Newsletters - "On The Spot"
On the spot - Spring 2002
The newsletter of the Glasgow and South-West Scotland Branch of the British Butterfly Conservation Society
Dedicated to saving wild butterflies, moths and their habitats
THE BRITISH BUTTERFLY CONSERVATION SOCIETY LTD.
REGISTERED OFFICE: BUTTERFLY CONSERVATION, MANOR YARD, EAST LULWORTH, WAREHAM, BH20 5QP
REGISTERED IN ENGLAND No. 2206468, REGISTERED CHARITY No. 254937
From the Editors..
This was the first season of field work looking at those species of Butterflies and Moths included in the RAP, however the restrictions due to the Foot and Mouth disease outbreak caused problems at the start of the season and the first Branch outing was cancelled. The three remaining outings 2 attracted rain and few butterflies, the remaining trip was to Port Patrick and Bennane Head, which did produce some good sightings for those who attended. The long term effects of F&M for Lepidoptera remain to be seen.
Anne has written about our visits to Ardnamurchan and Nothumberland. On both occasions we stayed in the caravan so I did not need to take a moth trap with me as caravan sites provide moth traps, these tend to double as toilet or washing facilities! At Ardnamurchan I only saw half a dozen species, it was early in the year, but in large numbers. One morning there were 30 plus Brown Silver-line moths in the trap.. er sorry, dish washing room.
I like to photograph both moths and butterflies and when we saw a valesina form of the Silver Washed Fritillary on Lindesfarne, and hence about 200 miles further north than it should be, I was very keen to get a photo. I managed to get close enough to photograph the butterfly but I had to crouch down because of the angle the butterfly was feeding at on a thistle flower and as I crouched down I suddenly realised that in my excitement I had failed to observe that it was not an isolated thistle but was one of a fair sized patch of thistles and I had just crouched down on top on a reasonably large specimen. This caused my to stand up with some alacrity, which in turn startled the butterfly and it shot off at some speed never to be seen again. The moral of the story is always keep an eye out for sharp pointy things when trying to photograph small objects close to the ground.
Keith Futter's article on moths in his garden shows that you do not need any fancy equipment to see a large number of moth species fairly easily. Once you see a few live moths it quickly becomes evident that they are far from being dull and brown. In fact one of the problems with moth identification is that to colour of live specimens is so much brighter and more vibrant than the images in the guide books that you often think 'it can't be that the colour is all wrong'.
Kieth has also written about his search for the Small Blue in the region, so far unsuccessfully but there is always next year, and the Glen at West Kilbride where the Branch may be able to give advice and assistance in improving the area for Butterflies.
The committee has drawn up a provisional list of events for next summer, there are quite a lot in June, trying to make up for the lost time this year, and quite a few of the RAP species are on the wing around that time. If you are interested in any of the events planned then contact one of the committee members to check for latest details. The finalised list will be in the next On The Spot out in spring 2002.
I hope to see as many of you as possible at our AGM and the talk by Jim Asher after the meeting, and/or the outing to the Royal Museum of Scotland on 2nd December.
I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of the Branch Committee and Butterfly Conservation, to thank you for your support and hope you will continue to support the Branch in carrying out the aims of Butterfly Conservation. If you have any suggestions as to places to visit, any items for the newsletter, or anything else you would like to suggest then please contact either Anne, myself or any of the committee we would be delighted to hear from you.
David & Anne Welham
From the Chair Lady
Dear Branch Member,
Our Four summer expeditions (only the first was cancelled due to Foot and Mouth) are now past. I want to register a tiny note of regret that so few members turned up for them. If there are places you would like to go especially or a species you would like to see, please do phone me on 07860 556230 as we are now planning our four '2002' Summer outings.
Meanwhile you are very warmly invited to either or both of our first two winter meetings. The first (October 28th at 2.30pm at Kelvingrove) is our Annual General Meeting after which Jim Asher will talk on the Butterflies for the Millennium Atlas. (Jim is one of the Authors).
