The following Bexley butterfly report has been sent to the London Natural History Society butterfly recorder for the 2016 journal, which will contain the 2015 transect count and species status reports and be published in early 2017.
What follows won’t get used in its entirety, and isn’t going to appear as a report on Bexley per se, but bits will be cut and pasted into the sections on the fortunes of each individual species in London. Therefore it’s just the ‘highlights’ for 2015, and not an attempt to document every kind of butterfly at large in the Borough.
London Borough of Bexley butterfly news 2015.
Contributors – Mike Robinson, Ralph Todd, Ian Stewart, Joe Johnson, Chris Rose, John Archer.
Marbled White (Melanargia galathea). Is this species now on the march in south east London? No previous records have been found for Bexley, so when Mike Robinson found one at Hollyhill Open Space on 24th June 2015 this appeared to be the first ever (modern, at least) sighting. It was also seen there the next day by Chris Rose. But this was quickly ‘trumped’ twice. It transpired that Ralph Todd had seen one at Crayford Marshes on 4th June 2015 but had only got a fuzzy photograph and had not kept it. Then Mike was discussing the matter with John Archer who, it turned out, had seen one at Erith Marshes, on the Thames path near the original Crossness sewage works, on 7th July 2010. He thought he’d written it in the Crossness Nature Reserve logbook, but seems not to have done so. The latest LNHS butterfly count data for London (2014) says the Marbled White figure was the highest since reliable information for the species first became available in 1997. In respect of south-east London, a 2014 LNHS Journal paper on the butterflies of Blackheath/Greenwich Park states that it was seen there in 2012 and then 2014, and that it was also seen at Greenwich Ecology Park in 2014. In 2014 it was also recorded in Jubilee Country Park, Bromley.
Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus). The rise of the Ringlet in Bexley continues apace. It appears to have started ‘taking off’ around 2011/2012, but was known from only 4 sites by the end of 2013. It was found at a further 6 sites during 2014, and 5 more – the Chalk/Joydens Wood area, Danson Park, Grasmere Road allotment site, Hollyhill Open Space and Martens Grove – in 2015 and now seems likely to turn up anywhere in the Borough that matches its favoured habitat of long grass and scattered shrubs near woodland margins.
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui). No sign in Bexley of the predicted major influx. Mike Robinson saw thirteen during 2015 – five on Crossness Nature Reserve at Erith Marshes and the surrounding area, one each in his garden, by Corinthian Manorway in Erith, East Wickham Open Space in Welling and Lesnes Abbey park, three on the Hollyhill Open Space and one flying through the B&Q Car park in Lower Belvedere. Ralph Todd saw one in his garden in Bexleyheath and Chris Rose saw one at Thames Road Wetland.
Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia). This species has only been recorded from a handful of sites in London. During 2015 there were sightings from Joydens Wood, but with the Borough boundary with Kent passing through the woodland, observers were not one hundred percent certain they had seen it on the London side of the line. Its presence in Bexley was, however, confirmed by Joe Johnson, who saw one on Cocksure Lane on the west side of the wood in August 2015.
White Admiral (Limenitis camilla). GiGL has an ‘unverified’ record of this woodland species from Gatton’s plantation in 2003, made by LNHS member Mark Spencer of botanical fame. On June 24th 2015 Ralph Todd and Ian Stewart spotted a White Admiral on the woodland edge of a ride bordering Chalk Wood, which strongly suggests that it occurs inside the Bexley border, but much of the boundary with Dartford (Kent) in this area falls within woodland so it can be difficult to be sure which side of of the line one is on. It is hoped that the White Admiral can be unequivocally confirmed as a Bexley butterfly during 2016.
Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi). A number of sightings of the species in 2014 and 2015 along the Thames path and on Crossness Nature Reserve at Erith Marshes have confirmed that it is well-established in this part of Bexley. A report produced in 2015 showed it had been found at Erith Quarry(a Grade 1 SINC) in 2014 by surveyors in the pay of a ‘developer’. Since Bexley Council’s Planning Committee voted unanimously to trash 70% of the site and leave only a fragment of suitable habitat, it may soon be lost from this location.
Clouded Yellow (Colias crocea). Mike Robinson saw this migrant species at Crossness in 2015, where there was a single record from both July and August.
The Bexley butterfly species total now stands at 28, with White Admiral a very possible 29th.