Gatekeeper butterflyWe are well into the summer peak flight season now, and I had a look at the totals for this week’s transects compared to my last counts on June 23rd – slightly lower totals at both sites. Thanks to Val and Trevor for doing the last 4 weeks transects.

Some of the very abundant species have passed their peaks – ringlets are nearly over, meadow browns and the skippers are going over – but gatekeepers are keeping the numbers up and we are starting to see the second broods of some of the smaller species. Gatekeeper and meadow brown vied for first and second place at the two transects, with 74 gatekeeper to 47 meadow brown at Barton, and 63 gatekeeper to 139 meadow brown at Westfield.

Brown Argus ButterflyAlso at Westfield, I logged 25 brown argus yesterday – they were 9 on Val’s count last week, so these are on a strong upward curve. Our highest previous day count was 33 so this is looking good. They were last seen during May, and the caterpillars have been feeding on cranesbills through the summer. With the same lifecycle, but different food-plants, common blue and small copper were also flying these two weeks, but in smaller numbers.

There are also good numbers of the summer emergence of peacocks, and a few brimstones, these are all laying on fat reserves ready for their hibernation, so visiting any abundant nectar sources – Teasel was particularly popular at Westfield, while the Buddleia at Barton had several peacocks plus small tortoiseshell and red admiral.

Possibly the last marbled white of the year was logged yesterday at Westfield, this is ‘transect week 17’ which has been the last week in which this species has been recorded in the past, but given that they appeared two weeks earlier than ever, in early June, it has been a long flight season for this species – a reflection of the larger population as well as the hot early start to the summer, followed by a cooler spell.

Large SkipperI managed to identify quite a few of the skippers – they are going past their prime now so tend to spend longer nectaring and less time skipping rapidly around. At Barton there were 17 Essex and 1 small (and 4 unclassified) while at Westfield it was 32 Essex to 7 small (and 31 unclassified). The stronger wind yesterday made getting a good look at the underside of the antennae a bit more difficult!

Still no painted lady or clouded yellow, but there was a report of 4 of the latter from not far away at Trumpington Meadows, so fingers crossed some will find us before the season is over.

Dr Vince Lea
Head of Wildlife Monitoring

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