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saving butterflies, moths and our environment
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Recording

On this page:-   click heading to go to section

Suffolk Butterflies 2017    Suffolk Butterflies 2016   Butterfly Records 2015   Suffolk Butterflies 2014  

Recording Forms   Non-native Species  

Areas With Few Records   Brown Hairstreak   Silver-washed Fritillary   Purple Emperor  

Regular and systematic recording enables us to identify where butterfly numbers and distribution are declining or increasing.  In locations where conservation work has been carried out for a particular species the site is regularly monitored to check whether numbers do increase.  Sometimes a species will spread naturally as has recently been the case with the Silver-washed Fritillary.  Without regular recording across the whole of Suffolk this could have gone unnoticed for many years.

The map and details of areas with few records in 2015, 'Black Holes', can now be seen here or click 'Black Hole Map' in the menu. 

You can download our recording forms here

Suffolk Butterflies 2017

Dear Butterfly Recorder,                                                                          01 April 2017

Firstly, I’d like to begin by thanking you all for your continued support and for sending in your butterfly records for the 2016 season. The year saw well over 28,000 records added to the database and this represents another year of solid recording in the county. This amount of records will hopefully rise further as I am still expecting the butterfly results from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Garden Survey.

From my role as County Recorder, 2016 was a year in which there was a noticeable shift to online recording through the numerous wildlife recording “apps”. That said the bulk of records continue to be received from the national surveys and recording schemes.
The “Sightings” page of BC Suffolk’s website again proved incredibly popular in 2016 to send in records and let others know what butterflies were being seen. Please continue to support this in 2017 if you can. Richard Perryman is the “Website Master” and he does a great job keeping this up to date and my thanks go to him for undertaking this role. 

My own time in the field in 2016 was restricted by a busy work year resulting in me working away from home a great deal, often coinciding with peak butterfly watching weather! So, it was great to hear from you about your own butterfly sightings and exploits during the year and I am grateful for all your emails, letters and telephone calls. It was also good to meet a number of you at some of the events and talks during the year.

2016 Overview

The year appears to have been another average butterfly year here in Suffolk with no real major highlights.
From a species perspective, a total of 34 naturally occurring species were recorded in Suffolk in 2016. As well as the usual species annually recorded including the three common migrants we also had three additional scarce species reported in the county. In May 2016, a Large Tortoiseshell was reported in Ipswich, a Swallowtail was seen at SWT Carlton Marshes in June 2016 and then in October 2016 singles of Camberwell Beauty were reported in Ipswich and at Landguard Bird Observatory, Felixstowe.

The Chalkhill Blue was again found in good numbers at the site (SSSI) in the west of the county and monitoring undertaken during the flight season suggested that a healthy and sustainable population exists. Some habitat management will be required and we are in contact with the landowner in respect of this.

Other species reported in the county related to the introduced colonies of Brown Hairstreak and Marbled White at sites in the Ipswich area. Winter Brown Hairstreak egg searches undertaken by a small number of individuals suggest that the population is confined to central Ipswich and has not spread further. The recording position on these two species is that they will not be submitted to Butterfly Conservation for inclusion in national data sets. However, local monitoring will be undertaken and records will be maintained at a county level in order to assess population and range changes.

I will now be spending time number crunching our records over the next few weeks in preparation of writing the annual Suffolk Butterfly Report. It will be interesting to see how Suffolk compared against national trends and the key monitoring surveys. The national Big Butterfly Count results led to headlines such as “Mystery of butterfly disaster summer” and I hope that this does not fully reflect Suffolk’s position. 

Summary of Butterflies for the New Millennium in Suffolk 2016.

Butterflies for the New Millennium(BNM) remains the key recording scheme for general distribution and numbers of butterflies. The BNM aims to achieve comprehensive national coverage in successive five-year recording periods.

As such, 2016 was the second year in the current five year (2015- 2019) recording period. Looking at the 28,000 records received so far for 2016 tells me that butterflies were recorded in 666 tetrads (2km x 2km squares). Given that there are 1089 tetrads in Suffolk it means that butterflies were recorded in approximately 61% of Suffolk. However, as we are now in the second year of the current five-year period it is worth noting the extent of coverage achieved over two years.

Combining the records from 2015 and 2016 shows that butterflies have been seen in 839 county tetrads. This gives us an incredible 77% county coverage which is a brilliant position to be in at the end of year two and places us in a very strong position going forward.

The coverage map for 2015-2016 is shown below:

C:\Users\Bennetts\Dropbox\Butterfly Recorder\2016 Suffolk Butterflies 2016\2016 Year Report\Levana data\Suffolk_2km_2015-16 300317_Species.jpg


Suffolk Butterfly Recording for 2017

In 2017, please continue to record as many butterflies as you can, wherever you are. If possible, please try and get out and about as much as you can to new areas. In order to assist with any trips you may plan the map below gives a general overview of the under recorded areas based on records received for the period 2015-2016.The darker spots represent recording “black-holes” which would welcome scrutiny

C:\Users\Bennetts\Dropbox\Butterfly Recorder\2016 Suffolk Butterflies 2016\2016 Year Report\Levana data\Suffolk_2km_2015-16 300317_Species MT.jpg


I will look to publish a list of the tetrads in the next month or so that require visiting this year based on the above map. Please try and visit as many of them as you can. I will do the same for 2018 once the results for 2017 have been received and will repeat the process for each of the subsequent years. This will allow targeted and focussed recording to seek maximum county coverage by the end of 2019.

2017 Target Species- Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species

In Suffolk, 7 species of butterfly fall under the BAP. Please actively look for Dingy Skipper, Grayling, Silver-studded Blue, Small Heath, Wall, White Admiral and White-letter Hairstreak and submit all records made. Records received will allow close monitoring to be undertaken and changes in both populations and range to be identified and addressed.

Although all the above listed species are paramount importance the butterfly which continues to be of particular concern is the Wall Brown. Over the last few years we have seen the range of this butterfly diminish significantly in the county. It has continued its slide eastwards towards the coast and is now only sporadically recorded in two key locations; Shingle Street/ Butley/ Orford and the Waveney Valley areas.  In 2016, the Wall was seen in only 18 tetrads with the vast majority of records coming from the Waveney Valley area. Sightings in the Brandon area of west Suffolk clearly buck this trend and represent a recording anomaly. The area will need to be re-visited in 2017 to ascertain if the 2016 sightings represent a small isolated colony.  However, it was good to get records from Landguard Common, Felixstowe and these must represent coastal movements of individuals perhaps from the Orford area.  The map below highlights the accepted records received in 2015 and 2016:
 
C:\Users\Bennetts\Dropbox\Butterfly Recorder\2016 Suffolk Butterflies 2016\2016 Year Report\Levana data\Suffolk_2km_2015-16 300317_WB.jpg


Specific surveys are undertaken for the following two species both of which are extremely localised in their range:

Dingy Skipper: A week of focussed recording effort will take place the week commencing 22nd May 2017. The weather is a significant factor for this species and can impact heavily on the flight season. Please see the BC Suffolk Events Card and especially the BC Suffolk Website for details and last minute changes. 2016 proved to be a reasonable year for this species although difficult weather conditions restricted some recording activity. It is hoped that 2017 will show the species maintaining its hold in the county. Please try and spend some time in late May/ early June in the Kings Forest and along the Suffolk/ Norfolk border in the Elveden and Barnham areas. Please get in touch if you would like to explore one of these areas.

