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News 2017

News functions 30 Dec - Red Admiral larva at Fairlands Valley Park. At least one Red Admiral larva under folded nettle leaves about 3 inches above ground at Fairlands Valley Park east of the St Vincent de Paul School. Photo

28 Dec - White-letter Hairstreak egg. Found at eye-level height at south-eastern corner of clump of elms at Six Hills Common

27 Dec - Design change - menu on left hand side. New vertical menu setup on left hand side on all pages

24 Dec - Red Admiral update 2. An egg laid on what might be a Ground Ivy leaf at the same place in Knebworth Park. Could this plant be part of an adaptation strategy adopted by the butterfly for the winter? Hostplantandegg

19 Dec - Red Admiral update 1. In Knebworth Park, no larvae found on the nettles where some of the more exposed plants are dying probably due to the recent snow and prolonged cold weather. However, two yellow-green eggs were found but one of them laid on a now-dying leaf so I don't hold much hope for this one!

9 Dec - Red Admiral larva in Knebworth Park. Red Admiral larva now at Knebworth Park - note the 'tents' on first photo. Larval tentsandLarva

4 Dec - Red Admiral egg hatched in Knebworth Park. Red Admiral egg hatched in Knebworth Park but did not find any larvae. Photo

1 Dec - Species accounts updated. All species accounts updated with latest information from the UKBMS report on abundance up to 2016, local transect records for this year and other interesting observations

24 Nov - Red Admiral eggs in Knebworth Park. Red Admiral eggs turning yellow-green in Knebworth Park where I found some earlier in month. Photo

18 Nov - Purple Hairstreak egg. Egg under oak bud at eye-level on southern edge of Cowley's Corner Wood - Photo

8 Nov - More Red Admiral eggs. Two more Red Admiral eggs on a leaf inches away from last week's find. Photo

3 Nov - Red Admiral egg in Knebworth Park. By the new footpath on the southern edge of Cowley's Corner Wood a Red Admiral egg was found close to the ground on fresh nettles. Perhaps the weather in October had not been cold enough to trigger migration south. Photo

31 Oct - Photos added and replaced. Many new photos taken this year now included on associated species pages

25 Oct - Knebworth Park sightings. 3 Comma, 1 Red Admiral and 1 Peacock on the eastern side of Cowley's Corner Wood.
On eastern edge of Monks Wood, slightly unusual form of Comma with spots inside the orange lunules Photo

16 Oct - Annual transect totals. Stevenage - 1856: 22 species (Meadow Brown 574); Knebworth Woods - 1255: 24 species (Meadow Brown 397); Knebworth Park - 1631: 24 species (Meadow Brown 651)

12 Oct - Small Copper eggs, larvae and adults!. At the spot on the same plant where I found a Small Copper egg last week Phil from MBDA found some more with larvae. 3 adults also seen. Photo

8 Oct - Commas and Coppers still going strong. 6 Small Copper and 6 Comma east of Cowley's Corner Wood and Parsons Grove. Small Copper egg now hatched. Photo: Small Copper

2 Oct - Small Copper egg. Found east of Cowley's Corner Wood in Knebworth Park in area where I saw several female adults last week. Photo

1 Oct - Long-tailed Blue. Reported from Sandwich Bay, Kent on 28 September

26 Sep - Speckled Wood. Many species have done well this year but Speckled Wood has had a poor one locally. Only one seen on my Stevenage transect plus Small White and Comma

24 Sep - 8 species at Knebworth and Norton Green. Transects yielded 6 Small Copper (5 in NW part of Knebworth Park), 9 Comma (6 in Norton Green Common) and 2 Brimstone also in Norton Green Common plus all the whites, Small Tortoiseshell and Speckled Wood

19 Sep - Brown Hairstreak at Knebworth Park?. Probably - 80% certain that I saw a female flying close to the ground as if on a mission in the NW corner of Knebworth Park towards the brambles near Wintergreen Cottages (TL220209). Knebworth transects yielded only 8 butterflies (5 Small White, 2 Red Admiral and 1 Speckled Wood)

17 Sep - Stevenage transect week 25. Only 2 butterflies (Small White and Speckled Wood) compared to an average of around 7 for week 25, in the Shackledell Grassland area. The grassland itself had its annual conservation cut during the week, perhaps prematurely, so no more Small Coppers!

