Monday 2 January 2023

Wildlife Review 2022 - Butterflies & Moths

The first butterfly of the year was a passing Red Admiral on 30 Jan. A Small Tortoiseshell, presumably just out of hibernation, was a nice surprise on 25 Feb, a species that has shown welcome signs of a slight recovery in recent years.

Comma - Kevin Rylands

It wasn't until mid/late March that other butterflies emerged in numbers; a particularly warm spell of dry sunny weather saw several CommaPeacock and Speckled Wood on the wing from 17th with the first Orange-tip on 27th. A return to average temperatures at the beginning of April reduced numbers although a Green-veined White was new for the year on the 9th. 

Orange-tip - Kevin Rylands

The temperature picked up again with the first Small Copper seen on 17 Apr, Small White on 19th, Large White on 25th and both Brown Argus and Common Blue on 26th. A Holly Blue on 24th was the first of just five seen during the year.

Small Copper - Alan Keatley

Meadow Brown, perhaps the commonest species from late spring into the summer, were on the wing from 19 May. Two migrant species also made a first appearance during the month, with a Painted Lady on the 21st and a Clouded Yellow on the 27th. Both were seen occasionally until late autumn although, unusually this year, sightings of Clouded Yellow outnumbered Painted Lady. 

Large Skipper - Dave Jewell

June is the peak month for butterfly species on site with new emergences on a frequent basis; Large Skipper from 2nd, Small Skipper from 8th, Marbled White on the 11th, the earliest ever Ringlet on the 18th, the same day as the first of many Gatekeeper. By end of the month at least 14 species were on the wing.

Ringlet - Dave Jewell

Another poor year for Wall Brown, with the only confirmed record on 13 Jul, each year increasingly feels like the last this species will hang on. Also, disappointingly there were no confirmed sightings of Brimstone, Green Hairstreak or any dispersing fritillaries. 

Wall - Lee Collins

On a more positive note, at least four Purple Hairstreak were active around oak trees from 11 Jul, reconfirming their presence on site, as the first record since 2019. At least 16 species were on the wing on 9 Jul, including the year's fourth Marbled White and the freshly emerged second generations of Common Blue and Small Copper, The second generation of Brown Argus emerged on Warren Point on 10th, but numbers were much lower than usual.

Brown Argus - Alan Keatley

Good numbers continued into August with ten different species recorded on 10th, including the final Small Skipper of the year. Several Clouded Yellow and a few Painted Lady added a splash of colour to the dried out meadows by the end of the month.

Clouded Yellow - Alan Keatley

By September numbers started to drop off with Gatekeeper in particular substantially down, the last one recorded on 6th. Also, on the 6th a worn second generation Holly Blue was on the wing. Red Admiral were noted passing throughout the month, but not in any noticeable numbers. By contrast, Small White had a good passage with 30 noted on 17th with a few more Clouded Yellow arriving towards the end of the month.

Holly Blue - Alan Keatley

As to be expected numbers dropped off considerably during October. Small Copper were noted on four dates, a late Meadow Brown was seen on 6th, Speckled Wood on 16th and a Painted Lady on 26th. Some tardy individuals were seen even on the warmer days in November with single Small CopperPainted Lady and Peacock on 4th and three Red Admiral on 9th.

Painted Lady - Alan Keatley


A total of 323 species (cf. 326 in 2021) were recorded during the year mostly from observing leafmines and light trapping undertaken on the Golf Course on just four occasions (cf. 10 in 2021). A further 30 species were added to the Warren audit, including eight ‘macro’ moths.

These included a number of presumably overlooked species such as Hawthorn Ermine Paraswammerdamia nebulella, Mottled Pug Eupithecia exiguata, March Tubic Diurnea flagella and Meadow Long-horn Cauchas rufimitrella

Meadow Long-horn Cauchas rufimitrella - Kevin Rylands

Others perhaps linked to maturing woodland such as Oak Beauty Biston strataria, Alder Kitten Furcula bicuspis, Alder Signal Stathmopoda pedella, Poplar Bent-wing Phyllocnistis unipunctella and Brown Oak Slender Acrocercops brongniardella, with the day flying Mother Shipton Callistege mi, seen in the Back Meadow, Barred Rivulet Perizoma bifaciata and Straw Conch Cochylimorpha straminea indicating the quality of the grasslands.

Barred Rivulet - Luke Harman

The changing climate was reflected in the arrival of recently established UK species including Southern Bell Crocidosema plebejana, Dark-bordered Pearl Evergestis limbata and the adventive Box Moth Cydalima perspectalis. Light trapping did not coincide with a spell of high migrant activity in October but the African migrant Maize Moth Spoladea recurvalis found during the day on 31st.

Maize Moth Spoladea recurvalis - Sam Grey

The Alexanders conch Aethes deaurana and Portland Ribbon Wave Idaea degeneraria are now well established on site with multiple sightings and New Marsh Cosmet Cosmopterix scribaiella was again present after being recorded new to Devon last year.

Aethes deaurana - Kevin Rylands

Other residents included the first Shore Marble Lobesia littoralis and Great Prominent Peridea anceps for at least 30 years, Rest-harrow Piercer Cydia microgrammana and Bloxworth Snout Hypena obsitalis for the first time in a decade, and the second record of Fen Wainscot Arenostola phragmitidis after one in 1993.

Great Prominent - Kevin Rylands

Several species struggled in the dry conditions with relatively few grass moths (Crambidae), the Tigers had a poor year and species such as Large Yellow Underwing also emerged in low numbers. The rapid die back of leaves led to a reduction in the number of leafmines to be found, but over 40 species were still recorded, eight of which were first records.

Poplar Bent-wing Phyllocnistis unipunctella - Jack Oughton

Migrant conditions were good throughout the year, the first Silver Y Autographa gamma appeared at the end of March, with the first Rush Veneer Nomophila noctuella, Rusty-dot Pearl Udea ferrugalisDiamond-back Plutella xylostella and Bordered Straw Heliothis peltigera trapped overnight on 19 May, a second Bordered Straw was seen by day on 26 May.

Bordered Straw - Dave Jewell

The autumn saw a Dark Sword-grass Agrotis ipsilon on 14 Aug, and a Hummingbird Hawk-moth Macroglossum stellatarum on 28 Aug which was one of only three records, a poor year compared to elsewhere. Beet Moth Scrobipalpa ocellatella larvae were discovered on Sea Beet in September with a Vestal Rhodometra sacraria on 18th, the first of a record year.

Vestal - Alan Keatley

Numbers peaked in late October with over 80 Rush Veneer Nomophila noctuella flushed on the 20th, the same day the Warren's second Crimson Speckled Utetheisa pulchella was found nectaring on Ivy. Two more Crimson Speckled were found by day on 23rd and 29th with the Maize Moth on the 31st.

Crimson Speckled Utetheisa pulchella - Guy Freeman

Dawlish Warren Moths

Devon Moth Group article

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