Saturday, 13 June 2015

#30DaysWild day 13: Holtspur Bottom butterfly reserve

Holspur Bottom is a butterfly reserve managed by the Upper Thames branch of Butterfly Conservation. Today we took the Dark Mullein plants we've been growing over to the reserve, then joined in with a guided butterfly walk. As it rained all morning and all the way there, we weren't too hopeful that we were going to see any butterflies, but we were still keen to see how much the reserve had changed since our last visit.

We were last there in January, when we helped cut back some bushes to create a scallop (a sheltered spot for butterflies and wild flowers). We also picked up some Dark Mullein seeds to grow, the foodplant for the caterpillars of the Striped lychnis moth, a nationally scarce moth that's found on the reserve.

The rain stopped as we arrived, so we had a look through the nettles and dock leaves while we waited for everybody to arrive. We found all sorts of treasures!

Small tortoiseshell caterpillar

Dock leaf beetles

Dock leaf beetle larvae

Beetle eggs (maybe dock leaf beetle eggs)

Dock bugs

Flower beetle

Long-jawed orb weaver spider

There were plenty of slugs and snails out in the rain
We walked around the edge of the reserve and whilst nothing seemed to be flying, we managed to spot a common blue and a small blue in the grass.

Common blue

Small blue
We reached the scallop that Bug Mad Girl and I had helped to create in January. The plants have started to find there way in there again, as you can see from the before and after pictures.
The scallop in January

The scallop today
We even spotted a Dark Mullein plant in the scallop that had self seeded and was flowering already!

We walked through the meadows, which were bursting with kidney vetch, horseshoe vetch, ox-eye daisies, yellow rattle, dropwort and all sorts of other wonderful flowers. As if by magic the sun came out for a few minutes and suddenly common blues appeared from the grass and starting flying all around us. We also saw a few meadow browns and some more small blues. What a wonderful place!

Common blues enjoying a brief glimpse of sunshine

Bug Mad Girl stalked some butterflies
We had a look at the scrapes, areas that have been scraped back to the bare chalk to provide a warm, sheltered site for butterflies and ideal growing conditions for certain plants.

In one of them we found a Fragrant Orchid, a new species for the reserve, which had been identified earlier in the day by a couple of botanists carrying out a plant survey.
Fragrant orchid, just starting to flower
There were lots of bees on all the wild flowers and we also found a red-headed cardinal beetle and a nursery web spider.

Red-headed Cardinal Beetle

Nursery Web Spider
What a great way to spend a wet afternoon! As it started to rain again on the way home, we both agreed that we would definitely be back later in the summer, when hopefully it was a bit sunnier.


  1. You saw even more than we did - I missed the beetle larvae! And we were meant to be leading the walk! Seriously though, thank you for coming; thank you for growing Dark Mullein for us so that we can hopefully help the scarce Striped Lychnis moth, and thank you for agreeing with us, that Holtpsur Bottom is a wonderful place!

  2. Thanks Tony - we both had a great time!