Posted by: lensweb | January 12, 2017

Long Eaton Butterfly Transects 2016

LENS surveyed a new butterfly transect at Erewash Field this year. This is an old tip to the west of the coneries and the River Erewash adjacent to Attenborough Nature Reserve. Cemex is the owner but management is by Notts Wildlife Trust. A scrape has been excavated and a grazing enclosure built, llamas, sheep and highland cattle graze. There is a flood bund that is regularly mowed and Barton Pool (now mostly overgrown) is part of the complex of habitats which include some woodland. Coarse grasses predominate with occasional fine leaved grass. This is a favourite area for grasshopper and cetti’s warblers in the summer and stonechats and short-eared owls in the winter and is a very pleasant walk along a limestone track in part, with abundant wildflowers such as goat’s rue, ploughman’s spikenard and common spotted orchid. Wet grassland with increasing bramble and willow and birch scrub make access to the lagoons difficult.

Erewash Field.jpg

Gatekeepers, meadow browns and ringlets, red admirals, large whites and speckled woods were present in good numbers. Just two holly blues were counted. One small heath and a painted lady and sixteen species of day flying moths were seen, including black necked moth (Local), illustrating the diversity of species on the site. It was particularly good to see the caterpillar of the eyed hawkmoth which feeds on willow, and the knotgrass feeding on bramble.


LENS have just completed 4 years of butterfly recording at Mayfield Grove Buffer Stop. It was 2007 when  the woodland that had grown on  a large area of Toton Sidings from which the track had been removed was razed after  the land was sold. The resultant blooming of the sidings with a limestone flora of fine leaved grasses and wildflowers was a glorious sight. In 2012 LENS was asked by Ken Orpe, Butterfly Conservation Recorder for Derbyshire, to record on  a fixed transect  on the land South of the River Erewash, at the bottom of Mayfield Grove. The land is now becoming overgrown by birch, willow, gorse and bracken. Network Rail cleared all rubbish from the site and are now using granite for new ballast the previous limestone ballast was excellent for wildflowers. It is presumed that the site will not imminently be developed pending finalisation of Toton as the hub for the proposed high speed rail link HS2 Phase 2b.


The results for 2017 show the numbers of butterflies at Mayfield have reduced by 50% with large reduction in counts of small white, small tortoiseshell, peacock butterfly, gatekeeper and ringlet. Common blue, dingy skipper and small heath numbers were very low and the brown argus was not seen at all. Orange tip and large skipper, speckled wood, holly blue and comma have increased. Large skippers are present in good numbers in the section by the River Erewash. Marbled whites were seen but not recorded on the transect. Green hairstreaks are regularly reported from the sidings. Dayflying moths recorded were Shaded broadbar, narrow bordered 5 spot burnet, 6 spot burnet, burnet companion, pale straw pearl, silver Y and common white wave. Latticed heath numbers were low, but black necked moth (Local) which feeds on tufted vetch, was recorded here for the first time.


Toton Washlands has become very popular with dog walkers since the paths were mowed and it has remained dry for most of the year. It is now dominated by bramble and thistle with reed mace in the old meanders but  there are still some lovely wildflowers. Lesser egret and kingfisher are commonly sighted on the River Erewash here. The paths and floodbund continue to be mowed by the Environment Agency Team.


The results for 2017 show the numbers of butterflies at Toton Washlands have reduced by 50% with large reduction in counts of skippers, peacock, small white, gatekeeper and small tortoiseshell, although this was the best of our sites  for small tortoiseshell. Only one common blue was seen. Orange tip, holly blue and comma have increased. Day flying moths recorded were chimney sweeper, silver- y and shaded broadbar.  Oak trees and elm in the overgrown hawthorn hedge could encourage hairstreaks in future.


The butterfly transect at Forbes Hole is now in its third year.  The water level of the pond is now alarmingly low but as Cemex ceased gravel operations in the area in 2016 the environment agency advise, ‘wait and see’. The meadow was cut late in the year and cuttings removed. Some scrub clearance took place both as a wildflower planting exercise and during the (now) annual reed removal . The cleared areas bloomed with water forget me not, skull cap, water mint, lesser spearwort,  cornmint and many other flowers. Regular users of the site now feed the birds, incidentally sowing wheat, barley, canary grass and even cannabis.

The results for 2016 show the numbers of butterflies at Forbes Hole were similar to previous years but with surprisingly low counts of small and Essex skippers, peacock and small tortoiseshell. No brown argus were recorded, Only one small heath and one small copper were seen. Holly blue numbers have increased. Dayflying moths recorded were bordered beauty, cinnabar, latticed heath, narrow bordered 5 spot burnet, 6 spot burnet, burnet companion, pale straw pearl, small yellow underwing, clouded border, yellow shell, longhorns (Adela reamurella and Nemophora degeerella), small magpie, bloodvein and small bloodvein, silver -y and shaded broadbar. Several moth trapping sessions took place (see moth reports).


It is universally acknowledged that 2016 was a poor year for many butterflies due to a long cool spring and a cold wet summer. Comparing the sites show that they were all affected by the vagaries of temperature, rainfall and insect disease. Forbes Hole seeming slightly less so due to management creating increased nectaring opportunities where lack of management on the other sites made them less attractive to butterflies. 22 species of butterfly were recorded,  20 on each site except 19 on Toton Washlands. Common blue, brown argus, small copper and small heath may be on the edge of extinction in our area and can only be saved by sympathetic management.



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Total butterfly count.

2013 2014 2015 2016
TOTON 835 769 815 553
MAYFIELD 1140 1146 1002 607
FORBES not done 769 598 617
EREWASH FIELD not done not done not done 908

forbes.jpgMarion Bryce 12 January 2016





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