Sunday December 2nd is the day for visiting the Lepidoptera Collection at The Royal Museum of Scotland, Chambers St. Edinburgh, meet in the vestibule at 2.30pm or, if you want to join us for lunch in the Royal Overseas League, 100 Princes St. please send a cheque for £15 to John Rostron, our Treasurer and contact me to book your place on 07860 556230.THIS MUST BE DONE BY TUESDAY 20th NOVEMBER.
We do look forward to seeing you at one of the above and to receiving your records of butterflies and moths for the past season.
Best Wishes from Pru Williams
Garden Moths - the first sixty
We have a small garden (10m x 10m0 behind our house in Dumbarton. It is a typical small garden comprising mostly lawn, with a patio and some flower and shrub borders. Several Buddleias have been planted, together with other plants such as Marjoram, lavender and some wild flowers, to attract butterflies. We also have the dreaded Leylandii hedge but we restrict its height and it provides good shelter from the wind.
Our Buddleia globosa has been particularly floriferous this year. this differs from the typical butterfly bush (B. daviddi) in that it has orange flowers shaped lie balls. We noticed that it was attracting a large number of moths in the evening, lured to the bush by the heavy honey scent.
Having never paid much attention to the moths in our garden we decided to catch a few and try to identify them. This involved standing by the Buddleia bush with a net and catching anything that flew by. The moths were caught at dusk which meant a vigil of about an hour each night between 10.30pm - 11.30pm. An outdoor security light provided illumination and this also attracted some moths to the garden.
The large variety of moths that we were catching was very surprising. A Peach Blossom Moth really got our interest going as we never realised such beautiful moths visited the garden. Our survey has become addictive as you just do not know what you might catch next.
The list of our first sixty species recorded in the garden highlights the variety of moths which are likely to be found in many Glasgow gardens. It is interesting to note that there are about sixty different species of butterfly in Britain and it would involve a considerable amount of travel to see them. Yet in a typical back garden it has been possible to find sixty different moths without very much effort.
Most of the moths captured were fairly easily identified by using Skinner (1984) and Goater (1986) but we also found Chinery (1997), Reichholf-Riehm (1991) and Novak (1987) useful. Once identified the moths were released back into the garden.
For a few days we tried using the sugaring method. A concoction of treacle, syrup and wine was applied to a fence post, but this was very ineffective, attracting only one specimen, A Dark Arches Moth. It did however attract several Long-tailed Field Mice and subsequently the cats in the neighbourhood so we would not recommend using the sugaring method in a garden.
Identification Guides used
Chinery, M. (1997) Insects of Britain & Western Europe, Collins.
Goater, B. (1986) British Pyralid Moths. Harley Books.
Reichholf-Reihm, H. (1991) Field Guide to the Butterflies and Moths of Britain and Europe, Crowood.
Skinner, B. (1984) Colour Identification Guide to the Moths of the British Isles, Viking.
Novak I 1987 A Field Guide to Butterflies & Moths, Octopus
List of Moths found in Dumbarton garden (NS 386752)
|Species||Date first captured||Attractant|
|1.||(Pyralid Moth)||Eudonia truncicolella||10/6/1||light|
|2.||Angle Shades||Phlogophora meticulosa||13/6/1||Buddleia globosa|
|3.||Silver-ground Carpet||Xanthorhoe montanata||28/6/1||B. globosa|
