On Friday afternoon I headed to Hookheath meadows to complete our butterfly transect. I wasn’t sure how much I would see as it was cloudy but it was muggy and fairly sheltered on the reserve.
Coming in through the reserve gate I was greeted by the soft moo’ing from our four cattle that are now on site. Next was the abundance of Skippers (both Small and Essex) flittering about in the grassland. Disturbing Meadow browns, Grass-hoppers and crickets with every step.
It was business as usual on the transect until I headed through the centre of the reserve, when a large insect flew across in front of me. This mystery insect came off a sallow tree with an erratic flight, shooting quickly out of view. From the size and flight characteristics I feel it could be nothing but a Purple Emperor(!). The habitat is right for ‘his majesty’ but there are no records of this species being seen here. Further down the transect on a clump of bramble (which is now in full flower) was four orange flying dinner plate sized butterflies – The Silver-washed fritillary. These strong flying woodland butterflies seem to be in good numbers at hookheath this year and along with another 5 on the transect made a count of 9 – the most I’ve ever seen here.
Other woodland specialists were in abundance such as the Ringlet and Gate Keeper. Other butterflies I saw were Small, Green-veined, Marbled and Large whites, Comma and a quick flyby from a White admiral. In the hour visit I had recorded 82 butterflies of 12 species or 13 if you include the suspected Purple emperor (although I think I will have to put some more work in to get a confirming sighting of that particular species!).