Nature Natters June 2017

Here is the full article sent to the Warrington Guardian and published on 29/06/17

Butterfly Beauty

Small tortoiseshell
Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)

We are now at the start of the butterfly season as they wake from hibernation or hatch out of their cocoons as the days get warmer and sunnier. On such a day, recently I saw not just one but two Orange Tip butterflies plus a few whites flying around the newly sculptured Spittle Brook area in Cinnamon Brow. Last week alongside the Blackbrook stream I saw a large clouded yellow, several speckled woods, small whites and a holly blue in the space of 5 minutes. So, plenty of variety and colour is out there already so go and see what’s in your neighbourhood.

The good thing with butterflies is that you don’t have to travel far to see them and they will visit your garden if you sew a variety of wild flowers seeds. This will also help counter the modern-day practice of councils cutting grass at the sides of roads and spraying weed killer which is destroying the insect’s natural habitat. For a chance of seeing a variety of butterfly why not visit Warrington’s Nature Reserves, especially Rixton Clay Pits and Moore Nature Reserve as well as our Parks. Many of these places have information boards that illustrate what you are likely to see there.

You might think they’d be easy to identify and most are but butterflies by their very nature do not stay still for long. You will often find yourself in a game of stealth and chase. Be sneaky and use binoculars, they will get you closer without disturbing them. To help identify what you’ve seen you can use your mobile phone to access the Butterfly Conservation web site. I however favour a pocket book like the Collins Butterfly Guide or a laminated card. You can purchase these at any good book, RSPB or National Trust shop or online vendor.

Try and take your phone or camera with you to record what you see before it flies away. You can then double check when you get home. Don’t forget that the Cheshire Wildlife Trust occasionally run butterfly courses so check their web site for details.

With practice and research, you will become more adept at identifying them and learn about the different types by understanding about size, markings and habitat. Of the three whites, mentioned above the easiest to identify was the Orange Tip with its bright orange edges to its wings and green veins underneath. The other whites were a bit trickier but the Large White is the that flies the highest whilst the Small White remains closer to the ground. The black markings and spots allow you to distinguish between male (one spot) and female (two spots).

The month of May is still a good time to sow wildflower seeds. They will attract the butterflies in the summer to your garden and only cost a few pounds a packet from any garden centre. I have even cultivated a buddleia from a cutting that attracts Peacock and Red Admiral butterflies. This took a couple of years to mature and flower but it was time well spent.

Peacock Butterfly
Peacock (Aglais io)

Finally, we have just launched our new web site  www.wncf.co.uk It is a work in progress but there are links to our partners one of which is www.record-lrc.co.uk where you can record your butterfly sightings and help record the Town’s biodiversity. Any problems or queries use the WNCF web site contact window to send us a message and we will get back to you.

 

Geoff Settle

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *