All quiet at Holywell

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Waders and Wall Brown butterflies were my hoped-for species at Holywell pond this morning but despite fine weather and oodles of suitable mud, neither were to be seen.

Holywell can be a frustrating place for the easily disappointed but luckily I am not that kind of person and I was pleased with a smart pair of Red Admirals at the end of my morning.

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Disappointingly the farmer appears to have destroyed the small area of marsh in the centre of the field immediately east of the pond, no doubt with the intention of ploughing in this area for next year.

Though it was a relatively small bit of habitat it was great cover for Snipe and Grey Partridge and doubtless home to much else besides. It seems a pretty pointless act of destruction given that the area will surely flood again as soon as winter arrives.

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The farmer had also trimmed the verge in one of the fields on the other side of the bridle way, just where I was hoping to find my Wall Browns…d’oh!

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It’s been a while

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So here is a very nice Small Skipper. I haven’t seen too many so far this year, although one flew through the garden the other day, which is a first!

There has been some talk  that the weather has made it difficult for butterflies in 2016, which I guess is possibly true, although from my own observations I would say it depends upon the species.

There have been plenty of whites on the wing lately as well as the second generation of Small Tortoiseshells. I have spotted loads of Ringlet butterflies this year too so the conditions must have suited them, whilst there have been far fewer Speckled Wood than in 2014 which seemed to be a bonanza year for all lepidoptera.

Plenty of time left for some nice weather however, so I look forward to many morebutterflies over the coming weeks.

July Butterflies

What with the weather and work and various other obstacles I have not seen so many butterflies of late…still no Skippers this year and I think I have missed the first generation of Wall Brown butterflies that are normally on the wing from late May in this part of the world.

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However, Ringlet and Meadow Brown are now out in force, including these two beautiful insects which were at Havannah nature reserve last week.

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Roll on some warm sunny weather and there is sure to be plenty more butterflies on the wing…perhaps in time for the Big Butterfly Count which starts this weekend?

Small Copper

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I spent some time in Gosforth Park nature reserve at the beginning of last week while the weather was still good. The bird life was fairly quiet, with the birds getting on with the breeding season but insects were abundant, especially mosquitoes!

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It seems that the butterflies may be a week or two behind where they were at this time last year and that goes for some of the flora as well. However this Small Copper was a nice find amongst the buttercups and hawkbits by the screen hide.

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A few orchids were thrusting their way up too, like this Common Spotted Orchid. I also managed to see the single spike of Coral Root Orchid which is currently showing…nice!

A disconcerting walk

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What’s wrong with this picture?

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Or how about this one?

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Perhaps it has something to do with this?

These pictures were all taken last weekend close to where I live, in the fields which separate Monkseaton and Murton. What was disconcerting was the almost complete lack of invertebrate life, either on the tracks which bisect the fields or above the crop itself.

Both the venerable old crab apple and the swathes of yellow dandelions that line the track were devoid of life, despite the warm spring sunshine and the fact that these plants should act like beacons to insects at this time of year.

This isn’t the first time I have noticed the lack of biodiversity on my immediate doorstep but it was perhaps the first time the sterility of the local environment really sunk in.

That’s not to say that Murton Gap, as the fields are known, supports no wildlife: Skylark can still be heard over the fields, one or two farmland birds can be unearthed if you look hard enough, Curlew – Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List – sometimes form winter roosts here and foxes rove between Shiremoor and Monkseaton after dark.

But the farmland is a shadow of what it must once have been, of what it could be if it was managed with more sensitivity, or even left to its own devices.

This was the second time in three weeks that I have seen the field being sprayed. This may not have been insecticide but when a crop is often sprayed more than a dozen times with insecticides, fungicides and herbicides, one has to wonder about the effect on the environment.

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The two large fields closest to Monkseaton form a large part of the area likely to be developed for housing under the North Tyneside Local Plan. Whilst it would be defamatory to suggest this area were being willfully damaged because of this, it is clear to see this farmland could be far better managed for wildlife than it currently is.

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It pains me to look out onto green space that has been so needlessly degraded and whilst perversely, conversion to housing may eventually result in some recovery in biodiversity, by then so many species will have vanished from here forever.

Dingy Skippers

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Friday lunchtime saw me at Havannah nature reserve in search of Dingy Skipper butterflies and I was not to be disappointed! In the same spot I first saw them last year, there were at least three on the wing or feeding on Bird’s Foot Trefoil.

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They are small and very moth-like and with their low, skipping flight are quite unobtrusive but I love the subtle patterns, particularly on the forewing.

Once again, I was struck by just how good the Havannah reserve is for invertebrates and not just butterflies; there were a number of different types of solitary bee foraging close to the butterflies which were unlike any I have ever seen. I will have to get the field guide out and see if I can some photos next time…