Worcestershire Record No. 6 April 1999 p. 19
I had a good and interesting response to my brief article about the apparent demise of the colony of Marbled Whites at Briar Hill Coppice, possibly due to the unusual weather conditions in late spring. Several interesting points have emerged. Reports from the Droitwich area show that of several known colonies the most numerous were down in numbers and the more marginal ones had disappeared. I am told that this instability of marginal colonies is a feature of the Marbled White, and for other species as well I expect, but that the return of favourable conditions results in a rapid build-up, frequently with re-colonisation of the marginal sites. I hope this will be the case at Briar Hill. Peter Darch, who records for Butterfly Conservation in the Droitwich area, noted that whilst the Briar Hill colony was extinct a larger colony remained in a privately owned field immediately to the south of Briar Hill and the Community Woodland.
Other recorders noted reduced numbers at normally favoured sites but, surprisingly, individual butterflies seem to have moved further a field and have been noted in several places for the first time. This accords with my own experience, having recorded Marbled White for the first time in 12 years of recording on the grass verges round the Alexandra Hospital, Redditch.
Perhaps the most telling anecdote came from Ray Bishop. During a visit to Old Hills on a wet June day he saw large numbers of newly emerged butterflies totally rain soaked and unable to fly. As the season progressed the number of adults on the wing was reduced to perhaps a tenth of what it had been in 1997.
It appears that 1998 was indeed a very bad year for the species, perhaps due more to rain than cold, but there is hope of recovery if the dreadful weather is not repeated in 1999.
My thanks to Ray Bishop, Peter Darch, John Partridge and Digby Wood for passing on details of their observations.
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