Nationwide cold frosts and rubbish weather meant that any chances of encountering hibernators have been at a premium. This worsened with the arrival of some seriously heavy snow which in London lay settled for three weeks!!! Between us we managed zilch, apart from Seth finding a single BROWN HAIRSTREAK EGG on Ashtead Common on 31st. Hmmm, a rather slow start to 'The Blitz'...
Total cash expenditure - £5.40 return train ticket Raynes Park to Ashtead
Counties visited - Surrey
The wintry weather continued into February, although the snows finally disappeared. A cold and sometimes wet month throughout, with just two days of weak sunshine. A handful of hibernators were recorded, but not by us. We saw absolutely diddley squat all month. Surely things will improve soon...please?
Total cash expenditure - zero!
Counties visited - Surrey
Warm weather mid-month led to a veritable flurry of sightings. Sam began to visit Epsom Common on a regular basis and skored massively with two male BRIMSTONES on 15th followed by a COMMA on 16th (photographed) and Orange Underwings, then a SMALL TORTOISESHELL on 17th...nice going! Unfortunately Seth missed all of the action due to being stuck at work throughout. In a fit of revenge (heck, it didn't take long for the rivalry factor to kick in, did it?) Seth managed a quick foray onto Epsom Common on the 18th and was justly rewarded with his first PURPLE HAIRSTREAK EGG which he took home to grow on. Still no adults yet though. Our first opportunity to visit the Common together was on 21st, a beautiful day where we saw 3 Brimstones, 6 Commas, a PEACOCK and found another 4 Purple Hairstreak eggs plus an Orange Ladybird. The Purple Hairstreak egg brought home on 18th hatched out indoors on the evening of 24th, a mad scramble to obtain fresh oak buds ensued!!! Will "Ronnie" survive??? On 28th we found and retained an Emperor Moth cocoon and Seth had a Comma on his nose! A second Peacock also managed to elude the camera. Sam finally finds herself a 7-spot Ladybird for the year - a week after Seth had one on the front door. We realise that Purple Hairstreak eggs are pretty easy to find now, 7 in a few minutes just 60 metres from our house! Bought Adrian Riley's 'British & Irish Butterflies...' at the month's end. Dammit, suddenly there are yet more subspecies to track down, lol!Cooler weather and cold nights in the closing week of March resulted in no additional sightings.
STOP-PRESS.....Sam's employers, rather thrillingly, have agreed to gift her a £500 camera and macro lens so watch the pages for improved pics next month!!
Total cash expenditure - zero!
Counties visited - Surrey
On a sad note, wee Ronnie passed away on the morning of the 4th. Much meeping and mooping ensued.
But - on a somewhat happier note - later that same day Seth bought a car for £200 which, after some attention, will be properly roadworthy! We'll be ready to rumble in time for the Opening Act of the 2010 Butterfly Season
Warm weather the following week allowed several sightings of Brimstone, Comma, Peacock and (finally for Seth!) a few Small Tortoiseshells. We both find Harlequin Ladybirds, Sam has Pine Ladybird on the bus (!) and Seth has Kidney-spot Ladybird on Epsom Common. A Big Day on Epsom Common was booked in for the 11th, our only full day together this week. We did nearly eight hours and notched up our first RED ADMIRAL along with 16 Peacocks, 3 Commas, 8 Orange Underwings, 24-spot, 10-spot, 7-spot, Orange, Pine and Kidney-spot Ladybirds but bizzarely NO Brimstones at all. On the evening of 15th we dropped down to Cornwall for business in Truro. Quick coupla hours in The Heligan Gardens produced just two Peacocks. The drive back added 3 ORANGE-TIPS to Sam's year, two days after Seth's sighting of a male in Surrey. Also a few Brimstones noted including our first female of the year. Whilst delivering around the Brighton area on 18th, Seth spies his first SMALL WHITE of the year, pulling into the lead once more! On 20th we independently find our first SPECKLED WOODS of the year, Seth in Ruislip and Sami on Epsom Common. Seth encountered a HOLLY BLUE flitting around Rhododendron bushes whilst walking back from work on 21st, putting him well in the lead!Sightings of Orange-tips and Peacocks are now a daily occurence whilst Seth is seeing Small Whites daily on his travels around the London area. On 22nd, a half-day effort by Seth on Epsom Common resulted in the first LARGE WHITE of the Blitz and the first "in the wild" PURPLE HAIRSTREAK larva. 23rd was another full day on Epsom Common where we had great fun and confusion photographing GREEN-VEINED WHITES plus good pics of Orange-tips and a female Brimstone at long last! Sam started the ball rolling regards Odonata - a nice, close Large Red Damselfly in grasses. Sweet! We had a fantastic BC Walk across Headley Warren on 28th seeing 8+ GRIZZLED SKIPPERS 5+ DINGY SKIPPERS, 20+ GREEN HAIRSTREAKS and a single SMALL COPPER alongside plenty of Brimstones, a Red Admiral, Speckled Wood, Peacocks, Orange-tips and a Small Tortoiseshell ...sweet!!!
