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2018 Butterfly Survey of The Dales Local Nature reserve TM1546 (Plates 7-14) Compared to previous one-year surveys published in past editions of ‘Suffolk Natural History’ this was a much smaller area and the eleven visits from April to September 2018 each took about forty minutes to complete, though longer in summer months of butterfly abundance. Visits were made either by myself or with my wife Anne-Marie. Our approach was always along Dale Hall Lane, Ipswich, then taking steps down and along Baronsdale Close, with the entrance having a notice board, play area and small football pitch. From here the short, shaded path opens out to a large pond and opposite it a bramble bush about forty yards in length and behind it a large buddleia bush, davidii variety. A longer shaded path leads to a large meadow and at its far end a notice board with a meadow habitat poster. From the meadow a main path leads steeply upwards and eventually ends close to the entrance. This was the route followed on each visit though a second visit was made to the area of the main bramble and buddleia, when both were in flower, before leaving. Transect rules were not followed so each butterfly that was identified was included. The information on the entrance notice board describes the reserve as being part of a now dry valley, with a mosaic of different habitats, the majority being secondary woodland of various ages, with some areas of dense scrub. There are two main ponds, both fed by springs, and other smaller ones. A group ‘Friends of The Dales’ was formed in 2009 and there are regular work parties. The 19 butterfly species recorded so far on the reserve, as indicated on the notice board: Large Skipper, Brimstone, Large White, Small White, Orange Tip, Green Hairstreak, Purple Hairstreak, Small Copper, Holly Blue, White Admiral, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Comma, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown and Ringlet. First visit - 21 April - sunny conditions with some wind. Nectar and larval food plants included ground ivy, goat willow, stinging nettle, lesser celandine, honesty, cowslip, dandelion, hedge garlic, bluebell, coltsfoot, sweet violet, marsh marigold, water mint and blossom from several tree species. Future lists, abbreviated to NLFP, will just include additional sources. No butterflies were seen until we reached the far end of the reserve, though we were distracted by a buzzard being harried by two carrion crows, with a noisy chorus of seagulls close by. Then a Small Tortoiseshell was seen close to stinging nettles and a Holly Blue plus male Orange Tip. Then we recorded a Green-veined White, not on the reserve list, which was nectaring on ground ivy. Three Speckled Woods were seen in sun-dappled areas along the upper paths then three more Holly Blues, two of these ‘mud puddling’ on a moist path next to a recently cleared out ditch. This is usually done by males, to get extra minerals which assist in mating. Three other species recorded were Peacock plus a female Brimstone being chased by a Small White. Total of 13 butterflies of 8 species. 21 May - some sunshine but mainly cloudy. NLFP-honeysuckle flowering over a garden fence, holly, rowan and hawthorn blossom, dock, broad-leaved plantain, red campion and the first bramble flowers. The highlight was seeing a fox near the far end of the longer shaded path and Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 54 (2018)


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finding a fox earth, with fresh digging, just off one of the upper paths. Just two butterflies were seen, a Green-veined White and Speckled Wood. Total of 2 butterflies of 2 species. 19 June - cloud, sunshine and a light breeze. NLFP-white and red clover, hawkweed, yarrow, cornflower, corn marigold, ox-eye daisy and corncockle (all in the meadow), yellow flag iris, water forget-me-not, sowthistle and honeysuckle. A male banded demoiselle was seen settling on bramble and butterflies recorded were a Green-veined White, four Meadow Browns, and on the higher paths four Speckled Woods and a quick but close view of a startled fox. This higher ground had five separate growths of honeysuckle, four climbing up trees and the fifth lower down around bramble. Each had some in shade or partial shade, the necessary condition for egg-laying by White Admirals. Just one has been seen here, and photographed, by Jan Cawston on 15 July 2014. The meadow now has five strips of wildflower seeds as part of the Urban Buzz Project. Three of the Meadow Browns were recorded here. Total of 9 butterflies of 3 species. 6 July - hot and sunny with a light breeze. NLFP-buddleia, common hemp-nettle and tall flowering thistles bordering the meadow, possibly a garden escape. Four Small Skippers were recorded in the meadow, not being on the reserve list, and the majority of the fourteen Meadow Browns were also in this area. Other species on the lower ground were five Large Whites, one Small White, four Greenveined Whites, one Gatekeeper and three Ringlets closer to the ponds. One Speckled wood was seen on the higher path and the first Purple Hairstreak. A healthy stand of elm was seen towards the end of the higher ground, but no White-letter Hairstreaks were seen. Total of 34 butterflies of 9 species. 7 July - sunny evening. This was a special visit at a time when Purple Hairstreaks are often most active. None were seen on this visit, or on subsequent ones, around the two tall oaks at either end of the meadow. On the upper path a tall sunlit oak at the far end of a large pit had ten movements of at least four Purple Hairstreaks and three Commas were also seen, each at a different part of the reserve. Total of 7 butterflies of 2 species. 15 July - hot and sunny. NLFP-black knapweed, teasel, bird’s-foot trefoil, great hairy and rosebay willowherb, with some remaining bramble flowers and the first blackberries. More visits were made in July and on this one a Red Admiral was recorded near the entrance but, perhaps because of the very hot weather, no butterflies were seen on the buddleia or in the meadow. However Large Whites totalled thirteen which

