Ahoy hoy! Recently, on the Glorious Twelfth if my memory serves me correctly, Bobbo and I went on an adventure into darkest Lincolnshire with four species in mind. The four species in question were (in order of of what I thought our likelihood of seeing them was) Essex Skipper, Grayling, Purple Hairstreak & Brown Hairstreak. Three of these could, in theory, be found at Chamber’s Farm Wood not far from Lincoln, whereas Grayling could, apparently, be found in North Lincolnshire at a place no-one had ever heard of called Risby Warren.
We arrived at Chamber’s Farm Wood at about half seven, parked up near the visitor’s centre, and availed ourselves of a map. We spent a few minutes matching up the directions I had gleaned from the internet with the map, and decided to have a quick look around the butterfly garden before moving onto the main area of the wood. The garden was densely planted with flowers and the like, and I imagine that once that day warmed up it would have been bustling with butterflies – it was still early and just starting to get warm. We heard a Green Woodpecker calling in the distance, and Robert claimed that every small bird flying over was a possible Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. As we got down to the bottom of the garden a greyish butterfly flew over Robert’s head and onto a lower branch of an apple tree. Robert gave it a look through his binos and pronounced it a Purple Hairstreak, a new species for us both. Unfortunately all my attempted photos came out so poorly that I feel physically ill to look at them, so hopefully one of Robert’s is better and he will put it on here soon.
We drove down to the main car park and immediately spotted six or seven dragonflies darting around. Robert deftly netted one like the star he is,and identified it as a Migrant Hawker, my first for the year. We gave the surrounding oaks a scan and spotted a butterfly resting on a leaf; oddly, it turned out to be a Ringlet – do they often bask in trees? We set off down a path lined with oaks, spotted several delightful galls as we went; Knopper Galls, Marble Galls, Spangle Galls, Silk Button Galls & Artichoke Galls (pictures to be added later).
Spangle & Silk Button Galls
Other butterflies were seen as well, including Small Skipper, Peacock, Meadow Brown, Large White, Green-Veined White, Comma, Gatekeeper & Speckled Wood.
Eventually we made our way to a spot where the path split into three, a place known, for some reason, as ‘fiveways’. This spot was meant to be the best place for seeing Brown Hairstreaks. We walked up and down the nearby path for a few hours, seeing quite a few more Purple Hairstreak (hopefully Robert will add his delightfully coy photo of one) and had quite a few frustrating views of what may have been Brown Hairstreaks dropping down from the canopy and then disappearing into the shadows of the trees. I remain of the opinion that we were seeing Brown Hairstreaks, and indeed probably had about ten sightings, but without a stationary view of one I don’t want to include it as a definite sighting.
However, whilst scanning the tops of the trees for hairstreaks, I made the discovery of the century – a White Admiral flitting around the top of an Oak. An absolutely gorgeous butterfly with a large wingspan and a delightful gliding flight. We didn’t manage to get a photo of this individual, but I believe Robert managed to obtain a picture of one we saw later on.
There were another couple of people looking for Brown Hairstreak as well, and at one point they called us over to show us an Essex Skipper, our third new butterfly of the day. The Essex Skipper is a subtle delight, differing from the Small Skipper in a few tiny ways, the most obvious being the dark tips to the antennae which are brown in the Small Skipper. I think, once again, that Robert may have a picture of this species to add on here. Another butterfly seen in this area was a Brimstone, possibly my favourite British butterfly, and another for the day list.
This is almost definitely an Essex Skipper
We gave up on Brown Hairstreak eventually, and set off to our next site of the day: Risby Warren. Neither of us had ever heard of Risby Warren before, and it turned out to be a very odd habitat. Grayling are generally a coastal species, favouring sand dunes and salt marshy areas, and inland colonies are quite uncommon. Risby Warren is an SSSI comprised of a sort of heathy sand duney habitat, which apparently has a lot in common with the Breckland habitat of Norfolk and Suffolk. Anyway, we arrived at Risby Warren and went for an explore, quickly seeing a few new butterflies for the day in the form of Small Heath, a single beautiful Brown Argus and copious numbers of Small Copper.
Unfortunately, me and Robert had a falling out about whose beard maintenance regime was best, and we decided to split up and search for Grayling independently. Robert walked along the top of the reserve, whilst I walked through the middle. I didn’t have much luck with Grayling, truth be told, but I did see three Buzzards and hear a Green Woodpecker, as well as finding a couple of Buzzard feathers. Robert then rang to tell me that he was “99% certain” he had just seen a Grayling. I screamed at the sky and clawed at my eyes with rage and disappointment – but then an idea occurred to me “Robert?”, I asked, “Can you still see the Grayling?” thinking I might be able to dash over and see it. “No” Robert replied, “I threw pebbles at it until it went away because I hate you and everything you stand for”. I hollered at the sky once more, and rent at my clothes. Eventually I calmed myself, and admitted to Robert that his beard system was the best I’d ever heard. He took my apology stoically, and said that if we were to meet up, he’d find me a Grayling.
He was as good as his words, only twenty minutes later we were reunited and looked in amazement at the camouflage of the Grayling, the largest of the ‘brown’ butterflies. In fact, when I first saw it in flight, I found it oddly reminiscent of a faded Painted Lady. Hopefully Robert has a photo to add here.
I’m 90% sure there is a grayling in this photo
As we walked back to the car, we saw a cracking moth, the Archer’s Dart, sat just outside a rabbit hole. A nicely patterned moth and another new one for both of us..
We then went home, revelling in our success, and lamenting the fact that it would be unlikely we’d ever see so many new butterflies in a single day again.
The subsequent day I ventured back into Lincolnshire with my parents and saw my first Sputnik gall by the side of the Ancholme, a gall I have been on the lookout for for at least 5 years. It grows on Dog Rose, generally on the undersides of the leaves, and is caused by the wasp Diplolepis nervosa.
Additionally, I also saw several butterfly species that I hadn’t seen the day before, in the form of Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Common Blue and Holly Blue. That means that during four days I saw, I think, 22 species of butterfly (this includes my Dark Green Fritillary at Fen Bog on the 10th)