Saturday 1st June 2013 was a bright, sunny, warm summer’s day – that is noteworthy in itself, considering the cold Spring we have just endured. A survey had been called by Jenny Plackett, of Butterfly Conservation, to see if there were Pearl-bordered Fritillary butterflies on the ground at Common Wood, near Horndon, where DPA volunteers had worked previously (19th Nov. 2012, the wet day, and 12th Feb. 2013), cutting gorse and creating clearings to encourage this declining species.

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Marsh Fritillary butterfly, male.

The good news was that we saw a Marsh Fritillary while walking to the main site. This was in the Rhôs pasture that forms the marshy valley bottom, seen in the following photograph.

Instruction in what to look for and how to count butterflies!

Instruction in what to look for and how to count butterflies!

Here, we were instructed in the colouration and forms of the butterfly and how to recognise it’s larval food plant, Devil’s-bit Scabious (you can click on the small images to see them in more detail), also see here for the leaf in close-up.

The plant can be quite hard to see among the other flora, especially when it is a small, young plant.

Male Marsh Fritillary butterfly, with closed wings.

Marsh Fritillary butterfly (male), with closed wings.

The butterfly was caught expertly by Jenny using the correct netting technique and was then installed in a clear plastic jar for observation by everyone. Later, it was released, unharmed.

Volunteers on the Common Wood site.

Volunteers on the Common Wood site.

The photograph above shows instruction underway about how to recognise Pearl-bordered  and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary butterflies. With most of us, it would most likely be a case of just calling them unidentified Fritillaries, unless they could be netted safely. Binoculars proved to be very useful.

The sunny slope where we previously cut some of the gorse to encourage bracken and violets for the Pearl-bordered and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary butterflies.

The sunny slope where we previously cut some of the gorse to encourage bracken and violets for the Pearl-bordered and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary butterflies.

The habitat is shown above: a warm, sunny slope with some gorse and scrub, where bracken forms a litter with it’s own micro-climate and where violets grow. The food plant for the Pearl-bordered Fritillaryis the Common dog violet while the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary feeds on the Common dog violet and the Marsh violet.

The good news was that we saw one – the bad news was that we saw only one! However, seeing one was something of a success in itself, it showed that they are in the area. The weather has been cold and this affects many insect activities so perhaps there will be more to see another time.

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, male.

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, male.

The DPA volunteers were new-member Ellie, Chris & Jill, John & Elaine, Sylvia and myself, Keith.

PS – Most of the photographs can be seen in more detail if you click on them, and a second click may enlarge them further – you can then “drive” around them using the four cursor (“arrow”) keys on your keyboard.