In Spring of 1995, in response to my suggestion that the WWT Redditch Group should do some organised recording, one of my fellow committee members wrote to Butterfly Conservation to enquire how we might conduct a butterfly survey. As they were just starting the Millennium Atlas project, they were delighted, and suggested that four or five visits to a tetrad would be an ideal way to start, and that this was a chance to make a real contribution to a definitive guide to the distribution of all butterfly species in Britain. So, after a little arm twisting, tetrads were allocated to a number of committee members and the Redditch Butterfly Survey was born.
Despite the late start and appalling weather in June, 268 records were submitted including a total of twenty five species - certainly a lot more than I had dared to hope for. We saved the best until the end of the season - the September work party at Ipsley Alders turned up a Camberwell Beauty, which was seen flying around willows by at least six people - a record we are unlikely to repeat. All records were submitted to Butterfly Conservation and Trust HQ.
I personally learned a lot from my squares - not least that the best way to learn about natural history is to volunteer to survey it! This is also the best way to learn about your local patch - three years on, I still find places within two miles of my front door that look interesting and that I was totally unaware of!
By April 1996, a few new recruits had joined the original recorders, and this time I allocated potentially interesting sites rather than whole tetrads. I expected more or less a repeat of the 1995 results with more of the early species. At the beginning of July, I started to get regular telephone calls from recorders, reporting new species. First it was White-letter Hairstreaks, then White Admirals and in August, whilst "taking a short cut" across another recorders patch, I found a Clouded Yellow (they did speak to me again eventually!) and two other Clouded Yellow reports followed. In total, 688 records were submitted all of which were passed to the BRC and Butterfly Conservation.
In 1995, there were very few records before the end of May and some first broods may have been missed.
Small Skipper Recorded in 12 tetrads First sighting: 1995: 25/6 1996: 7/7 Last sighting: 1995: 20/8 1996: 18/8Common on most grassland throughout the area in July and August.
Large Skipper Recorded in 12 tetrads First sighting: 1995: 16/6 1996: 15/6 Last sighting: 1995: 5/8 1996: 4/8Common on most grassland throughout the area. Generally present in smaller numbers than Small Skipper and not in all the same areas. Season tends to be slightly earlier than Small Skipper.
Clouded Yellow Recorded in 2 tetrads (1996 only) First sighting: 1996: 4/8 Last sighting: 1996: 19/8A migrant butterfly, rarely seen this far north in normal years. 1996 was an "explosion" year for migrants and three were recorded in the area.
Brimstone Recorded in 9 tetrads First sightings: 1995: 12/3 1996: 5/4 Last sightings: 1995: 23/9 1996: 15/9Emerges in autumn, overwintering as an adult and re-emerging in early spring. The Brimstone is a "wanderer" and occurs almost anywhere in the area. More numerous in 1996 than in 1995.
Large White Recorded in 12 tetrads First sightings: 1995: 1/5 1996: 2/6 Last sightings: 1995: 20/8 1996: 23/9A widespread butterfly, can occur almost anywhere. Significantly fewer recorded in 1996 than 1995.
Small White Recorded in 14 tetrads First sightings: 1995: 19/5 1996: 27/4 Last sightings: 1995: 5/9 1996: 15/9One of the commonest butterflies in the area, present almost everywhere throughout most of the season. However, in common with the Large White, significantly fewer recorded in 1996 than in 1995.
Green-veined White Recorded in all tetrads First sightings: 1995: 19/5 1996: 17/5 Last sightings: 1995: 23/9 1996: 14/9A grassland butterfly, though it can occur almost anywhere. Did not suffer the same fall in numbers in 1996 as the Small and Green-veined Whites.
Orange Tip Recorded in 12 tetrads First sightings: 1995: 12/3 1996: 6/5 Last sightings: 1995: 18/6 1996: 9/6A spring butterfly, occurs throughout the area in small numbers.
Purple Hairstreak Recorded in 5 tetrads First sightings: 1995: 25/7 1996: 3/8 Last sightings: 1995: 5/8 1996: 8/9A butterfly of oak trees, rarely venturing near the ground. Almost certainly under-recorded, this butterfly has now been found in several woodlands around Redditch and is probably widely but thinly distributed.
White-letter Hairstreak Recorded in 3 tetrads First sightings: 1996: 13/7 Last sightings: 1996: 12/8A butterfly of elm trees which is rarely found near ground level, first noted in the area in 1996. Elm is surprisingly common around Redditch, but mostly in the form of cropped hedges. What few standard trees can be found tend to be in poor health, and this butterfly is dependent on such specimen trees. Although it is probably under recorded, the White-letter Hairstreak struggles to survive in its few isolated colonies in the area.
Small Copper Recorded in 10 tetrads First sightings: 1995: 25/7 1996: 17/5 Last sightings: 1995: 23/9 1996: 31/8Occurs locally in small numbers, generally in grassland areas. Significantly fewer records in 1996 than 1995.