Silver-studded Blue
: The habitat restoration at Purdis Heath continued in 2016 with some incredible work being undertaken by some very dedicated volunteers. Significant progress is being made despite local difficulties but the efforts continue to support the continued survival of this species on this site. Elsewhere, organised counts will be undertaken at various sites in the Suffolk Sandlings during July particularly in the RSPB Minsmere and Dunwich areas. As with Dingy Skipper, the weather can impact on the flight season and effect planned surveys so please keep up to date via the BC Suffolk Website. If you want to participate in the counts, please contact Helen Saunders without delay: helens919@gmail.com.




2016 Target Species- General Interest

Silver-washed Fritillary
: 2016 demonstrated that the foothold that this species now has in Suffolk was maintained despite the butterfly being seen in slightly fewer tetrads.  The butterfly was recorded in 30 tetrads as opposed to 37 tetrads in 2015 but some good day counts were received with the flight season running well into early September. Please search, in July and August, any woodland with sunny rides and glades especially if the food plant Common Dog-violet is present.

Chalkhill Blue: This species was again found flying at the west Suffolk site at the end of July and well into September. It’s possible that other un-discovered sites exist in the west of the county. Please look for it from late July to mid-August in suitable areas of chalky grassland in the west of the county where the food plant Horseshoe Vetch can be found. Should you locate any Chalkhill Blue sites then please let me know as soon as possible.

Purple Emperor: A number of you continued to spend time in 2016 looking for this incredible butterfly and were rewarded with sightings from suitable woodlands and landscapes. Importantly, records continued to be made from suitable sites as identified back in 2014 such as Bonny/ Priestley Wood near Needham Market. Of particular was the fact that a Purple Emperor was recorded during a timed transect walk in Ramsey Woods. It is entirely feasible that the Purple Emperor can be found in any suitable mature woodland and there is now growing evidence that this species is expanding its range eastwards within East Anglia. Key habitat requirements are broadleaved woodland or clusters of smaller woods with a good supply of sallow for the caterpillars. Remember that as this butterfly spends its day in the tree tops feeding on aphid honeydew and tree sap you may need to spend a lot of time scanning for it. Expect a sore neck!

Records for any of the above species are incredibly valuable, particularly if they come from previously unknown locations. Please include precise location, dates and numbers seen along with any photos or video. 

General recording points

With any sightings made please try and include a grid reference or postcode with your sightings as this saves me a lot of time when all the records are entered into the database.

I would also ask that you try and avoid duplicating submission of your records across the different recording schemes. A great bulk of my time at the end of each season is spent eliminating duplicated records which could otherwise distort the whole picture.

In respect of your own records, please use the recording sheets supplied with this letter. It might help to keep one sheet for your garden or most regularly visited site and a separate sheet for your visits to other Suffolk sites, especially the black holes. If you are likely to make a bulk record submission then a recording spreadsheet can be provided, just get in touch.

Have a great 2017 watching and recording butterflies!

Bill Stone, Suffolk Butterfly Recorder,
20, Langstons, Trimley St Mary, Suffolk IP11 0XL

Tel: 07906 888603

Email:
billbutterfly68@yahoo.com
Annex 1.

General Notes for Butterfly Recorders

All our butterfly records of naturally occurring species are sent off annually to Butterfly Conservation for absorption into the National Database. Our annual butterfly report is published a year in arrears in Suffolk Natural History, “The Transactions of the Suffolk Naturalists' Society”. The branch newsletter the “Suffolk Argus” invariably publishes a shortened version much sooner than that along with other recording news and trends.

All regularly occurring county species are listed on our recording sheet (residents and regular migrants). Please note that the sheet now reflects the adoption by Butterfly Conservation of the new Checklist of the Lepidoptera of the British Isles. This has led to some significant changes to the order that our butterfly species are now listed in.

For those not used to submitting records, the basic details needed are the “four Ws”, i.e.:

“What” – i.e. species.

“Where” – preferably an Ordnance Survey grid reference*, though an accurate location name or a post code etc., will do. 
 
*See
http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/gi/nationalgrid/nationalgrid.pdf

“When” – self evident!

“by Whom” – name and contact details of recorder.

In addition, a count of minimum numbers seen is useful, with any evidence for breeding (e.g. mating observed, ovipositing females seen or larvae found).

A simple numbers code is useful if you have not been able to keep a precise count:

A        One
B        2-9
C        10-29
D        30-100
E        100+

Records come in from over two hundred regular recorders (BC members and non-members alike) and from a variety of National recording schemes:

Transects.
This is the highest standard of input, requiring 26 weekly site visits between April and September and using an established scientific methodology. Some Suffolk transect sites have been running for many years and have contributed significant data to the United Kingdom Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS) who oversee this survey. Single-species transects are also used to monitor Silver-studded Blue and Purple Hairstreak in Suffolk. If you are interested in getting involved in this type of survey or would like to set up a transect site then please contact Suffolk’s UKBMS Co-ordinator Twm Wade at: twm.wade@yahoo.com

Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey. The WCBS is organised and analysed at BC Head Office level, and uses volunteers from BC and BTO membership. It is targeted at the same set of randomly selected squares annually, but as these are visited just in July and again in August, some early species get missed (e.g. Orange-tip and Green Hairstreak). Essentially transect-like rules are applied, but the walk is done only twice a year instead of 26 times (optional extra visits are not discouraged though with many squares being monitored from May through to September). Recorders are given a square and they are responsible for recording butterflies and submitting results. If you would like to join WCBS for 2016; there is still time to enrol with Suffolk’s WCBS Co-ordinator Twm Wade at: twm.wade@yahoo.com

Garden Records.
Homeowners who send their records annually provide a valuable foundation for most of our common species. Online recording is available so if the majority of your butterfly recording is centred on sightings made in your garden then this scheme may appeal. Please add your records by visiting- www.gardenbutterflysurvey.org.

BTO Garden Birdwatch
. Birdwatchers engaged in the British Trust for Ornithology Garden Birdwatch have the option of recording easily-identified butterfly species within their on-line recording scheme.

Casual Sightings or Roving Records.
Enthusiastic naturalists and butterfly watchers visit sites of high wildlife value and send in a variety of records – from a single Large White to a detailed specific site survey. Voluntary wardens of SWT reserves often send dependable records for their sites year after year. Many BC members and recorders make the effort to visit the tetrads known to be under-recorded, progressively filling the "black holes" in the county distribution maps. Often visits to the great unknown can be an unexpected delight, sometimes turning up hairstreaks and other valuable records. These types of records form the bulk of the county’s butterfly records and it is incredibly important to receive them. Sightings can be submitted by completing record sheets, by email or online via the BC recording “apps” using a mobile device.

Big Butterfly Count (BBC):
BC Head Office has put a lot of effort into organizing the Big Butterfly Count as a piece of nationwide citizen science. Lots of novice recorders have taken part, identifying butterflies for 15 minutes in a site of their own choosing. Suffolk harvested over 3,500 records of mainly common species flying during July and August 2016. Although the places visited were mostly within our well recorded areas a few new tetrads were included and therefore, were a positive contribution to addressing Suffolk’s recording black holes. For 2017, the BBC runs from 14th July to 6th August.

Migrant Watch: Each year sightings of Painted Lady (and Humming-bird Hawk-moth) can be logged with BC via their website. This allows movements of these well known long distance migrants to be monitored and any trends identified. At the end of each year records are sent to the respective county butterfly and moth recorders for review and inclusion in data sets.

Suffolk Butterflies 2016

Firstly, I’d like to begin by thanking you all for your continued support and for sending in your butterfly records for the 2015 season. It’s also been great hearing about your butterfly sightings and exploits during the year and I am grateful for all your emails, letters and telephone calls. It was also good to meet a number of you at events and talks during the year.