14 Sep - Holly Blues. Some Holly Blues flying in the Heathrow area - probably from a third brood

12 Sep - Stevenage transect week 24. 13 butterflies: 6 Speckled Wood, 4 Comma, 2 Small White and a Small Copper feeding on Common Centaury at Shackledell. More or less what I expected for time of year. In afternoon, several Commas feeding on blackberries at Norton Green Common

9 Sep - Commas and Coppers. Knebworth Park transect for week 24 yielded 29 butterflies (1 Large White, 6 Small White, 3 Green-veined White, 5 Small Copper, 3 Red Admiral, 5 Comma, 4 Speckled Wood and 2 Meadow Brown). Looks like a good third brood of Small Copper developing here

6 Sep - The best since 2004. And second highest ever on my Stevenage transect. Today's count of 12 for week 23 (6 Speckled Wood, 3 Small White, 2 Small Copper and a Common Blue) now makes it to 1816 for this year, the highest since 2004 when 2003 butterflies were recorded

4 Sep - Brown Hairstreak update. Account for the Brown Hairstreak have been updated on the website with additional notes on observation and possible confusion with Purple Hairstreak

2 Sep - Knebworth transects. 59 butterflies including 27 Small White and 17 Speckled Wood. Silver-Y moths were everywhere in the meadow, now grazed by sheep, north of Graffidge Wood

31 Aug - 'Blue badges' Small Copper. Aberrant Small Copper with the 'blue badges' ab. caeruleopunctata feeding on thistle by footpath north of Graffidge Wood. Many Speckled Wood and Small White in Crouch Green

27 Aug - Queens in Sussex. Queen of Spain Fritillary (3) seen in Sussex near Telscombe. Knebworth transects yielded 67 butterflies including 28 Speckled Wood, 18 Small White plus a third-brooded Small Copper. A possible Brown Hairstreak outside Rusling End Cottage

26 Aug - Speckled Wood on the up. Stevenage transect yielded 12 Speckled Wood accounting for nearly half the total of 25 including 6 Small White, 3 G-V White, 2 Comma, a Common Blue and Gatekeeper

25 Aug - Mardley Heath. Don Gregory and I visited the nature reserve in search for the Brown Hairstreak but with no luck. Several whites, a Small Heath, some Meadow Brown and fresh Comma plus 2 Red Admiral seen

20 Aug - Brown Hairstreaks at Mardley Heath?. Reports of possible Brown Hairstreak at the Mardley Heath Nature Reserve, 3 miles south of Stevenage. On Silver Birch close to the A1 (TL243187) on 13 August

19 Aug - Another Comma pupa. Pupa found on the hazel where Comma larva was discovered in Millennium Wood on 26 July but this one was at eye-level. Stevenage transect walked but only 8 butterflies in the mostly cloudy conditions

17 Aug - Clouded Yellow. Seen flying rapidly in an easterly direction in field south of Watery Grove. Also in field was a Brown Argus with white bands on the forewings instead of the usual orange

14 Aug - Comma pupa. The pupa which was on the hazel in Millennium Wood is no longer with us - lasted up to 2 days in this state

13 Aug - Dark Green Fritillary. One reported today in the Knebworth Woods complex at the same spot where one was seen in July 2002, the only other records from the Stevenage area since 1995. The Comma larva which was feeding on hazel in Millennium Wood has pupated. Below 50 butterflies on each of the Knebworth transects; 3 Purple Hairstreak seen on the ground

11 Aug - Brown Argus and Small Heath. Several Brown Argus and Small Heath found in the fields around Aston. These two species faring well this year

10 Aug - 'White' Gatekeeper. At Norton Green, a Gatekeeper with one hind wing suffused with white seen. Possible Brown Hairstreak on the 'ash' but too far away to be absolutely sure

6 Aug - Knebworth transects week 19. 113 butterflies overall with 16 species including several Small Copper in Knebworth Park, Silver-washed Fritillary and Peacock at Norton Green

5 Aug - Stevenage transect week 19. 68 butterflies including 29 Gatekeeper, 19 Meadow Brown and 13 Common Blue but still no Peacocks!

