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BUTTERFLIES IN CHRISTCHURCH PARK 2019 RICHARD STEWART Since the Friends of Christchurch Park published my book ‘The Butterflies In Christchurch Park’ in 2016 my wife Anne-Marie and I have closely monitored butterflies in subsequent years. In 2019 an average of two visits a week was made from April to September along a fixed route but not strictly following transect rules as every butterfly seen was included, irrespective of distance if it could be identified. The route was as follows: 1. The Orchard: this has been neglected since an arson attack destroyed the thatched hut but there were sufficient rough paths to enable recording, except for one peripheral but large bramble bush 2. The edge of the woodland reserve, following a rough downhill path

Sunlit open areas within the woodland reserve attract several species of butterfly. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

The sloping bank adjacent to the Visitor Centre The Wolsey garden next to the Christchurch Mansion Art Gallery The Woodland reserve, using a central path Following the path along an edge of the wet meadow The steep bank next to the former basketball court The Butterfly Garden The short path towards tennis courts

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10. Longer grasses below the tennis courts 11. Following a path through long grasses up to the permitted cycle route 12. The northern edge of the park, with recording extended beyond the Park Road exit to include all of the ‘Urban Buzz’ planting of wildflower strips

The dappled shade along the edge of the woodland is an ideal habitat for Speckled Wood butterflies Additional observations were made on journeys to and from central Ipswich along the path from the Westerfield road gate and all but sections 1,3,4 and 5 were covered on most Sundays, during journeys to and from the Quaker Meeting House in Fonnereau road. Each section is listed below, with observations and species recorded. 1. The Orchard. A native species hedge, supplemented a few years ago with buckthorn, the Brimstone’s larval food plant, is slowly being invaded by rank weeds but there are still plenty of nectar sources present, including fruit tree blossom, dandelion, thistles of various species, bramble and ivy. Nettle beds used as larval food plants by several butterfly species and soft fermenting fruit is plentiful in autumn. The best one-day total was thirty-three butterflies on 10 July, mainly Meadow Browns. 10 species: Small Skipper, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Red Admiral, Comma, Peacock, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown. 2. The Woodland reserve edge. There are just a few nectar sources in sunlit stretches and just two species were recorded, Brimstone and Speckled Wood. Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 55 (2019)


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Gorse and Broom, growing close together below the tennis courts are both used as larval foodplants by Green Hairstreak butterflies. 3. The steep bank adjacent to the Visitor Centre: This is bordered by a hedge of native species, giving blossom for feeding insects. Other nectar sources include bramble, germander speedwell, dandelion, hawkweed, ivy and plentiful ragwort. 5 species: Small White, Holly Blue, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown. 4. Wolsey garden-this has abundant sunshine, lavender beds, laurel, viburnum, Verbena bonariensis and Michaelmas daisies as the main nectar sources. 8 species: Large White, Small White, Holly Blue, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Peacock, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown. 5.The Woodland reserve, Despite its size it is mainly shaded with the central path having some patches of dappled shade. There are nettle and bramble beds plus dandelion, holly and ivy. 4 species: Large White, Orange Tip, Red Admiral and Speckled Wood. 6. The wet meadow. Nectar and larval food plants are mainly present in spring, with lady’s smock, celandine, dandelion and marsh marigold. Nettles and brambles dominate the far edges. 5 species: Green-veined White, Orange Tip, Red Admiral, Peacock, Ringlet. 7. The steep bank adjacent to the former basketball court. One former buddleia couldn’t be located but other nectar sources include bramble, yarrow, hawkweed, Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 55 (2019)


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This recent semi-circular planting of Gorse and Broom has attracted Green Hairstreak butterflies. The grass area within was cleared of competing oak saplings. ragwort and ivy. This hosts the main colony of Ringlets but only a maximum of four were recorded on a single visit. Brown Argus was recorded here for the first time, making it four different park locations for this previously rarely recorded species. 8 species: Small Skipper, Large White, Small White, Brown Argus, Painted Lady, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet.