The year saw another large increase in the records received, with well over 29,000 records already added to the database. This increase is largely down to your hard work exploring under-recorded areas in Suffolk along with more records being provided through online recording using “apps” as well as from the national surveys and recording schemes. As I write I am still expecting the butterfly results from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Garden Survey. These are a significant contribution to our database so I am hopeful that the amount of butterfly records for 2015 will increase further.

The weather in 2015 was largely unremarkable and thankfully avoided the prolonged periods of extreme weather which impacts heavily on butterfly populations. That said, although the spring weather was sunny and warm during the day, cold nights and strong winds did seem to confuse our early butterflies and appears to have prolonged their flight periods. The expected “Painted Lady year” did not happen although the butterfly was present in reasonable numbers during the year and some good double figure counts were made at coastal sites. The summer was a slightly cooler one based on recent trends but rolled seamlessly into a generally warm autumn. This weather pattern seemed to help a number of species especially grassland butterflies such as Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper and particularly woodland butterflies such as White Admiral and Silver-washed Fritillary. Butterfly success of the year perhaps lies with the Holly Blue which seemed to enjoy long flight periods across both generations and with some high counts reported.  

I will now be spending time number crunching our records over the next few weeks in preparation of writing the annual Suffolk Butterfly Report and it will be interesting to see how Suffolk compared against national trends and the key monitoring surveys.

The Butterflies for the New Millennium Report (2010-2014). In 2015, the long awaited results of the latest five year recording period (2010-2014) were released. The headline news was very disappointing with the indices of occurrence for habitat specialists and wider countryside species showing a clear long-term decrease for both groups in the UK (62% and 24% decreases since 1976 respectively). The new report also showed a picture of long-term decline with 70% of species decreasing in distribution since 1976 and 57% of species decreasing in abundance. Overall, 76% of the UK’s resident and regular migrant butterfly species declined in either abundance or distribution (or both) over the past four decades. On a more uplifting note, it was found that where landscape-scale conservation projects run by Butterfly Conservation and other partner agencies were in place positive results were being made and significant impacts were being made on targeted butterfly species.

Butterflies for the New Millennium in Suffolk 2015. 2015 was also the first year in the new five year (2015- 2019) recording period. Given the findings of the previous five year recording period as mentioned above it cannot be stressed enough how important the records gathered through this recording scheme here in Suffolk will be. So, for 2015 and in order to get Suffolk off to a good start I asked you in last year’s letter to all make a big effort to visit under recorded areas within the county and you certainly did not let me down. Looking at the records received tells me that Suffolk recorders visited and recorded butterflies in 695 tetrads (2km x 2km squares). Given that there are 1089 tetrads in Suffolk it means that butterflies were recorded in approximately 64% of Suffolk. This a great position to be in at the end of the first of the five years (See map below for coverage in 2015).



Given the number of tetrads visited and the records received the average number of butterfly species recorded per tetrad for 2015 was 10.8. To put that into context the five year recording period 2010-2014 produced an average of 14.2 species per tetrad.

2015 Species

From a species perspective a total of 38 naturally occurring species were recorded in Suffolk in 2015. As well as the usual county stalwarts and BAP species we also had 3 additional county records of Scarce Tortoiseshell at Felixstowe (1) and North Warren (2). These sightings are highly significant as together with other UK records of this butterfly they represented the first evidence of hibernation and post-hibernation emergence undertaken in this country and continue the amazing story surrounding this species. Other rarities recorded during the year included singles of Queen of Spain Fritillary (Fritton), Long-tailed Blue (Ipswich) and continental Swallowtail (west Suffolk)). The Chalkhill Blue was again found in good numbers at the site (SSSI) in the west of the county and monitoring undertaken during the flight season suggested that a healthy and sustainable population exists. Some habitat management will be required and we are in contact with the landowner in respect of this.

In 2015, news of the existence of a Suffolk Brown Hairstreak colony was received. This location is close to the introduced Marbled Whites in central Ipswich and information received suggests that the colony has existed in small numbers since 2009. It is assumed that the population derives from an unauthorised introduction perhaps undertaken by those responsible for the nearby Marbled Whites. Winter egg searches undertaken by a small number of individuals suggest that the population is confined to central Ipswich and has not spread further. The recording position on these presumed releases is that they will not be submitted to Butterfly Conservation for inclusion in national data sets. However, local monitoring will be undertaken and records will be maintained at a county level in order to assess population and range changes.

As in previous years “odd” species continue to be recorded and in 2015 included a Geranium Bronze which was accidently imported from Italy amongst geranium cuttings. Other species, which are presumed escapes included a Clipper butterfly and at least one Zebra Long-wing!

Suffolk Butterfly Recording for 2016

Please continue to record as many butterflies as you can, wherever you are. If possible, please try and get out and about as much as you can to new areas. Based on the 2015 coverage map (above) I will look to publish a list of the tetrads in the next month or so that require visiting this year. Please try and visit as many of them as you can. I will do the same for 2017 once the results for 2016 have been received and will repeat the process for each of the subsequent years. This will allow targeted and focussed recording to seek maximum county coverage by the end of 2019.

2016 Target Species- Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species

In Suffolk, 7 species of butterfly fall under the BAP. Please actively look for Grayling, Small Heath, White Admiral, White-letter Hairstreak and submit all records made. Records received will allow close monitoring to be undertaken and changes in both populations and range to be identified and addressed.

Of particular concern is the Wall Brown. Over the last few years we have seen the range of this butterfly diminish significantly in the county. It has continued its slide eastwards towards the coast and is now only recorded in three key locations; Bawdsey/Shingle Street, Orford and the Lowestoft/ Waveney Valley areas (see map below).




In 2015, the Wall was seen in only 22 tetrads as opposed to 36 tetrads in 2014 with the vast majority of records coming from the three localities shown above, especially the Waveney Valley area. Pease continue to look for this butterfly during 2016 and let me know of any sightings away from the known locations as soon as you can.

Specific surveys are undertaken for the following two species both of which are extremely localised in their range:

Dingy Skipper: The annual count in the King's Forest area will start on 11th May with a second date in place on the 25th May. The weather is a significant factor for this species and can impact heavily on the flight season. Please see the BC Suffolk Events Card and especially the BC Suffolk Website for details and last minute changes. 2015 proved to be a reasonable year for this species although difficult weather conditions restricted some recording activity. It is hoped that 2016 will show the species maintaining its hold in the county. If you can’t get along to the organised counts then please try and spend some time in late May/ early June in the Kings Forest and along the Suffolk/ Norfolk border in the Elveden and Barnham areas. Please get in touch if you would like to explore one of these areas.

Silver-studded Blue
: The habitat restoration at Purdis Heath continued in 2015 with some incredible work being undertaken by some very dedicated volunteers. Significant progress is being made despite local difficulties but the efforts continue to support the continued survival of this species on this site. Elsewhere, organised counts will be undertaken at various sites during July particularly in the Minsmere and Dunwich areas. As with Dingy Skipper, the weather can impact on the flight season and effect planned surveys so please keep up to date via the BC Suffolk Website.

2016 Target Species- General Interest

Silver-washed Fritillary
: 2015 demonstrated that the foothold that this species now has in Suffolk was maintained and extended. The butterfly was recorded in 37 tetrads as opposed to 33 tetrads in 2014 and again some good counts were received with the flight season running well into early September. Please search, in July and August, any woodland with sunny rides and glades especially if the food plant Common Dog-violet is present.