4 Aug - Brown Hairstreaks. Trip to Bookham Commons yielded two Brown Hairstreaks, a male feeding on hogweed and a female on creeping thistle

1 Aug - Peacocks and Brown Argus. At least 6 Peacock at Norton Green Common - why late in the season for the new brood? 4 Brown Argus in the field south of Watery Grove in 5 minutes - most I have ever recorded on a local site

31 Jul - Stevenage transect week 18. 87 butterflies including first Small Copper, a tatty specimen, for two years and not in area where I usually find it. Gatekeeper and Meadow Brown most common

30 Jul - Very few Peacocks. Numbers continue to fall on Knebworth transects. On Saturday, the park transect yielded 63 butterflies with 24 Meadow Brown and 18 Gatekeeper topping the list. First ever Silver-washed Fritillary record on transect (north Graffidge Wood). On Sunday, 76 butterflies, from 14 species, counted in the woods transect including the first belated appearance of the new generation Peacock

26 Jul - Brown Argus aberration. An aberrant form of Brown Argus, snelleni, with white surrounding the black discoidal spots, found at Shackledell, my first sighting of the species at the site. Comma larva on a hazel leaf perhaps preparing to pupate in Millennium Wood

25 Jul - Stevenage transect week 17. A count of 142, 15 more than last week, due to a small increase in numbers of Meadow Brown and Common Blue (including a female with extra white marks on the hindwings) on my Stevenage transect. Also two second brood Holly Blue

22 Jul - Silver-washed on knapweed. Spotted two Silver-washed Fritillaries loving the knapweed in Burleigh Meadow whilst walking my Knebworth transects. Numbers overall continuing to decline with only 96 in the park and 76 in the woods

20 Jul - Gatekeeper now top dog. 49 Gatekeeper found on my Stevenage transect but still not the numbers of a decade ago. Overall 127 butterflies recorded, well down on the previous week

18 Jul - Already on the wane. Numbers much lower (312) on Knebworth transects than last week but good to see several Small Copper (8) and Common Blue (23). Painted Lady feeding on buddleia in back garden

13 Jul - White Admiral at Norton Green. White Admiral feeding on bramble at Norton Green Common during field trip. Species not previously recorded here since 2014. Also present were several Silver-washed Fritillary and Purple Hairstreak

11 Jul - Comma larva. Found a Comma larva, probably in its final instar, under a nettle leaf in Millennium Wood. Yesterday (10 July), saw my first new-generation Peacock in back garden feeding on white buddleia

8 Jul - 17 species at Knebworth. Knebworth transects yielded 17 species in total of 511 butterflies including 5 low-flying Purple Hairstreak, 2 Silver-washed, 2 second-brood Common Blue. Meadow Brown again the commonest with 201 and Marbled White still going strong with 92

7 Jul - Chalkhill Blues. At Hexton Chalk Pit between 0945 and 1030 hours, were at least 20 Chalkhill Blue (all males) basking and/or feeding but mostly with wings folded due to the heat. Also present were several Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Ringlet and Marbled White with one or two Small White and golden skippers

4 Jul - Purple Emperor hot-spot?. 7 sightings of at least 4 male Purple Emperors in the canopy at the Parson's Grove (north of Newton Wood)/Cannocks Wood corner viewed from the newly created public footpath between 1258 and 1313 hours. Several Gatekeepers now on the wing in Knebworth Park

1 Jul - Second brood Small Coppers. Two fresh Small Coppers found on my Knebworth transects, one near Burleigh Farm and one in Knebworth Park in predominantly cloudy weather. It was warm with a light breeze, bright rather than dull, and over 400 butterflies recorded including 162 Meadow Brown, 141 Ringlet and 75 Marbled White

