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Gobions Annual Report 1998

Summary by recorders: Sally Bennett, Jean Dand, Maureen Dupuch, Trina Golland and Linda Jonas

Illustrations for this section in order of popularity

Butterflies 1-5
Butterflies 6-10
Butterflies 11-15
Butterflies 16-19
Butterflies not sighted during 1998 survey

Visits made when temperature was 17 degrees (cloudy) / 15 degrees (sunny) wind speed not above 5 between 10.45 and 15.45

Survey route follows south edge of lower Leach Fields (Sections 1&2) / up centre of lower fields (Sections 3&4) / across upper field (Sections 5,6 & 7) / across Parish Council Moffats Open Space (Section 8 ) / down West Boundary Path (Section 9&10) / along Centre Path (Section 11) / along South Path to end of plantation for Battersby & Parsonage (Section 12) / back along path to path across Brazier plantation (Section 13) / across Little Rye (Section 14) & finally along public footpath to Brook House (Section 15).

This route takes approximately 1 hour to complete and was visited approximately once a week.

The results from this survey are sent to the National Millennium Butterfly Atlas Survey via the Hertfordshire County Recorder. Since the survey began 23 species have been recorded, this year 19 were seen. The four species not seen were Dingy Skipper, Painted Lady, Small Copper and Wall Brown. Dingy Skipper was only recorded in 1990 and Wall Browns have not been seen since 1995, both these species are in decline in Hertfordshire probably due to changing weather patterns and habitat loss. Painted Lady is a migrant species and its recording is dependent on how many cross the channel and how far up the country they get, the last good year was 1996. Small Coppers seem very vulnerable to weather conditions and need warm early summer (June) which they certainly did not get this year. Their recording throughout the County was poor.

As well as low sunshine levels, strong gusty wind was a feature of the summer and the season was shorter than usual due to poor weather conditions in early April and late September although temperature levels were not unduly lower than previous years. Hearing that this year is the warmest on record for the whole world might bring a wry smile to those recorders who struggled to record more than 1 or 2 butterflies during a visit in August, however these records have been boosted by high night-time temperatures and the level of sunshine in the northern hemisphere was one of the lowest during the past 30 years. It is obvious that weather conditions are as important as habitat in maintaining butterfly populations and we should expect fluctuating records as normal for most species.

There have been some changes in the habitat of the survey route: Section 10 is being coppiced and this might improve sightings in this section; Sections 11 is becoming less varied and the interests of people and butterflies do clash at midsummer when the vegetation (nettles in particular) are cut back in the interests of walkers as this does remove food plants and basking sites, this is also the case in Section 9. The trees in Section 12 are now fairly mature and this is reflected in the reduction in sightings particularly of Commas and Peacocks. Basking sites are important as in the butterfly stage, the insect does not "eat" as such but takes in energy either from plant nectar or from the sun through the platelets on its wing surface.

The very poor summer affected all species with total sightings well down on previous years but those who emerge in early summer were the worst affected: in particular the Small Skipper. In past years, these has been either second or third in abundance but this year it dropped to seventh. Common Blue butterflies are also less abundant than in previous years and their second brood was very badly affected by the unsettled and cool weather. Gobions is the best site for Essex Skippers in the County but sightings of these were still down on previous years. Large Whites showed a small increase over last year but they are still in a critical situation in the County as a whole.

However, the success story of the decade – the Speckled Wood – continues to flourish and last year was our third most sighted butterfly. It is also pleasing to note the continued increase in Orange Tip butterflies with virtually 100% more being recorded now than when the survey started. The decline in Small Heath has also levelled out although they remain poor as in the remainder of the County. Most other populations are relatively stable particularly Small White, Green Veined White and Peacocks. A small group of White Letter Hairstreaks continue to be sighted although they have "moved" from Section 12 back to their original site in Section 2 and along the hedgerow near Section 5 (Leach Pond). It is noticeable that more are sighted in poor summers as, in my opinion, they are driven to seek energy from plant nectar (thistles and ragwort) rather than basking in the sun at the top of elm trees.

Next summer will be the last summer for records for the Millennium Atlas. Thanks once again to the recorders for all their hard work.