Total cash expenditure - £2 petrol to Headley Warren (Cornwall petrol fare was reimbursed by Courts)
Counties visited - Surrey, Cornwall & Somerset.
After a week of cold weather we managed to visit Bentley Woods on 9th. Superb fun with several rather docile PEARL-BORDERED FRITILLARIES at point blank range in the cool, cloudy condition - Sami's second lifer of the year so far. Sam finally catches up with a SMALL WHITE on 12th whilst on Epsom Common. Warmish afternoons for the next week resulted in lots of 'whites' being noted from Seth's delivery truck. Sam nailed several other regular species on Epsom Common. A trip to Noar Hill on 16th clinched a single DUKE OF BURGUNDY plus a couple more Dingy Skippers but the drizzle and low temperatures thwarted our attempt to see anything else, although a Common Groundhopper was also added to the Blitzlist.
Seth nipped over to Howell Hill on 16th and bagged a couple of male SMALL BLUES and a Cream-spotted Ladybird. Sam, in a fit of pique, caught the train to Westhumble on 18th and joined a Surrey BC Walk recording 9 species in total including her first Holly Blue of the year and the first SMALL HEATH for the BlitzList. On the 20th we visited Bookham Common for Nightingale and found our first Speckled Bush-cricket (nymph!) of the year. A heatwave hit us on 21st peaking at 25 degrees in London. Seth got sunburnt driving the work's truck, Sam got sunburnt at Howell Hill where she had her first Small Blues of the year and the only 22-spot Ladybird so far. On 23rd we tagged along on another Surrey BC Walk, this time to Denbies Hillside near Ranmore. We added Large White (Sam) and Small Heath (Seth) and, for both of us, COMMON BLUE and ADONIS BLUE, the latter in their hundreds. After the walk we drove to a secret site in the south of Surrey where we saw at least 20 WOOD WHITES, Sam's third lifer of the year! We ended the day both rather badly sunburnt... The heatwave soared to thirty degrees but soon waned and the month ended dull but mild. Several Large Red Damselflies in the garden/kitchen area may have emerged from our garden pond.
We headed off on our first Scottish trip of the year in the early hours of 2nd and returned on the evening of the 4th. We were wholly successful locating many CHEQUERED SKIPPERS and SCOTTISH GREEN-VEINED WHITES but we were just a touch too early for Northern Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries. On 6th Seth twitched a Red-backed Shrike in Richmond Park, Surrey and found several stridulating Common Green Grasshoppers. On 9th we visited a site near Keyhaven and found GLANVILLE FRITILLARY, plus PAINTED LADY, Blue-tailed Damselfly, Black-tailed Skimmer, Red-eyed Damselfly and ovipositing Cream-spot Tigers. Moving up to Bentley Wood we had instant success with c40 SMALL PEARL-BORDERED FRITILLARY, a ragged PBF, a tatty Duke of Burgundy, LARGE SKIPPERS, 3 Argent & Sable, Speckled and Dark Bush-crickets and a Grizzled Skipper. Finally on 9th we headed up to Laleham in Middlesex and had a few Banded Demoiselles and Common Blue Damselflies. A good day! On 12th I found 3 argus SILVER-STUDDED BLUES and a few Bryony Ladybirds too at Fairmile Heath in Surrey. On 13th we successfully found a dozen or so HEATH FRITILLARIES at Blean Wood in Kent before returning to Fairmile for Sam to catch up with the blue and ladybird. On 15th we headed into Dorset and Hod Hill. At the summit we found 7 MARSH FRITILLARIES alongside 10+ MEADOW BROWNS and a stunning Golden-ringed Dragonfly too! On 17th Seth dropped into Esher Common hunting dragonflies, finding Brilliant Emerald and Emperor Dragonfly as year ticks amongst others. On 20th we combinedforces with our local birdclub and visited Hickling Broad in Norfolk. Cold, grey weather allowed just 2 SWALLOWTAILS to be seen plus Hairy Dragonflies with Variable Damselflies. We loitered overnight and tried Strumpshaw Fen in the morning