The large blue flight season is over!
No large blues have been seen for over a week and recording has come to an end for this year. The 2018 flight season ran from 3rd June to 1st July, with a peak of 80 recorded on 10th June. In 2017 the flight season ran from 2nd June to 3rd July, so a similar period, but the peak was later with 40 counted on 21st June. A total of 740 large blues were recorded this year, compared to 300 last year, however the amount of butterflies it’s possible to spot and record varies with weather and is only a rough indication of true numbers.
Over the last 16 years the peak has often been in the last quarter of June, but 2018 is not the first year to see a peak in early June, this also happened in 2016 and 2007. The weather has been so hot that the thyme flowers are starting to go over, so it seems to me that the large blue flight season was timed well. Perhaps it is not surprising that we had a great year for large blues given that last year a record breaking number of eggs were laid. We have not yet analysed the egg data for this year.
You can see from the graph that numbers of large blues recorded dropped on 16th – 17th June and 19th – 21st June, this was due to rain and high winds. Some recording days were lost as we didn’t have enough Volunteer Surveyors to cover, perhaps you’d like to help out and walk some transects next year?
I’ve truly had the most amazing time at Collard Hill, wearing my National Trust uniform with pride, gaining in knowledge and confidence and feeling that I am helping a worthwhile cause. Due to a research-based approach, the hard work of a few tenacious individuals, and careful habitat management the reintroduction of the previously extinct large blue butterfly to Britain has been incredibly successful and shows that not all conservation stories need to be the doom and gloom we so often see in the media. It’s not simply large blue butterflies that have been safeguarded at Collard, management of the site for the large blues has also allowed for a huge array of meadow wildflowers, rare orchids, uncountable invertebrates, and other butterflies to flourish.
All butterflies spotted from 6th June to 6th July 2018:
Small or essex skipper
There have been challenges for me, working longer hours than I was used to as a student. In the recent heatwave the scorching sun has been harsh from 11am onwards. I found the physical work hard to begin with, but walking up and down a steep slope for much of day I quickly gained hill-climbing muscles. I certainly didn’t need that Legs & Booty Workout app I’d downloaded.
Deciding on the tone and content of the blog was also difficult. I wanted to talk about everything, even within the sphere of invertebrates there’s a never-ending amount of fascinating information. I also wanted to write a diary of my time at Collard, and tried to balance these. I’d never written a blog before, or prose as an adult, although I am a voracious reader of novels, poetry and science journals. I also have to admit I’m not really a blog reader, so didn’t know how others structured their posts. Perhaps this meant my blog could only ever have a unique tone.
I poured my heart into writing and have received many kind praises, I’m surprised by the following that I attained. Benefiting from a long-term fanbase carried over from previous years, during my time in the role the blog received an average of 165 views per day, totalling over 5400 views across the month. Love for the large blues crosses borders, with followers from all over Europe and indeed the world, including such far-flung countries as Nigeria, India, Russia, China, Israel and Vietnam. Many visitors asked me to continue blogging, and so I will, under miacroftecology.wordpress.com. Although probably not every day.
I ran out of time to tell you about Maria Sibylla Merian, a 17th century German Biologist and Illustrator, who first told the world that butterflies metamorphosed from caterpillars. No one believed her, after all what did a silly woman know, but she dedicated her life to travelling the world studying insects and passing her knowledge on. I didn’t get to show you images from my favourite insect photographer, Igor Siwanowicz, whose playful artworks I enjoy so much. Or the Microsculpture exhibition, amazing macro images of insects by Levon Biss. I will go into detail about these in my own personal blog.
For the last month of my life almost every waking minute has been devoted to the monitoring and documenting of one of the UK’s rarest butterflies. I have even been dreaming of butterflies. For a month before my post began I was very excited about the role and struggling to concentrate on university exam revision. The flight season, whilst fitting with last year’s dates, has ended earlier than I anticipated and I find myself suddenly floating in the ether, attempting to find meaning to my life again before lectures begin in September. I visited Collard Hill on Sunday night, walking for the first time along the ridge away from my realm. Leaving the National Trust’s fences behind I traversed the Polden Hills, past the monument and beyond. Returning as the sun finally began to sink, from my hill I watched stars beginning to appear in the open sky. I well knew this role would be short-lived, I can’t help that my heart is wistful for those charismatic blue rarities.
For now I will have to save my existential crisis until after the Large Blue Butterfly Report is written.