 5 rounds of quiz action (very loosely) based on Nuns, Film Noir, Bruce Springsteen, Death's-head Hawkmoths and Mills & Boon novels. In the end it was The Dingy Knickers who romped home to claim the prestigious Charles Dickens Victory Teapot. Most importantly we raised hundreds and hundreds of pounds for Sussex BC. Thanks to Harveys for their support, to Carole, Paul and Clare for ensuring it all ran smoothly and to all who came along.

Amazed to see a Red Admiral fly past my window in Hailsham at lunchtime today, especially as it was cloudy, drizzly and windy! (Chris Hooker)

Wednesday 25 November

On Wednesday I joined BC member Paul Day at Heyshott escarpment where we cleared and burnt scrub beside the main path 'Chalky'. Murray Downland Trust members Mike Hadley, Mike Edwards, Andy Sutton and Naomi joined in the fun. (Colin Knight www.seapic.com)

Sunday 22 November

Crawley Down - On a clear calm day just 1 Red Admiral in the garden. The last few weeks of poor weather with have taken a toll on butterfly numbers. (Jonathan Ruff)

Martin Kalaher’s Garden butterfly summary 2015

I send in fairly regular reports about my Storrington wildlife garden but this year I thought I would go further and send in a brief summary of all the season’s records. This is primarily for my own benefit (so that I will be able to compare year-on year) but hopefully the summary will prove to be of interest to other Sussex butterfly enthusiasts? Part of the intent is to encourage others to have a go at creating their own wildflower meadow, or wildflower beds. For those who enjoy watching and listening to insects of all descriptions (not just butterflies) I can guarantee that if you do, you will not be disappointed. Many British Native plants are as pretty as garden hybrids and it easy enough to put together an arrangement that is both attractive to look at and certainly very attractive to a wide range of insect life.

All the gardening I do in my half-acre back garden is aimed at encouraging a wide variety of insects including butterflies and bees. The centre-piece is a wildflower meadow which dates from 2005 but was extended in the following years, 2006 - 2008. I also have two large flower beds made up entirely of British native plants. I tinker with the garden every year but in 2014 I decided I wasn’t entirely happy with the grass/wildflower ratio in the flower meadow and so I dug out 20 beds (mostly 2-3 feet square) and planted 7cm pots of Marjoram and Betony. Marjoram is the dominant nectar plant species on Chantry and Kithurst Hill and is much loved by both butterflies and bees. I’m not sure there is much Betony close to where I live in Storrington but it is fairly widespread elsewhere on Sussex downland and besides I think it is a beautiful plant! The results were fantastic!

The garden butterfly counts were higher than ever with daily counts around the 100 mark in late July, a maximum daily species count of 17 and a new garden record of 27 species for the 2015 season. I think my garden is in many ways a microcosm of West Sussex for what I record in the garden seems to reflect fairly accurately what is happening elsewhere in the county, both in terms of first date of appearance and abundance. I am referring to what I would call ‘open-countryside’ butterfly species and not woodland species. The species seen this year with daily maxima in brackets as follows: Small Skipper (12), Essex Skipper (1m), Large Skipper (9), Clouded Yellow (1), Brimstone (6), Large White (5), Small White (7), Green-veined White (2), Orange-tip (4), Green Hairstreak (1), Brown Hairstreak (1), Small Copper (2), Brown Argus (2), Common Blue (25), Holly Blue (7), Red Admiral (5), Painted Lady (3-4), Small Tortoiseshell (4), Peacock (12), Comma (3), Dark Green Fritillary (1), Speckled Wood (3),Marbled White (4), Gatekeeper (40), Meadow Brown (15), Ringlet (2), Small Heath (1).

I thought the year started slowly but spring highlights did include 4 Brimstone (2m & 2f) on April 6th and 6 male Holly Blue on April 30th. On May 13th there was also one female Holly Blue as well as 6 males, a garden record. We have Green Hairstreak in the garden most years but this year not only was there at least one male on territory but also a female laying eggs on May 26th. It appeared to lay on Wild Carrot, Birds-foot trefoil and Greater Knapweed. On June 11th there were at least 3 male and 10 female Common Blue in the first of the summer broods (a portent of what was to come). By the end of June I had recorded 21 species in the garden and although I still thought the over-all numbers were lower compared to most years there was clearly plenty of variety.

