Thursday, July 10, 2014

Less Known Sussex Woods Come Good

With every visit I become increasingly impressed by the Purple Potential of Eartham Woods. I used to visit this site in my childhood on family walks, but it wasn't much good for butterflies in those days. Things are rather better now, largely due to the sympathetic management by FC Ranger Rob Thurlow and his colleagues (Rob used to look after the Pearl-bordered Fritillary in Rewell Wood at Arundel before it was returned to the castle).

About eight years ago, during a phase of thinning, some large scallops were cut into the margins of the towering beech, and then left to regenerate naturally. Good quality sallow has managed to get a firm foothold in most of these areas, along with ash, hazel and bramble.

My count of 16 White Admiral was the best I've managed in Sussex since the species took a nosedive a few years back. Silver-washed Fritillary and Large Skipper both exceeded 20 and it was nice to see 4 Marbled White trundling along the rides. Other highlights included 7 freshly emerged Peacock.

It was Emperors we were really after and a small group of us (Rob Thurlow, Malcolm and Joyce Hill) managed a combined total of 8, comprising 3 males, 3 females (one pictured) and 2 unsexed. They were still flying well at 6 pm and I'm fairly confident that a new territory has been identified at a high point in the middle of the wood, along Stane Street. This beautiful wood is slowly beginning to give up some of its secrets.

Meanwhile, at Houghton Forest (Arundel), Colin Knight managed to photograph 2 females down on the main ride. One was in mint condition and the other scored 8.5/10. Females are usually very skittish while on the deck (there are exceptions of course), probably because they are just after moisture and don't become as engrossed as the males do in nasty stuff, so he did well to get fantastic images of both (hopefully to appear on this website in due course).

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