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included some nectaring on bramble flowers in sunlit glades along the upper paths. Both Small and Green-veined Whites were seen flying low and testing out a variety of plants for potential egg-laying, possibly because normal larval food plants had dried up. Other butterflies recorded were two Holly Blues, four Speckled Woods, three Gatekeepers, three Meadow Browns and four Ringlets. One Purple Hairstreak flew past at a low level on higher ground, possibly seeking alternative nectar if higher aphid honeydew had dried up. Total of 33 butterflies of 10 species. 20 July - hot and sunny, with a welcome breeze. NLFP-restharrow and a small buddleia near the entrance, but in deep shade. An Emperor dragonfly on the main pond might have been a new reserve species and six Common Blues were recorded in the meadow, again not on the official list. Nine Speckled Woods were on higher ground plus on the lower areas two Large Whites, one Green-veined White, three Holly blues, one Comma, three Gatekeepers and five Meadow Browns. Total of 30 butterflies of 8 species. 1 August - hot and sunny. The three additional species recorded by me were all now included in a comprehensive and updated species list by Jan Cawston, the reserve’s wildlife recorder. Many were the result of the Urban Buzz Meadow Project. The sunlit buddleia had a feeding Painted Lady and Comma, while in or over the meadow were three Large Whites, one Holly Blue, six Common Blue, two Gatekeepers and seventeen Meadow Browns. The meadow had an abundance of yarrow and black knapweed, both excellent nectar sources. A single Green-veined White and six Speckled Woods were added, two of the latter in dappled shade to one side of the football pitch. Total of 38 butterflies of 9 species. 5 August - sunny and hot. This was a visit with several possible new reserve species: common and ruddy darter separated by the ponds, plus a single hornet and willow emerald damselfly over the smaller pond close to the meadow. A new butterfly species, Brown Argus, was identified in the meadow, close focus binoculars assisting to identify it from female Common Blue, including clearly seeing that spot markings on the upper wings ended halfway down. Other records were of six Large Whites, one Small White, two Common Blues, one Holly Blue, twelve Speckled Woods, one Gatekeeper and six Meadow Browns. Incidentally, it was good to see two separate families, each with young children, enjoying the woods, instead of just the usual dog walkers. Total of 30 butterflies of 8 species. 15 August - sunny with some cloud and a light breeze. NLFP-burdock, herb robert and fallen damsons which once softer would give butterflies and other wildlife a liquid feed. No butterflies were recorded on the higher paths but elsewhere there was a single

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Large White, two Small Whites, one Green-veined White, two Common Blues, one Holly Blue, one Comma and two Speckled Woods. Total of 10 butterflies of 7 species. 15 September - sunny throughout. NLFP-hop, formerly the Comma main larval food plant, ivy umbels just opening and several apple trees whose softening fruit will eventually provide food for wildlife, including butterflies. Again, two Speckled Woods were to one side of the football pitch and a Large White was feeding on the buddleia with Small White and Small Copper nearby. Several nectar sources, especially yarrow, were still abundant in the meadow but no butterflies were seen here. A Holly Blue flew over close to a second flowering of the garden honeysuckle mentioned on the 21 May visit. Six Speckled Woods were seen along the higher paths. Total of 12 butterflies of 5 species. This was the final visit with an unexpected bonus, just off the reserve at the end of Baronsdale Close. Here a Small Copper was feeding on garden cosmos, with faint blue spots along the edge of the open hindwings, known as var. caeruleopunctata. Summary: The Small Copper sighting took my personal 2018 total here to twenty, not seeing, from the official list, Large Skipper, Green Hairstreak and White Admiral. Despite its small size, the Green Hairstreak is a mobile species and may have been using the nearby railway line as a ‘green corridor’ to access other areas. Thanks to the help of Martin Sanford at SBIS, I had access to all received records within TM1546 between 1999 and 2016. Two other butterfly species on these lists, Wall and Grayling, were traced to a nearby garden outside the reserve (Paul Gilson, pers. comm.) However, there is an additional species, Essex Skipper, recorded twice on the reserve, first by Stella Wolfe in 2006 and more recently by Andrew Wright in 2015. This would bring the reserve total of butterfly species to twenty-four. A White Admiral close to central Ipswich Although I was unable to find any White Admirals at the Dales Local Nature reserve (see above), one was seen by my wife and I at an unexpected location, on the pavement close to the Westerfield Road entrance to Christchurch Park. This was on 22 June 2018. It was in pristine condition but seemingly having been caught in the slipstream of a passing vehicle. I caught it in cupped hands and gently took it over the road, before placing it the park side of the boundary railings. This was almost a new butterfly species for the park, where honeysuckle, its larval food plant, has recently been planted in new areas. Richard Stewart ‘Valezina’ 112, Westerfield Road Ipswich IP4 2XW

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R. G. Stewart

BUTTERFLY REPORT 2017

R. G. Stewart

Plate 7: Main lower path through the Dales (p. 73).

Plate 8: One of the smaller ponds where a willow emerald damselfly was seen. (p. 73). Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 54 (2018)


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Plate 9: Part of the higher path through the Dales. (p. 73).

Plate 10: The main pond at the Dales: a good location for dragonflies. (p. 73). Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 54 (2018)


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Plate 11: A clump of Yarrow in the meadow at the Dales. (p. 73).

Plate 12: One of the nectar strips in the meadow at the Dales. (p. 73). Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 54 (2018)


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Plate 13: Steps along the upper path: good habitat for Speckled Wood. (p. 73).

Plate 14: The upper path at the Dales has a good range of mature trees. (p. 73). Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 54 (2018)

Profile for Suffolk Naturalists' Society

2018 Butterfly Survey of The Dales Local Nature reserve TM1546  

R. G. Stewart

2018 Butterfly Survey of The Dales Local Nature reserve TM1546  

R. G. Stewart

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