|4.||Large Yellow Underwing||Noctua pronuba||28/6/1||B. glohosa|
|5.||Heart and Dart||Agrotis exclamations||28/6/1||B. globosa|
|6.||Common Wave||Cabera exanthemata||29/6/1||B. globosa|
|7.||Beautiful Golden Y||Autographa pulchrina||29/6/1||B. globosa|
|8.||Garden Pebble||Evergestis forficalis||29/7/1||B. globosa|
|9.||Peach Blossom||Thyatira batis||30/6/1||B. globosa|
|10.||Shark||Cucullia umbratica||30/6/1||B. globosa|
|11.||Silver Y||Autographa gamma||30/6/1||lavender|
|12.||Ghost Swift||Hepialus humuli||30/6/1||lawn|
|13.||Flame Shoulder||Ochropleura plecta||30/6/1||B. globosa|
|14.||Map-winged Swift||Hepialus fusconebulosa||01/7/1||B. globosa|
|15.||Marbled Minor||Oigia strigilis||01/7/1||B. globosa|
|16.||Turnip Moth||Agrotis segetum||01/7/1||B. globosa|
|17.||Garden Carpet||Xanthorhoe fluctuata||01/7/1||B. globosa|
|18.||Swallow-tailed Moth||Ourapteryx sambucaria||02/7/1||light|
|19.||Dusky Brocade||Apamea remissa||03/7/1||B. globosa|
|20.||Double Square Spot||Xestia triangulum||04/7/1||B. globosa|
|21.||Green Pug||Chloroclystis rectangulata||05/7/1||light|
|22.||Mottled Beauty||Aids repandata||05/7/1||light|
|23.||Dark Arches||Apamea monoglypha||06/7/1||Sugaring|
|24.||Small Magpie||Eurrhypara hortulata||07/7/1||light|
|25.||The Clay||Mythimna ferrago||07/7/1||B.globosa|
|26.||Flame Carpet||Xanthorhoe designata||09/7/1||light|
|27.||Clouded-bordered Brindle||Apamea crenata||11/7/1||B globosa|
|28.||Barred Straw||Eulithis pyraliata||13/7/1||B.globosa|
|29.||Brimstone Moth||Opisthograptis luteolata||13/7/1||B.globosa|
|30.||Burnished Brass||Diachrysia chrysitis||14/7/1||B.globosa|
|31.||The Snout||Hypena proboscidalis||14/7/1||light|
|32.||Gold Spangle||Autographa bractea||16/7/1||B globosa|
|33.||Wormwood Pug||Eupithecia absinthiata||16/7/1||light|
|34.||Large White Plume Moth ||Pterophorus pentadactyla||19/7/1||light|
|35.||Smoky Wainscot||Mythimna impura||22/7/1||B.globosa|
|36.||Barred Fruit-tree Tortrix||Pandemis cerasana||24/7/1||light|
|37.||Common Plume Moth||Emmelina monodactyla||25/7/1||light|
|38.||(Pyralid Moth)||Eudonia mercurella||25/7/1||light|
|39.||(Pyralid Moth)||Agriphila straminella||25/7/1||light|
|40.||Mother of Pearl||Pleuroptya ruralis||26/7/1||light|
|41.||Yellow Shell||Camptogramma bilineata||27/7/1||light|
|42.||Common Grass-veneer||Agriphila tristella||27/7/1||light|
|43.||Common Carpet||Epirrhoe alternata||28/7/1||light|
|44.||The Fan Foot||Herminia tarsipennalis||28/7/1||light|
|45.||Antler Moth||Cerapteryx graminis||28/7/1||light|
|46.||Willow Beauty||Peribatodes rhomboidaria||29/7/1||light|
|47.||Shaded Broad Bar||Scotopteryx chenopodiata||31/7/1||light|
|48.||Lesser Yellow Underwing||Noctua comes||31/7/1||light|
|49.||Bee Moth||Aphomia sociella||31/7/1||light|
|50.||Dark Marbled Carpet||Chloroclysta citrata||31/7/1||B. davidii|
|51.||Common White Wave||Cabera pusaria||02/8/1||light|
|52.||Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing||Noctua janthe||02/8/1||light|
|53.||Riband Wave||Idaea aversata||04/8/1||light|
|54.||(Tortrix Moth)||*Cacoecimorpha pronubana||05/8/1||B. davidii|
|55.||Small Fan Foot Wave||Idaea biselata||06/8/1||Lavender|
|56.||Brown House Moth||Hofmannophila pseudospretella||07/8/1||light|
|57.||The Dun-bar||Cosmia trapezina||08/8/1||light|
|58.||(Pyralid Moth)||Udea lutealis||09/8/1||B. davidii|
|59.||Dotted Clay||Xestia baja||09/8/1||B. davidii|
|60.||Double-striped Pug||Gymnoscelis rufifasciata||09/8/1||light|
*This species is found in southern Britain and appeared in our garden as a freak occurrence, hatching from a pupa that was attached to a Buddleja davidji that was purchased from a local garden centre.