finding an adult male specimen of ADRIAN RILEY with Lady Josie and Bill the Dog, but no Swallowtails. We then headed inland, where conditions soon improved and 2 hours at Brampton Wood resulted in 2 RINGLETS and at least a dozen BLACK HAIRSTREAKS, a lifer for both of us!!! On 28th we headed to Somerset and had 12 or so LARGE BLUES at Collard Hill plus many MARBLED WHITES before tackling Heddon's Mouth in Devon where we skored hugely with SILVER-WASHED FRITILLARY, a single HIGH BROWN FRITILLARY, a SMALL SKIPPER and the first hutchinsoni COMMA of our year. Heading northwards we ended up in Shropshire. On 29th we visited Prees Heath and had a wonderful time with 100+ masseyi SILVER-STUDDED BLUES before hitting the Great Orme in Wales where within ten minutes we'd encountered thyone GRAYLING, DARK GREEN FRITILLARIES and a colony of caernensis SILVER-STUDDED BLUES. Stunning! We tried Cors Goch for Large Heath but only managed Common Hawker and Sam's first Emperor Dragonfly of the year. Pity.
On 1st Sam finds some 20 WHITE ADMIRALS on Epsom Common including a pair imbibing juices from a dead bird! Seth was at work so still needs the species. Sam is in the lead for the first time in quite a while...An evening jaunt to Thursley Common produced the hoped for Nightjars as well as Large Red Damselfly, Small Red Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly and Black Darter. A daytrip to Portland, Dorset on 5th added cretaceus SILVER-STUDDED BLUE and Field Grasshopper to the Blitz List. On 6th Seth hit Jubilee Wood, Surrey finding PURPLE HAIRSTREAKS in the elms and a lone GATEKEEPER. Nearby, on Epsom Common, he found his first White Admiral of the year. On 9th Sam visited Epsom Common and found her first Gatekeeper of the Blitz and saw a probable obliterae White Admiral. We set off north for a major bash on 12th, hitting Arneside Knott in Cumbria first. Here we quickly added High Brown Fritillaries alongside numerous semele GRAYLINGS, two salmacis NORTHERN BROWN ARGUS before heading off to nearby Meathopp Moss where, amongst horseflies, we managed fifteen davus LARGE HEATHS plus Oak Eggars and Manchester Treble-bars. On 13th we awoke on the Ardnamurchan Peninsular where we quickly noted splendida MEADOW BROWNS before dropping into Ariundle Oakwoods. Here we fared well with many scotica DARK GREEN FRITILLARIES, insularum SPBFs and at least two Northern Emeralds. Next was Ardnamurchan Point where we found several spectacular atlantica GRAYLINGS on the rocks and a scotica LARGE HEATH at nearby Kilchoan. On 14th we boarded the ferry to Rhum in search of the endemic rhoumensis Small Heath. Somehow we managed to miss our stop and ended up on a windswept, wet Canna. No Small Heaths!!! On 15th we were in Speyside, still wet and cloudy. Odonata interest was in the form of three Northern Damselfly colonies and a Downy Emerald. That afternoon the clouds parted and we managed to find artaxerxes NORTHERN BROWN ARGUS near Grantown-on-Spey. Our last day, the 16th, was spent at Ben Lawers where we patiently awaited a break in the clouds. No sign of Mountain Ringlets at all. Bugger, gonna have to come back again. We tried Fallin for polydama Large Heath but failed there too. After a memorable night near Dumfries (for all of the wrong reasons) we headed south and were on Bookham Common by mid-afternoon. Things perked up somewhat with a PURPLE EMPEROR in the Master Oak, 100+ Silver-washed Fritillaries including a fine valesina SILVER-WASHED FRITILLARY, Sam's first 60 or so Purple Hairstreaks of the Blitz, a Southern Hawker, another obliterae White Admiral and all round general happiness again! On 20th we set off for good ol' Magdalen Hill Down and notched up 19 species including the first ESSEX SKIPPER and CHALKHILL BLUES of the year. On the way back we wandered a stetch of river near Wrecclesham finding Beautiful Demoiselles alongside Bandeds, a Golden-ringed