Thursday, August 8, 2013
About a week ago, when we were walking near Wolsingham in Weardale, we came across a remarkable concentration of small skipper butterflies feeding on a single patch of knapweed on the road verge. There were about twenty and I don't think I've ever seen so many of these lively little butterflies in one place at the same time. Maybe they all hatched from a single batch of eggs laid last year.
Small skippers are something of a success story in North East England. Odd specimens occasionally strayed into Co. Durham in the 1970s and then in 1985 the late Bob Quigley found two flourishing colonies at Durham Wildlife Trust's Low Barns Nature Reserve at Witton-le-Wear. Alerted to the possibility that there might be others, lepidopterists began looking for them in other locations and since then small skippers have continued their range expansion into Northumberland.
Most bloggers have remarked on what a wonderful summer this has been so far for butterflies, and it's certainly a joy to see so many after last year's dismal showing. It seems to be a return to some kind of normality in butterfly numbers. With luck, we may yet return to run of decent summers that will allow future butterfly populations to continue to increase.
Bob Quigley was one of the local butterfly enthusiasts who discovered that ringlet butterflies were breeding at Low Barns reserve, again in 1985. At that time they were only known from a few scattered locations but since then ringlets have also become common in our region.