Report on Events Held in Ayrshire
2001 was a rather disappointing year for outings/events due to the foot and mouth restrictions. We attended 4 events in Ayrshire as branch representatives of Butterfly Conservation.
Dean Castle country park Kilmarnock in June was the first venue for an illustrated talk on 'Beautiful Butterflies' presented to a small but apreciative audiance. A walk in the park to look for butterflies was planned to follow the talk, but was abandoned due to poor weather conditions.
July the 8th saw a change of venue for us to the Eglinton country park in Irvine where we set up our stall to provide information and sale goods in the courtyard area alongside the Bee Keepers from West Kilbride. Many people stopped to ask questions or buy a small item and we had a lot of interest from youngsters eager to take part in our Butterfly Quiz.
July 21st and we were back at Dean Castle for the Environment fair. We must pause here to thank 2 people for their help. Firstly a very helpful young lady from Hessilhead Wildlife Sanctuary who helped us to figure out the 'easy to erect' Gazebo frame. You see we had only used it once before and lost the instructions! Hessilhead team had the same type of Gazebo and so came to our aid. Also a branch member, Frank Fleming who was at the Fair wearing his Scottish Wildlife trust 'hat' for his invaluable assistance in the physical putting up of our Gazebo. The said Gazebo was now trying our patience a little but redeemed itself when the weather became less than kind and the rain come down. The Fair however was well attended despite the weather and there was a lot of interest shown in butterflies and moths. One new member joined at the Fair, welcome indeed to Fred Westcott.
The 4th event was a walk in Lainshaw woods Stewarton with the rangers from Dean Castle country park. The day had started with a torrential downpour and we were pleased anyone had ventured out of doors for this event. Happily the rain stopped and our luck held as the sun came out tempting a few butterflies and moths to venture out.
Species seen were Green Veined White, Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown, Garden Carpet, Twin-spot Carpet, Dotted Clay, Agriphila tristella and Udea lutealis. The children in particular enjoyed this event, looking for butterflies, trying to catch moths and small Toadlets which were in abundance, and playing bat and moth games. We would like to thank the rangers from both country parks for inviting us to these events and supporting us on site and most of all for giving us the opportunity to promote butterfly conservation at these public events.
David and Anne Welham
Butterflies on Your Doorstep
You do not need to venture far afield to watch butterflies. A special area with a specific habitat at the correct time of year can afford breath taking views of a specialist species. A visit I will long remember this year was to Blackhill Mire Helensborough in May to see Green Hairstreak. Keith Futter kindly acted as guide for David and myself, many, many thanks Keith. There were a small number of Green Hairstreak present and we had spectacular close up views of this delightful butterfly in it's sparkling emerald green livery, they truly are a pure gem of a butterfly. At rest they were very easy to see once they were located but they have a very good disappearing trick, when flying they show their golden brown upper wings and seem to suddenly wink out of existence.
More generalist butterflies can be found almost anywhere. We have had a small number of Green veined, Small and Large whites, Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral nectaring on the Buddleia in our garden. David also regularly puts out a heath moth trap in the garden and has had a total of 90 species in 2 years. In July we visited an area of parkland called ' Milgarholme' in Irvine where wildflowers line the riverbank close to a footpath. We counted 50 Green Veined Whites, 60+ Small Tortoiseshell as well as small numbers of Large whites and Meadow Brown mostly nectaring on thistle flowers. So go on, get out and about in your local area and let us know what you see and where, you could write your own article for the newsletter!
Green Hairstreaks at Helensburgh
Several visits were made to Blackhill Mire (NS 307837), Helensburgh during the month of May to monitor the well known population of Green Hairstreak butterflies.
On a brief visit on 13th May, during good weather I counted 35 Hairstreaks within thirty minutes indicating that numbers remain high at the site. This is despite widescale degradation of the heathland as a result of management by the Helensburgh Golf Club, in their attempt to establish a practice course on the Mire by cutting the heathland vegetation to a very low level.
