Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Silver-washed Fritillary Species Report for 2011

The largest, the most majestic, and one of the last butterflies of the season to emerge in Rother, the Silver-washed Fritillary is a magnificent butterfly. As a herald of high summer this peerless butterfly adorns our woodlands with its grace and beauty. Of the many natural wonders of this land, the mating flight of a pair of Silver-washed Fritillaries as they progress along a woodland ride must surely rate with the best.

In my experience Silver-washed Fritillaries tend to emerge after the new generation of Comma butterflies are out, and it can be difficult at first to distinguish between them, especially at a distance. However Silver-washed Fritillaries have a patrolling aspect to their flight, so I have found that by staying put and waiting awhile, the butterfly would often pass by me again.

Last year I was also fortunate enough to observe a gravid female, laying her eggs in the moss at the base of a mighty oak tree.

I also discovered that Silver-washed Fritillaries are not as adverse to shady parts of the wood as I had previously believed. On walking through quite dense woodland I was often surprised to see Silver-washed Fritillaries where one would expect to see Speckled Wood or White Admiral butterflies.

It was also encouraging to find plenty of early dog violets and common dog violets in the Forestry Commission woods I visit frequently. If there were actually more in flower in 2010 than 2009, it is hard to say. I have been told that a hard winter and a late spring tends to compress everything into a few weeks, so there are in fact no more, it’s just the usual amount crammed into a shorter time scale making it appear so.

Silver-washed Fritillary Data Summary

First sighting
19th June
29th June
Last sighting
31st August
29th August
No of days
No of individuals
No of sites
No of recorders

I was surprised to discover that the Silver-washed Fritillary flight season has averaged 67 days over the two year period, which is well over two months, as the season seems so short. Sad winter hours seem long, joyous summer hours fly as swiftly as an arrow. So I have set myself a challenge this year, to record Silver-washed Fritillaries in as many public access locations in Rother as I possibly can. I am determined to find a larval stage too.

I hope by reading this you are encouraged to go out yourself and look for these butterflies in woodland. Few things in life are all they are hyped-up to be, but seeing Silver-washed Fritillaries fly and glide along a woodland ride in high summer, the very best of my praise can hardly do them justice.


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