Summer social – butterflies, Butts and Joanna Lumley – Saturday 20 July 2013

The summer social for Friends of Coldham’s Common on Saturday 20 July was an excellent day out with superb weather and convivial company, consisting of a butterfly walk inspired by Janet, who was inspired by Joanna Lumley and the Big Butterfly Count [ or ] and then a picnic on top of the rifle butts, serenaded by Neil on the guitar.

The summer sun brought out not only the Friends, but an unexpectedly large numbers of butterflies : the Triangle had lots of Large Skipper, Essex Skipper, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Comma, Large White, Green-veined White, and Six-spot burnet. If you want to check out what these all look like Butterfly Conservation have a poster here :  Butterfly Conservation id guide

The Pyramidal orchids were in bloom and there was abundant Lady’s Bedstraw, Tall Meliot and Spiny Restharrow, but Knapweed, Red Clover, Thistles and Brambles were most popular with the butterflies.  Bird’s Foot Trefoil was in flower on the top of the butts and much of the football pitches. 

Picture of Spiny Restharrow on Coldhams Common
Spiny Restharrow

Disappointingly the rest of the common walked was almost butterfly free, those on the LNR doomed by the early hay cut for the Folk Festival, presumably just as they were hatching; those on the northern common – well let’s face it with 22 Long-horned cattle on only 8 hectares since April, there aren’t really any plants left – let alone the butterflies dependent on them.

However the highlight was Marbled Whites flying on the Triangle, at what is perhaps their only site in the city itself. This and the other butterfly species appear highly dependent on the tall grassland in the Triangle for their larvae and it is most likely that they have been driven to extinction by inappropriate grazing management elsewhere on the common.  We only hope that we can make the council see sense and not extend their grazing onto this area and destroy this final refuge. Neil’s rendition to us of “Knock-knock-knocking on Heavens Door” could though be seen as somewhat prophetic.

Picture of a Marbled White butterfly on Coldham's Common
Marbled White

The Friends put these thoughts calmly aside to drink tea, eat scones, Pringles and macaroons and admire the view from the top of the Butts. Roll on summer sun !   Thanks to all and Joanna Lumley for a great afternoon out.

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