Chalkhill Blue: This species was again found flying at the west Suffolk site at the end of July and well into September. It’s possible that other un-discovered sites exist in the west of the county. Please look for it from late July to mid-August in suitable areas of chalky grassland in the west of the county where the food plant Horseshoe Vetch can be found. Should you locate any Chalkhill Blue sites then please let me know as soon as possible.

Marbled White: No west-Suffolk records were received in 2015 despite it being another good year for the species on the Devils Dyke close by in neighbouring Cambridgeshire. Despite this, it is a butterfly well worth looking for in the west of the county. It is a strong flyer and known to wander and it is worth exploring any areas of rank grass or meadow containing favoured nectar plants such as Wild Marjoram, Field Scabious, thistles, and knapweeds.

Purple Emperor: A number of you continued to spend time in 2015 looking for this incredible butterfly and were rewarded with sightings from suitable woodlands and landscapes. Importantly, records continued to be made from suitable sites as identified in 2014 such as Bonny/ Priestley Wood near Needham Market. Reports were also received from RSPB Wolves Wood near Hadleigh and in newly established and maturing woodlands close to Ipswich. It is entirely feasible that the Purple Emperor can be found in any suitable mature woodland and there is now growing evidence that this species is expanding its range eastwards within East Anglia. Key habitat requirements are broadleaved woodland or clusters of smaller woods with a good supply of sallow for the caterpillars. Remember that as this butterfly spends its day in the tree tops feeding on aphid honeydew and tree sap you may need to spend a lot of time scanning for it. Expect a sore neck!

Records for any of the above species are incredibly valuable, particularly if they come from previously unknown locations. Please include precise location, dates and numbers seen along with any photos or video.  

The “Sightings” page of BC Suffolk’s website again proved incredibly popular in 2015 to send in records and let others know what butterflies were being seen. Please continue to support this in 2016 if you can. Please include a grid reference or postcode with your sightings as this saves an incredible amount of time when all the records are entered into the database. In respect of your own records, please use the attached recording sheet. It might help to keep one sheet for your garden or most regularly visited site and a separate sheet for your visits to other Suffolk sites, especially black holes. If you are likely to make a bulk record submission then the attached recording spreadsheet may assist you. Remember all records are extremely important.

Have a great 2016 watching and recording butterflies!

Bill Stone, Suffolk Butterfly Recorder,
26 Thomas Crescent, Kesgrave, Ipswich IP5 2HN

Tel: 07906 888603

Email:  or

Suffolk Butterflies 2015

As mentioned above, Butterfly Conservation's general recording scheme is known as Butterflies for the New Millennium or BNM and it operates five-year surveys of Britain and Ireland in order to assess change, inform conservation and stimulate research. In 2015 a new five year period commences and will cover the period 2015- 2019. As it is the first year of the recording it would be great to see you all continue to explore the under-recorded areas as well as getting out to your usual sites and local patches. As mentioned above non-recorded tetrads from the 2010-2015 BNM period will be identified and I will alert you to these to include in your butterfly forays. I cannot stress enough that all of your records are of significant importance so even the single butterfly seen should be reported.

2015 Target Species

Wall Brown: Over the last few years we have seen the range of this butterfly diminish significantly in the county. In 2013, it continued its slide eastwards and was only recorded in 24 tetrads in three key locations; Bawdsey to Shingle Street, Orford and the Lowestoft/ Waveney Valley areas. In 2014, some positive improvement was seen with the butterfly being recorded in 36 tetrads. The vast majority of records came from these three locations, especially the Waveney Valley area. Interestingly and of some significance two sightings were made near Lakenheath Fen in the extreme north-west of the county in July. This is perhaps an indication of the strong Wall year enjoyed in neighbouring east Cambridgeshire. Pease continue to look for this butterfly during 2015 and let me know of all west Suffolk sightings as soon as you can. You may also wish to join Peter Maddison on his Angles Way Wall survey on 11th August, please see the BC Suffolk Events

Silver-washed Fritillary: 2014 demonstrated that the foothold that this species now has in Suffolk was maintained. The butterfly was recorded in 33 squares as opposed to 32 squares in 2013 and again some good counts were received with the flight season running well into August. Of particular note was a second brood individual seen in October near Heveningham. Please search, in July and August, any woodland with sunny rides and glades especially if the food plant Common Dog-violet is present.

Dingy Skipper: The annual count in the King's Forest area will start on 13th May with a second date in place on the 20th May. The weather is a significant factor for this species and can impact heavily on the flight season. Please see the BC Suffolk Events Card and especially the BC Suffolk Website for details and last minute changes. 2014 proved to be another good year for this species and it is hoped that 2015 will show this positive trend continuing. If you can’t get along to the organised counts then please try and spend some time in May in the Kings Forest and along the Suffolk/ Norfolk border in the Elveden and Barnham areas. Please get in touch if you would like to explore one of these areas.

Silver-studded Blue: The habitat restoration at Purdis Heath continued in 2014with some incredible work being undertaken by some very dedicated volunteers. Significant progress is being made despite local difficulties but the efforts continue to support the continued survival of this species on this site. Elsewhere, organised counts will be undertaken at various sites during July. As with Dingy Skipper, the weather can impact on the flight season and effect planned surveys so please keep up to date via the BC Suffolk Website.

Chalkhill Blue: This species was again found flying at the west Suffolk site in mid-July and well into late August. It’s likely that other un-discovered sites exist in the west of the county. Please look for it from late July to mid-August in suitable areas of chalky grassland in the west of the county where the food plant Horseshoe Vetch can be found. Should you locate any Chalkhill Blue sites then please let me know as soon as possible.

Marbled White: Only one west Suffolk record was received and involved a singleton in Denston in July. Despite this, it is a butterfly well worth looking for in the west of the county. It is a strong flyer and known to wander and it is worth exploring any areas of rank grass or meadow containing favoured nectar plants such as Wild Marjoram, Field Scabious, thistles, and knapweeds. Elsewhere, the species was again seen at the central Ipswich site flying from late June into late July but in noticeably lower numbers than last year. The butterfly was also recorded in small numbers at another site close by but it is unknown if this was by natural expansion or by deliberate intervention.

Purple Emperor: Further to exploratory work for this species in Suffolk undertaken in 2013 by Liz Goodyear and Andrew Middleton, the Purple Project was launched in 2014 to encourage awareness of this species together with highlighting its life cycle and behaviour. A number of you did spend time looking for this incredible butterfly and were rewarded with sightings from suitable woodland. Importantly, several records came from new sites such as Bonny Wood near Needham Market and from the Mellfield Wood complex near Bury St Edmunds.  Away from Theberton, the butterfly was reported from the Holton area near Halesworth and from Hartest in the south west of the county. It is entirely feasible that the Purple Emperor can be found in any suitable mature woodland. Key habitat requirements are broadleaved woodland or clusters of smaller woods with a good supply of sallow for the caterpillars. Remember that as this butterfly spends its day in the tree tops feeding on aphid honeydew and tree sap you may need to spend a lot of time scanning for it. Expect a sore neck! You may wish to join Julian Dowding at Bonny Wood on 11th July in his search of these woods for Purple Emperor. Please see the BC Suffolk Event

NB: Casual records for any of the above species are incredibly valuable, particularly if they come from previously unknown locations. Please include precise location, dates and numbers seen. I would also love to receive photographs/video of any Marbled White and Purple Emperor seen in Suffolk (away from the introduced populations). This will help to support evidence that these species are actually occurring in a wild state rather than introduced populations or escapes.

