How do butterflies survive the winter?

When the weather turns cold, you may wonder what happens to these insects. Winter poses a problem for butterflies as they cannot get warm enough to become active.  They enter a dormant phase either as an egg, larva, pupa or adult insect, dependent upon species.  This isn’t simply a random choice but is a way of ensuring that the insect’s awakening the following year corresponds with the peak availability of its main food source.  Amazingly the Painted Lady avoids winter conditions completely by migrating long distances to regions in North Africa and the Middle East.

Eggs, larvae and pupae tend to be hidden away, though you may find Large White pupae attached to the walls of your house.  Those species that overwinter as dormant adults include Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Comma.  The Red Admiral, which has become a common sight in British winters of late, doesn’t enter a proper dormancy but can become active on any suitable sunny days.

The Comma has its name written on the underside in the only white marking, which resembles a comma. When resting with wings closed this butterfly has excellent camouflage, the jagged outline of the wings giving the appearance of a withered leaf, making the butterfly inconspicuous when resting on a tree trunk or when dormant in winter.

The sea urchin-shaped eggs of the Brown Hairstreak are laid singly on the bark of blackthorn, typically on one- or two-year old growth that is in a sheltered area exposed to the sun.  Within the 1mm pin-head sized egg, the larva partially develops before entering hibernation for the winter.  Overwintering eggs are particularly vulnerable to hedge-trimming since they are laid on the youngest growth of the foodplant.

The Orange Tip pupa (or chrysalis) is formed on an upright plant stem that provides a suitable overwintering site, attached by a silk thread girdle.  Green when first formed, the pupa turns light brown to more-closely match its surroundings.  Several crucifers are used as foodplants, especially Cuckooflower in damp meadows and Garlic Mustard along road verges.  It also lays its eggs on Honesty and Sweet Rocket in gardens. The chrysalis will not survive winter if the plant stems are cut down before the adult butterfly emerges in spring.  Leaving part of your garden naturally unkempt helps to benefit other wildlife aswell.

Barry C.

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The Holly and the Ivy, December 2021

The Holly and the Ivy are words of this traditional Christmas carol, thought to have Pagan origins and could date back over 1000 years. Holly (Ilex aquifolium) and Ivy (Hedera helix) were taken indoors during the winter, the hope being that the occupants would endure the cold season just as these hardy plants do.  In addition, they are both brilliant for wildlife, their flowers benefit pollinators and their berries are eaten by birds.

Stroll past any ivy clad wall or tree on a sunny day in late summer and early autumn and you will see a myriad of bees, flies, wasps and butterflies attracted to the rich nectar and pollen offering. A study by Sussex University demonstrated how significant ivy’s presence is to insects. During September and October they showed that the majority of pollen pellets collected by honey bees were from ivy. Hoverflies were also observed to be particularly frequent visitors. Ivy even has its own specialists, including the Ivy Bee (Colletes hedera).

The Holly Blue butterfly (Celastrina argiolus) generally has two generations each year the first in early spring emerging well before other blue butterflies. It tends to fly high around bushes and trees, whereas other grassland blues usually stay near ground level.  It is by far the commonest blue butterfly to found in gardens with a second generation flying July to September.  The larvae feed predominantly on the flower buds, berries and terminal leaves of Holly in the spring generation, and on Ivy in the summer generation.

Although holly berries are often ripe by autumn, birds such as song thrushes, blackbirds, fieldfares and redwings don’t usually feed on them until late winter. The dry pith of ivy berries contains nearly as many calories, weight for weight as Mars bars! In most cases, while the bird digests the pith and juice, the seeds travel undamaged through the bird’s gut, and may be dropped many miles from the parent plant.

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AGM and talk ‘My favourite British Wildlife locations’ 21st October 2021

Join us for a talk by Tom Mabbett from Naturetrek about ‘The Best of Britain: From Ardnamurchan to the Forest of Dean’ on Thursday 21st October. Tom will cover his favourite wildlife locations across the UK from the “wild west” of Scotland to his local Forest of Dean. Appreciating what is close to home and on our doorstep has never been more important and Tom will also talk about some local wildlife discoveries and the joy and excitement of finding wildlife on your home patch, including an introduction to camera trapping. All welcome to join this virtual meeting via Zoom, pictorial AGM review starts at 7pm, talk starts 7.30pm, free for members, £3 non-members.

Note:- The Zoom invitation will be emailed beforehand to members and to those on our mailing list. Anyone else who wants to join the meeting can request an invitation through our contact us page.

Tom has worked at Naturetrek in nearby Chawton since 2013 and is a tour leader and operations manager. Tom says ‘I have been fascinated by wildlife for as long as I can remember. Even from infant school days I recall going along a hedge in the playground and turning the leaves which had holes in, hoping to find a caterpillar, putting bugs in pots and keeping jars of frogspawn. I’m not sure how or why but I was obsessed with birds. I was always putting bread out for the masses of Starlings we had then and staring endlessly at the garden feeders, trying to figure out what everything was.’

