For the last few years I have been allowing my lawn to revert to meadow by cutting it just once a year, in late summer. Soon after I began the experiment grassland butterflies began to visit and breed, and today I added another species.
The new arrival was Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus. This brings my tally of butterfly species seen in the garden to 31 and I have to say it is not one that I expected. Its caterpillars feed on grasses, but not any old grass: specifically they favour fine species (Fescues Festuca sp. and Meadow-grasses Poa sp.) that cannot compete with the rank vegetation of wildlife-unfriendly ‘improved’ fields. The individual I observed in my garden looked to me to be newly-emerged. So I hope that means by employing the strategy of ‘impoverishing’ my meadow (by removing each season’s growth) I am succeeding in encouraging fine grasses over vigorous ones, for the overall benefit of biodiversity.
Above: A Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus (left) and Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas (right), both on the wing in Pamber at the moment. Paul Sterry/Nature Photographers Ltd
Above: A Privet Hawk-moth Sphinx ligustri, from last night’s selection in the moth trap. Paul Sterry/Nature Photographers Ltd
Here’s a selection of moths recorded in my MV Light Trap last night: Heart & Dart Agrotis exclamationis 5; Treble Lines Charanyca trigrammica 31; White Ermine Spilosoma lubricipeda 4; Flame Shoulder Ochropleura plecta 2; Common Marbled Carpet Dysstroma truncata 1; Shuttle-shaped Dart Agrotis puta 3; Buff Ermine Spilosoma lutea 2; Setaceous Hebrew Character Xestia c-nigrum 2; Common Pug Eupithecia vulgata 1; Straw Dot Rivula sericealis 3; Common Swift Korscheltellus lupulina 9; Peppered Moth Biston betularia 2; Ingrailed Clay Diarsia mendica 1; Green Carpet Colostygia pectinataria 3; Poplar Hawk-moth Laothoe populi 5; Lime Hawk-moth Mimas tiliae 1; Privet Hawk-moth Sphinx ligustri 1; Garden Carpet Xanthorhoe fluctuata 2; Small Magpie Anania hortulata 2; Flame Axylia putris 4; Middle-barred Minor Oligia fasciuncula 3; Cinnabar Tyria jacobaeae 11; Spectacle Abrostola tripartita 2; Common Wainscot Mythimna pallens 5; Pale Mottled Willow Caradrina clavipalpis 2; Sharp-angled Peacock Macaria alternata 2; Buff-tip Phalera bucephala 3; Chocolate-tip Clostera certula 2.
Above: A fresh Buff-tip Phalera bucephala, whose markings and colouration give it a resemblance to a snapped twig. Paul Sterry/Nature Photographers Ltd
Above: A Buff-tip Phalera bucephala seen head-on. Paul Sterry/Nature Photographers Ltd
Above: The delightfully named Chocolate-tip Clostera certula. Paul Sterry/Nature Photographers Ltd
Above: Grass Vetchling Lathyrus nissolia, a scarce meadow plant currently flowering in Pamber. Paul Sterry/Nature Photographers Ltd