Butterfly Of The Month: April – The Brimstone

March 27, 2009


Peter Martin writes:

The Brimstone butterfly is regarded as the “harbinger of spring”, as the male is so noticeable due to its “brimstone” colouring when it flies strongly after its winter hibernation. Females are a more whitish-green and are, therefore, often mistaken for Large White butterflies.

This is a particularly good year for the Brimstone, as I have already seen them in the garden on several days. One year, I saw 14 on one day at Fleet Pond Nature Reserve.

After courtship, the female lays her eggs singly under a young leaf or on a stem of Alder Buckthorn or Purging Buckthorn. Between April and early July, a single female may lay 200 to 300 eggs. After about ten days, each egg will hatch and the resulting green caterpillar rests along the mid-line of each leaf when not chewing holes in it. Due to its green camouflage, it is often easier to spot the holes than the caterpillar itself.

On reaching full size, the caterpillar pupates by suspending itself under a leaf. This too is well camouflaged, until the yellow colour of its wings show through just before the beautiful butterfly emerges. The new generation of butterflies can be seen on the wing from mid-July onwards.

Brimstone butterflies can live ten months or more, if we include the hibernation period. They spend the winter in hollow trees among the fronds of ivy, where their colour blends perfectly with the leaves.

Odd Commas, Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells or even Red Admirals may be brought out of hibernation by the warm and sunny days during the mild winters that we now experience, but it is the Brimstone that really demonstrates that spring has arrived.

Picture credit here.

Visit this blog in May for information about the Orange Tip.

Peter Martin has acted as author for a booklet entitled “Blackwater Valley Butterflies” which contains photographs of all 32 species found in this area together with information about their life-cycles. Copies are available for £2.50 plus £1.00 p.p. from Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership, Ash Lock Cottage, Government Road, Aldershot, Hants. GU11 2PS. (Cheques should be made payable to B.V.C.P.).


March Wildflower Watch – Lesser Celandine and the Brookly Stream

March 25, 2009
Lesser Celandine on banks of the Brookly Stream

Lesser Celandine on banks of the Brookly Stream

Michelle Salter writes:

As you cross Brookly Bridge, the yellow flowers of Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) are currently bringing some welcome colour to the banks of the stream. A member of the buttercup family, Lesser Celandine is one of the earliest spring wildflowers to appear and provides nectar and pollen for bees emerging from hibernation. Visible only when in bloom from March to May; Lesser Celandine dies back completely after flowering.

Brookly Stream in 1977

Brookly Stream in 1977

The photo above shows Brookly Stream before the bridge was erected in 1977 (you can just make out a thin plank laid across the water to allow the team of volunteers, preparing to install the new bridge, to reach the opposite bank). If you compare it to the picture below, look at the difference in the width of the stream and the lack of mud banks in the older photo. The celandine seed, brought down by the stream, has grown up along the banks of the deposited silt.

Brookly Stream in 2009

Brookly Stream in 2009

The yellow flowers of Gorse (Ulex europaeus), a traditional heathland plant, can also be seen coming to life all around the pond, in particular on the Dry Heath and at Sandy Bay. A member of the pea family, the bright golden flowers of gorse have a gentle coconut fragrance and provide nectar for early emerging Brimstone butterflies.

Gorse at Sandy Bay

Gorse at Sandy Bay

Photo credits: Michelle Salter

Brookly Steam 1977 photograph courtesy of Colin Gray.

New Booklet: Fleet Pond Society – The First 30 Years

March 22, 2009

This booklet outlines the achievements of Society volunteers over a thirty year period and will be “Officially Launched” by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Hart District Council in the Hart Shopping Centre at 11.00 a.m. on Friday 15th May 2009. (We will have a stall there all day on 15th and 16th May.)

To get an advance copy, send a cheque for £3 (add £1 if you want it posted) made payable to Fleet Pond Society to Peter Martin (Society President), 17 Longmead, Fleet, Hants. GU52 7TX (Tel: 01252 684828).

All monies received will go into the Society’s funds for the protection and enhancement of Fleet Pond Nature Reserve.