The “Sightings” page of BC Suffolk’s website proved incredibly very popular in 2014 to send in records and let others know what butterflies were being seen. Please continue to support this in 2015 if you can. Please include a grid reference or postcode with your sightings as this saves an incredible amount of time when all the records are entered into the database. In respect of your own records please use the attached sheet. It might help to keep one sheet for your garden or most regularly visited site and a separate sheet for your visits to other Suffolk sites. Remember all records are extremely important. Please note that when sending me records by post that I have a new address as shown below.

Have a great 2015 watching and recording butterflies!
  email or post your records to

Bill Stone, County Butterfly Recorder, Suffolk
26 Thomas Crescent, Kesgrave, Ipswich IP5 2HN
Tel: 07906 888603

Email:  or

Suffolk Butterflies 2014

Firstly, I’d like to begin by thanking you all for sending in your butterfly records for the 2014 season. It’s also been great hearing about your butterfly sightings and exploits during the year and I am grateful for all your emails, letters and telephone calls. The year saw a large increase in the records received, with well over 26,000 records added to the database. This increase is largely down to your hard work exploring under-recorded areas in Suffolk along with more records being provided from the national surveys and recording schemes.


Thankfully, 2014 was a reasonable year in respect of the weather. The only major blip was August with it being the coldest recorded since 1993. This meant, that for the majority of species, the year gave an opportunity for further recovery and stability of numbers after the dreadful 2012. However, published national trends and especially the results from the Big Butterfly Count indicate that overall it was a poor year for butterflies. Species such as the whites (Large, Small and Green-veined) and the single brooded summer species such as Meadow Brown and Ringlet all seem to have had bad years. However, from a Suffolk perspective it was great to see good numbers of Small Tortoiseshells along with Peacocks in our gardens and parks and especially welcome was an increase in the amount of Red Admirals recorded. The progeny of the large numbers of Clouded Yellows seen in 2013 continued the species’ presence in the county throughout 2014 and some impressive counts were again made. I will now be spending time number crunching our records over the next few weeks in preparation of writing the Suffolk Butterfly Report and it will be interesting to see how Suffolk compared against national trends

2014 was the last year in the current five year recording period for the Butterflies for the New Millennium (see below) recording scheme. Given the significance of this I asked you all to make a big effort to visit under recorded areas and black-holes within the county. Looking at the records received tells me that Suffolk recorders visited and recorded butterflies in 738 tetrads (2km x2km squares), see map below for coverage in 2014



This equates to an amazing increase of 101 tetrads on last years total. Given that there are 1089 tetrads in Suffolk it means that butterflies were recorded in approximately 68% of Suffolk during the year. Given the number of tetrads visited and the incredible number of records received the average butterfly species per tetrad for 2014 was 10.8. To put that into context the five year recording period 2010-2014 shows an average of 14.2 species per tetrad. It’s worth noting that in the five year period 2010-2014, butterfly records have been received from a total of 1025 tetrads which equates to an amazing 94% of Suffolk. See map below for 2010-2014 coverage.



To aid future recording efforts, work will be undertaken over the next few months to identify the 64 non-recorded tetrads. These will then become part of a focussed survey effort throughout the five year recording period.

From a species perspective a total of 39 species were recorded in Suffolk in 2014. As well as the usual county stalwarts and BAP species we also had the first county records of Scarce Tortoiseshell (also known as Yellow-legged Tortoiseshell). The arrival of this species in the east of England from central Europe was an incredible Lepidoptera event but it was made even better when the species was at RSPB Minsmere and in Burgh Castle both over the 14th/15th July 2014. Other rarities recorded during the year included singles of Large Tortoiseshell (Felixstowe), Queen of Spain Fritillary (North Warren) and Swallowtail (Walberswick and Crowfield). The Chalkhill Blue was again found in good numbers at the site (SSSI) in the west of the county and regular visits undertaken during the flight season suggested that a healthy and sustainable population exists and is worthy of future close monitoring.

All our butterfly records are sent off annually to Butterfly Conservation for absorption into the National Database. Our annual butterfly report is published a year in arrears in Suffolk Natural History, The Transactions of the Suffolk Naturalists' Society. The Suffolk Argus invariably publishes a shortened version much sooner than that along with other recording news and trends.

Recording Forms - These are Microsoft Excel (.xls)

Casual Recording Form

Recording Form with list of species


Records via Email:

Notes for Butterfly Recorders

There are now 36 species on our recording sheet (residents and regular migrants).  I have added Purple Emperor, Marbled White and Chalkhill Blue to reflect the 2013 season and potential future movement.  In addition, if the weather is kind again in 2014 and the winds catch migratory European and North African species then we could expect to see Camberwell Beauty, Queen of Spain Fritillary and Long-tailed Blue too.  Please note that the sheet now reflects the adoption by Butterfly Conservation of the new Checklist of the Lepidoptera of the British Isles.  This has led to some significant changes to the order that our butterfly species are now listed in
.

For those not used to submitting records, the basic details needed are the “four Ws”, i.e.:
“What” – i.e. species.
“Where” – preferably an Ordnance Survey grid reference*, though an accurate location name or a post code etc., will do. 
“When” – self evident!
“by Whom” – name and contact details of recorder.

In addition, a count of minimum numbers seen is useful, with any evidence for breeding (e.g. mating observed, ovipositing females seen or larvae found). A simple numbers code is useful if you have not been able to keep a precise count:
A        One
B
        2-9
C
        10-29
D
        30-100
E
        100+

Records come in from over two hundred regular recorders (BC members and non-members alike) and from a variety of schemes:

Transects. A new transect at Knettishall Heath brought our total to 19 full transects along with a new single-species transect at Purdis Heath, Ipswich. This is the highest standard of input, as a weekly count has been conducted for more than 10 years at some sites, using an established scientific methodology. Single-species transects are also used to monitor Silver-studded Blue and Purple Hairstreak.

Garden Records. Homeowners who send their records annually provide a valuable foundation for most of our common species. Some are sent to the national BC scheme, others come direct to me.

BTO Garden Birdwatch. Birdwatchers engaged in the British Trust for Ornithology Garden Birdwatch have the option of recording easily-identified butterfly species within their on-line recording scheme. These are recovered and entered to the Suffolk database at least once in each 5-year period.

Casual Sightings or Roving Records. Enthusiastic naturalists and butterfly watchers visit sites of high wildlife value and send in a variety of records – from a single Large White to a detailed specific site survey. Voluntary wardens of SWT reserves often send dependable records for their sites year after year. Many BC members and recorders make the effort to visit the tetrads known to be under-recorded, progressively filling the "black holes" in the county distribution maps. Often visits to the great unknown can be an unexpected delight, sometimes turning up hairstreaks and other valuable records.

Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey. The WCBS is organised and analysed at BC Head Office level, and uses volunteers from BC and BTO membership.  It is targeted at the same set of randomly selected squares annually, but as these are visited just in July and again in August, some early species get missed (e.g. Orange-tip and Green Hairstreak).  The scheme is now entering its 6th season, and results are passed back to County Recorders.  Essentially transect-like rules are applied, but the walk is done only twice a year instead of 26 times (optional extra visits are not discouraged though with many squares being monitored from May through to September).  Recorders are given a square and they are responsible for recording butterflies and submitting results.  We are trying to find recorders for the remaining Suffolk squares so if you would like to join WCBS for 2015; there is still time to enrol with Suffolk Co-ordinator Twm Wade at: twm.wade@yahoo.com

Big Butterfly Count. BC Head Office has put a lot of effort into organizing the Big Butterfly Count as a piece of nationwide citizen science. Lots of novice recorders have taken part, identifying butterflies for 15 minutes in a site of their own choosing. Suffolk harvested over 4000 records of mainly common species flying during July and August 2013. Although the places visited were mostly within our well recorded areas a few new tetrads were included and therefore, were a positive contribution to reducing the amount of Suffolk black holes.

