a somewhat occasional blog

Tales of the butterfly bank – Big Butterfly Count

I have started my big butterfly count. On Thursday I walked across Hyde Vale, something I do on a daily basis, and did my first count. Likewise on Friday. The two walks today and yesterday yielded not one butterfly, but then the inclement weather was not conducive for fluttering.

Butterfly Bank – Hyde Vale

The Hyde Vale Bank – which I have renamed butterfly bank – sits on the edge of Blackheath. It is one of the wilder parts of the heath. A mix of short and long acid grassland, it also has pockets of scrub, notably Wych elm and trees.Ragwort, Yarrow, Red valerian and knapweed are still in full blown. Goatsbeard have now gone to seed. In the shorter areas of acid grassland sorrel and hawkbits are the main flowers and in a corner of the bank is a large patch of willow herb. There are also one or two gorse bushes that would have been more common on the heath in the time of Linneaus, who walked the heath over 300 years ago.

Meadow Brown


Meadow brown

The Meadow brown (Maniola jurtina) is top of my count. Each day I have seen at least fifteen of the butterflies rather clumsily fluttering over the grasslands. They have all been rather flighty and difficult to photograph as they seek safety amongst the tall grasses. Other butterflies seen so far, though in lesser numbers, are Large white (Pieris brassicae), Small white (Pieris rapae), Red admiral (1) (Vanessa atalanta), Small heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) and Speckled wood butterflies (6) (Pararge aegeria). The Speckled woods were dancing along the shady path through the Wych elm scrub.

As yet I haven’t seen a Common blue (Polyommatus icarus), which I often see here and elsewhere in the general area.

Essex Skipper

One other butterfly has put in an appearance. I have often seen skippers on the bank and a single skipper – possibly a Small skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) [though it might be an Essex skipper].


Skipper and a hoverfly do battle over a thistle flower

I hadn’t noticed the hover fly approaching the thistle flower and can’t be sure, but perhaps the two were fighting out to hold sway over the nectar rich flower.

The Butterfly Count

The count is going on until the end of August. I hope to do as many as I can from the various banks I visit – the riverbank, the railway bank and from a number of our green roofs. I am sure I will find other places to watch out for the flutter of wings and add my records of these wonderful creatures. I noticed on the map for London there is a paucity of people doing counts in the inner areas. So if you have time, a garden or regular walk take a note of the butterflies you see and add them to the big butterfly count.


It’s good to do something that counts – in more ways than one.

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