Posts Tagged ‘essex skipper’

‘Moor’ lepidoptera skipping about.

June 22, 2015

Despite the changeable weather over the last week or so, good numbers of the iconic Large Heath continue to be seen on Thorne Moors and a few have also been seen on Hatfield Moors by Robbie Millar a student from Plymouth University who is undertaking a study of the species after the re-introduction onto Hatfield Moors around 2005.  More on that in a future post.

Other species skipping about include

Ochlodes sylvanus: Large Skipper. Image: Martin Warne.

Ochlodes sylvanus: Large Skipper.
Image: Martin Warne.

Both species are perhaps best described as ‘restless’ and both adopt a similar posture when basking in the sun.  The Large Skipper (above) is easily identified as it is the only species which has mottled rather than clear golden wings.  The first males emerge mid May and the butterfly can still be around in August and occasionally lingering till September.  Cock’s-foot is its favoured food plant whilst on wet acid soil it will use Purple Moor-grass.

The mis-named ‘Small’ Skipper because four other species of British Skippers are smaller than this species are considered more secretive than the Large Skipper.  Their preferred food plant being Yorkshire-fog where they lay their eggs in a grass sheath.  Generally Small Skipper is found in taller lusher grassland than Essex Skipper and more open places than Large Skipper.  A flight period extending from June until the end of August.  Frowhawk suggests that the life expectancy of the imago is around twenty days for both species.

Thymelicus sylvestris: Small Skipper. Image: Martin Warne.

Thymelicus sylvestris: Small Skipper.
Image: Martin Warne.

Readers visiting Thorne or Hatfield Moors are asked to keep an eye on the ‘Small Skippers’ and look out for the Essex Skipper, which is very similar but check out the tips of the antennae: are they black or brown?  Black and a short sex brand running parallel with the forewing edge as opposed to being at an angle then you have the Essex, drop us a note or better still send an image to   

The Brimstone larva hang on well to the Alder Buckthorn leaves that they are busily munching their way through.  The small population subject of the ongoing study are observed at various times of the day, predominantly feeding from the upper surface of the leaf but can occasionally be located on the under surfaces.  Some are still quite small, around 7mm or so whilst others approaching twice that length.

Gonepteryx rhamni: Brimstone. Image: Helen Kirk

Gonepteryx rhamni: Brimstone.
Image: Helen Kirk

Other snippets

Natural England seem to be attracting the attention of a well known conservation campaigner lately.  It seems that nature’s erstwhile guardians are dithering over designations (again) …. this time the West Pennine Moors.  OK Avery is focused on addressing the ‘Hen Harrier’ issue and his ability to retain the plight on the public horizon is to be applauded, but there are wider ramifications for this ‘neglect’.  We sense the saga has a way to run yet and will watch with interest.

Of Hen Harriers, have you logged Sunday 9 August in your diaries?  See Hen Harrier Day for more details.

Any value in brownfield sites?

July 28, 2013

Along with a couple of colleagues yesterday I enjoyed a pleasant morning looking at a couple of areas on the western edge of Thorne Moors.  Anyone familiar with the old Thorne Colliery site might recognise the image below, now becoming colonised by plants as nature begins to heal the scarred landscape.

130727 TCY derelict hrk P1020487

The poor substrate is slowly being colonised by species like mayweed, the prostrate basal leaves hosting an abundance of a recent colonist to Britain Conostethus venustus The species was first recorded in 2010 in Rotherham by Jim Flanagan. Despite its size, the tiny bug is delicately marked and worth inspection with a hand lens.  Jim’s excellent illustrations can be found via the link to Issue 15 of Het News, the Newsletter of the UK Heteroptera Recording Schemes

It doesn’t seem nine years ago that the once proud head gear of Thorne Colliery was a landmark on the skyline by which those unfamiliar with the tracks across the moors could safely find their way back after a visit.  It has always remained a mystery to me why more was not made of the demolition, what a youngster would have given to have pressed down on thet detonator which saw the tons of steel fall to the ground in a mere four seconds, I know because I was there on that day …. 18 August 2004.

040818 TC & PHG hrk 0575

The social historians amongst readers will correct me I’m sure, but the colliery was mothballed well before the decision to demolish the head gear.   The foreground of the image illustrates that nature has gained a foothold here on the approach to the pit head.

040818 TC Pit Head demolition hrk 0577

I make no claims whatsoever of being a photographer, I use the media as a way to capture a record or as a memory aide memoire.  In August 2004 I was in the right place at the right time and managed to take a series of images as the massive structure fell, twisted and contorted to the ground in around four seconds!

Colliery scree is an unforgiving substate but many species are able to cope with it, not least a variety of orchid species.  The stunning image of the Bee Orchid below was one of a local colony, similarly the Pyramidal Orchid, both gaining a foothold as indeed other species in what at first glance may appear a hostile environment.

Bee Orchid IMc 3702

Colliery scree can be an unforgiving substate but many species are able to cope with it, not least a variety of orchid species.  The stunning image of the Bee Orchid above was one of a local colony, similarly the Pyramidal Orchid below, both gaining a foothold as indeed are other species in what at first glance may appear a hostile environment.


In 2012, an unusual and unexpected moss was discovered on the colliery scree by a local bryologist.  Glittering-wood Moss, Hyloconium splendens is an interesting addition to the local flora of the area, for more information click on the link.  This is perhaps yet another example of the rewards to be had from ‘local patch’ work or simply taking up a less ‘popular’ specialism.

120305 H. splendens hrk 834

Another regular correspondent sent across these superb images below, of a Grayling and Essex Skipper butterflies which further illustrates that there are times where industry and nature can co-exist.  Whilst not from the peatlands per se, they are used as another example of nature’s ability to adapt and take advantage of intervals of availability of space.

Grayling 4

At the moment there are some seriously high counts of a number of our familiar butterflies such as large skipper, but it’s always worth checking because many are actually Essex, the image below illustrates the salient determining feature well, thanks Phil for sharing it with our blog audience.

Essex Skipper 8

Clearly brownfield sites have a lot to offer wildlife able to colonise and adapt amidst an ever changing landscape, but how long before they are promoted as being industries contribution to conservation in the interim whilst a better use or more profitable use for the space is found?  How long before the best sites, the jewels in the nation’s portfolio are sacrificed because they are regarded as resources for man?  Iolo William’s in his plea to protect his back yard eloquently described the use of the word resource in the Welsh successor to CCW as a term which to him inferred it was disposable, something to be used and abused and I for one would agree with his analogy.  The UK government undertook a triennial review of the English agency Natural England along side the Environment Agency.  Much heralded, many contributions but a lost opportunity for reform to benefit nature conservation.  Certainly no robust champion for the environment, the Muzzled Watchdog as its predecesor was dubbed in 1997, became the ‘Toothless Terrier’ and we might now be forgiven for considering the term ‘lapdog’?

If you’ve been out there recording some unusual or interesting wildlife, please …. drop us a line and share the data.

Thanks to Phil Lee, Ian McDonald and Bryan Wainwright for sharing their species images, the others of ‘landscape’ and that of the Glittering-wood Moss are taken by Helen Kirk.

BIRDING SITE GUIDE - Birding Site Guide

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Hatfield Moors Birding Blog

Bird and other wildlife information service for Hatfield Moors, South Yorkshire, UK © HMBSG 17/11/2010

Mark Avery

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

a new nature blog

I write about politics, nature + the environment. Some posts are serious, some not. These are my views, I don't do any promotional stuff and these views are not being expressed for anyone who employs me.

UK and Ireland Natural History Bloggers

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?