Transects - Methodology

The methodology and development of transect monitoring for butterflies has been reviewed in detail elsewhere (Pollard and Yates, 1993).  In brief, a fixed-route walk (transect) is established at a site and butterflies are recorded along the route on a regular (weekly) basis under reasonable weather conditions for a number of years.  Transect routes are chosen to sample evenly the habitat types and management activity on sites.  Care is taken in choosing a transect route as it must then remain fixed to enable butterfly sightings to be compared from year to year. 

Transects are typically about 2-4km long, taking between 45 minutes and two hours to walk, and are divided into sections corresponding to different habitat or management units.  Butterflies are recorded in a fixed width band (typically 5m wide) along the transect each week from the beginning of April until the end of September yielding, ideally, 26 counts per year.  Transect walks are undertaken between 10.45am and 3.45pm and only when weather conditions are suitable for butterfly activity: dry conditions, wind speed less than Beaufort scale 5, and temperature 13C or greater if there is at least 60% sunshine, or more than 17C if overcast. 

Due to the vagaries of the British and Irish weather, it is rare in practice to achieve a full set of 26 weekly counts. However, a small number of missing values can be estimated using other counts during the season. 

Single species (as opposed to normal 'all species') transects have been increasingly established in recent years.  Whilst such transects must follow the standard methodology and must record populations at least once a week throughout the flight period, the focus on a single (or small number of) species reduces both the time required to walk each transect and, more significantly, the number of weekly counts.  With many demands on the time of site management staff and volunteer recorders, this reduced method has enabled population monitoring of particular threatened butterflies to be undertaken when otherwise it would not have been possible.  By regularly recording a fixed route in standardised conditions, the number of butterflies seen on a transect can be compared from year to year.

Non-Native Species

Background
There have been several incidences of non-native species being recorded in the UK in recent years which has posed questions to BC Branches and volunteers.

Legal situation
The introduction of non-native species into the UK is illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and Butterfly Conservation does not support any such activity.  If BC Branches or members hear of people deliberately releasing non-native species, they should strongly discourage such activity because it is against the law and also because it runs the risk of damaging the ecology of native species, for example by introducing non-native pathogens and parasites. 

Accidental releases of non-European species
In many cases, it is clear that sightings of non-native species originate from releases of bred stock, for example non-European species which may have escaped from Butterfly Houses.  Such sightings are of little relevance to the work of Butterfly Conservation. 

Sightings of non-native European species
Where European species are recorded near the coast, or even inland, it is often not easy to separate releases from natural migration.  Sightings should be reported to our county recorder Bill Stone or to .  Advice should also be sought from them before giving the sightings any publicity.  There are pros and cons of publishing such records that must be judged on a case by case basis.  If it is possible that a migration is occurring, then it would be worth publicising sightings so that other observers can keep a look out (e.g. Long-tailed Blue).  However, if a very rare migrant appears to have established a colony it may be best to keep details secret until any breeding can be assessed.  There is a huge interest in photographing rare migrants which could damage a small breeding colony, and there is a risk that some people may want to collect the adults, or take eggs or larvae for rearing.  If the latter is felt to be likely, it is best to keep the locality secret until the situation can be properly assessed in discussion with the county recorder and Richard Fox (or Nigel Bourn or Martin Warren in his absence) of Butterfly Conservation. 

Established colonies of non-native species
We know that many species are spreading rapidly northwards in Europe due to climate change and some will inevitably arrive and establish colonies.  For example, nearly 30 moth species have become established in the UK this century, some due to natural colonisation others as a result of accidental importation (e.g. in the horticultural trade).  If a non-native species succeeds in establishing a breeding colony (e.g. evidence of successful breeding over two or more seasons), by whatever means, our strategy should be to monitor the results so that it can add to our understanding of the impacts of climate change.  The rearing and further release of the species should be discouraged so that we can learn the natural behaviour of the species in our climatic conditions.  Again, such colonies should be reported to the County recorder and advice sought about any publicity.

Assisted colonisation of non-native species
Some naturalists are advocating that we help species adapt to climate change by “assisting” their colonisation of new countries.  Aside from the legal issues, Butterfly Conservation believes that such measures should not be attempted at the current time as it would confuse scientific understanding of natural responses to climate change, undermine local conservation efforts in the natural range and might have unexpected adverse effects here, but will be reviewing this advice in coming years.  There may be situations in the future where sedentary species in other parts of Europe are at high risk of extinction because their original habitats are becoming unsuitable due to climate change and there is no possibility of natural spread.  Assisted colonisation may thus be the only option to ensure their survival.  If such cases do arise, we will consult widely with Lepidopterists across Europe to agree a continent-wide conservation strategy. 

Butterfly releases at ceremonies
There is an increasing and disturbing trend of live butterflies being released at weddings, funerals and other ceremonies.  In some cases such releases may be illegal. Butterfly Conservation strongly disagrees with this practice for four main reasons:
1) It disrupts natural distributions and the study of them;
2) Bred individuals may have different genetic traits compared to wild ones and releases may disrupt the genetics of natural populations;
3) There is a risk of spreading diseases into wild populations, especially from high density breeding and releasing programmes;
4) Such releases send the wrong message about human attitudes to nature and other living creatures and distracts from the real problems facing butterflies.

Brown Hairstreak (Thecla betulae) in Suffolk ?

We have been receiving sightings of the Brown Hairsteak in Suffolk.  According to the literature, including The Butterflies of Suffolk by Mendel and Piotrowski (1986), this butterfly was recorded in Suffolk in the early 1900s but then a gap of nearly 50 years until two sightings in the 1940s at Stanton and Bently Woods.  They wrote 'there is a slim chance that it may again be discovered in some forgotten corner'.  It would seem that 70 years later this may have happened.

Bill Stone (Suffolk Butterfly Recorder) writes
As a County Butterfly Recorder one of the privileges attached to the role is to be able to reveal the sighting of a rare butterfly or, the occurrence of a new species or, perhaps the most important, the reoccurrence of a species thought lost to the county.  The Brown Hairstreak is a species that falls in the latter category.  Recently, information was passed to me which strongly suggested that Brown Hairstreak was flying in the county.  But, and of particular note, that this species had been present in Suffolk for a number of years.  Disappointingly, those with knowledge of these Suffolk Brown Hairstreaks had not felt that they could share this either with me as current County Recorder or with Rob Parker my predecessor.

That aside, the butterfly's presence has now been reliably confirmed again in Suffolk and we should now welcome and celebrate that this species is flying, albeit in small numbers in our county.  In the last few weeks the species has been recorded by way of photographed adults and of the presence of laid eggs on mature and established Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) stands within the Orwell Country Park, Ipswich and along Belstead Meadows.  In addition, a number of references to the Brown Hairstreak being found in the Ipswich area have been published online via social media along with site details.  The butterfly is also believed to be present at a number of locations, in suitable Blackthorn habitat in the Copdock, Capel and Bentley areas.  However, these sightings still need to be substantiated and evidenced.

