Thursday, 1 June 2017

Successful Searches

Only very occasionally does a trip out to look for rare or unusual species prove completely successful but today's foray to the northern tip of Bucks was certainly one of them.  I had three targets in mind, the first being the small tortrix Grapholita pallifrontana, a priority species which Butterfly Conservation has suggested is worth looking for right now.  It is thought to be rare (potentially a Red Data Book entry) but in actual fact may just be under-recorded because it doesn't seem to leave clumps of its larval food-plant wild liquorice Astragalus glycyphyllos.  The plant is more common on the limestone in the north of Bucks than it is on the chalk of the Chilterns so with a couple of locations in mind I set off into no-man's-land to the north of Milton Keynes!  The first site was a roadside location on the A509 near Sherington but the area has scrubbed over since wild liquorice was last recorded there and none was found.  I then went to a spot near Weston Underwood and quickly discovered plenty of the plant still present and, even more surprising, at least 18 examples of the moth just sitting around enjoying the sunshine.  There is only one previous record for Grapholita pallifrontana in Bucks, from Stony Stratford in 1869!  I found another tortrix at the same spot, a single example of Cochylis molliculana which is still an uncommon moth in the county with only a handful of previous records.

Grapholita pallifrontana, Weston Underwood 1st June

Cochylis molliculana, Weston Underwood 1st June

My second target for the day was Small Eggar.  The adult moth flies in March and April and is quite uncommon, particularly in our area (it is a Notable B List species, so found in fewer than 100 10km squares in the UK).  Although reported a little more frequently across the border in Bedfordshire, records from Bucks seem to be confined to this northern tip of the county around Olney and Lavendon.  Mentioned on the blog, the example trapped near Olney back in March was the first county record for 20 years.  Now is the time to look for larval webs on hedgerows and it came as a great surprise to actually find one on a mixed blackthorn and hawthorn hedge near Olney!  The larvae feed gregariously until fully grown and form a protective web on which they bask in the sunshine but into which they quickly disappear if disturbed.

Small Eggar larval web, Olney 1st June

My final task before returning home was to find a Wood White (butterfly) in VC24 Bucks and that was accomplished easily in Salcey Forest where two individuals were seen within a few metres of the car-park.  Job done!

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks


  1. Amazing results Dave, well done!


  2. Martin Albertini2 June 2017 at 00:08

    If anyone else wants to look for Grapholita pallifrontana I have a list of Bucks sites for the larval foodplant Wild Liquorice.


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