Monday, 20 August 2012

Forthcoming Bat & Moth Night

Here's another outing for you - a nocturnal one this time!

BAT AND MOTH NIGHT Chorlton Ees & Ivy Green

Date: Saturday 25th August

Time: 8:15 pm

Meeting Place: Ivy Green car park, Brookburn Road, Chorlton (opposite the Bowling Green pub)

The plan is to wander along the bank of Chorlton Brook until we reach the river bank and then back to the car park. We will have bat detectors with us to pick up the ultra-high frequency bat calls.
On our return to the car park we will check a special moth trap with local moth expert, Ben Smart, to see how many species it has attracted (no moths will be harmed - hopefully!).


Hope to see you there.
Best Regards,
Dave Bishop (FoCM Chair)

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Walking with the Butterfly Man

By copland smith

Peter Hardy is the recorder of butterflies for Greater Manchester; the Friends of Chorlton Meadows were privileged to have him as walk leader on the first Sunday of August.

A smaller turnout than the last couple, about a dozen - perhaps 10.30 on a Sunday was a shade too early for some [I thought that the turn- out was quite good, actually – and we always start at 10:30! – Ed.] .

But a new member called Julian saw our activities halfway round and joined the group.

The showers held off and there were enough sunny spells to bring Lepidoptera out to play. We'd hardly left the Ivy Green car park when the first Speckled Wood fluttered into view. These are shade-loving butterflies and we were to see a few during the day, mostly males defending their territories against rivals as they waited to ambush any passing female.

As Peter explained, adult butterflies cannot eat solids and most rely on nectar to fuel their reproductive activities. Most of the time, they hold their tongues in a tight spiral like those licorice circles, but when they land on a flower, the "tongues" are unrolled into a sucking-straw as long as their gangly legs.

Speckled Wood females lay their eggs on grass for the caterpillars to eat. August is the peak time for the grass-feeders, when the grasses are at full height. In fact, the wet and warm weather had made the grasses taller than usual.

A Comma butterfly was warming itself in a nettle patch, angling its wings - nettles are the caterpillars' food-plant. The adults have a distinctive ragged edge, and a checker-board of black and orange, almost like a fritillary, but are named for a small, white comma on the darker underwings. The butterfly we saw will go into hibernation in early autumn and not emerge to mate until the first warm days of spring.

The first Holly Blue we noticed was sucking up thistle nectar. Later we would see one feeding on Rosebay Willowherb - something neither Peter nor I had seen before. These tiny, pale blue jobs are really "The Holly and the Ivy" Blue - this one had  grown in holly and would lay its eggs in ivy, where the next generation would grow, before emerging next spring to restart the holly generation.

When we reached a grassland area, we were buzzed by patrolling dragonflies - Brown Hawkers. And like tiny blue matchsticks amongst the grass stems, Common Blue Damselflies shimmered.

The grassland flickered with the browns and oranges of three more producers of grass-feeding larvae - the tiny Small Skipper; the larger, chocolate-bordered Gatekeeper (used to be called the Hedge Brown), and the still larger, tattier Meadow Brown. The Skipper and Gatekeeper have in common another trait: if the forewing has a dark smear on it, this is the male scent gland and shows his gender.

Skippers look like moths. When they rest, the hindwings are horizontal and the front wings angled; only skippers do this. A few weeks earlier, Large Skippers would have been in the same habitat; really quite similar to the Small, but with some patterning on the wings.

Tiny grass moths flew deep in the grasses; the most common were more triangular than some; Peter identified them as Udea lutealis­ -most micro-moths lack common names. There are only 59 species of truly British butterflies, but there are over 2000 species of moth, not all of which wait for night before flying.

There was a moment of torture (for me) when we approached the region of the Jackson's Boat inn, and then Mr. Hardy swung round and headed in the opposite direction for a further hour. It was all right though, the Bowling Green pub lay in wait instead. (Later, out of Peter's sight, a Gatekeeper would land on the pub wall, and another Holly Blue would emerge from the graveyard. He will be sent these records too.)

White butterflies zoomed about. The largest were Large Whites, scourge of allotment brassicas. All the smaller ones that stopped to be identified had a tracery of veins on the hind underwing - Green-Veined Whites. These are the commonest on the Meadows. They don't trouble the gardener - they feed on wild crucifers like the Cuckoo Flower (or Lady's Smock, it has many common names) — Cardamine pratensis. Their flowers are long gone, but there were plenty of other wild members of the cabbage family around.

There may have been a glimpse of a Peacock butterfly, but no one was sure enough for it to become an official record.

Great Hairy Willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum) and ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) grew everywhere, painting the landscape pink and yellow, and on many flowerheads of the Ragwort, the black and gold striped caterpillars of the Cinnabar moth were crawling.

Towards the end of the walk, down near the river, a Small Tortoiseshell showed itself, giving a welcome splash of colours. Freshly emerged from its nettly hiding-place, its iridescent blue studs shone along the edge of the pattern of reds, browns, white and black.

A satisfying Sunday: 9 types of butterfly, 2 moths and 2 dragonflies, and the company of some very nice humans as well. All of the Lepidoptera records will go into Peter's database and thus into the county and national records. It's the unpaid work of people like him throughout the country that provides data that conservationists need. Our thanks to him for that, and for an enjoyable and informative day.

copland smith

August, 2012


Species noted

Lepidoptera - butterflies

Thymelicus sylvestris Small Skipper

Celastrina argiolus  Holly Blue

Pieris brassicae        Large White

Pieris napi                Green-veined White

Aglais urticae           Small Tortoiseshell

Polygonia c-album  Comma

 Pyronia tithonus      Gatekeeper

Maniola jurtina        Meadow Brown

Pararge aegeria         Speckled Wood

Lepidoptera - moths

Tyria jacobaeae       Cinnabar (caterpillars)

Udea lutealis            a grass moth

 Odonata - dragonflies and damselflies

Enallagma cyathigerum        Common Blue Damselfly

Aeshna grandis        Brown Hawker

Useful books

must haves

Pocket Guide to the Butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland Richard Lewington ISBN 978 0 9531399 1 0 (British Wildlife Press) £9.95

Field guide to the Dragonflies and damselflies of Great Britain and Ireland Ray Lewington (British Wildlife Press) ISBN 953 13990 5 £18.95

 The Birdwatcher's Pocket Guide to Britain and Europe Rob Hume ISBN 9781845334352 (Hamlyn) £9.99

more specialist books

The Butterflies of Britain & Ireland (2nd Edition) Jeremy Thomas, illustrated by Richard Lewington (British Wildlife Press) ISBN 978 0 9564902 0 9 £24.95

Field Guide to the Micro-moths of Great Britain & Ireland Phil Sterling and Mark Parsons, illustrated by Richard Lewington ISBN 978-0-9564902-1-6 (British Wildlife Press) £29.95

 Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland - Paperback (2nd edition) Paul Waring & Martin Townsend, illustrated by Richard Lewington ISBN 978 0 9531399 8 9 (British Wildlife Press) £29.95