Juvenile Black-winged Stilts (with Lapwing), Ouse Washes

Over the years I have seen some notable birds at the Ouse Washes, including Blue-winged Teal, Greater Yellowlegs, multiple Red-footed Falcons and Northern Harrier. More importantly, the site invariably hosts an impressive number and variety of birds.

Yesterday was no exception. In addition to the family of Black-winged Stilts, amongst other waders there were Avocets, Black-tailed Godwits, Ruffs and a migrant Wood Sandpiper. A Whooper Swan seemed unseasonal this far south, whilst a fresh juvenile Cuckoo ‘hiding’ on the track seemed unsure of its environment.

Amongst the butterflies, it was pleasing to see a small colony of Wall near the pumping station: we lost this species from Rutland over a decade ago.

Wall, Ouse Washes

Variable Longhorn, Rutland

In his 2015 Checklist of the beetles of Leicestershire & Rutland, Finch noted 30 records of Variable Longhorn Stenocorus meridianus. Pendleton & Pendleton (2015) found it widespread but not particularly common in Nottinghamshire; their distribution map shows just 9 squares, without any obvious concentrations.

The status of this beetle in Rutland may be changing. In 2016 I found 5 individuals in 4 tetrads without specifically searching for it. The Rutland sites where I have found Variable Longhorn are Burley and Pickworth Great Woods, Bloody Oaks and Ketton Quarries, and Luffenham Heath. Historically it has been widespread in southern Britain but more local in the north; perhaps it is spreading northwards in response to climate change.

Variable Longhorns in Rutland – can you add to the map?

Meadow Brown and Marbled White, Rutland

Yesterday I visited Bloody Oaks Quarry, which as usual proved a haven for butterflies including double figures of Silver-washed Fritillary. Amongst others, I also saw Brown Argus and Small Heath.

This Black-striped Longhorn Beetle was the second I have seen at this site – the other was in 2015.

Other notable butterflies seen locally over the past week have included White-letter Hairstreak and Holly Blue.

I’m unsure about the local status of Giant Woodwasp – this one in Oakham – can anyone advise? Note its size in relation to the brick!

Black-striped Longhorn, Bloody Oaks

Giant Woodwasp, Oakham

Updated distribution map including 2017 Rutland records 

Quite a lot has been written about the Purple Emperor, including most notably ‘Notes & Views of the Purple Emperor’ by Heslop, Hyde & Stockley (1964). A thorough grounding in the literature may well be helpful; what follows is based on my own experience.

In the East Midlands we are fortunate to have the famous Fermyn Woods site where Purple Emperors are easy to see, yet experience gained there may be slightly misleading. When I have seen them elsewhere, be it abroad in France or at home in Rutland, they have seldom come down to tracks but rather spend most of their time around the canopy. Once you have found the right habitat patience may be required – it is not unusual to wait an hour or more between sightings. Sightings at Fermyn are, however, a useful indication that they are likely to be on the wing in Rutland.

In Rutland the best habitat – a combination of oak and most importantly sallow – is found in the north-east, but other woods (e.g. Burley, Prior’s Coppice) have suitable areas so further spread is possible. 2017 is certainly a good year for Purple Emperor, so the increase in Rutland sites is likely to be genuine as well as a reflection of more skilled searching.

I have found that the most productive period is between mid-morning and early afternoon, on warm days (high teens or low twenties) with at least intermittent sunshine. It is important to concentrate the search around areas of sallow, where males fly quite regularly. They are quick on the wing, and there may be lengthy periods between sightings. It is not uncommon to see them only in flight, or settled high in the canopy of oak or ash close to sallows, so binoculars may be required for a good view. ‘Grounded’ males, and females, are seen much less frequently.

We now know that Purple Emperors are present in Addah, Clipsham Park, Pickworth Great and Stretton Woods. It does seem that they are increasing, but they may have been present at low density for some time without being recorded. The challenge is to track their spread as best we can.

A typical view of Purple Emperor, Rutland 

Clipsham Park Wood, Rutland

Between family visits I have managed to fit in some butterfly recording, especially of Purple Emperor (on which more will follow).

This year’s warm, dry June has resulted in flight periods for some species moving forward by two weeks or more. Sightings in new tetrads have been recorded for Silver-washed Fritillary, Marbled White and Small Heath as well as Purple Emperor. It seems to be a good year for Purple Hairstreak.

Heavy thunderstorms during the week do not seem to have had as much impact on local butterflies as I feared. For some species, including Purple Emperor, the main flight period this year may end soon so make the most of it!

Purple Hairstreak, Rutland

Fallow Deer, Rutland

Fallow Deer, Rutland

This morning the temperature rose to 12 degrees, so we visited Pickworth Great Wood in the hope of finding an early butterfly. The butterflies knew better; the first flowering blackthorn is actually six weeks behind last year.

As with other Rutland woods which I have visited recently, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were active but there was no sign of Lesser Spotted.

Hazel flowers, Rutland

Hazel flowers, Rutland

Bluethroat, Lincolnshire

Bluethroat, Lincolnshire

Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. (Thucydides)

For those who believe in democracy, this is one of the worst things which can happen. Normal communication is undermined, along with trust in the institutions upon which we rely. Yet this is precisely what we face in both Britain and America: academic endeavour and the pursuit of truth are being replaced by wilful misrepresentation. Those who oppose the abuse of power are accused of the very actions which they condemn. The next logical step will be to replace a free press with state-run media.

On a slightly lighter note, here is some real news. There really is a Bluethroat wintering in south Lincolnshire, because the climate really is changing.