Have you been doing the Big Butterfly Count for Butterfly Conservation? This is a UK-wide survey aimed at helping assess the health of our environment simply by counting the amount and type of butterflies (and some day-flying moths)
On Wednesday I took a walk up Seaford Head and was delighted by the number of butterflies about.
I first climbed up the steep hill from Splash Point. Where the dangerous edge of the cliff has been roped off, the wild flowers have grown longer and there are far more butterflies than usual, especially on the knapweed. Along this section I have recently spotted several fritillaries flitting around. Checking out the flowers and butterflies here is a great excuse for a breather on the way up! The most common butterfly this time was the gatekeeper, though there were quite a few meadow browns too. These species are quite similar, though the meadow brown tends to be larger. Also if you look closely, the gatekeeper has two tiny white dots in the black spot and the meadow brown has only one.
Along the main path towards the barn, various tall plants (thistles?) had gone to seed and were playing host to a very obliging and beautiful small tortoiseshell butterfly. I don’t see many of these in Seaford, so this was a real highlight!
Another butterfly that can be elusive but was out in some number, was the wall brown. A dull name for a quite stunning little butterfly, that likes to bask on walls, or in this case on the path in front of me, guiding me along the way.
Normally there are plenty of blue butterflies about, but this year they seem to be down in number, though this one was pottering around Hope Gap.
There were a couple of small skippers though these weren’t keen to pose for photos. I also didn’t spot the silver spotted skipper I was really hoping for. This scarce butterfly relies on tightly grazed areas, and bare chalky earth hollows. The female lays her eggs only on Sheep’s fescue grass, preferring those adjacent to patches of bare ground which are much warmer than the air temperature above.
There were also a pair of these six spot burnet moths, which are day flying moths. If you look carefully you may see one emerging from a cocoon on a blade of grass.
If you didn’t get to do your Butterfly Count, you can still record sightings of butterflies all year round in various ways – for example by using the iRecord App, or other formats to the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre
Alternatively you can report them to the Butterfly Conservation using various routes detailed here
The more I learn about butterflies, the more I need to learn about the plants that the butterflies use. They use them for nectar, for mating, for egg laying and for providing food for caterpillars, so being able to find these plants is a great start to finding a specific butterfly.
Every species has different requirements, and that’s why we at “On the Verge” are working so hard to encourage real diversity in our town, and surrounding countryside.
Do let us know what you have seen on your verges and elsewhere too using the hashtag #Seafordontheverge