As we progressed through July the daily butterfly count increased and there were a fair few highlights worth mentioning. Dark Green Fritillary graced the garden for the first time. There was a male DGF, which flew around the meadow very briefly on July 8th but then on the 27th a rather worn female nectared on Greater Knapweed, affording a very close view. I don’t suppose it was in the garden for more than a minute but its presence increased the garden total to 32 species. Both Clouded Yellow and a male Essex Skipper were present on July 10th. I was very pleased to see Essex Skipper as it must be 5-6 years since I have recorded one in the garden and although I have seen Clouded Yellow annually for the past three years the July date is an interesting one, as this species is usually seen in late summer/early autumn. As butterfly numbers increased in the second half of July I had two more garden records with maximum counts of 40 Gatekeepers and 25 Common Blue. Of interest this year was the large number of female Common Blues that had a high ratio of blue/brown colouration.

In addition to the ‘wild’ bits I also have more conventional garden plants including 7 mature buddleia. The buddleia together with Michaelmas Daisies (which flower as the buddleia are ‘fading’) generally attract a lot of the ‘showy’ butterflies but that didn’t really happen this year with a maximum of 12 Peacock, 5 Red Admiral and no Small Tortoiseshell.

I keep tinkering with the wildflower meadow and this autumn I have increased the number and size of ‘the beds’ within the meadow and added Yellow Rattle seeds to the margins of the beds, which will hopefully keep the more aggressive grasses in check. One needs various grass species for the meadow skippers but a balance does have to be struck between nectaring flowers and grasses. I’m gradually getting there (I think!). For my garden with its sandy soil Greater Knapweed, Marjoram, Betony, Field Scabious, Devils-bit Scabious and Birds-foot Trefoil all grow well and prove a magnet for butterflies and bees. In the flower beds there is Red Campion, Honesty, Dames Violet, Musk Mallow, Scabious species and many more. One of the keys is variety and at the last count there were approximately 150 native flowers in the garden with at least 20 different grass species.

I enjoy photographing the garden butterflies but I am hampered somewhat by the windy conditions that prevail in this part of Storrington. Cherry House was built on the foundations of the Black Windmill (the last surviving windmill in Storrington) and the ‘ancients’ knew where to site such things! I also have a problem in that I do not like trampling the meadow (there are paths cut through) and so getting into the right position isn’t always very easy. I have chosen eight photographs. Whenever possible I like to photograph a butterfly nectaring on a flower head. It often provides a nice picture and it also re-enforces the reason why the butterfly is there in the first place. My first choice is a female Holly Blue (it isn’t often I see a Holly Blue with open wings - and in range of my camera!), second is a male Common Blue on a grass stalk, third is Marbled White on Ox-eye Daisy, fourth is a male Small Skipper nectaring on Betony, fifth is a Small Copper nectaring on Marjoram, sixth is male Brimstone nectaring on Purple Loosestrife, seventh is Small Heath nectaring on Hemp Agrimony and eighth is a female Brown Hairstreak also nectaring on Hemp Agrimony.

I am already looking forward to 2016 and am hopeful that it is as good as or better than this year!

(Martin Kalaher, Cherry House, Kithurst Lane, Storrington.)

Sunday 15 November

On Sunday a group from the South Downs Volunteer Ranger Service joined woodland owner Pete and me to continue clearing overgrown hazel coppice from a site near Small Dole, as part of the Fritillaries for the Future project. Spectacular progress has been made in just two visits, opening a clearing of considerably more than half a hectare. With the increased penetration of sunlight, this area will become awash with woodland flowers in the spring, bringing huge benefits to butterflies and other wildlife. Pete and I would like to thank Clare, Clare, Jean, Mary, Mark and Roger for their hard work. (Neil Hulme)

We were so keen to see a Long-tailed Blue in November that we abandoned Shoreham Port for Barcelona. Well, we were going there anyway and hoped we might some butterflies. It turned out to be very sunny and we were told that it was warmer than usually for this time of year. Red Admirals, Speckled Woods, whites, Wall butterflies, Clouded Yellows and blues (probably more than one type) were flying. The blues were difficult to get close to and so although I did get a few pictures of blues with tails, I think they are Lang’s Short-tailed Blue rather than Long-tailed Blues. They’ve got stripes on their bodies and the wing markings are a bit more blobby. (John & Val Heys)

Butterfly Conservation National AGM, Cobham 14 November 2015

Those who came to the Butterfly Conservation AGM at Cobham last Saturday may be excused for thinking that this was a Sussex Branch Special.