30 Jun - More Purple. Two Purple Emperors near Newton Wood - one encircled me for a few seconds and one on top of an oak about 50 yards further away. Purple Hairstreaks common but still only one Silver-washed Fritillary in the Norton Green area. Earlier, no sign of any White-letter Hairstreaks at Six Hills Common

29 Jun - Purple Hairstreak on the rise. Despite the cloud with very brief glimpses of the sun at around 1 pm, at least a dozen Purple Hairstreaks were active over the top of one tall oak in Pigeonswick Wood

26 Jun - Another Purple day. A Purple Emperor near Pigeonswick Cottage at 1315 hours under a large oak. Earlier, counted 395 butterflies on my Stevenage transect including 132 Ringlet, 111 Meadow Brown and 85 Marbled White. Most of the Marbled Whites were at Shackledell. Record June weekly total - beats the 248 set in 2014

24 Jun - Silver-washed. On my Knebworth woods transect, saw my first Silver-washed Fritillary in Pigeonswick Wood. 179 butterflies overall: 80 Meadow Brown, 59 Ringlet and 12 Marbled White were the most common. On Knebworth Park transect, 124 Meadow Brown, 61 Ringlet and 46 Marbled White in total of 265

23 Jun - First Purple Hairstreak. Purple Hairstreak seen halfway up an oak on right of track at Norton Green where Ringlet now more common and golden skippers emerging. Earlier at Six Hills saw a nice female White-letter Hairstreak very low down for more photo shots - none seen in the canopy but breezy today

21 Jun - Purple Emperors. Close encounters with 2 male Purple Emperors at Hatfield Forest, one feeding on resin from a post and other on sap from pine. Both in shade from the heat at around 1 pm. Also more than 50 Silver-washed Fritillary (nearly all males patrolling up and down rides)

19 Jun - Early White letters. At 7:45 am, about 20 White-letter Hairstreaks at Six Hills Common, mostly halfway up the elms. At 9:15 am, they were far less active. A Comma at Norton Green taking salts from my arm and landed on my nose at one point

18 Jun - Century at Stevenage. My Stevenage transect yielded 167 butterflies (88 Meadow Brown, 20 Ringlet, 5 Speckled Wood, 3 Small Skipper, 29 Marbled White, 18 Large Skipper and 8 Sm/Es Skipper). Restless in the heat so no photos taken. Went to Shackledell at 6:45 am to take some Marbled White shots

17 Jun - First century of the year. 135 butterflies on the Knebworth Park transect with more than half in the north-western part of the park. 102 Meadow Brown, 11 Ringlet, 8 Small/Essex Skipper, 4 Common Blue, 3 Marbled White, 2 Brown Argus, 2 Small Tortoiseshell, 2 Speckled Wood and 1 Essex Skipper. On the woods transect, 20 Meadow Brown, 4 Large Skipper, 3 Speckled Wood, 2 Common Blue

15 Jun - White letter again. At Six Hills at the same time as yesterday, windier conditions meant fewer White-letter Hairstreaks in the canopy but saw one head-high on the eastern side. Took a couple of photos. Yay!

14 Jun - White-letter Hairstreaks. 8+ in gaps in elm canopy at Six Hills Common between 0905 and 0925 hours - probably earliest ever sighting in Stevenage area

13 Jun - Marbled White and Ringlet. First Marbled White (3) and Ringlet (2) of the year seen at Shackledell

11 Jun - Purple Emperor in Surrey. Male Purple Emperor reported from Bookham Common.
Meadow Brown particularly common in the field north of Burleigh Farm. Numbers of Speckled Wood picking up in the wooded areas. A nice Comma hutchinsoni seen near Norton Green Farm and the first Small Heath (2) of the year here in the field adjoining Watery Grove

10 Jun - Brampton Wood. A very short visit to this renowned Black Hairstreak site yielded immediate success when I arrived at about 2 pm at Site 2. One specimen alighted on an aspen sapling leaf 3 feet high staying there for several minutes.
On my Stevenage transect in the morning, I counted 32 butterflies (16 Meadow Brown, 11 Speckled Wood, 2 Large Skipper, 2 Small Tortoisehell and 1 Holly Blue)