 

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Look out for Hedgehogs in Froyle

Are you fortunate to have a hedgehog in your garden? Having been several years since seeing any in our garden, we were delighted recently to see the little black ‘calling cards’ that are evidence a hedgehog has spent some time visiting ours. I’m sure many of you will be aware of the severe decline in hedgehog numbers across the UK, including in the countryside. With this in mind there are several things we can do to help them.

They start to hibernate in October. However, if they are underweight they won’t survive over the Winter. Therefore, if you see a small hedgehog at the moment, this will be a young hedgehog, also called a hoglet, please contact Hart Wildlife Rescue– www.hartwildlife.org.uk – who should be able to take the hoglet and build it up, so it can be safely released next Spring.

Also please be very careful with strimming.  Sadly hedgehogs are often seen injured post strimming and the damage inflicted is usually too severe for them to survive. If you are going to be building bonfires, please bear in mind a hedgehog will think this is a great place to rest in, and so please check them carefully before lighting, or ideally light them straight after building them.

There are other things that will help to make your garden hedgehog friendly including:

•           ensuring a pond has a ramp for them to use

•           creating a wild corner

•           stopping using chemicals

•           putting out food and water

If you are interested to find out further information about how you can help hedgehogs, the people’s trust for endangered species (ptes) has initiated Hedgehog Street, a joint campaign in conjunction with the Hedgehog Preservation Society. Further details can be found at www.ptes.org.

Jayne Fisher

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Swifts need your help, Froyle August 2021

Swifts, the iconic ‘birds of Summer’, are in trouble. These beautiful and charismatic birds have declined across Hampshire and the UK by more than 50% over the last 23 years, see www.swift-conservation.org/.  The plummeting in their numbers is believed to be due to a big reduction in available nesting sites. However, it has been shown that if nesting places are once again provided, with either nest boxes or swift bricks, this can significantly boost local swift populations.

By mid-August the swifts that we all enjoyed over Froyle this Summer with their aerial displays will be heading back to their African wintering skies. Amazingly an adult swift can fly 7500km in just 5 days!  However, we can think ahead for next year, when the swifts return in late April/early May, aiming to maximise the number of swift nest sites that are ready and available to them, thus helping to boost swift numbers in future years.

Tim Norris from Hampshire Swifts www.hampshireswifts.co.uk/ is happy to check your house to see whether you have a suitable site for a nest box.  He and a colleague can then provide and fit a nest box for you. There is a small charge for this. Tim has fitted some nest boxes in Lower Froyle this Summer, and these have already attracted visits from swifts – please see photo on left. This bodes well for their intended use next year.

If you are interested, and would like to see whether you might be able to help with siting of swift nest boxes around Froyle, please contact info@froylewildlife.co.uk.

Jayne Fisher

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‘Drop-in’ at Froyle wildlife pond 10th and 17th July 2021

Update: The weather last Saturday 10th at the original ‘drop-in’ was wet in the morning and cool overcast in the afternoon. So although the wildflowers were splendid, most of the dragonflies, butterflies and bees stayed hidden in the vegetation. The weather forecast is hot and sunny for this Saturday 17th July, so come along anytime 10am to 4pm at an additional ‘drop-in’ to see what’s flying and flowering.

Call in anytime between 10am and 4pm on Saturday 10th July 2021 to visit the wildlife pond and meadow, near Gid Lane, Upper Froyle (see plan). There should be plenty to see especially if it’s a sunny day. No need to book, anyone can just pop in to see what you can spot. Please ensure social distancing during your visit.
Members of Froyle Wildlife will be on hand to assist with identification of wildflowers, dragonflies and butterflies. Wildflower species to look out for include; knapweed, lady’s bedstraw, sainfoin, self heal, purple loosestrife, water figwort and bird’s-foot trefoil. Last year were 14 species of butterfly, 6 species of dragonfly/damselfly, ladybirds, hoverflies, bees and grasshoppers were noted on the July ‘drop-in’ day.

Image gallery: A selection of photos taken on the drop-in days sent in by members (Kelvin, Carol, Geoff, Gillian, Barry, Sue and Jim) are shown below. Click on the thumbnail image for a larger view.

 

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Froyle Wildlife pond ‘an absolute pleasure’ 3rd June 2021

Carol sent us photos and wrote about their visit to Froyle …

I am a newish member having joined in 2020 to watch a Froyle Wildlife talk last November, and I’d been meaning since then to venture out from Alton to have a look at the pond on Gid Lane.  So when the Orchid walk in North Warnborough Greens was cancelled this week, myself and my husband decided it would be a good opportunity to do something ‘Froyle Wildlife’ connected and visit the pond!

What an absolute pleasure it was.  So beautifully peaceful while seated on a tree stump and surrounded by yellow and pink – a froth of Buttercups, and patches of Ragged Robin.  The pond resplendent with swathes of Water Crowfoot on either side.

