Tuesday, 17 August 2010

A speckled success

Twelve years ago, I reported a Speckled Wood here in our part of Leeds to the local Butterfly Conservation recorder, and got a reply saying that I would be a celebrity if I could provide a photograph. That was in 1998. I saw the butterfly again in each of the following years but it wasn't until 2003 that I managed to get a picture (no digital macro then) and claim my moment of fame. By then it was too late. Others had overcome his scepticism and this excellent success story among Northern butterflies was generally acknowledged. Now I can be confident of seeing one in our garden almost every day from May to September, sunshine permitting.

The spread of the species isn't confined to Leeds. Yesterday I had a day off and we took friends to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, between Wakefield and Huddersfield, and there were plenty of them about, including the amorous pair above whose close association suggests that a whole lot more lie in store in 2011. I must check with Yorkshire Butterfly Conservation whether anyone is studying this phenomenon to find out why things are going so well for the Speckled Wood. Like most 'good news' stories, it is unlikely to get much attention from the national media.

The sun shone all day on the Henry Moores et al, incidentally, and we saw 20 Peacocks, two Commas, a Red Admiral and two Green-veined Whites on just one Buddleia, as well as small clouds of butterflies on the meadows' sea of thistle fluff. They included the Comma above, kindly showing the very precise punctuation mark on its underwing which accounts for the name. I didn't Photoshop it on, I promise. The park is greatly worth visiting - vast and lovely grounds and an excellent, current exhibition on the wood-sculpting specialist David Nash. See www.ysp.co.uk. One small tragedy, though, was that one of those 'grass moths' which flit about the fields, thin as pencils, crashlanded in a cup of tea at the cafe, and perished.


David Speight said...


My wife and grand daughters saw and photographed a speckled wood here in the Peak District two weeks ago. We've never seen one here before, so imagine they are quite unusual.

sarah meredith said...

Hi Martin - sounds like a lovely day in the sculpture garden. I am ashamed to say we have never been to the famous Storm King sculpture park which is only an hour north of NYC, near West Point, because when we head in that direction, we are all too eager to get to the farm. So maybe one day you and Penny will visit and we will all go explore it together! And speaking of the farm, I think we had a speckled wood on our porch this summer. I tried to get a picture of it, but it flitted off so there is no sure identification. But I feel pretty proud to maybe have been that close to something rare! xxs

MartinWainwright said...

Hi both!

Very good to learn of Speckled Wood success, from the Peak District to upstate New York. David, Penny and I saw a SW at Eyam on her (Penny's) birthday in July. It seems to be doing really well in northern England.

Sarah: yep, we'd love to come and survey the sculpture - and the Speckled Woods. The butterfly's colouring is lovely and very suited to its favourite habitat of sunshine dappling woodland shade.

Thanks ever so for the info; I love Commenters.


Susan Lee said...

Ho Martin,
Glad to see that my tea moth made it into the blog. Also see that later in the week you mended tea pot. Is there a theme going on here? Thanks for lovely Yorkshire adventure.

MartinWainwright said...

Susan Hi! Great to have you Commenting. Yes, I think tea may become a thread, if liquid can turn textile like that. It was really lovely having you both to stay and hope we all get together soon. Meanwhile reports of insect life in our old Chiswick pastures would always be welcome. x and from P