First up was Dr Dan Danahar, who was presented with his Outstanding Volunteer Award by BC Chairman Dr Jim Asher. Dan has distinguished himself, not only by his enthusiasm and knowledge, but particularly by his ability to gain the commitment of others to take active steps to further our cause. He has originated many innovative projects for the branch, inspired the Brighton and Hove City Council to work with us to realise these, and energetically brought the branch's work to a wider public audience.

The boot was then on the other foot as Dan presented BC's Chief Executive Dr Martin Warren with the P.E.A. (People. Environment. Achievement) award which had been won by Butterfly Conservation in recognition of their pioneering efforts to conserve Britain's threatened butterflies and moths at a landscape scale. The results have been summarised in the report 'Landscape-scale conservation for butterflies and moths: lessons from the UK' which shows a dramatic recovery of many species after decades of decline. The award, a recycled house brick, had originally been received by Nigel Symington on BC's behalf at an awards presentation in Brighton in early October.

Highlight of the afternoon was Michael Blencowe's presentation, 'Engaging people in recording'. Michael traced the progress of the forthcoming Butterfly Atlas from its early days when there were only about 20 people recording butterflies in Sussex, to the current state where we had 44,868 records in our dataset for last year, 2014, alone. But if you think his presentation was of dry statistics, you couldn't be more wrong. He warned us that his wide ranging talk involved full frontal nudity, and the audience took enthusiastic part in his butterfly identification quiz prompted by some unorthodox images of butterfly names. Witty, entertaining and sheer good fun, experienced Blencowe-watchers rated this perhaps his finest performance to date.

Keynote speech for the day was given by Author and Wildlife Editor of Gardeners' World magazine Kate Bradbury. Kate has recently moved to Sussex, and showed us images of her garden as she moved in. She went on to describe her plans for replanting it with the larval food plants of butterflies that are endemic to her area, together with a range of nectar bearing plants that will provide food for these insects from early Spring to late October. Welcome to Sussex, Kate, and we look forward to seeing the results of your planting in due course.

Thursday 12 November

Two of us were surprised and delighted to see an immaculate Comma settle on an ash twig on the River Ouse bank at the Lewes Railwayland Nature Reserve. We were actually trying to count the house sparrows in the tree as part of a bird survey. (Leonie Mercer)

Tortoiseshell news:

Just to add to the tortoiseshell discussion, here's a California Tortoiseshell, Nymphalis californica, photographed on Vancouver Island by Val George. (Jeremy Tatum, Victoria Natural History Society)

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Watercolour painting made by Tim Freed of one of the bred specimens mentioned below.

Still on the theme of Tortoiseshell hibernation: after reading Neil's 'Scarce Tortoiseshell Update' my memory was jogged back to an image I'd saved off the branch website several years ago. This was of a hibernated 'Small Tortoiseshell' amongst leaf-litter in Stansted Forest photographed by the late Peter Gardner on 17th March 2010. To my mind it looked like a Large Tortoiseshell and I queried this at the time but to no avail. With the current interest in reviewing photos of Tortoiseshells I re-examined the now highly compressed image and decided to send it to Neil for his opinion. At the same time I contacted Lars Andersen, the Danish expert who hosts a superb website www.danske-natur.dk/indexfire.html and is readily familiar with all three species (Small, Large and Scarce Tortoiseshells). Understandably Neil was hesitant at first and wanted to see a larger image but Lars was more confident in confirming my suspicions: Large Tortoiseshell; this record has now been accepted.
Back in 1985 I was fortunate to obtain a batch of Large Tortoiseshell eggs from Ray Stockley in Warminster. At that time Ray was offering livestock of over twenty species of British butterflies. My egg batch cost 5.00 and came with specific instructions on how to rear them. I remember fetching elm from Hampstead Heath near my then digs to keep the voracious caterpillars happy. The eggs hatched in late April and the ensuing adults emerged in mid-June. I recall Ray telling me that contrary to general opinion concerning its rarity, the Large Tortoiseshell could still be found up the Severn valley if one knew where to look! (Tim Freed)