It is unclear at present if these Brown Hairstreaks are the result of a deliberate introduction, by way of their presence on planted Blackthorn or the natural remnants of a population thought lost.  So, in respect of accurately recording Suffolk's Brown Hairstreak then I would ask the following:  

Firstly, to those who have been aware of Brown Hairstreak before now then I would ask you to send me your records with as many details as possible.  This will help me to add records relating to previous years and establish the butterfly in our county data set.

Secondly, I would encourage recorders to now look for the butterfly in the areas identified above and report any sightings or evidence of the butterfly's presence. But, please respect these locations, keep to footpaths and keep your disturbance to an absolute minimum.

However, given that we are now at the end of the Brown Hairstreaks flight season the best way of recording is to search in the winter months for eggs laid on Blackthorn.   A female Brown Hairstreak will lay her tiny sea-urchin type white eggs singly on the twigs of blackthorn, normally no higher than about six feet.  Normally, the eggs are laid close to new growth (1-2 years), near a bud or developing spine. (See the photo).  The eggs then pass the winter in this state, with the larva hatching the following spring by way of it cutting a hole in the top of the egg.  Please let me know of any eggs located and counted.

See the sightings page for Sep 9th and 11th (click here)

If you see or have seen a Brown Hairstreak at any stage of the lifecycle please email sightings@suffolkbutterflies.org.uk

The return of the Silver-washed Fritillary, Argynnis paphia

The Silver-washed Fritillary was present in Suffolk in the 1940s, but became scarce by 1959, and had not been seen until recently.  In 2006 it had a very good year in the southern counties of UK, and dispersed widely.  We had 3 sightings in Suffolk, one of which was at Theberton Wood, and it was believed that these may have spread from the re-introduction site near Coggeshall in Essex.  Perhaps some of them may since have bred in Suffolk.  In 2009, it was a surprise to discover 3 in a private wood near Stowmarket.

On 20th July2010, Rob Parker re-visited that wood.  To his delight, he found no less than eleven and plenty of violet, in what had been considered a rather small and unpromising site for breeding.  Assuming no-one is releasing them (the owner says not) this is very encouraging for a spread of the species.  The wood in question is small, but has plenty of violet.  The same afternoon, he went on to Pakenham wood (TL9367) to check on the White Admiral (just one very tatty one).  In the same glade, he was amazed to find one male A. paphia on the thistle.  Ten minutes later, another appeared, and some impressive sky climbing courting flights went on


Since then, singles have been reported from sites spread widely around the county and the 2010 totals reached a minimum of 24 SWT seen in 10 Suffolk sites by more than 13 dependable observers.  Most of these were singletons and most were photographed. Six of the localities are woods with violets, where there is every  chance of natural colonization


In the same timeframe, it was found in 15 locations in
Norfolk, some close to Suffolk.  Meanwhile, the re-introduced colony in Essex is flourishing, and appears to have spread, having reached RSPB's Stour Wood on the Suffolk border


Probably the very hot days in July triggered dispersal, a natural spread, in some ways similar to the  dispersal of White Admiral, also in July.  These sightings from
Essex, across Suffolk and well into Norfolk, were identified early because they were so unusual.  Later in the season, most counties where Silver-washed Fritillary is more commonplace noted that 2010 had been another good season for the species, with strong numbers at known sites and dispersal to new locations too.


Keeping tabs on the presence or otherwise of SWF became a priority for 2011 and 2012, and enthusiastic observers visited suitable woods in July - particularly those where they were seen in 2010.  They are powerful, majestic fliers and may be spotted from a distance, but they are also fond of thistles, so getting close enough for a photograph is not too difficult.  Take a look at your reference books now, to make sure you can separate A. paphia from other fritillaries, and the males from the females - look for the scent scales along the veins on the males - if you are lucky enough to see the upper surface of the forewings.


In 2012, it was clear that the Silver-washed Fritillary had returned in strength; it was breeding in 6 of the 2010 woods, and observers were delighted to see it flying in greater numbers (not just 24 sightings in Suffolk in one year, but now over 20 in one wood on one day).  One chap was lucky enough to see 3 mating pairs in one afternoon at Pakenham Wood, and produced the fine photograph [below]. Dispersal continues, and at the time of writing they had been seen in a further 5 woods in 2012.  That does not mean they will all become breeding woods however, and several of the 2010 woods seem not to have held their visitors.

Here is a list of the best of the woods for observing Silver-washed Fritillary.  All of these have at least some public access (please respect the private parts to preserve the landowners' goodwill)
Bradfield Woods (SWT)
Wolves Wood (RSPB)
Theberton Wood (FC)

Northfield
Wood (WT)
Norton Wood (private with footpaths)
Dunwich
Forest
(FC/ SWT – look in the glades with oak and bramble)
Reydon Great Wood (private, crossed by Hadleigh railway walk)
Pakenham Wood (private with public footpath crossing through the wood)

 
A mating pair of Silver-washed fritillaries in Pakenham Wood with a flyby. Photo by Bill Stone, July 2012 and A male Silver-washed Fritillary in a Suffolk wood – Photo Rob Parker, July 2010

Purple Emperor

The Purple Emperor has been historically present in Sufolk but disappeared in the 1950s.  The last sighting was probably around Raydon.

Since John Quinn made his freelance introductions at Theberton Wood circa 2001-2004, and the population became public knowledge in 2005, iris has continued to fly in that small wood.  John agreed not to make any further releases thereafter so that we could be confident that it really was self-sustaining.  Happily, they went from strength to strength, and observers watched them 2005-2011, whilst forestry work thinned the conifers, retained most of the sallows and opened rides and canopy somewhat.  A number of sightings were also made at RSPB Minsmere (just 3 miles away to the northeast) suggesting that the population was doing very nicely, and in 2011, one male turned up at North Warren, 6 miles to the south east.

Enthusiasm continued after John's death, and Theberton Wood is tended by Sam, a forester who is generally to be found amongst the July enthusiasts.  A sallow cutting operation late in 2011 left fallen branches which were painstakingly searched for iris larvae, and 17 were found on twigs and taken into captivity to overwinter.  They survived very well, and Sam was able to release 16 during the first week of July 2012, progressively as they emerged, and before the wild population had taken to the wing in a year of extraordinary fluctuations of weather that would probably have delayed emergence of the wild population.  By early August, fresh wild adults were flying in company with the worn released specimens.

It is unfortunate that this release has masked the performance of the truly wild population, but it can be argued that they were Theberton stock that would otherwise have perished.  The Emperor was certainly observed at Theberton in 2012, but as usual, valid counts are difficult to obtain, and the County Butterfly Recorder has not received many sighting reports or subjective judgments of population strength.  The best, on 26th July, identified 4 separate females (3 with distinctive damage, and one fresh-looking perfect specimen) and one male - a minimum of 5 still flying at that date, and the females engaged in apparent egg-laying behaviour.  Encouragingly, iris was found to have spread more widely in the wood, and was seen basking in the recently-widened main ride.

The Purple Project

 

In this Summer issue of the Suffolk Argus you will have read the report by Liz Goodyear and Andrew Middleton on their efforts to locate suitable woodlands for Purple Emperor in Suffolk.  Ignoring introduced populations, I am a great believer that the Purple Emperor could exist, albeit in small numbers, much more widely in Suffolk than our records suggest.  However, in order to find and accurately record this magnificent butterfly there is going to be a need for a significant amount of focussed surveying effort over a number of years.  To try to provide some structure and coordination to this recording effort I would like to introduce the “Purple Project”.

