Moth and Butterfly Course 2022

Inspecting Saturday Morning Moth Traps

We were delighted to welcome back David Brown to run our 2 day moth and butterfly course last weekend. The course started with the inspection of moth traps run during Friday night. The taps where placed in 7 locations around Cricklade including on North Meadow.

Our inspection revealed a total of 64 moth species. This included two of the largest moths the Poplar Hawkmoth and Elephant Hawkmoth. Many of the moths are stunningly colourful and beautifully marked such as the Burnished Brass and the Spectacle. Others resemble butterflies such as the Treble Brown Spot or hide by looking like a twig such as the Buff Tip.

Field Trip to North Meadow

Small Eggar Larva Web

After lunch we headed to North Meadow to look for butterflies. We were pleased to find 7 species and  watched a mating display of Small Tortoiseshell over some nettles.

Most were familiar farmland butterflies. The meadow was looking amazing in the warm sunny weather. A highlight was the discovery of a larva web of the rare Small Eggar moth.

Inspecting Sunday Morning Moth Traps

On Sunday we started the morning by inspecting 3 moth traps from Saturday night. We found a further 12 species raising our total to 76 moth species. They included a Privet Hawkmoth, a Small Elephant Hawkmoth and a rare Small Seraphim.

Field Trip to Edge Common

Small Blue

We climbed aboard the minibus and headed to Edge Common for lunch overlooking Stroud valley. During our walk around edge we added Small Blue and Small Heath to our butterfly species list, Five Spot Burnet moth , Six Spot Burnet moth Larva and Rivulet were added to our day flying moth total.

Field Trip to Daneway Banks

Daneway Banks
Daneway Banks

On to the Gloucester Wildlife Trust Reserve and location of a Large Blue re- introduction after this butterfly  went extinct in the UK in the 1970s. After much searching one of our members had a brief sighting of two Large Blues. Small Copper and Marbled White were added to our butterfly total.

Marbled White
Marbled White

We must thank our tutor David for his vast knowledge and boundless enthusiasm for making our weekend so enjoyable. We found a total of 80 moth species and 12 butterfly species.

Feedback

We had some lovely comments on our feedback forms here are a couple of examples:

“Thank you for all of the organisation that has gone into making this such an enjoyable and valuable event. It is hugely appreciated and has contributed enormously to my learning”

“Just a big thank you to David, Anita and John for such a wonderful event. It was GREAT!!”

Lovely group size, organisation super, opportunity to ask questions and learn. Thank you, I will be looking to see what other courses I can register for”

Bumblebee Identification Course

Our Bumblebee Identification Course yesterday was a great success. The Heritage Lottery sponsored our course which allowed us to invite Dr Richard Comont Science Officer for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust to run the day for us.

Bumblebee Identification Course Jenner Hall
Jenner Hall Cricklade

We started the day in the Jenner Hall with two presentations. The first covered bumblebee ecology in which Richard used his incredible depth of knowledge to explain how bumblebee populations have changed in response to habitat changes. Species rich meadows like North Meadow are ideal habitat for bumblebees. The second presentation was a logical and very clear explanation of how to identify the commoner species and split them between queen bees, worker bees and male bees. We also learned about how to send in records using the Bee Walk Scheme.

North Meadow National Nature Reserve

Field Trip

After lunch we walked to North Meadow to see if we could find and identify any of the bumblebees we discussed during the morning. On arriving at the meadow we enjoyed the spectacle of meadow buttercups glowing yellow in the bright sunshine. We soon found some bees on the large patches of flowering red clover.

We attempted to use our newly acquired identification skills and were pleased to find a red tailed cuckoo bumblebee queen. Cuckoo bumblebees are parasitic and  this one takes over the nest of the red tailed bumblebee. It was good to see as they are usually hard to find and are an indicator of a heathy host species population.

Richard Comont

This was quickly followed by queens and workers of the buff tailed and garden bumblebees. We were able inspect them closely in clear specimen pots.

In all we found queens and workers of 5 species only the early bumblebee and tree bumblebee were missing from the species around at this time of year.

Garden Bumblebee Queen

Very satisfied with our relaxing and enjoyable field trip we made our way back to the Jenner Hall for a final cup of tea and chat. We felt we had learned a great deal thanked our tutor Richard for sharing his passion, knowledge and enthusiasm for these fascinating insects.

Recording bumblebees is a very important part of their conservation and quite a few of our 15 course participants are now thinking about taking part in the Bee Walk Scheme.

Feedback

Our feedback on the day was overwhelmingly positive with so many very nice comments about how much everyone had enjoyed the day. Here are some examples.

