Moth and Butterfly Course

Inspecting the moth traps on moth and butterfly course

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.

On Friday night David  put out 7  light traps to collect a sample of moths for us to inspect on Saturday morning. As we went through the light traps we were amazed at the huge variety of beautiful of moths which we don’t normally see. The majority of moths fly at night, unlike butterflies which we see during daylight hours. The gallery below shows a few of the moths we discovered, click on the pictures to see a larger image.


David has been studying moths for many years and has detailed knowledge of every species. This is quite a feat as there are about 900 macro moth species in the UK.  Many more than the 60 UK species of butterflies with which we are much more familiar.

After lunch we walked around North Meadow looking for butterflies. Although  23 species have been recorded on North Meadow they do not all fly at the same time of year. We saw 2 newly emerged and very fresh Comma butterflies, and some rousting, very well camouflaged Specked Wood butterflies in the hedge. As we walked, several Green Veined White and Small White flew passed us and we were treated to a Small Tortoiseshell on the path.

We returned to the Thames Hall to review our day and release the moths unharmed. Wildlife records are very important for research and conservation, species records from the day will be submitted to the Wiltshire County Moth Recorder via iRecord.

We must thank our tutor David Brown for sharing his enthusiasm, knowledge and vast experience with us and for making our moth and butterfly course such an enjoyable day.

Next year we are running a 2 day Moths and Butterflies course on Sat 11th/Sun 12th June. We plan to visit Edge common NNR and Daneway  Banks NR within the Cotswold Commons and Beechwoods AONB to see more butterflies including the recently introduced Large Blue Butterfly.

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”

North Meadow in Flood

North Meadow is in full flood this week. The National Nature Reserve is part of the floodplain for the River Thames and River Churn. Floodplains take the excess water when river levels are high and can extend over a wide area. It is quite normal for the floodplain to be inundated during the winter months and is one of the features which creates this species rich for lowland hay meadow habitat. Continue reading “North Meadow in Flood”

Conservation Grazing Vital for Biodiversity

Conservation grazing is about to start on North Meadow National Nature Reserve . Grazing with cattle following the hay cut is of vital importance to maintain biodiversity. North Meadow is a species rich lowland hay meadow habitat which is now very rare in the UK. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) estimate that less than 1500 ha of this habitat remain in the UK today. Continue reading “Conservation Grazing Vital for Biodiversity”