 

This recording scheme will initially focus on a number of woodlands which have been identified by Liz and Andrew in their report as having a Purple Emperor suitability rating as either “Red” (very good habitat- abundant sallow, sallow thickets (100+, 100s) or “Orange” (good habitat-good numbers of sallow, maybe a sallow thicket, 50-100).  Other Suffolk woodlands can be added if the woodland is identified as being suitable and when records for Purple Emperor are received from new woodlands.

 

In short, the Purple Project will require recorders to visit identified woodlands as often as possible during the flight period and undertake observations both within the wood but perhaps more importantly from external view points.

 

The following woodlands are those rated by Liz and Andrew as “Red” and “Orange” and with reasonable public access:

 

Red

Mellfield Wood (TL9259/9260/9160)

SWT Bradfield Woods (TL9358/ 9258)

SWT Bonny Wood (TM0651/0751/0752)

Woodland Trust Northfield Wood (TM0259/0260)

 

Orange

Raydon Great Wood (TM0540/0440)

RSPB Wolves Wood (TM0543/0544)

Old Hall Wood (TM1139/ 1240/1239)

 

Habitat and adult behaviour

 

In order to look for the Purple Emperor it is perhaps important to have an understanding of habitat preferences and behaviour of the adult butterfly.  In Suffolk, the Purple Emperor’s main flight period is between mid-July and mid-August.  It is often seen flying at the same time as both White Admiral and Silver-washed Fritillary and the three species share a love of mature deciduous woodland.  However, for Purple Emperor it is important that the woodland should ideally contain or, have close by, a good quantity of the primary larval food plant, Goat Willow (Salix caprea).  Purple Emperors also prefer Oak rich woodland but they are known to fly between woodlands and suitable habitat.  

 

In suitable woodlands male Purple Emperors can occasionally be seen feeding on the ground mid-morning (and again late afternoon) where they seek out sources of salt, moisture and other nutrients. It is believed that salt is essential for both the male and the female to assist in egg development and the male will pass some of his own salt reserves through his sperm during mating. Many sources for both salt and essential nutrients are utilised but especially from animal faeces.

 

After morning feeding, male Purple Emperors will slowly accumulate height and move up to a congregation area within or very close to the wood.  These areas tend to feature the highest point of their habitat or particularly prominent trees, also referred to as master trees.  These areas can also feature along the edge of the woodland.  One favoured feature of a congregation area is where there is natural depression in the canopy in the shape of a half bowl and which attracts full sun.  Favourite trees for congregation tend to be broad leafed trees such as Oak, Beech and Ash as the leaves allow the butterfly to perch on. Ideally, the leaf selected will allow the butterfly clear views of its territory and to orientate itself so that it can remain in full sun.  Males will then use these particular leaves to watch from, leaving frequently to patrol their own territories and await the entry of an unmated female.  They will also continue to feed, favouring aphid honey dew and in particular sap runs from Oak. Purple Emperors rarely use flowers for nectar although in some woods they have been observed favouring Sweet Chestnut, blossoms and buddleja.

 

Female Purple Emperors normally become active towards midday and will head to the male territories.  If a fertile male is in residence then he will challenge the female and the female will lead him away to a high point to copulate.  This could be a long distance away from the male territory and the female often utilises an Oak or Ash tree as her resting place.  However, if a female who has already been mated enters a male territory then she will avoid his attentions by flying down to the ground.  The male will eventually lose interest and return to his territorial perch.  Egg laying will normally take place midday through to early afternoon and the female will look for sallow leaves that are shaded from full sun.  This is to avoid the eggs and young larvae becoming exposed to extreme temperatures and suffering from desiccation.  The egg is laid on the upper surface of the leaf and often near the edge.  

 

Survey methods

 

The following points will, hopefully, assist in maximising recording opportunities for woodland visits for adult Purple Emperors:

Because  a male Purple Emperor could settle on suitable ground anywhere in woodland it is best to look for their congregation areas and attempt to identify males on territory. As discussed above, the congregation areas tend to feature the highest point of the wood so it’s best to look for this during an initial visit or utilise an Ordnance Survey map. You may need to stand at a distance away from the wood to achieve this.

Where no clear or accessible high point exists, explore the wood and look out for a woodland edge or ride which features an indentation in the canopy and importantly, offers exposure to sun.

Find a suitable point to watch from and start to look up for butterflies flying from their perches, scan regularly. Remember that most afternoon flights will be above the canopy.

Try and match your visit with good weather. The Purple Emperors will be at their most active from midday through to late afternoon, they prefer full sun and temperatures above 22 degrees Celsius.

Remember the Purple Emperor is a large butterfly; it can soar and glide powerfully and effortlessly. Purple Emperors will often chase each other or other butterflies and insects so look out for this aggressive behaviour and aerial pursuits.

Keep to footpaths and authorised routes

Importantly, use a good pair of binoculars and prepare yourself for a sore neck

f you are interested in getting involved in the Purple Project then please let me know which of the woodlands listed above you can visit.
Details of all visits made are important, please record when you visited, the weather conditions, times and which parts of the woodland you were able to watch. Negative visits for Purple Emperor will also be very useful
If you see Purple Emperor then please let me know as soon as possible. Ideally, a photograph or video footage would be of great use too.
Finally, if you know of any other suitable woodland then let me know

Good luck!
Bill Stone
Suffolk Butterfly Recorder

Purple Emperor in Ramsey Wood

Having gotten sporadic sightings of all 3 of the great woodland butterflies Silver-washed Fritillary, White Admiral and Purple Emperor at Millennium wood in the last 3 years, I gave Adrian Richards, who was keen to explore an area so close to Ipswich a tour.  He was amazed by the quality of habitat and the continual presence of the larval food plants for all 3 species.  Unfortunately we did not see any of those targets in the 2 hours we were there but that’s the way it goes sometimes. 

Adrian kept mentioning the great numbers of Fritillaries and Admirals he had seen at Ramsey Wood just a 15 minute drive away so suggested we went there.  Despite the declining weather by the time we got there, we managed to see 4 White Admirals and 12 Silver washed Fritillaries, all in very good condition, advising the season was late.  On wandering  through the wood I couldn’t help but notice the sheer volume and quality of Sallows, and on speaking to a couple who had just seen a "large brown butterfly" got my hopes up for a possible Purple emperor.  Adrian commented on how he always keeps an eye out for Purple Emperor and that there was no reason they wouldn't be there. 
 
The habitat looked ideal and located virtually in-between Bonny and Millennium Wood we couldn’t Rule out Purple Emperor.  We spent ages walking up and down the central ride checking Tree tops, manure heaps, dog faeces and oak sap leads but with only Commas and Red Admirals to show for it.  At 14:30  a grey cloud loomed , we lost our enthusiasm and started heading back to the car.
 
To my amazement I spotted a large butterfly gliding around the top of a gigantic Ash tree that had reached above a few large oaks.  I screamed Purple Em peror but by the time Adrian had turned round he missed it.  Excited that it may have been “His majesty” we waited until a break in the clouds.  Thankfully the butterfly was still there.  The Flight pattern was characteristic emperor but it wasn’t until we got views through binoculars we could be certain.  Purple iridescence then confirmed was a Male as expected and it continued to circle the ash for a further half an hour,  Perhaps a master tree!.  We believe this is the first confirmed Purplr Emperor sighting for this wood.  After 10 minutes another Emperor butterfly flew past initiating a dogfight.  My camera wasn’t up to scratch for getting a detailed shot but here are a few poor quality “ID shots”.  It was very fresh and again suggests the emperor season is still young.  We also think Wolves wood across the road must be worth a visit.  

 

David Dowding and Adrian Richards

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