Time flew by-the sign of a great day. Very knowledgeable and informative tutor, and the guided walk really helped cement our learning

Thank you. Well organised, welcoming, interesting, well pitched, motivating to protect meadow and get involved in conservation

I love how passionate of all of the contributors were about not only the bumblebees but the wildlife and history of Cricklade – You have a real gem here!

 

Fritillary Flowering Almost Finished

Fritillary Flowering Almost Finished
Fritillary Seed Pod
Fritillary Seed Pod

The fritillary flowering almost finished for this year. Most Fritillary flowers  have now been pollinated and are developing seed pods. The main pollinator of the fritillary flowers are queen red tail bumblebee ( Bombus lapidarius).

Over the next few weeks the seed pods will swell and the stem will straighten. Eventually the seed pod will split releasing up to 150 seeds.

The picture above taken today shows a carpet of dandelion seed heads and ribwort plantain flowers. A few fritillary flowers are still visible but largely obscured now by the growing hay crop. Continue reading “Fritillary Flowering Almost Finished”

Spectacular Fritillary Display

Now is a great time to see this year’s spectacular fritillary display. The picture above was taken last Saturday and shows huge numbers of fritillaries in flower.

On a sunny day the meadow will have a purple bloom as the majority of fritillary flowers are purple. There are also white flowers which are the same species and these are less common, about 7% of the total.

Only about 20% of the fritillary plants flower each year. The majority of mainly young plants are non-flowering, some with only a single leaf which resembles a blade of grass. The Floodplain Meadows Partnership who carry out research on North Meadow have produced a leaflet explaining the life cycle of Snakes Head Fritillaries.

Bring your binoculars to get the best view of the display which is even better from a low viewpoint. Please remember to stay on the path. Continue reading “Spectacular Fritillary Display”

Lots of Fritillaries but only a few in flower

There are large numbers of fritillaries and a few have started to flower. They are still very difficult to see as the picture above taken on Friday 29th March shows. Only a about 20% of the fritillary plants in the meadow flower each year.

Vegetative Fritillary Plants
Vegetative Fritillary Plants

The younger plants stay in a vegetative state for several years, even the older plants only flower if the environmental conditions are favourable. The Floodplain Meadows Partnership have produced a leaflet describing the life cycle of the fritillaries . The vegetative plants can easily be mistaken for grass as the adjacent picture shows. They are very easily trampled and damaged at this stage. Continue reading “Lots of Fritillaries but only a few in flower”

The Snakes Head Fritillaries are showing but very difficult to see

The Snakes Head Fritillary season is about to start. There are a small number of flower buds showing but, although there are a large number of fritillary shoots, they are currently very difficult to see. The picture above was taken on Friday 25th March. If you do visit in the next few days do not be tempted to leave the marked paths as you will do considerable damage to the emerging fritillary shoots. Continue reading “The Snakes Head Fritillaries are showing but very difficult to see”

Moth and Butterfly Course

New moth and butterfly course for 2022

Our Moth and Butterfly Course on Saturday identified 58 species of macro moths and 5 species of butterfly on North Meadow and the surrounding area. The course was  sponsored by the Court’s Heritage Lottery Grant.

Comma Butterfly with clubbed antenna

Our course tutor David Brown started with an explanation of the differences between moths and butterflies. Butterflies usually have ‘club-shaped’ antennae while most moths have feathery or tapering ones. Also butterflies normally hold their wings vertical at rest and moths hold them flat. It is largely an arbitrary distinction we use in the UK as they are all Lepidoptera, a family of insects with 2 pairs of wings covered in often very colourful scales. Continue reading “Moth and Butterfly Course”

Scything Returns to North Meadow

Scything on North Meadow

Scything returned to North Meadow on Saturday for probably the first time for 100 years or more. This was made possible by Cricklade Court Leet’s Heritage Lottery Fund Grant which enabled the Court to purchase part of the meadow.

Horse drawn mower introduced around 1825

Cricklade Court Leet has been involved in the management of North Meadow for at least 800 years and for most of that time the scythe would have been the main tool for haymaking. The agricultural revolution in the 19th century resulted in  the introduction of first horse drawn mowers and later equipment powered by tractors.

On Saturday 10th July we held a practical scything and meadow management course on the land purchased with the help of the Heritage Lottery. Our course started with an introduction by the Court Town Crier Eric. Continue reading “Scything Returns to North Meadow”

The Fritillaries Have Finished Flowering

The fritillaries have finished flowering for this year. The hay crop will soon grow and will be full of wild flowers. Conditions on the meadow are now quite wet and muddy after the recent rain. River levels have also risen in recent days.

We are running a Practical Scything and Meadow Management Course on Saturday 10th July 2021. The course will be on North Meadow and will be run by Richard Brown, Chairman of the Scything Association of Britain and Ireland. Continue reading “The Fritillaries Have Finished Flowering”