Yesterday the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust organised a Butterfly Walk at the Noddle Hill Nature Reserve, and they even arranged for it not to rain! Approximately 12 members of the public turned up including a young media star, who recently found some Speckled Bush Crickets near the Humber Bridge. Helen had plenty of ID sheets for anything other than butterflies we might see, and the children each took a net and some jars and magnifiers to observe any insects in detail.
We set off down Red Admiral Alley, but my expectations weren't terribly high after the recent unsettled weather. However, this alley is quite sheltered and quite soon we saw a few Ringlets, a high-flying Comma, a migrant Silver-Y-moth, and a smaller brown moth. A pair of Blue-tailed Damselfies flew off before their picture could be taken. There was no sign of the Speckled Wood butterflies, which had been in this area the other week. However, we could be between their 3 or 4 broods.
We emerged from the alley into a more open area, and pretty soon there was a fast moving skipper butterfly, and another dark brown moth, which may have been a carpet moth species. There were plenty of wild flowers including Red and White clovers, Mellilot, and other members of the pea family. An insignificant white-mauve flower was spotted by Helen and after investigation seemed to be the Smooth Tare.
Shaded Broad-Bar (thanks to Barry Warrington for ID)
Not long after this Maggie caught the first Meadow Brown of the day. It seems hard to believe that this is the most numerous butterfly in the UK. Only a little further one was a Soldier beetle, and we were going to see a lot more of them before the session ended. We then came across a flooded area, which isn't really surprising considering the recent rain we've had. It was along here that a Sedge Warbler could be heard singing from a bramble patch.
Narrow-Bordered 5-Spot Burnet-Moth
In an area with a lot of clover we saw a Narrow-Bordered 5-Spot Burnet-Moth flying around, which we were unable to catch in a net, but there were several more in the area. The children wandered off the path to a fenced-off area where there may have been an old tip. Near here we heard the strange scratchy sound of a Grey Partridge, which was great as numbers of this gamebird have plummeted in recent years. Ten minutes later we flushed another in a different area, so hopefully there is at least 1 pair in the area. Gail, Jacob's mum, moved a stone & disturbed a large moth. This seemed to be injured and was very difficult to photograph as its wings were fluttering even more rapidly than the Silver-Y. It didn't appear to be pumping up its wings after it emerges as a moth from the chrysalis for the first time, but there was a very active ants' nest near to where it was found, so they may have been attempting to devour it until it was disturbed.
The children were hungry, so when we reached a bench they had a few sandwiches, and it was at this point that one young searcher and his parents headed back to the car. As they ate their lunch a Grasshopper Warbler started to 'reel', and its strange insect-like song rose and fell for the next quarter-of-an-hour. The second half of the walk wasn't as fruitful as the first, as it had clouded over, so there weren't as many insects on the wing. A Yellowhammer could be heard singing faintly over Foredyke Drain, while Reed Buntings stuttered their simple ditties closer at hand.
One of the highlights on the return journey was a noisy female Sparrowhawk which soared for a while before plunging into thick vegetation, and then finally setting off in a northerly direction. We reached the ponds where we found a female Blue-tailed damselfly resting on a reed. It stayed long enough for everyone to study it.
My initial fears proved groundless, because although there weren't exactly hundreds of butterflies, and there weren't as many bird species to see as there had been in May, there was still plenty to see and observe, and hopefully everyone went home impressed with Noddle Hill and the wildlife they had studied there.