At undamaged pockets of the heathland the Green Hairstreak still thrives and a mating pair was observed by Norman Tait on 17th May, together with David & Anne Welham we found a few Green Hairstreaks, even though it was a dull and cold day. The highlight on this day was the sighting of a freshly emerged Glaucous Shears moth Papestra biren which although its wings are composed of shades of grey is nonetheless a very attractive moth. Like the Green Hairstreak the caterpillar of the Glaucous Shears moth feeds on Blaeberry which is a common plant on the Mire.
During the monitoring visits we discovered that the Green Hairstreaks had colonised a new area adjacent to the Blackhill Mire along the Helensburgh Upland Way (NS 299840) which adjoins the car park to the Hill House (designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, NTS). This new discovery may have been of an overlooked colony or it could be an indication of a local expansion in the range of the Green Hairstreak at Helensburgh.
The Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary in Glasgow
The Glasgow Local Biodiversity Action Plan, was launched on 10 September in Glasgow City Chambers. The Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary is believed to occur at only four sites within the city and is one of the targeted species for Glasgow's LBAP
Work has continued this year to monitor the species in Glasgow.
In early June a search was made at Cathkin Braes to locate marsh violets (the butterfly's caterpillar food plant) in the areas where the butterflies are normally seen. Good numbers of plants were located, but as part of the site had been burned earlier in the year there was concern for the survival of any caterpillars. Thankfully the burning does not appear to have adversely affected them, as butterflies were seen flying there on 22 June. The Countryside Rangers continue to walk a regular butterfly transect at Cathkin Braes, recording all species of butterflies seen.
The transect at Commonhead Moss (probably the best site for the species in Glasgow) has not been walked this season, due to the presence of cattle and the foot and mouth disease restrictions earlier in the year. However, a visit was made on 9 July, specifically to check on the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries. A timed count, which is a useful way of assessing population size, recorded 30 individuals in 15 minutes. This is the highest number recorded there on a single visit since 1997.
There have been no reported sightings at Garnkirk Moss (South) this year. In fact the last confirmed sighting from here was also in 1997.
The fourth site for the species is near Darnley Mill. A single butterfly was recorded there in 2000, and a search was made this June for any likely breeding areas nearby. A possible area was identified, just outside the SINC (Site of Interest for Nature Conservation) and the Countryside Rangers are going to try to monitor it for the butterfly. It is hoped that a colony may be discovered there.
Any records of Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries in Glasgow (including old records) will be gratefully received.
Tolman, T: "Photographic Guide to the Butterflies of Britain and Europe" Oxford University Press2001, ISBN 0-19-850606-6 (pkb) £16.99.
On the positive side, the format is excellent: the maps are great in terms of size 5cm X 10cm and each species has one; the photographs are good some even brilliant and the descriptions seem compact but fair, although there was nothing about distinguishing similar species.
The information quality and quantity is too variable: the British parts of the maps are wrong, see Gonepteryx rhamni, Brimstone, this book has them in Glasgow and Aberdeen when if you look in the Millennium Atlas, which OUP also produce, the limit is Morecambe Bay. Some species have half a page others have one or even two pages, and every other page has a quarter page of space on it. We need a full page per species, this would add 50 pages to the book, but would reap real benefits. Finally, the book shoots itself in the foot; there is not a photograph for every species, which I think defeats the purpose. This is compounded by not providing drawings of the missing species, and makes the book less comprehensive than a second hand Higgins and Riley (Colins1970) at five pounds.
Other minor faults are: in keeping with every other Britain and Europe book, they never mark out the British species for beginners. Next, is the separate indexes for English and Latin, I know itís done to be helpful for beginners, but it isnít, it stops children from developing science skills. Finally, there is no Bradley & Fletcher Number or accredited person and date for species, but thatís par for the course with all butterfly books.
Although I like the format, there is nothing in this book that makes it stand out against the competition.
