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Autumn Diary 2020

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Silver-washed Fritillary Valezina

Autumn seems to have arrived early this year with a series of storms arriving in the British Isles from the Atlantic. However, in between the rain and winds we have had some warm and sunny spells, resulting in the best year for butterflies that I can remember. To date, this year, I have seen 36 species of butterfly and all but two in my home county of Lincolnshire.

Silver-washed Fritillary butterflies continue their expansion in Lincolnshire and considering that only a few years ago they were thought to be extinct in the county, they can now be seen in many of our woodland rides. Much rarer is the Valezina form of the female, at one time confined to Dorset and parts of the New Forest. Recently a few examples have been discovered in the Lincolnshire Limewoods SSSI in the centre of the county, but the one I photographed in the south-west of Lincolnshire may well be the first in the area.

Dark Green Fritillaries

Dark Green Fritillaries commenced flying much earlier in the year than normal, doubtlessly encouraged by the warm weather that we enjoyed in late Spring and early summer. In addition to the site at a nature reserve in south west Lincolnshire, I found them flying in other areas nearby where floristically rich limestone meadows survive. I also found a Black Hairstreak in SW Lincs, well away from any known breeding sites, but sadly, due to inclement weather I had left my camera at home!

Brown Hairstreak

I had better luck with Brown Hairstreaks, which I photographed at the only known site in Lincolnshire, probably on the first day of their emergence. Fifteen other butterflies were in evidence at that site on the day I visited including a tantalising glimpse of a Purple Emperor gliding over the top of the canopy of oak trees. Purple Hairstreak, Brown Argus and White Admirals were amongst the highlights.

Rose Beetle

When looking for butterflies I am often distracted by interesting "bugs", most of which I can't identify. Here is a selection of insects that I photographed and attempted to identify later;- Rose Beetle,

Cinnamon Bug
Cinnamon Bug, Longhorn Beetles and two moths for our vegetarian friends; Mint Moth and Spinach Moth.

Longhorn Beetles

Mint Moth

Spinach Moth

Common Darter

I am also struggling with dragonflies and damselflies, so many of which require close observation to be identified and separated from similar species. I usually attempt to photograph them before poring over the books when I get home.

Cranes flying over the area in which they nested

I can't think of many benefits of the Covid 19 enforced lockdown, but one positive was that the closure of nature reserves and other swathes of the countryside enabled a pair of Cranes to successfully rear one young in Lincolnshire for the fist time in 400 years. The photograph taken from some distance shows the family of Cranes flying over the area in which they nested.

Autumn wader passage commenced even earlier than usual this year causing many scientists to worry that due to climate change more and more birds that normally nest in the arctic circle are failing, most likely due to their food supplies being unavailable. Certainly, large southerly movements of Swifts, hirundines and various waders were observed off the east coast of England as early as June.

Waders Freiston Shore

Little Tern (left) and Oystercatchers

Common Tern Frampton

Spotted Redshank Frampton

By early to late August "normal" autumn passage was well underway and the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust reserve at Gibralter Point near Skegness and the two RSPB Wash reserves at Frampton Marsh and Freiston Shore got more than their fair share of migrants. High tide visits to all of three reserves pays dividends as waders and terns retreating from the incoming sea in the Wash gather in impressive numbers.

Spotted Redshank
Amongst the usual Oystercatchers, Godwits, Knot, Turnstones and Common Redshank less common waders such as Spotted Redshank, Curlew Sandpipers, Wood Sandpipers and Little Stints can be found. Of course, real rarities also occur such as the Red-breasted Flycatcher that unfortunately, did not hang around for anyone other than the birder who found it at Freiston Shore, unlike the Blyth's Reed Warbler at the Lincs Trust reserve at Far Ings that stayed for several weeks during the summer.

Blyth's Reed Warbler


Observations of garden wildlife increased reflecting the fact that many of us were confined to barracks for weeks on end during lockdown. I am sure that Hedgehogs have not increased this year, but more people are at home to see them. The same is true of bats and some species seem to be in real trouble as they are not finding enough prey of the right species to feed their young.


The harvest in our arable land is much smaller this year due to the failure to get crops sown during last autumn's extreme wet weather. A dry spell in the summer allowed most of the winter barley and oilseed rape to be harvested but the frequent storms have to date only afforded small windows of opportunity to combine the remaining wheat and spring barley. Low yields and poor quality are likely to result in shortages and price increases of bread and (God forbid!) beer.

Ian Misselbrook

September 2020

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