The 2023 Season

Tom Parker, who walks a ‘butterfly transect’ which includes Park Copse every week during the butterfly season reports as follows…

“The 2023 butterfly summer at Park Copse was very much a season of two halves. The lower than average sunshine in March and also in April meant a very slow start to the year. The heavy rain in early May didn’t help the spring butterflies and by 5th June I had only seen 25 butterflies in total in Rosemary Lane Wood. The only real highlight of the early season was finding Grizzled Skippers in two separate areas of the wood and finding Dingy Skippers, a new species for us, along the rides we had created near the Rosemary Lane entrance. The drought last year may well have contributed to the very low spring numbers and also the fact the spring butterflies that would love the habitat that now exists here, such as the Pearl-bordered Fritillaries have long since been extinct in this area of Surrey.

The high summer got off to a great start on 25th June with four separate sightings of grounded Purple Emperors in Sidney Wood including one that took a shine to me and spent 5 minutes feeding on whatever salts it could find on my boot. We need more Sallows in Rosemary Lane Wood to get the Purple Emperors more established on our patch.

By 2nd July I recorded 107 Skippers, Small, Large and Essex, by far the highest number we had ever had. Butterfly numbers peaked between 8th and 18th July when I recorded 344 and 347 butterflies respectively on the short transect. This was over 135 more than the peak count from the year before. Marbled White continued to establish a strong presence in the wood.

Abundance continued into August unlike 2022 when drought kicked in and numbers plummeted. Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers were the most common, but Silver-washed Fritillaries and Holly Blues both finished the season strongly. Wood Whites had a poor year in the area but our population is still present and there were good signs that they are increasing in number and range in nearby Sidney Wood.

As I write this in October we have completed the first three work parties in balmy weather and the lizards have made immediate use of the south facing ditch and bank we had just cleared. Loads more winter work parties are needed but the habitat continues to improve each year and I’m hopeful for a bumper year in 2024.”