Map Review and a Bit of Cartographic History
It has to be said I do like a good map and with over 50 to my name, I must be more than a bit sad. Ordnance Survey have finally produced the Explorer 1:25,000 covering the west of Scotland. This series started to publication in 1997 as the natural extension of the Outdoor Leisure Maps and the replacement for pathfinder. The old 1976 pathfinder series was in the new metric scale, but retained the limited colours available during/ after world war two.
The relevance of this is that mapmaking has always been inextricably linked to war. Indeed the function of Ordnance Survey is "to produce maps, to locate and use munitions in the event of a campaign" as a very less famous general than Wade said at that time. Yes, I donít remember his name, which contrivedly, brings me on to the benefits of this new series.
For those of us who need to get glasses, we can put this off for another ten years. The 1km square has just got bigger and better, you can see your house. For those of us with failing memories the legend is almost the same as Landranger so no new learning required. For us cheapskates the new maps cover seven-ish of the pathfinders so £6 instead of £35, and finally, those of us who visit the top of mountains in whiteout, we will be able to be lost in colour.
I suspect Explorer will become the new standard map in the UK for recorders. Sometimes, technology does improve the world, even if my computer programme only accepts Landranger sheet 64 for Glasgow, are you listening JNCC.
Essential Entomology, an Order-by-Order Introduction by George C. McGavin. Oxford University Press 2001, ISBN 0-19-850002-5, Pg318, £19.99.
I found this to be an excellent book; it does exactly what it says on the tin. If you are interested in the occasional other insect you have identified to order, this is the book for you. This is a basic university science book, for the intermediate/ improver lepidopterist only, too much for the beginner, to little for the professor. Very easy to read with about seven pages on each order which is enough to inform, interest, but not bore. There are 50 pages on insect evolution and biology (some of it difficult) most of which I found absolutely fascinating. A short idiot-proof guide to the orders i.e. I managed it. The bulk of the book 200 pages are on the orders and the remainder on fieldwork.
Most intermediate lepidopterists will say ďI knew everything except the scientific words and detailĒ. For example in the Lepidoptera section: there was nothing earth shattering, but excellent examples are used and the coverage of the subject area is good. Butterfly only people, will learn about moths and their behaviour, and I learned that unpalatable butterfly species which converge to the same colour pattern for protection is called mullerian mimicry.
Graham Irving is the National Co-ordinator for the National Gelechiidae Lepidoptera Recording Scheme (NGLRS) and has been an active member of the Glasgow and South West Scotland Branch of Butterfly Conservation for way to many years.
The Glen, West Kilbride
The Kirktonhall Glen (NS206475) in West Kilbride is an important local wildlife corridor situated along the route of the Kilbride Burn. Known by the village community as The Glen the area is managed by a Trust with the objectives of enhancing its attraction to wildlife and to people as an amenity space.
Some parts of the Glen are open parkland, other areas are woodland with mature trees. There is a good variety of plants, although many are garden escapes. There remain relics of original flora, for example there is an impressive abundance of Sanicle, Sanicula europaea, and a small patch of Early Purple orchid, Orchis mascula.
I was invited by Charlie Garratt, an enthusiastic Trustee of the Glen, to provide advice to the Trust on improving the area for butterflies.
During a visit on the 10th June I walked the length of the Glen with Charlie and a party of Trust supporters and we were rewarded with sightings of Green-veined Whites and Orange Tips beside a large patch of Garlic Mustard.
Some advice was given to the Trust regarding the management of the Glen for butterflies and wildlife in general. For example, changing management regimes to increase the diversity of flowering plants on grassy slopes and relaxing the mowing of the grassland in some parkland areas to encourage vegetation to mature.
The Glen Trust has just been successful in obtaining a lottery grant, money which may be used to purchase an adjacent field and quarry.
Our Committee will keep in touch with the Glen Trust and we could be involved in a collaborative conservation project in the future.
Recording in 2001
2001 looks likely to be a poor year from a recording point of view - not because of the lack of butterflies, but because of recorders being unable to get out early in the season due to the Foot and Mouth crisis. Records for spring species are therefore likely to be very thin on the ground this year, especially in Dumfries and Galloway. Jessie Mackay reports that in some areas here there had been no grazing, butterfly numbers were up and fritillaries were seen in new sites. Has this been typical? It will be interesting to see what happens next year.
