Grasslands such as Herbert’s Meadow (part of Ulverscroft nature reserve), Lea Meadows and Merry’s Meadows continue to be good places to look for wildlife in the first half of July – and this year summer butterflies are in abundance.
Hay is normally taken around July 15 on conservation grasslands in Leicestershire and Rutland and afterwards there is obviously less to be seen. However, grasslands on drier, calcareous soils (i.e. rich in the mineral calcium carbonate) come into their own at this time of year. On hot, sunny days nature reserves such as Ketton Quarry, Stonesby Quarry and Brown’s Hill Quarry (part of the Holwell nature reserves) are filled with insects such as grasshoppers, bees and butterflies that require this sort of ground. Wild flowers, like the intensely aromatic Marjoram and Wild Thyme, are abundant in places. Good numbers of the beautiful Marbled White butterfly occur at Ketton (see Species of the Month).
Cloud Wood nature reserve's good population of the uncommon White-letter Hairstreak butterfly, is now in flight. The larvae of these insects feed on elm trees.
Dragonflies are a spectacular sight on many reserves, especially those with substantial areas of open water such as Rutland Water, Charnwood Lodge and Cossington Meadows. Even woodland rides and clearings can contain feeding dragonflies.
Species of the month: Marbled White butterfly
The unmistakable Marbled White is a lovely butterfly of flower-rich meadows. It also favours disused quarries and railway lines, roadside verges and even waste ground – places where its favourite source of nectar, Common Knapweed, grows.
Normally a sedentary butterfly, on sunny days it can be seen flapping lazily in the sun, or feeding on knapweeds and scabiouses.
The male and female are similar in appearance but the upperside of the female is greyer than that of the male.
Its flight period is from mid-June until mid-August so July should be a good time to look for them. The best Trust nature reserves to head for are its ‘traditional home’ of Ketton Quarry or Bloody Oaks Quarry where dozens have been spotted very recently.
Photograph: Marbled White photographed at Bloody Oaks Quarry nature reserve by Conservation Officer Andy Lear.