A day to remember in more ways than one. Despite chasing the Long-tailed Blue relentlessly during 2013 and 2015, I never thought I'd see one on Armistice Day! Having been grounded by both weather and work since 1 November, I couldn't resist another hunt for this species when the sun made a now rare appearance. The sheltered hedge line adjacent to Manor Hill near Brighton Racecourse produced the goods, when I flushed a male Long-tailed Blue from the low scrub. I didn't manage to get a decent shot of its upper side, as the wind was quite strong even here. It eventually flew over the road and disappeared into Whitehawk Bottom. The Long-tailed Blue has elevated the 2015 butterfly season from very average to truly memorable. (Neil Hulme)

On November 6 while sitting in the Sand Martin hide at Arundel WWT, I spotted a micromoth on the ledge in front of me. It was later identified as a Bittersweet Smudge (Acrolepia autumnitella). Today I joined the winter work party at Heyshott escarpment organised by the Murray Downland Trust. BC Sussex members Garry Philpott and Paul Day joined local volunteers. We cleared a slope on the west side of the site and while we worked a Spitfire flew over. The work parties are for the benefit of the Duke of Burgundy and Pearl-bordered Fritillary. They are held weekly, usually on a Wednesday morning, and new volunteers are always welcome  please contact me for details. (Colin Knight bit.ly/1NrCB05)

News from late summer:

I took this photo of a Brimstone in early September in Blackstone Sx. (Mark Tulip)

Butterfly Conservation Sussex Branch AGM 2015

This year's AGM was attended by a record breaking 108 people. I'd like to think this big crowd had flocked in to hear my annual review of the butterfly year but have to concede that a lot of the people were here to listen to Matthew Oates. Matthew talked about 'making memories'; 50 years spent chasing butterflies in Sussex and beyond and read extracts from his book 'In Pursuit of Butterflies'. The break gave us a chance to mingle and enjoy some fine home-made cakes (thank you to all our generous bakers). Then on to the legendary raffle. My regular job of insulting the raffle prizes was made more difficult this year due to the high quality on offer (thank you to all those who donated). Then, my talk focused on the 2015 butterfly season and included some impressive footage of a ghost moth lek. My 'Large/ Scarce Tortoisehell Identification Guide' section of the presentation had led me to make an incredible butterfly discovery just a few hours before the talk (see Neil's article below). Thank you to everyone who attended and helped out at this year's event. (Michael Blencowe)

Sunday 8 November 2015

The rains of the past few days had moved on and we had a dry (but grey) day for our November work party. The mild weather continues and there were still dragonflies and wasps on the wing around the reserveThe task this month was to continue the work started by Neil last month and 22 volunteers went to work with bowsaws and loppers. The team were rewarded by the usual fantastic cakes (thank you to Carola and Clare) which energised them to continue working until lunchtime.. Thank you to everyone who came along today; Mark, Theresa, Jim, Colin, Rosie, Andrea, James, Ian, Peter, Helen, Julia, John, Robert, Gary, Malcolm, Bob, Keith and Richard. A special thank you to new volunteers Sean, Nora-Ann, Coco and James. (Michael Blencowe)

Scarce Tortoiseshell

Scarce Tortoiseshell Update: While Michael Blencowe was preparing his talk for the BC Sussex AGM, he was scanning through some older pages on the Branch website. Having swotted up on the differences between Large and Scarce Tortoiseshell, he became deeply suspicious that the butterfly labelled as a Large Tortoiseshell, seen by Stuart Cooper in Beckley Woods (East Sussex), was in fact a Scarce Tortoiseshell! He rang me to ask for a second opinion and as I brought the old image up I nearly fell off my perch! The date .... 12th March 2014! This implies that the butterfly had overwintered in East Sussex and must have arrived in the UK during the summer of 2013. Although the species was undergoing a further phase in its rapid range expansion at this time, spreading northwards and westwards in southern Finland, and westwards through southern Sweden (Manil & Cuvelier, 2014; Fox et al, 2015), this new Sussex record remains well ahead of (observed) incursions into Norway, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands and Belgium, during July 2014. Unless the history of an imported woodpile on Shetland, which contained a sleepy Scarce Tortoiseshell (November 2013), can be accurately determined, this places the Beckley Woods specimen ahead of the post-1953 pack (the sole, previous British record being a 1953, Kent specimen). A great bit of detective work by Mr Blencowe. The cat has been put firmly amongst the pigeons! (Neil Hulme)

