Thursday 17 December 2015

The year of the teeny weeny

As we hurtle towards the end of another year, I thought I’d better squeeze in a review of the last 12 months. As regular readers will have gathered, much of my time is spent locally, trying to keep up with (i.e. as best I can, monitor and record) the wildlife across land managed by the Box Moor Trust. I’m not alone in this endeavour. Experts in moths, in butterflies and in bird ringing - to name but a few - also regularly monitor species on the land. Together, as a team of volunteers, we’re simply hoping to be of use in conserving and managing the local wildlife.

So....this year, my main aim was to keep my eyes peeled for new species but also to ensure that there weren’t any obvious or significant losses. I wasn’t able to replicate the level or breadth of coverage that I’d managed in 2014 but it was still a rewarding year. I hope you'll enjoy taking a look back with me. First up, what's new Scooby-Doo?

New species 

(not previously recorded on Trust land & all teeny weeny!)

Little Longhorn moth

Adela (Cauchas) fibulella on Germander Speedwell (8-11mm wingspan). A scarce day-flying micro moth in Hertfordshire. At the beginning of June, inspired by moth expert Ben Sale, I found colonies at the Brickworks & Westbrook Hay

Heath Speedwell &
Wild Strawberries

Heath Speedwell (Veronica officinalis) (far left, next to Germander Speedwell) & Wild Strawberries (Fragaria vesca) (right) were both newly recorded at the Brickworks in June. Both plants are UK Red Listed (near threatened or vulnerable) and although seemingly "common" locally are valuable additions

Small Blue

Small Blue (Cupido minimus) (wingspan 18-27mm). At the beginning of June, I spotted a single butterfly at Dellfield meadow, Westbrook Hay (the first to be recorded on Trust land). This led to the discovery of a small breeding colony nearby and the possibility of attracting this rare Hertfordshire species to Box Moor Trust land. It’s early days but it was one of those rare moments where spotting a single creature led to all sorts of revelations, learning and possibilities.
(see BMT Small Blue Project

Brassy Longhorn moth

Nemophora metallica on Field Scabious (wingspan 15-20mm). A rare day-flying micro moth in Hertfordshire. It was a real delight to come across a small colony at the Brickworks in July

Sticking with the good news, it's on to the welcome returns...

Welcome returns

(from my 2014 records or others' previous records)

Green Hairstreaks

Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi). A rare species in Hertfordshire. The small breeding colony at Roughdown Common remains. I spotted my first adult this year on 20/04/2015

Dingy Skippers

It was a good year for Dingy Skippers (Erynnis tages) at Bovingdon Brickworks. And, it was a privilege to watch a pair come together and mate one sunny day at the start of May. Another rare species in Hertfordshire

Brown Argus

Having found the Brickworks colony at the very end of last season, it was fantastic to be able to confirm in the spring that the species did breed and emerge onsite.
A locally scarce butterfly 

Grass Rivulets

Another rare Hertfordshire moth and, for the second year running, it was recorded at Dellfield meadow, Westbrook Hay. I was glad to manage a half decent photograph this time too!

Lesser Whitethroat

Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca) is not an easy species to catch up with locally. It has been recorded on Trust land before but not by me. I was really pleased to come across this singing male at Bovingdon Brickworks at the end of June. It stayed a good few weeks as well

Painted Ladies &
Silver-washed Fritillary

Throughout August more than 20 Painted Lady butterflies came through the Brickworks as well as at least one male Silver-washed Fritillary. It was also great to record a couple of Hummingbird Hawk-moths at the site


The Kingfishers were a constant throughout last year's project and the same was true through 2015. At least 2 pairs attempted to nest along the Bulbourne river and youngsters were evident late summer


 Siskins (Carduelis spinus) have previously been recorded on Trust land but, again, not by me. This year was my first sighting of them locally with numerous singles & small flocks passing through in autumn. By the beginning of December, more than 30 birds were feeding in Alders on Blackbirds Moor. Fantastic stuff!

Not photographed, but the swathe of c150 Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera) flowered on Bovingdon Reach meadow in June. A very welcome return.

Feet firmly planted in optimism, there were just 3 species to give me cause for concern...


  • During 2014, I heard Cuckoos at Westbrook Hay and Bovingdon Brickworks. During 2015, I heard none
  • During 2014, I found 5-Spot Burnet species at Bovingdon Brickworks. During 2015, I found none
  • During 2014, the Brown Argus were flying right up until the start of September. During 2015, the spring brood was small (perhaps less than a dozen specimens) and I'm not sure if there was a second brood. It'll be interesting to see if this species is present in 2016. I do hope so

The Future

Thinking about the future, there are two very obvious species to note for 2016
  • During 2015, at least 10 individual Little Egrets passed through the Hemel moors, along the Bulbourne, during autumn. At least 3 of these were young birds from the breeding colony in St Albans. It’ll be interesting to see how the River Bulbourne numbers vary throughout 2016, especially post-breeding & during the river restoration works
  • Following the autumn planting of Kidney Vetch at Roughdown Common and Bovingdon Brickworks to attract Small Blues, it’ll be fascinating to see how the project progresses in 2016

Finally, a big thank you to those of you who have encouraged me, shared snippets from your own experiences and/or come alongside with kind or interested comments, either on or offline. It does make all the difference to know that the bits and pieces I put together might actually be enjoyed or be of use or interest. Thank you.


  1. A great round-up Lucy, thank you. There's plenty to keep you busy next year.

  2. Thank you Steve. Next year also includes substantial restoration work on the River Bulbourne (a chalk stream), so, yes, lots to keep everyone very busy ;o)!

  3. Lovely work Lucy backed up by some nice photography. Best wishes to you for a Merry Christmas.

  4. Hi Marc and thank you for your kind comment. I can't quite believe Christmas is a week away - very best wishes to you too.

  5. Lovely small blue shot!

    Orange tips had a disastrous 2015 here, I only saw 3! Last year they were countless. Hopefully I may be involved in a local project with sustrans about the grizzled skippers who live alongside the Sustrans 64 route

  6. Thanks Si. That photo is one of my favourite memories from this year. Small Blue butterflies were all around and would easily climb onto my finger to drink the salts.

    I hope the Orange-tips up your way bounce back next spring. Your local project helping the Grizzle Skippers sounds promising too - I hope you're able to get involved.

  7. Excellent work as ever Lucy! Inspiring and informative!!

    Not sure the Brown Argus were helped by the silage bales on their breeding plants, lets hopw they can bounce back next year. We had them at the lodge for the first time this year and they seem to have done well there this year.

    Good luck with the small blue project, I shall watch this space with great interest! I look forward to seeing more of your great pics and articles in 2016! Have a very Happy Christmas and a great New Year!

  8. Thank you very much, Martin. And thank you for your support this year. It was also great to hear a little of how things were developing at Maple Lodge.

    Yes, the silage bales on breeding plants was something of an unfortunate accident, which hopefully shouldn't happen again. Last Spring, I felt pretty certain we'd have Brown Argus. For 2016, I've absolutely no idea but the signs weren't hopeful.

    Well, I have umpteen carrots to peel and sprouts aplenty to tackle for tomorrow, so, I had better hop to it. A very happy Christmas to you and your family and have a fantastic New Year as well!


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