After the long, hot summer of 2018 you could be forgiven for wondering how our summer butterflies would have coped with the long period of drought. A parched landscape would not bode well for the larvae of grassland butterflies; or so you would think.
The results of the 2019 butterfly transect season show that not only did the butterflies survive but they positively thrived. The warm summer and autumn clearly encouraged a frenzy of breeding activity.
Overall 16 butterfly transects were carried out between the 1st of April and the 30th of September. With each survey being conducted on a weekly basis there was the potential of 26 sets of records for each site. Of course the British weather, volunteer holidays and other factors meant that the number of weeks surveyed on the transects ranged from 19 to 26 weeks. To give a fair comparison transects were assessed on an average number of butterflies per visit. The most prolific of all of the transects was the one carried out by the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust at Brown’s Hay, Sandhills in the Charnwood district. An impressive 2592 butterflies were recorded at an average of 123.4 per visit. Equally as impressive was the new transect carried out at the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Wood near Ashby de la Zouch, with 2336 butterflies recorded, averaging out at 93.4 per visit. At the other end of the scale, Sarah’s Wood near Moira registered just 288 butterflies (ave. 13.1). These results are just as important as the aforementioned transects as different habitats will always produce different results.
The total number of butterflies recorded was 20,557 which showed a massive increase on 2018 which totalled 13,606. The grassland butterflies were the big winners this season, occupying the top 3 places overall in total numbers recorded over the season. The Top 4 was as follows:
Meadow Brown 4799
Speckled Wood 1279
There were many other impressive highlights that emerged too. Bardon Hill Quarry produced a remarkable 90 Wall Brown butterflies. When this transect was set up 2013 only 14 individuals of this Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species were recorded. Bardon Hill and the nearby Charnwood district appear to be the butterfly’s only remaining stonghold in the county.
Another BAP species that had a good summer was the Small Heath. The Charnwood Lodge Reservoir Transect recorded 185 individuals and the nearby Timberwood Hill Transect produced 119.
Another grassland butterfly that bounced back in 2019 was the Small Skipper. The transect at the Diamond Jubilee Wood noted an amazing 469 individuals. I know how active this species can be so I would imagine that there were many more that couldn’t positively be identified.
The ‘Blues’ family has suffered a bit of a decline in recent years so it was with great joy and relief that an impressive 133 Common Blue were recorded at Brock’s Hill Country Park.
Marbled Whites continued to thrive on the Croft Quarry Nature Trail with numbers reaching 85 in 2019. I am sure that this species will continue to expand its range in the county and expect it to continue to move into the North and West of the county.
We will soon have enough data from the transects to look at the trends that are beginning emerge.
My butterfly highlight in 2019 was a sighting of a Purple Emperor on the transect route at Bardon Hill Quarry. Other sightings of His Imperial Majesty were made at nearby Beacon Hill and in a garden in Whitwick. The general consensus of opinion among local and national butterfly experts is that the Purple Emperor may well have already taken up residence in the new National Forest. We will certainly be putting more effort into finding suitable sites within the National Forest in 2020.
The 2020 Butterfly Transect season starts on the 1st of April. We need more willing volunteers to join our recording teams to supplement those on existing transects and to help us set up new ones. There will be a FREE Butterfly Transect Training Day at Hicks Lodge on Tuesday 3rd March (10.00am – 12.00pm) for anyone who wishes to get involved in butterfly recording. To book a place please contact me (Richard) via my email address ( email@example.com ). Places are limited to a maximum of 25 persons.
Let’s hope we have another bumper butterfly season in 2020.
Richard M. Jeffery (VC55 Butterfly Recorder)