Childwall Woods and Fields Butterfly Survey
From May to September Friends of Childwall Woods and Fields will record the number and type of butterflies on the site.
We will be doing a weekly walk on the same route taking in grassland and woodland areas where we will record butterflies that we see.
The results will be published in Septmber.
Although not engaged in the survey, walkers on the site will undoubtedly encounter butterflies. The different areas attract different butterflies, and the time of year will make a difference to the number and type of butterflies that cross your path.
If you are a regular walker through the woods you will have noticed the Speckled Wood Butterflies basking in the sunlight, and most probably you will have encountered a Peacock or a Comma Butterfly on your walks down to the fields. They are regular visitors to our site.
Once on the fields, in early April you can’t miss the male Orange Tip Butterflies with their flashy wings darting around looking for a female, who you may mistake for a small white as she does not display the orange tips like the male. Their presence is short-lived as they will disappear after the eggs have been laid.
This is an Orange Tip butterfly egg on a cuckooflower on the top field on 9th May this year, slightly later than last year. The tiny yellow egg contains a tiny yellow caterpillar that will leave behind an empty white egg case when it hatches.
Send us a photo if you see any of the caterpillars but please leave them on the cuckooflower as that is their main food source.
A word about butterflies.
Everyone loves butterflies, especially children. Butterflies are magical little insects that brighten up our walks and put a smile on our face as we wonder at their intricate patterns and the bright colours of their delicate wings.
Butterflies are not just things of beauty, they are wonderful pollinators and an essential link in the food chain. Along with their caterpillars, they form an important food source for birds, bats and other insectivorous animals. They attract many different creatures that feed on them and that attracts invertebrates from higher up the food chain who come to eat the smaller predators. This leads to a well-pollinated ecosystem teaming with wildlife.
Let’s do all we can to make our woods and fields an inviting place for butterflies and that way improve the whole ecosystem.
On this page, you will see 16 different species of butterflies that you may encounter while strolling through Childwall Woods and Fields. They are all species that have been seen in this area in past years.
When out walking keep a lookout for butterflies and if possible take a photo and send it in to firstname.lastname@example.org. It will look great on the members’ page.
If you are interested in finding out more about butterflies and their life cycle, visit https://butterfly-conservation.org who kindly sent us most of the photos below.
Download the free Butterfly Conservation App to help with identification.
This Speckled Wood butterfly can often be seen in the damp shady sun-dappled areas of the woods. The carriageway is a favourite place but any path in our woodlands will do. Seen between April and October.
The two pictures below are of the same butterfly, the Orange Tip, whose orange tip is mostly visible when its wings are open. You will often see the male Orange-tips fluttering around the fields through April and May but they are gone by June. The female doesn’t have the orange wing tips but has the same camouflage pattern on her underwings.
The Small White (below left) and the Large White (below right) are very similar except for size and the large white has black tips on its upper wings. Both species are creamy yellow underneath and are common species especially in gardens where their caterpillars enjoy eating cabbages and sprouts or in fields and shores were they look for similar wild crucifers.
The Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly. One of the most beautiful and first butterflies to be seen in spring. Most common medium-sized butterfly and can be seen from spring to late autumn. It likes to lay its eggs on nettles.
The Small Copper Butterfly. The male of the species is territorial and guards their chosen spot waiting for a female to flutter by. Their caterpillars’ foodstuff is Sorrell and Broad-leaved Dock. Both of these plants grow well on our fields so look out for these butterflies there from April to October
The Red Admiral butterfly is seen throughout the site. These large unmistakable butterflies fly in from Africa each spring and can be seen throughout the summer right into autumn before overwintering in Africa and more recently in Southern England. Their caterpillars love nettles.
The Peacock Butterfly is the most distinctive of all the butterflies with its strong eye pattern on its upper wings. It is a large strong flier and its black hairy caterpillars love nettle leaves.
This beautiful insect might be seen throughout the year but mainly from February to October.
The Painted Lady is a welcome visitor who flies in from North Africa, the Middle East and Asia each year. Some individuals overwinter here so you may see one at any time of year but mainly from February to October. It too likes to lay on nettles and sometimes thistles.
The Meadow Brown Butterfly is one of the most common butterflies who lay their eggs in the grass of the Fields to produce green hairy caterpillars. Unlike most butterflies, they fly in dull weather and are a welcome sight across the fields on a dull day.
Mostly seen from June to September.
The Large Skipper is a common sight on the top field where it enjoys the marshy habitat especially the brambles and long grass of the top field. It has a faint chequered pattern on both sides of its wings. Although its name suggests its a large butterfly it is in fact quite small, just half the size of the showier Red Admiral.
Might be seen between Late May and mid-August
The Gatekeeper is similar in appearance to the Large Skipper except it is not as chequered and is smaller. It is also known as the Hedge Brown as it enjoys the nectar of hedgerow flowers and is often found around garden hedges. It can be seen mainly between July and August.
The Common Blue is the most common of all the blue butterflies but is quite spectacular in its appearance. There is a great variation in the colour blue of this species and the females are often brownish in colour. It enjoys grassland and clearings in woodland so we can expect to see it on our site from June to autumn although you might see one between May and September.
Please email us if you do see this beauty as it wasn’t on our records for 2019 or 2020.
The Comma Butterfly is named after the small white punctuation mark on its underwing shown below (left). When its wings are closed it is camouflaged as a dead leaf however when open, its wings are a beautiful mottled orange with scalloped edges ( below right). Unfortunately, this medium-sized butterfly is not often seen these days but maybe you will spot one on the woodland edges. Let us know if you do.
Can you see the little white comma on the underwing? It’s around throughout the year but mainly between Feb and October. It likes the sunny clearings in Childwall Woods
The Brimstone is thought to be the original ‘butter’ fly. Males are yellow but females are much paler and sometimes white. This species is not very common, however, it has been seen in our region throughout the summer in past years and you may be lucky enough to see it hiding in the leaves of a tree where it is perfectly camouflaged. Mostly seen between February and October.
The Holly Blue is so-called as it is blue and as a caterpillar eats holly buds berries and leaves. It should love our woods with all those holly bushes. The females have thick black edges on their upper wings.
It is a small butterfly and they can often be seen in spring between March and June around Holly bushes or Ivy. It appears again from July to September.
Warm sunny days are butterflies favourite times to fly. You may not see any on a cool dull day.
PLEASE: Don’t ever try to catch or touch a butterfly. They are far too delicate for that.
And please if you handle caterpillars be careful and always put them back on the same leaf or plant where you found them. That may be their only food.
Enjoy your walks through the site and remember to send us your photos.
Author: B Cameron
Butterfly Conservation https://butterfly-conservation.org
NorthWest Ecology Trust nwecotrust.org.uk