Walking round the mown paths I came across new discoveries for me – subsequently identified as a Common Carpet moth, Azure Damselflies, a Large Red Damselfly and some Bladder Campion.   In the pond itself I saw a tiny Ramshorn Snail, and a Greater Water Boatman. Finally, seated again, I spotted what turned out to be a Thick-legged Flower Beetle on a nearby buttercup.  Previously seen once before in Devon, a few years ago.

What a joyful experience in a delightful sanctuary of wildlife and flowers.

 

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North Warnborough Greens, walk 3rd and 7th June 2021

Update: Having visited the Greens on 2nd June and found only 2 orchids in leaf, we are cancelling the planned walks -as in flower was the aim. It’s a late season -cold April, wet May and flowering dates and orchid numbers will differ each year.
The Natural England condition report from 2020 says ‘Large numbers of southern marsh orchid are present throughout’.
It a pleasant location to visit now with Highland cattle are grazing part of the SSSI and Marsh Marigolds in flower.

Join us for a leisurely walk at North Warnborough Greens SSSI on either Thursday 3rd June 10am-12 or Monday 7th June 7pm. Managed by Hampshire Wildlife Trust, these flower rich wet meadows are adjacent to the River Whitewater and are home to a great variety of flower species. We hope to see both Early and Southern Marsh Orchids in flower. Please note that there are two dates because of limited parking nearby and small group size, so please let us know if you plan to attend by email to info@froylewildlife.co.uk.

Please observe social distancing and also as it may be wet underfoot do wear appropriate footwear. After our wander through the Greens, you can take an optional self-guided pleasant walk of about 1km over the ford to the Basingstoke canal footpath and then along to King John’s castle ruin.

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‘Wildlife Photography – Tips and Experiences’ talk 15th April 2021

Join us on Thursday 15th April, 7.30pm for a talk via zoom about ‘Wildlife Photography – Tips and Experiences’ by Stephen Powles.

In this talk Stephen will look to inspire you to take up wildlife photography in its simplest form. He will then go on to give tips as to how one might progress to more challenging subjects and achieve better results. No need for a neck draped in fancy kit! It’s incredible what you can do using relatively simple equipment/mobile phones and by going no further than your garden. There is no need to be passionate about taking wildlife photographs to enjoy this presentation.

Formerly a vet, Stephen changed career to pursue a lifelong passion for wildlife, wildlife photography, filming and conservation. Stephen’s material has made a number of TV appearances, featured in the national press and won major awards. His photography concentrates on interesting and challenging wildlife subjects, many of which are in and close to his home.

Note: The zoom invitation will be emailed beforehand to members and to those on our mailing list. Anyone who would like to join the meeting can request an invitation.

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Nesting birds around Froyle in March 2021

March –‘In like a lion out like a lamb’
The gradual transformation from winter to spring

Many birds will begin nesting this month however Long-tailed Tits will have started nest construction in February; this is because it takes so long to create their cosy, stretchy, feather lined nests. They are made from moss, hair and cobwebs and then covered with lichens for camouflage. Other early nesters include Rook, Heron and Raven.
Three favourite species of farmland ground nesting birds which I look forward to seeing on walks in Lower Froyle are Skylark, Lapwing and Yellowhammer.

  • Skylark – Males seemingly deliver their liquid nonstop song with effortless ease whilst hovering, sometimes so high up they are hard to spot. On the ground these brown birds are equally hard to see. Their diet consists of invertebrates, weed seeds and leaves and grain.
  • Lapwing – also known as Peewits due to their call, appear black and white in flight however their backs take on an iridescent greeny purple in sunlight; hence Green Plover is yet another name for them. Males perform spectacular diving, tumbling and swooping aerial displays in the spring. One pair is able to raise one brood of up to 4 chicks a year. The chicks can walk and feed themselves within hours of hatching, the parent birds, ever vigilant, will mob predators but this isn’t guaranteed to keep them away. Lapwings prefer damp fields to breed on with ruts or depressions holding water. They feed on invertebrates in or on the ground. Later in the year quite large feeding flocks can be sometimes be seen in Froyle.
  • Yellowhammer – males are an easily recognised and their ‘Little bit of bread and no cheese’ song sung from hedgerows is a giveaway. They prefer to nest on the ground under or low down in thick hedgerows adjacent to damp/watery ditches. The nature Poet John Clare writing in the 19th century described this in his poem ‘The Yellowhammer’s Nest’. Mainly seed eaters, these birds can be found in winter stubbles, wild bird cover and anywhere with spilt grain. Chicks of this species must have a good supple of insect food and adults also benefit from this additional fare during the breeding season. Wide Native grass and wildflower margins can provide this. In Lower Froyle last year it was fantastic to see butterflies and bees where this had been created.

Skylark, Lapwing and Yellowhammer are included on the UK ‘Red List’ for birds, meaning they are in need of urgent conservation action having suffered major population declines. Sixty seven species – one in 4 of UK birds are now on the Red List.

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