At 9:07hrs on Sunday I was just finishing a lengthy stint of marking for my year 7 pupils' most recent science exam and happened to glance up out of my conservatory windows. Much to my surprise there was an energetic Humming-bird Hawk-moth flying around the lavender growing in my garden, in search of a viable flower. It was there for no more than 60 seconds before it flew off. The ambient temperature was 14.1 degrees Celsius. (Dan Danahar)

News for Saturday 31 October:

Just a late sighting from 31st October recorded by my father, Roy Symonds in Keynor Lane, Sidlesham (SZ852977) of a single Small White. (Richard Symonds)

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Humming-bird Hawk-moth seen flying in the Co-Op store in Polegate, East Sussex. at 11.50am. (Peter Farrant)

Had a very brief glimpse of a Red Admiral flying around the ivy outside the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre this, very gloomy, afternoon. (Bob Foreman)

Monday 2 November 2015

On a short walk in warm sunshine at lunchtime from my wildlife plot to Herstmonceux Church, I saw one each of Peacock and Comma (both at my plot), five Speckled Woods (along the sunny wood-edge at the end of Church Road), one Small White (in the old farmyard), three Red Admirals (on ivy flowers on the churchyard wall) and a female Small Copper (also on ivy flowers by one of the barns nearest the church). Also on the churchyard wall ivy flowers, eleven species of hoverfly seen/photo'd in the previous 24 hours. (Mike Mullis)

Crawley Down: After a lean spell, finally 1 Red Admiral nectaring on buddleia in the afternoon sunshine. (Jonathan Ruff)

Sunday 1 November 2015

On Sunday morning I received a number of messages that Mark Colvin had found a male Long-tailed Blue at Brighton Racecourse, which was being enjoyed by a growing number of visitors, some of who had travelled a long distance. This was the first county record for November, but not for the UK; the national record being held by a 20 November 1961 sighting in Devon (per Richard Fox, BC). A second sighting by Katrina Watson subsequently proved to be the same individual, based on photographic comparisons. With a busy domestic schedule I was too short of time to make it over to the racecourse, so had to make do with a trip to my nearest site at Lancing Station (scruffy area adjacent to north side car park). Time was running short and in the cool, foggy conditions I was giving up hope. While discussing the Brighton sightings on the 'phone with Mark, the sun briefly forced its way through, and at 1.35 pm a small patch of bright lilac-blue magically appeared on the bramble in front of me! After taking a few shots the insect warmed up and disappeared northwards over the concrete wall into Sompting Road. I thought that was it, but as I walked out onto Sompting Road I saw it flying E - W and then land at the near end of a concrete driveway. It sat here and sunbathed for a few minutes, before heading up over the roof and disappearing. I only had a further 5 minutes available, so never saw it again. (Neil Hulme)

Many eyes were focused on Brighton Racecourse today, looking for the first Long-tailed Blues ever to be recorded in November in the UK. One was spotted roosting on Bramble by Mark Colvin at 11.20 and another by Katrina at 12.50. Both were fresh males and close inspection of the images later in the evening established that they were the same butterfly.
The weather was sunny with light winds and the temperature reached approximately 18C in this location, despite many other places further inland being shrouded in fog all day.
Other sightings were 6 Red Admiral, 1 Comma, a Painted Lady and 3 Silver Y moths. (Vince Massimo)

Today I was pleased to join many other Long-tailed Blue hunters at Whitehawk Hill, Brighton. On the way I called in at the Lancing station site and met Nick from Petersfield who was also in the hunt. He spotted an Angle Shades moth. On arrival at the Brighton site we joined Mark Colvin who had just found a male Long-tailed Blue roosting within brambles. As the hunters arrived, the crowd grew large and everyone was treated to a viewing and photos. As the temperature rose, the butterfly grew restless and started flying from perch to perch, pursued by sharp eyed hunters. Eventually it flew over the bushes and was lost. Later Katrina Watson had another sighting of a male flying just above the path, on which it settled several times. The attached photo shows the crowd just after the butterfly flew into the allotments. There is doubt about whether these two sightings are the same individual or not. A Small Copper was spotted by James, and a Comma appeared. Red Admirals flew around the site. On the way home I checked the Southwick site and found a Light Brown Apple Moth. Finally at Lancing station I found the Angle Shades moth in exactly the same position as this morning plus two more within two metres of the first. (Colin Knight www.seapic.com )

Earlier Sightings

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