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Evergreen - - Contents Summer 2015 - Ron­ald Hen­der­son

There are not many sites in the north- east of Eng­land where 14 or more species of but­ter­fly can be recorded in one short visit but Bowes Val­ley Na­ture Re­serve at Kib­blesworth, south of Gateshead on the Durham/ Northum­ber­land bor­der, is one such amaz­ing lo­ca­tion. Si­t­u­ated on a for­mer clay pit and brick­works site, much money and time has been spent in re­claim­ing the 100 acres and plant­ing a va­ri­ety of wild flow­ers, shrubs and trees to en­cour­age the in­hab­i­ta­tion of birds and in­sects. Wa­ter­filled ex­ca­va­tions have also been con­structed to en­cour­age fresh­wa­ter marine and aquatic in­sect and bird species.

Fol­low­ing the clo­sure of Kib­blesworth brick­works and ad­ja­cent clay pits and a sub­se­quent pe­riod as a land­fill site, waste man­age­ment firm Sita U. K., with the aid of a grant from the Forestry Com­mis­sion and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Great North For­est and Gateshead Coun­cil, have re­claimed the site and re­turned it to na­ture. Since the clo­sure of the land­fill site in

2001 land­scap­ing and re­de­vel­op­ment work has re­sulted in the re­gen­er­a­tion of sev­eral mead­ows with shrub and wild flower plant­ings to­gether with hard­core path­ways lead­ing visi­tors around the var­i­ous mead­ows and ponds. In just over a decade the re­serve has quickly be­come a haven for many species of birds and in­sects and, in par­tic­u­lar, but­ter­flies.

Whilst some of Bri­tain’s in­dige­nous but­ter­flies are de­creas­ing in num­bers this is not the case in the north­east. Species not found in the coun­ties of Durham and Northum­ber­land a few decades ago have now es­tab­lished them­selves and in­deed con­tinue to spread north­wards.

At Kib­blesworth, the com­mon and al­ways welcome white pierid but­ter­flies are wide­spread as is the de­light­ful or­ange tip ( An­tho­caris caramines), the male of which is char­ac­terised by its bright or­ange forewing tips. Three of the skip­per but­ter­flies are found there with the

small skip­per ( Thymeli­cus sylvestris) in par­tic­u­lar a re­cent colonist and one of the most com­mon but­ter­flies to be seen now. The browns are well rep­re­sented with the meadow brown ( Man­iola ju­rtina), small heath ( Coenonympha pam­philus) and three other re­cent species that have moved north­wards and are now com­monly seen in sev­eral lo­ca­tions that for­merly did not sup­port these but­ter­flies. A stroll along the path­ways of the re­serve will re­ward the nat­u­ral­ist with views of the rin­glet ( Aphan­to­pus hy­per­an­tus), the sun- lov­ing wall brown ( La­siom­mata megera) and the more shadein­hab­it­ing speck­led wood ( Parage aege­ria), com­monly seen flit­ting along wood­land path­ways and stop­ping at sun­light- bathed leaves with wings spread open to ab­sorb the sun’s rays. One un­usual res­i­dent is the grayling ( Hip­parchia semele), another of the brown but­ter­flies whose char­ac­ter­is­tic trait is to rest on the ground with wings folded and when

dis­turbed ex­pose the eye spots on the un­der­side of the forewings to ward off preda­tors. His­tor­i­cally, in the north- east this but­ter­fly was lo­cally con­fined to the coastal re­gions of Northum­ber­land and parts of Durham but has set out to move a con­sid­er­able dis­tance in­land to colonise the Kib­blesworth site.

The wide­spread beau­ti­ful com­mon blue ( Poly­omma­tus icarus) and equally beau­ti­ful small cop­per ( Ly­caena phlaeas) can be seen, whilst the am­ple pro­vi­sion of nec­tarfilled this­tles, knap­weed and teasel en­sure a welcome food source for the nymphalid species, pea­cock ( Aglais io) red ad­mi­ral, ( Vanessa ata­lanta) comma ( Poly­go­nia c- al­bum) and small tor­toise­shell ( Aglais ur­ticae) and in good mi­gra­tory years the painted lady ( Vanessa car­dui). One more pretty but elu­sive but­ter­fly found at a few lo­ca­tions on the re­serve is the pur­ple hairstreak ( Favo­nious quer­cus). Pa­tience will of­ten re­ward the ob­server with a sight of these but­ter­flies which breed on ma­ture oak trees. In suit­able con­di­tions they can be seen flit­ting out from the sides of the tree where, af­ter a short flight, they will dis­ap­pear again into the fo­liage to feed on

the se­cre­tions of

aphids that dwell on the oak leaves.

De­spite the site be­ing si­t­u­ated within the bound­aries of a heav­ily built- up re­gion, the va­ri­ety of flora has been rapidly colonised by but­ter­fly species whilst the ponds at­tract sev­eral species of drag­on­fly which can be seen in abun­dance dur­ing their flight pe­ri­ods.

De­spite the many other havens for but­ter­flies, it is par­tic­u­larly pleas­ing that in less than 20 years the re­cently cre­ated wildlife haven at Bowes Val­ley Na­ture Re­serve has quickly be­come one of the lead­ing sites in the north- east from which to see such a va­ri­ety of but­ter­fly species. This is am­ple proof of what can be achieved with ap­pro­pri­ate land man­age­ment and site restora­tion.

Of the three species of “skip­pers” res­i­dent in the north- east the small skip­per is one that has dra­mat­i­cally ex­panded its range north­wards.


The painted lady.


A grayling in typ­i­cal pose near the large pond. A red ad­mi­ral.

Dur­ing a visit in Septem­ber 2014 this beau­ti­ful male com­mon blue was un­usu­ally the only such mem­ber of the species noted on that day.

The wall brown.


The speck­led wood is a re­cent colonist in the north- east of Eng­land.

An or­ange tip. Left:

The small tor­toise­shell is a com­mon species to be seen at Kib­blesworth.

The large and spec­tac­u­lar pea­cock is now one of the north- east’s most com­mon but­ter­flies.

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