Thursday, 8 May 2014

Here Comes Summer

Yes, this week has offered the signs that summer is on the way.  Speckled Wood Butterflies in the garden, fifty plus Swifts over the lake (thanks for the tip off Sam) and two pairs of Great Crested Grebes at the lake  I know that the grebes now attract numbers of photographers.  (Sam and I have had another request to present our presentation ‘A Focus on Great Crested Grebes’ later this year.   The title speaks for itself I’m sure, and includes many of Sam’s excellent images as well as information on grebes in general, but primarily on Great Crested Grebes which we have both watched on Killingworth Lake for several years.  Please feel free to contact us if you know of any groups which might be interested in the presentation.  I certainly learned a great deal about grebes whilst helping to put it together.  An interest in natural history ensures that the learning never stops).  Then of course there were the other signs of summer, in that I got soaked as I watched the Swifts as dark rain clouds burst over the patch and evening temperatures dropped.  I came home to find Snails on the garden path.

Up close to a Snail
I can certainly remember a time when Speckled Wood Butterflies would have been a great rarity on patch.  The first one I saw around here was a few years ago in the church grounds in the village.  What is happening to our wildlife and its habitat locally, nationally and internationally can be very depressing, so to find that some species appear to be expanding range and doing quite well is always enlightening (hopefully we’ll have another summer helpful to butterflies in general).  Speckled Wood Butterflies are now common place in North Tyneside.  The question as to why they are doing well is not easy to answer, although inevitably at least one of the causes often mentioned is climate change.

Speckled Wood Butterfly looking pristine.  No time to grab the macro.

To ignore the damage to habitat and species is simply burying your head in the sand and taking on no responsibility often on the grounds that ‘we can’t do anything about it’.  In my opinion, an easy way out of doing anything positive, but an excuse I’ve often heard.  To ignore positives where there are improvements maybe to habitat or species numbers/quality is equally negative as far as I’m concerned, as this is likely to come across as doom and gloom to those who might otherwise become interested, especially the young, thereby putting them off an interest in natural history maybe for life!  There are certain forums I have looked at where doom and gloom often prevails.  The widening range in Britain of the Speckled Wood Butterfly is in my mind a real positive.  

There are a number of Speckled Wood Butterfly Pararage aegeria subspecies and A M Riley in British and Irish Butterflies notes that there are three sub species in that particular area tircis, the Scottish Speckled Wood oblita and Isles of Scilly Speckled Wood insula.

Speckled Wood Butterfly
The flight period of the Speckled Wood Butterfly is between March and October, but now is probably as good a time to watch for them as any, as they are likely reaching the peak period of their first of three annual broods.  Both sexes of this butterfly feed from aphid honeydew in the tree canopy, but males in particular become very conspicuous when defending territories at lower elevations.  Intruding males are challenged and the dispute can lead to a spiral ‘dance’ high into the trees.  The males are also very easily found when they patrol in search of females.  My best watch of spiraling Speckled Wood Butterflies was in dappled sunlight Northumberland Park, North Shields, a year or two ago.


  1. I was down there this morning watching the Swifts and quite a large fish probably 450-600mm was broaching to the east of the car park. I wasn't aware fish got to this size in the lake or do you think some wit has put it in there.

  2. I still work in feet and inches Peter, so trying to imagine 600mm is stretching my brain.:-) I have seen some large dead fish in the lake at times of flooding when they have become stranded, so there are large fish in there. I passed the lake just before lunch and saw that the Swifts were performing in numbers. Good to have them back.

  3. Early the other morning Brian i had over 40 Swifts (very hard to get exact numbers, as you can imagine) and an hour later i estimated over 80. Quite a few favoured hunting over the houses.
    On the fish thing. I saw a proud angler aged about 16 standing posing with a huge fish something like 2ft 6 inches (i am decimal, but just for you) lolol long. I went over and the older guy with him was telling me that there were another four at least bigger than that. He has been fishing there a number of years. Photo taken the fish was put back.
    I won't talk about climate change or i'd waffle on for ages.........very worrying tho' for many species. Good old humanity eh. We'll wipe everything off the planet eventually. The earth and all its inhabitants need a virus that will wipe us out and let the rest get on with it. SADLY.

  4. Aye John, humanity tends to = selfishness and that ain't going to change. Not sure I'm ready for wiping out though, but I can thing of a few that I wouldn't miss if they were.:-)
    I reckon those anglers wouldn't sit at the lakeside all hours if there wasn't the chance to catch something worthwhile. Cheers.