Little work was possible on our target species for the year (Small Blue, Dingy Skipper and Pearl-bordered Fritillary), as they all occur in what were foot and mouth restricted areas. Keith Futter was able to check out some sites on the Ayrshire coast, where possible Small Blues had been reported, but none of these sites looked suitable for the species. On the other hand, he identified potential sites near Irvine, which are worth looking at next year.
So far (the end of September) I have only had a few records sent in, so it is difficult to give a proper picture of how the season has gone.
Having said that, it is clear that 2001 has been a good year for Peacocks in the Branch area. Many people have reported seeing them in new areas for the first time and often in large numbers. I would particularly welcome all Peacock records for this year.
However, it has been a fairly poor year for migrants. Low numbers of Red Admirals have been reported, a very small number of Painted Ladies (I have so far only heard of sightings at Dunblane and Threave Gardens) and a single Clouded Yellow from Troon.
The publication of the Millennium Atlas has already encouraged some recorders to point out gaps in the records, so we can now add new 10km squares for Small and Large Heath on Colonsay, Ringlet in Lanarkshire and Scotch Argus in Argyll.
There has been a tantalising report of several blue butterflies seen this year near Colvend, Kirkcudrightshire (NX85). They were apparently not Common Blues, so perhaps they may have been Holly Blues. A careful search will need to be made next year!
If you haven't already done so, please fill in the recording sheet(s) sent out earlier in the year and return them to me at the Art Gallery & Museum, Kelvingrove, Glasgow G3 8AG by the end of November, or if you prefer, an electronic version of the recording form is available. If you would like one, please e-mail me at contacts If you have lost your forms and/or would like more, please contact me and I will be happy to send out more.
That reminds me... I must send off the records from my holiday in Shropshire to the West Midlands Branch!
Search for the Small Blue
The Small Blue butterfly was not seen in our branch area during the recording period of the Millennium Atlas and it is now feared extinct in south-west Scotland. This is surprising as it was recorded within the previous thirty years at Prestwick, by the golf course, at Shewalton sandpits, in Ayrshire, and at Rockcliffe in Dumfries and Galloway. Historically, the distribution of the Small Blue extended to Dumbartonshire and was therefore widely distributed along the coast in our branch area.
The Small Blue is a prioity species in our branch actions plan and there remains hope that this small butterfly has survived in our area somewhere.
The critical factor is the distribution of the larval foodplant, Kidney vetch, Anthylis vulneraria, not to be confused with the ubiquitous Birdsfoot Trfoil, lotus corniculatus, and the Greater Birdsfoot Trefoil, Lotus uliginosus.
Confusion can arise in the identification of the Common Blue butterfly and the Small Blue. The two species when viewed closely can easily be separated by looking at the underside of the wings.
The underwings of the Small Blue are pale grey/brown with small black dots and no orange dots. The Common Blue underwings are pale brown with orange dots and black dots.
The upperwings are also different as the Small Blue will always appear very dark brown or black, with only a hint of blue at the wing base. A male Common Blue will be sky blue all over much of the upperwings and females will either be blue or brown but always with orange dots on the upperwings as well as underwings.
When the committee hear of a possible sighting of a Small Blue we check its validity. This summer I have checked the Portencross coastline, near West Kilbride, but there were no Kidney vetch plants, so no Small Blue. Also checked were stretches of coastline at Prestwick and at Kennedyís Passand Pinbain Burn near Girvan. These sites did have small patches of Kidney Vetch but no Small Blue butterflies were found. The Common Blue butterfly was however found at these sites
We will keep searching next year at likely sites and would welcome any sightings of either a Small Blue or Common Blue. Records should be sent to Richard Sutcliffe.
We feel the grasslands around Irvine and Troon would be particularly worth a look as there are some good local populations of Kidney Vetch.
