Ron’s wildlife notes – 5 October 2020
Seeing a Red Admiral butterfly on the village green today (5th October), and a Peacock in the garden recently, prompted a check of the Big Butterfly Count results. Many butterflies were down in numbers nationally this year although the reason may be down to the weather. Numbers seemed to be down in the garden but still a good variety.
My 15-minute Big Butterfly Count in the garden on 21 July produced eight species: Large White, Small White, Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood, Comma, Red Admiral, Peacock, and the migratory Silver-Y moth. Other species in the garden this year have been Holly Blue, Common Blue, Small Tortoiseshell, Green-veined White, Painted Lady, Meadow Brown, Small Skipper and Brimstone.
15 minutes on the village green on 18 July produced seven species: Silver-washed Fritillary, Meadow Brown, Large Skipper, Red Admiral, Gatekeeper, Peacock and Large White. Holly Blue has been common in the sheltered eastern end that has holly in the hedges. It was not until last year that I first saw the pretty little Small Copper butterfly in early summer on the path adjacent the western hedge of the village green. This year it appeared again in the same place in early summer and last month (September) I counted five on the north side of the village green. The Big Butterfly Count suggested a 43% increase in Holly Blue and Small Copper and so this reflected the national trend. In recent years there has been a good colony of the Marbled White butterfly on the village green but last year and again this year, hay cutting at their emergence time meant that few were seen and none this year. Nationally, the Marbled White has had a 39% decline this year.
Moths have been good with at least 160 species in the moth trap over the year. Spectacular sights have been up to six large orange and brown male Oak Eggar Moths flying fast and furious around the house each afternoon at the end of July, even in the rain, and presumably there was a female nearby. Hawk moths this year in the garden have been Privet, Elephant and Small Elephant, Poplar and less commonly the Eyed and Pine.
Other insects have been too numerous to discuss except to say that the bee hotels have been busy with nesting mason and leaf-cutter bees along with their parasitic wasps and woodpecker attacks.
Turning to other species in the garden, frogs have been down to single figures in the pond, toads have occurred from time to time and the wildlife tins have sheltered slow-worms, grass snakes, bank and field voles, field mice, and both common and pygmy shrews. Elsewhere, badgers and foxes have been less frequently seen this year although brown hares are often seen on the arable fields.
Of the birds, the village green has been a good place to watch kestrels, red kites and buzzards. A barn owl has been reported from time to time and we hear tawny owls calling. Sparrow-hawks occur across the village.