Monday, 4 June 2012

Beckley Woods (Skipper Search)

Following on from our Skipper Event in Barnes Wood last weekend, we assembled at the entrance of Beckley Woods for an informal Spring Skipper survey (Sat 2nd June).

The weather was not particular conducive to a butterfly walk, but we remained hopeful and set off nevertheless.

Our first discovery was this Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera). The distribution map (NBN Gateway) would suggest that this plant is quite rare in East Sussex. However I would suspect there are actually more records, and more importantly, more plants. Still, not something you see everyday.

Ophrys apifera distribution Map NBN Gateway (records 1900-2011)

It was also pleasing to see what could surely be described as an ‘outbreak’ of Common Spotted-orchids. (Dactylorhiza fuchsia). They were abundant along the rides we walked.

The first butterfly we saw was this fellow, a Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus). This little, unassuming butterfly is often overlooked. It is remarkably well camouflaged and so perhaps not noticed among its more illustrious cousins. I have seen quite a few this season, so perhaps they are recovering a little, however like so many of our butterflies the 10 year population trend is negative (-28%).
(Photo Heather Martin 04/06/2012)

A considerable amount of effort has gone in to improving Beckley Wood. The rides have been widened and there has been a lot of coppicing, clear-felling, bracken clearing and replanting.

So we were pleased to see a Speckled Wood Butterfly (Pararge aegeria) along the ride.  

(Photo Heather Martin 04/06/2012)
Here we also saw this mass of tiny spiders in a cluster. As I approached with the camera they began to disperse. Interestingly, a mother spider will often sacrifice herself as food for her offspring. To prevent interbreeding the male siblings will mature much faster and be ready to breed long before their sisters.

Well, if little spiders do not fill your heart with joy then how about this cherry-red beetle? We have called this one as (Chrysomela populi). I tend to think of beetles as ground-dwelling, cumbersome and often a little clumsy (kettle/pot), but this one had all the agility of a free climber.
(Photo Heather Martin 04/06/2012)

We saw many moths. This one is Angle shades (Phlogophora meticulosa).
(Photo Heather Martin 04/06/2012)

We also had a couple of skipper false alarms with both a Silver Y moth (Autographa gamma) and Mother Shipton moth (Callistege mi), both of which can do a very good grizzled skipper impression.

Silver Y Moth at UK Moths

Mother Shipton Moth at UK Moths

The pick of the moths though was this one; Arched Marble (Olethreutes arcuella) first spotted by Dave Monk. This is quite a rare moth (listed as Nb; Nationally notable).

(Photo Heather Martin 04/06/2012)
Distribution map Olethreutes arcuella : (UK-Moths; NBN Gateway)

In places, with its ultra-wide rides and copious amounts of bare ground, the Beckley Wood habitat just screams dingy and grizzled skippers to me. So our patience was eventually rewarded when Dave Monk saw a Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus malvae). The day itself seemed to improve too, with the occasional out break of sunshine. Upon returning to our starting point we saw another couple of Grizzled Skippers nectaring on Bugle (Ajuga reptans).

Mission Accomplished!

Please also see Stuart Cooper's Beckley Woods Sightings here

And more on Butterfly Recording in Sussex; Clare Blencowe's Blog

My thanks to Dave Monk, Martyn Parslow, Stuart Cooper, Heather Martin and Rod Taylor.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like you had a good day despite the weather!