8. The Butterfly Garden. Recently a long nettle bed has been added and the central bed completely replanted with seasonal species to attract a wide variety of insects. Other nectar sources include several summer flowering buddleias, brambles, lavender beds, a tall laurel hedge, tree blossom, hedge garlic, primula, primrose and dame’s violet. A Comma was observed feeding on soft blackberries and seven Red Admirals were nectaring on a single buddleia on 8th September. 15 species: Small Skipper, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Orange Tip, Small Copper, Common Blue, Holly Blue, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Peacock, Comma, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet. 9.The short path towards tennis courts. This is mainly shaded by tall hollies with only a few nectar sources. Only two butterflies were recorded, a Holly Blue and Meadow Brown.

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This wildflower strip along the northern edge of the park links in with the recent Gorse and Broom planting and is part of the ‘Urban Buzz’ project. 10. Area below the tennis courts. This has both gorse and broom, larval food plants for Green Hairstreaks. Bramble is present and sorrel was particularly evident this year, its rich colouring complemented by a nearby copper beech. In the long grass there is yarrow, hawkweed and knapweed. 12 species: Small Skipper, Essex Skipper, Small White, Green Hairstreak, Small Copper, Brown Argus, Holly Blue, Peacock, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Meadow brown, Ringlet. 11. Path through grasses towards the designated cycle track. Yarrow, hawkweed and ragwort are the main nectar sources and on 25th July two Small Skippers, three Small Coppers, three Gatekeepers and three Meadow Browns were nectaring on one sunlit ragwort. 12 species: Small Skipper, Large White, Purple Hairstreak (in surrounding oak trees), Small Copper, Brown Argus, Common Blue, Holly Blue, Red Admiral, Painted lady, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet. 12. The northern boundary. At one end there is a deep nettle bed and later in the year yarrow is abundant in the long grasses. Deep bramble beds line the boundary fences and other nectar sources include hedge garlic, hawkweed, ivy, clover and sorrel, the

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last mentioned being one of the larval food plants of the Small Copper. There is a recently planted horseshoe shaped area of gorse and broom and with permission my wife and I have removed all oak saplings within this area, to prevent future shading out. The ‘Urban Buzz’ strips have included a wide range of plants beneficial to insects, including kidney vetch, tufted vetch, viper’s bugloss, bird’s-foot trefoil, mayweed, cornflower, corn marigold, corncockle, purple loosestrife and knapweed. 17 species: Small Skipper, Essex Skipper, Large Skipper, Brimstone, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Green Hairstreak, Small Copper, Common Blue, Holly Blue, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Peacock, Comma, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown. This was the area with the highest total of species within the park, the substantial stretches of long grass being a bonus, since various species of grasses are used as larval food plants by several summer flying butterfly species. Highlights for the year included increased records for both Essex Skipper and Brown Argus plus an unprecedented five records of the Small Copper aberration Caeruleopunctata, meaning sky blue spots, these being located near the bottom of the hindwings. On 30 June ten Painted Lady and seventy-three Meadow Brown butterflies were recorded and on 10 July ten different species brought a total of 126 butterflies. The best one day species total was fourteen on 21 July. ‘The Butterflies In Christchurch park’ listed twenty three species usually recorded with just one, the Small Tortoiseshell, missing in 2019. This once common species has dramatically declined in recent years, partially due to a species-specific parasite, Sturmia bella. In some years numbers of Small Tortoiseshell are supplemented by continental migrants, but from my own records in 2019 I found just twelve at forty locations mainly in East Anglia. List of the 22 species recorded in 2019: Small Skipper, Essex Skipper, Large Skipper, Brimstone, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Orange Tip, Green Hairstreak, Purple Hairstreak, Small Copper, Brown Argus, Common Blue, Holly Blue, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Peacock, Comma, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet. Richard Stewart ‘Valezina’ 112, Westerfield Road Ipswich IP4 2XW

Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 55 (2019)

Profile for Suffolk Naturalists' Society

Butterflies in Christchurch Park 2019  

R. Stewart

Butterflies in Christchurch Park 2019  

R. Stewart

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