Linda Jonas December 18, 1998

Total Sightings %
1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998
2469 2445 4703 1932 3612 3796 2350 3616 1636

TOTAL SIGHTINGS % 1995 1996 1997 1998
BRIMSTONE 0.17 0.17 0.33 0.36
COMMA 0.78 1.45 0.85 0.85
COMMON BLUE 0.91 4.68 0.71 0.61
ESSEX SKIPPER 2.33 1.28 10.67 6.29
GATEKEEPER 24.92 22.21 14.71 15.77
GREEN VEINED WHITE 0.51 0.47 4.42 3.97
HOLLY BLUE 0.06 4.94 0.16 1.71
LARGE SKIPPER 0.39 0.60 0.33 0.61
LARGE WHITE 2.44 1.15 0.99 2.50
MEADOW BROWN 38.07 18.81 21.59 29.88
ORANGE TIP 1.02 2.51 5.69 6.66
PAINTED LADY 0.00 0.72 0.00 0.00
PEACOCK 1.16 3.28 2.73 3.60
RED ADMIRAL 0.17 0.30 0.24 0.36
SMALL COPPER 0.22 0.00 0.08 0.00
SMALL HEATH 0.61 1.15 1.10 1.28
SMALL SKIPPER 14.45 26.55 14.98 6.05
SMALL TORTOISESHELL 0.55 2.13 2.29 1.34
SMALL WHITE 4.79 4.09 10.25 8.74
SPECKLED WOOD 6.37 3.32 6.63 9.04
WALL BROWN 0.03 0.00 0.00 0.00
WHITE LETTER HAIRSTREAK 0.08 0.21 0.13 0.30

ORDER OF ABUNDANCE:
For pictures of the top five sightings in 1998 click here

1995 1996 1997 1998
MEADOW BROWN SMALL SKIPPER MEADOW BROWN MEADOW BROWN
GATEKEEPER GATEKEEPER SMALL SKIPPER GATEKEEPER
SMALL SKIPPER MEADOW BROWN GATEKEEPER SPECKLED WOOD
SPECKLED WOOD HOLLY BLUE ESSEX SKIPPER SMALL WHITE
SMALL WHITE COMMON BLUE SMALL WHITE ORANGE TIP
LARGE WHITE SMALL WHITE SPECKLED WOOD ESSEX SKIPPER
ESSEX SKIPPER PEACOCK ORANGE TIP SMALL SKIPPER
PEACOCK ORANGE TIP GREEN VEINED WHT GREEN VEINED WHT
ORANGE TIP SPECKLED WOOD PEACOCK PEACOCK
COMMON BLUE SMALL TORT SHELL SMALL TORT SHELL LARGE WHITE
COMMA COMMA SMALL HEATH HOLLY BLUE
SMALL HEATH ESSEX SKIPPER LARGE WHITE SMALL TORT SHELL
SMALL TORT SHELL LARGE WHITE COMMA SMALL HEATH
GREEN VEINED WHT SMALL HEATH COMMON BLUE COMMA
LARGE SKIPPER PAINTED LADY BRIMSTONE COMMON BLUE
SMALL COPPER LARGE SKIPPER LARGE SKIPPER LARGE SKIPPER
RED ADMIRAL GREEN VEINED WHT RED ADMIRAL BRIMSTONE
WHT LETTER HAIR RED ADMIRAL HOLLY BLUE RED ADMIRAL
HOLLY BLUE WHT LETTER HAIR WHT LETTER HAIR WHT LETTER HAIR
WALL BROWN BRIMSTONE SMALL COPPER

no sightings:

PAINTED LADY SMALL COPPER PAINTED LADY PAINTED LADY
  WALL BROWN WALL BROWN SMALL COPPER
      WALL BROWN

Patron: The Marchioness of Salisbury
Trustees: Iain Aitken, Jerry Golland, Michael Jonas and Bernard Spatz


Other sections of the Gobions Woodland Trust Friends' Report 1998
Report 1998
Survey of Fungi
Illustrations of Fungi
Survey of Butterflies
Illustrations of Butterflies
Survey of Householders and Users

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