Dragonfly and some jumbo Chub! On 21st we twitched Southern Emerald Damselflies at Cliffe RSPB in Kent. We couldn't see them but did find fair numbers of Scarce Emerald Damselflies in the ditches plus a couple of Small Red-eyed Damselflies and lots of Ruddy Darters, many in cop. On 28th we headed back into Scotland for a grudge match with missing species. Kilconnell Flow had Common Darter amongst Black Darters. Sam spied two polydama LARGE HEATHS. Seth missed them both. Castlehill Point saw us tick-and-run scota GRAYLINGS on the rocks and we saw our first caeruleopunctata Small Copper of the year. We missed Large Heath at Knowetop Lochs and at Fallin too. An afternoon clambering over and across Ben Lawers added many delightful sightings and resulted in sunburnt shoulders, but despite ideal conditions we failed to see Mountain Ringlets. Guess they emerged early and are over by now. Buggerit buggerit buggerit...
On the 3rd, after numerous attempts, Jubilee Woods finally came up trumps with a WHITE-LETTER HAIRSTREAK in thistles. Seth went solo, later returning with Sam but without any success. Is The Gibster back in the lead again??? Nearby Fairmile Heath had a Brown Hawker over the car park. We joined a BC Walk on 4th, visiting Reigate and Colley Hills in search of Chalkhill Blues and Silver-spotted Skippers. We saw little in wet, dull conditions but did manage two SILVER-SPOTTED SKIPPERS followed by another at Box Hill a couple of hours later. Lovely! Work, rain and drunken parties got in the way of butterflying until mid-month. On 16th Seth had a pair of probable Brown Hairstreaks twirling across a country lane in Sussex, followed by an almost definite Brown Hairstreak near Cranleigh on 18th (both seen from a moving vehicle.) Also on 18th, Seth visited a secret Surrey quarry and enjoyed several 2nd generation Wood Whites amongst commoner species. On 23rd we headed north for the last time this year. Arneside Knott failed to give up its Scotch Argus population so we continues into Speyside where, on 24th, we skored with 97 aethiops SCOTCH ARGUS and a Northern Brown Argus too. Despite much trying on 24th and 25th we failed to locate oblita Speckled Wood or caledonia Scotch Argus. We both feel that a return to Scotland is due in summer 2011...except maybe this time we'd be together as Mr and Mrs Gibster...!
On 1st we blitzed down to Hampshire for BROWN HAIRSTREAKS, finding 8 females at Shipton Bellinger followed by 2 females and a male nectaring at Noar Hill - lifers for Sami and Seth's first male. News of a female Long-tailed Blue on Portland had Seth scurrying southwards on an ultimately unsuccessful twitch. Wall Lizards and an Adder were scant consolation. On 16th Sam found a freshly dead 2nd generation White Admiral in Epsom! On 17th we headed across to St Marys, Isles of Scilly where Speckled Wood insula proved ridiculously commonplace. Bryher on 19th added Small Copper ab obsoleta but absolutely no sign of the endemic race of Meadow Brown. We still need Clouded Yellow too...they've been very thin on the ground thus far this year.
After a run of wet, miserable days we managed a couple of Migrant Hawkers on 5th at Dungeness ARC Pits...in the rain! The morning of 7th was lovely so we headed to the coast in search of Clouded Yellows. Cuckmere Haven and Beachy Head gave us a handful of Small Coppers, Meadow Browns, Red Admirals and a Speckled Wood but no Clouded Yellows. Yet. Several are reported on UKButterflies from Bournemouth but we can't get away to see them before the weather worsens. Boo! On 17th Sam spies a Red Admiral in Surbiton.
Very occasional sightings of Red Admirals on warmer afternoons, but - let's face it - the season is over and our race has been run. It was fun, condensed down we've managed ALL but two of the British species in a three month period whilst both holding down full-time jobs. Not bad for a first attempt!