8 Jun - Unusual Common Blue. In cloudy and windy conditions, at Norton Green only one butterfly - Common Blue with underside showing elongated spot near costa edge of hindwing ab. discreta

4 Jun - First Large Skippers. 27 butterflies on my Stevenage transect including 14 Speckled Wood, 6 Meadow Brown, 4 Large Skipper, 1 Red Admiral, 1 Painted Lady and 1 Common Blue

3 Jun - First Meadow Brown. On Knebworth transects saw first Meadow Brown of the year in the park. Also recorded 14 Speckled Wood, 6 Common Blue and 1 each of Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Green-veined White and Small Tortoiseshell

2 Jun - Small Tortoiseshell. Second generation Small Tortoiseshell found about 20 yards from nettle bed harbouring at least 3 Small Tortoiseshell larvae at Norton Green

1 Jun - Chapelfoot. Little sunshine but warm yielded over 20 Common Blue, 2 Brown Argus and an Orange Tip east and south of Chapelfoot. Also a Snout moth

31 May - Stevenage transect week 9. 10 butterflies: 8 Speckled Wood, 1 Red Admiral and 1 Painted Lady. Several Burnet Companion at Shackledell

28 May - Knebworth transects week 9. Despite a slow start at around 1100 hours, when the sun was hazy, things picked up at just after midday when the sun shone more strongly. I recorded 6 species (9 Common Blue, 8 Speckled Wood, 2 Peacock, 1 Small Copper, 1 Red Admiral and 1 Green-veined White)

26 May - Bison Hill. Bob and I made our annual visit to Bison Hill (near Whipsnade Zoo) to find in particular the Duke of Burgundy. We counted quite a few Dukes but most were faded. The most common species was the Brown Argus (40+) followed by Small Heath (30+), Dingy Skipper (30+). Green Hairstreaks were also present. A very satisfying day

23 May - First Small Heath. Found a Small Heath in a field south of Bareleigh near the Sainsbury's superstore

21 May - Knebworth transects week 8. 4 Orange Tip, 2 Common Blue, 1 Small White, 1 Speckled Wood. Outside the transects, I also found 2 Red Admiral (Pigeonswick Cottage and north of Norton Green near travellers' site) and 1 Green-veined White near Burleigh Farm

20 May - Common Blues now flying. First (two) Common Blues at Shackledell while walking Stevenage transect but only 4 butterflies in total ( + Orange Tip and Holly Blue)

16 May - Holly Blue on Dogwood. Very few butterflies in the wind at Shackledell Grassland but I witnessed a tame female Holly Blue apparently oviposiiting on a Dogwood plant at around 1045 am. Lots of Dogwood at the site - could it be the preferred choice of foodplant for first generation

14 May - Transects week 7. Although quite warm there was a stiff breeze which might have contributed to relatively few butterflies flying - only 9 butterflies: 4 Brimstone, 3 Green-veined White and 2 Orange Tip. In mid afternoon, when I walked the Stevenage transect I counted 2 Speckled Wood, 2 Small White, 1 Green-veined White and 1 Holly Blue

10 May - Stevenage transect week 6. In unbroken sunshine but in rather cool weather, I recorded 5 Speckled Wood, 2 Orange Tip, 2 Green-veined White and 1 Small White

7 May - Knebworth transects week 6. The first Speckled Wood of the year here near Burleigh Farm to add to 8 Orange Tip, 6 Brimstone (all males), 4 Green-veined White, 1 Small White, 1 Peacock and 1 Small Tortoiseshell

4 May - First Small Copper. Set off early in the morning to look for larvae, eggs and any butterflies roosting at Norton Green. No larvae or eggs but I found a female Orange Tip roosting on a bluebell flower near the farm. Unexpectedly the sun came out which tempted a few butterflies to fly around including 6 Orange Tip, 3 Brimstone, 2 Green-veined White, 1 Small White and to cap it all, a fresh Small Copper close to Watery Grove

2 May - Stevenage transect week 5. In the morning sunshine, I counted 23 butterflies (the best of the year so far): 10 Orange Tip, 4 Speckled Wood, 4 Brimstone (all males), 2 Small White, 1 Green-veined White, 1 Peacock and 1 Small Tortoiseshell

28 Apr - Hexton Chalk Pit. 3 hours around lunch time at Hexton CP and Telegraph Hill saw NO butterflies - too cool and cloudy!