In order to avoid using any of the funds, the printing costs were covered by sponsorship and special thanks are due to:

  • The Rotary Club of Fleet
  • The Rotary Club of Hart
  • Hart District Council
  • Saunders, Wood & Co – Accountants (www.saunders-wood.co.uk)
  • W. C. Baker & Son (Hardware suppliers in Fleet for 100 years)
  • TM Roofing & Building Contractors (Tel: 01252 851719)
  • Roy Hewett (Member of Fleet Pond Society)

The contents of the booklet begin with a Foreword by the Society’s Patron, Chris Packham.

March Volunteer Event – Bird’s Nest Spotted!

March 18, 2009


Picture: Inserting A Volunteer Event Notice

As the volunteer group go from the assembly point at the Countryside Workshop (in Old Pump House Close, off Kenilworth Drive) to the event location, notices are inserted in the ground so that any late-comers can find there way. Also interested members of the public can follow the trail and come and take a look at the event!


Picture: ‘A Lazy Dog’

Tools for each event are available to all volunteers as well as protective clothing such as gloves. One such tool is known as a Lazy Dog and is useful for removing items with shortish roots that would be otherwise difficult to pull out by hand. The task for this Sunday was the removal of birch seedlings and saplings on the Dry Heath link to The Green (see map on the About page above if you are unfamiliar with the place names).


Picture: Nest of Long-tailed Tit

Whilst carrying out the task, a defunct and well-preserved nest of a long-tailed tit was spotted. The long-tailed tit is a very attractive little bird and in winter they move around in family groups. If you are lucky they will visit peanut feeders in your garden!


Picture: Long-tailed Tit (Note Nest In Background)

Picture credit above: RSPB.

No Fishing at Fleet Pond: 15 March – 15 June 2009!

March 16, 2009

Joanna Lawrence, the Fleet Pond Ranger, would like to bring to your attention the start of the Closed Fishing Season at Fleet Pond.

Here is the information:

The closed fishing season runs from the 15th March to the 15th June every year and is implemented by the Environment Agency. If anyone is caught fishing during this period they can be fined up to £2500 by the Environment Agency.

The purpose of the closed season is to protect fisheries during the breeding season and allow the fish stocks to recover. Although the closed season usually only applies to rivers and streams, some still waters which are designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest, such as Fleet Pond, are also included to protect wildlife conservation interests.

The season opens again on Tuesday 16th June. Permits are required to fish at Fleet Pond and these will be available from “Tackle Up” on Fleet Road and from the Rangers workshop. An Environment Agency Rod Licence is also required by law and these can be obtained from the Post Office or from the Environment Agency website.

Happy Feeding The Ducks and Swans!

March 7, 2009


Recently June Shutt of Farnborough contacted Colin Gray (the FPS Chairman) to ask about getting to and enjoying Fleet Pond when accompanied by her young son and pushchair. I’ll put the reply up separately and shortly as this information could have a general use.

The day went very well and June writes:

“Thanks for a lovely afternoon on Sat. We did go down the 1st set of steps (LO was able to hold my hand and walk down). We then fed the ducks, geese, swans (which he really enjoyed). It’s surprising how tame the birds were and how they tried to grab the food (granary bread) from our hands. We then we did most of the “yellow walk” around the lake, coming up at the far end of the car park steps.

LO is 2 and a half so the walk was good for him…

It was also nice to see small fences on on the landing stages so it was nice and safe for him. (Tri-lakes at Sandhurst does not have this kind of fencing).

I have attached a piccy of LO having fun (and it brought back many memories of my childhood – being taken to feed the ducks).”

If you ever require any information on the Pond, please feel free to contact Colin who will be delighted to help. His contact details on on the About page above.

Picture credit: June Shutt (with agreement).

Volunteer Event This Coming Sunday!

March 3, 2009

Fleet Pond Society organises and runs a series of volunteer conservation activities at the Pond. The next conservation task is this coming Sunday, March 8.

Colin Gray writes:

“Our next weekend’s task (8th March) will be the postponed attack on birch seedlings and saplings on the Dry Heath link to The Green. The forecast weather is for some rain so the soil should be loose enough to dig ’em out with our Lazy Dogs and garden forks. The soil should be firm enough up there not to require wellies. A bonfire will depend on how much rain has fallen.”

If you have never been before and fancy trying it, please just turn up (details here) or else give Colin Gray a call on 01252 616183, who will be delighted to provide additional information.