Sun shines (intermittently) on Crossness butterfly event

Karen Sutton, Biodiversity Team Manager at Crossness Nature Reserve on Erith Marshes, reports on the Wednesday 15th July butterfly identification event.

We held a butterfly identification walk on Crossness Nature Reserve just before the launch of Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count which runs from 17th July until 8th August (see their website for information on how to takepart). The Crossness event was very kindly led by Peter Riley and his wife Margaret, from the Kent Branch of Butterfly Conservation.

Some of the attendees at the event. (Photo: Karen  Sutton)

Some of the attendees at the event. (Photo: Karen Sutton)

I thought it was going to be another of my infamous wash-outs, since it had been raining earlier in the morning and looked as though it was going to be grey and overcast all day; not quite the balmy July weather with which you expect tonnes of butterflies to be on the wing. However, it did warm up, the sun did break through from time to time, and the 19 attendees did get to see butterflies; possibly not as many as we might see on a sunshiney summer’s day, but a good variety of expected species.

We saw 5 Small Whites, 3 Gatekeepers as well as a mating pair, 2 Speckled Wood, 4 Peacock, 2 Meadow Brown, 2 Essex Skipper, 2 Small Tortoiseshell, 2 Green-veined White (of which one was particularly yellow), Red Admiral, Holly Blue and Common Blue butterfly and lots of Cinnabar Moth caterpillars on Ragwort.

Red Admiral at Crossness. (Photo: Ursula Keene)

Red Admiral at Crossness. (Photo: Ursula Keene)

A couple of species that we didn’t see, but were seen only the previous week, were Comma and Brimstone. Clouded Yellow are also seen at Crossness, but not at today’s event unfortunately. The other species that we didn’t see because it is too late in the year, but occur fairly frequently at Crossness, were Green Hairstreak and Orange Tip, both of which are seen in spring/early summer.

For those that attended the disappointing dragonfly and damselfly walk a couple of weeks before (it was cold, grey and windy, and dragonflies certainly require sunshine!), they were at least rewarded this time with spectacular views of an Emperor Dragonfly flying over the Protected Area pond and over the mini-beast area, as well as a Black-tailed Skimmer that settled on a reed right in front of us, providing nice close views, and some Blue-tailed Damselflies.

Female Emperor Dragonfly egg-laying at Crossness. (Photo: Ursula Keene)

Female Emperor Dragonfly egg-laying at Crossness. (Photo: Ursula Keene)

Male Black-tailed Skimmer on reed stem. (Photo: Ursula Keene)

Male Black-tailed Skimmer on reed stem. (Photo: Ursula Keene)

We also saw Swift hunting overhead, heard Reed Warblers and the odd short burst of Cetti’s Warbler. We also heard Chiffchaff , Greenfinch and Goldfinch. Prior to the event, an adult and juvenile Peregrine were seen flying overhead. One attendee, whilst walking to the meet-up point, saw both Barn Owl and Kestrel in the same field, and another visitor saw 2 Peacock, 3 Gatekeepers and several Small Whites on the Thames Path/Sea Wall Field, as well a juvenile Kestrel on the Crossness Sludge Powered Generator.

So what looked as though it might be a very disappointing event first thing in the morning, turned into a nice event with plenty of wildlife seen, and a nice catch-up with the lovely members of the Friends of Crossness Nature Reserve scheme.

 

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