27 Apr - Hoverfly at Whomerley Wood. While searching for larvae and eggs I found a hoverfly Criorhina floccosa resting on bramble leaf - apparently only one other record of this insect in Hertfordshire but almost definitely under-recorded

25 Apr - Orange Tip eggs. At least 3 Orange Tip eggs under the flowerheards of a Garlic Mustard plant at Norton Green Common

22 Apr - Stevenage transect week 4. A disappointing day with just 8 butterflies (5 Speckled Wood, 2 Small Tortoiseshell and 1 (female) Orange Tip). Both Small Tortoiseshells were feeding on dandelion flowers

19 Apr - Dukes in Bedfordshire. 2 Duke of Burgundy seen at Bison Hill, Dunstable Downs.
Recorded 11 butterflies (5 Orange Tip, 2 Small Tortoiseshell, 2 Brimstone, 1 Comma and 1 Peacock) in cool weather (12-13c) on my Knebworth transects

18 Apr - More like it!. My Stevenage transect walk yielded 14 butterflies (8 Speckled Wood, 3 Orange Tip, 2 Holly Blue and a Peacock even if the temperature in the shade was below 12 degrees. Yet in the previous week I saw only 8 in more ideal conditions. A mystery!

15 Apr - Rain at last!. The first significant rain for several weeks fell last night but was it enough to help some larval foodplants to grow? A half-hour stroll at Norton Green yielded a male Orange Tip with a pupilled discoidal spot on the forewings - perhaps ab. pupillata

12 Apr - Public rights of way at Knebworth Park. Changes to take effect from 13 April impacting the eastern side of the park. A new footpath will be added from Lake Lodge following round the eastern edge of woodland to join the byway through Norton Green Common. This will replace existing footpaths in this section of the park

11 Apr - Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell eggs. Report from North Stoke (yes, the same place where Large Tortoiseshells were seen!) where batches of Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell were laid next to each other underneath a nettle leaf

9 Apr - Wonderful weather but .... Just 8 butterflies on my Stevenage transect today in spite of some glorious weather: 4 Speckled Wood, 2 Orange Tip, 1 Green-veined White and 1 Peacock - very disappointing but good to see the first Orange Tip and Speckled Wood here

8 Apr - Grizzled at Frogmore. Grizzled Skipper seen at Frogmore Gravel Pit by Lee Browne. Not quite the earliest on record which was in 2012 when one was reported on 4 April. The warmest March in England since 1957 has brought out some early sightings of Orange Tip, Holly Blue and Speckled Wood but few other 'whites'.
Bob Clift found an unusual Peacock on his transect at Bishop's Stortford where the blue markings on the outside of the ocelli on the forewings replaced by grey - probably ab. griseocellata

6 Apr - 3 Firsts!. On a visit to Chells Park and the bridleway east of Chells Manor I counted 22 butterflies including 5 Speckled Woods, 1 Green-veined White and 1 Holly Blue - all firsts of the year. The Holly Blue was a male hugging the ground seemingly searching for minerals or moisture. Frustratingly it refused to stop for a pose!

5 Apr - My first Orange Tip. In very limited sunshine walking my Knebworth Woods transect I encountered my first Orange Tip (male) patrolling down the track west of Watery Grove

4 Apr - Comma egg. I saw a Comma (probably female) loitering around a nettle bed in Millennium Wood in the previous week so perhaps it would be worth checking if any eggs were laid. After searching the bed for about ten minutes I found one on the edge of a nettle leaf - photo on Facebook

3 Apr - Another Large Tortoiseshell in Sussex. A male specimen found in the same area as the female on 28 March. Will they meet and mate?

28 Mar - Large Tortoiseshell in Sussex. Female Large Tortoiseshell seen in West Sussex at North Stoke