Common Blue Recorded in 14 tetrads First sightings: 1995: 25/7 1996: 6/6 Last sightings: 1995: 20/8 1996: 14/9Strictly a grassland butterfly, though it occurs throughout the area, numbers have been generally small, probably reflecting the generally poor quality of meadows in the area.
Holly Blue Recorded in 8 tetrads First sightings: 1995: 9/7 1996: 17/5 Last sightings: 1995: 9/7 1996: 18/8Occurs throughout the area. Only one sighting in 1995 but more numerous in 1996. No doubt the 1997 results will show occurrences in almost every tetrad in even larger numbers.
Brown ArgusNo records in 1995/95, but discovered at two sites this year.
White Admiral Recorded in 2 tetrads First sightings: 1995: 25/7 1996: 6/6 Last sightings: 1995: 25/7 1996: 3/8A very scarce butterfly in the area found only in two of the larger areas of woodland and in very small numbers. It will be interesting to see how the recent woodland management affects this species over the next few years.
Red Admiral Recorded in 13 tetrads First sightings: 1995: 9/7 1996: 17/5 Last sightings: 1995: 23/9 1996: 23/9A butterfly whose numbers are significantly boosted by migrants. Common throughout the area, but in significantly larger numbers in 1996 than in 1995.
Painted Lady Recorded in 13 tetrads First sightings: 1995: 5/8 1996: 17/5 Last sightings: 1995: 23/9 1996: 23/9This North African migrant can occur anywhere in the area. Just two sightings in 1995, which was a "normal" year. In May 1996, unprecedented numbers of migrants arrived from North Africa and went on to produce a second brood. By August, the Painted Lady outnumbered the Peacock on almost every Buddleia in the area. 55 records were submitted with an average count of more than 10.
Small Tortoiseshell Recorded in 13 tetrads First sightings: 1995: 22/6 1996: 4/4 Last sightings: 1995: 20/8 1996: 15/9A common butterfly throughout the area, slightly more numerous in 1995 than in 1996.
Peacock Recorded in 12 tetrads First sightings: 1995: 24/7 1996: 5/4 Last sightings: 1995: 5/8 1996: 15/9A common butterfly occurring throughout the area, particularly in August. Slightly more numerous in 1996 than 1995.
Comma Recorded in 13 tetrads First sightings: 1995: 8/7 1996: 6/5 Last sightings: 1995: 23/9 1996: 15/9Occurs throughout the area in small numbers. Quite scarce in 1995, more numerous in 1996.
Camberwell Beauty Recorded in 1 tetrad One sighting: 10/9/95A very rare migrant, especially this far North. Not recorded in Redditch previously.
Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary Recorded in 1 tetrad One sighting : 18/6/95A colony of Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries existed on the site of this single record in the 1970's. Despite a determined effort, this butterfly has not been recorded since, and could well be extinct in the area.
Speckled Wood Recorded in all tetrads First sightings: 1995: 19/5 1996: 17/5 Last sightings: 1995: 23/9 1996: 15/9A common butterfly of woodlands and shade found from March to October throughout the area.
Wall Brown Recorded in 1 tetrad One sighting : 20/8/95Clearly a very scarce butterfly in the area with just one positive record and a few rumours of this butterfly occurring in the same area a few years ago.
Marbled White Recorded in 2 tetrads First sightings: 1995: 28/6 1996: 8/7 Last sightings: 1995: 3/8 1996: 4/8Several small colonies observed in 1995 and 1996 on rough grassland. An extremely large colony has been found in 1997.
Gatekeeper Recorded in 13 tetrads First sightings: 1995: 27/6 1996: 14/7 Last sightings: 1995: 20/8 1996: 31/8Despite its short season (a single brood from mid-July to late August), this is the most numerous species in the area. 1996 was a particularly spectacular year, and during the first weekend in August, a number of sites produced a count in the hundreds.
Meadow Brown Recorded in 14 tetrads First sightings: 1995: 25/6 1996: 29/6 Last sightings: 1995: 12/8 1996: 28/8A common butterfly of all rough grassland in the area. Present from late June onwards.
Ringlet Recorded in 12 tetrads First sightings: 1995: 28/6 1996: 6/7 Last sightings: 1995: 27/7 1996: 10/8Another common butterfly of rough grassland, but with a single brood during July, it has a very short season.
Small Heath Recorded in 4 tetrads First sightings: 1995: 24/7 1996: 2/6 Last sightings: 1995: 5/8 1996: 15/9Nationally very widespread, but very local in this area with just a few very small colonies in rough grassland. The best colony is threatened by development, making this species very scarce in 1997.
I haven't seen any results yet, but I know of a most unlikely new site in the middle of Redditch where three species of orchids occur, including up to 20 spikes of Bee Orchid as well as other plants that were not previously known. Studies of Ipsley Alders have increased the dragonfly list to eighteen species, (including Yellow-winged Darter and Black Darter) which I was told beats the previous Worcestershire site record (Upton Warren) by one! Butterflies have not been ignored either; Brown Argus (previously unrecorded in the area) has raised two broods at two sites.
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