Places to visit
This is a report on the butterfly sightings we made on holiday this year. In May we visited sites such as Glenborrowdale RSPB reserve, Salen Oak Woods, Ariundle Woods near Strontian, and Pollach, on the Ardnamurchan peninsula and made the following sightings.
Green Hairstreak, Speckled Wood, Orange Tip, Small Tortoiseshell, Green Veined White, Peacock and Pearl Bordered Fritillary. In June Chequered Skippers occur at Ariundle Woods near Strontian.
In August we visited Seahouses, Hauxley Nature Reserve, Cresswell Ponds, and Lindisfarne in Nothumberland and this is a report of the sightings of butterflies and moths encountered on this visit.
Small, Large and Green Veined White, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Meadow Brown, Small Copper, Wall, Red Admiral, Common Blue, Grayling, Small Heath, Dark Green Fritillary and a somewhat surprising Female Silver Washed Fritillary of the sub-species Valesina.
We made a quick visit over the border into Scotland and visited St. Abbs Head NTS site and saw Small, Large and Green Veined White, Peacock, Small Copper, Grayling, Meadow Brown and more than 60 Small Tortoiseshell within a fifty yard stretch mostly nectaring on Thistles. We were also privileged to encounter a Stoat or Weasel at close quarters. It was hiding in the long grass, and it sat upright watching us for over a minute before disappearing silently again.
Ringlets at Balloch Country Park (NS388833), West Dumbartonshire
In recent years the Ringlet butterfly has been expanding its range both north and south of Glasgow. We visited Balloch Castle Country Park on 2nd July to monitor the progress of the butterflies at the Park as a small number of Ringlets were recorded there last year.
We were delighted to find Ringlets in all the uncut grass fields, both in and adjacent to the Country Park. The meadow beside the Castle supported particularly good numbers and within twenty minutes we had seen 50 Ringlets together with several Meadow Browns and one Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary.
The Chimney Sweeper Moth, a small black moth with white wing tips, were freshly emerged and were abundant everywhere, too numerous to count but certainly well over a thousand. They were particularly attracted to the White Clover flowers with several of these distinctive moths feeding on each flower head.
In a field adjacent to the park we came across an unusual combination, a mating pair comprising a male Ringlet and a female Meadow Brown. Obviously a case of mistaken identity!
The Country Park is well worth a visit in early July, as in addition to the butterflies, the grass lands also contain many wild flowers, including an abundance of the Greater Butterfly Orchid. There are also dramatic views of Loch Lomond and a large variety of specimen trees in the park.
Keith & Susan Futter
National Moth Night (or National Monsoon Night) and Others
Friday the 10th of August, I attended Strathclyde CP and ran the fourth annual Moth Evening event. In attendance were nine adults and eleven children. This is fast becoming the child centred event of our year. For the first time we have had repeat visitors, one family with an additional child. In another turn of events, I was asked for Maris Nets telephone number by an eleven year old boy. So the years of work finally appear to be catching the public's interest, in a beneficial way for BC. We had 23 species on the night, unfortunately I have still not found my sheet of paper. However most species ( as usual) were Pyralids and Tortrix, only six Macro species caught, but in vast numbers, Yellow Underwings and July High Flyers over 100 each.
Lochwinnoch was wet on Saturday 11th August. David and myself ran the Butterfly Walk I think ten adults and four children were there. It went ok considering the weather. Most people seemed happy enough and we even saw two Green-veined Whites in the rain.
Saturday evening we ran the National Moth Night event. I have to say I enjoyed the main event, we put the traps out, examined the previous night's catches, which worked really well. My thanks go to David, Anne and Sue for their previous night's work regarding this. I am also grateful for you all helping with setting up the traps, sugaring and wine ropes, as I was flagging at that point on the night. I think there were a number of successes on the night: Teamwork, help from RSPB staff, and group resources ie David's MOGBI and Sue's Skinner and Goater. I would be happy to do the same again next year, if we are invited.
There were eleven of us. Fred Westcott from Maybole provided some excellent slides which I really enjoyed and in a lot of ways this made the evening for me. The species list for the night was:
Large Yellow Underwing
July High Flyer
Silver Ground Carpet