Trip reports

RSPB Bexley Local Group - Butterfly walk, led by Mike Robinson Foots Cray Meadows, Thursday 24th May 2018

RSPB Bexley Local Group - Butterfly walk, led by Mike Robinson Foots Cray Meadows, Thursday 24th May 2018
Small Heath Butterfly - Mike Robinson

Thursday, 24 May 2018

It's not just birds that the RSPB are interested in and Thursday 24 May was the first butterfly walk for the Bexley Local Group. It took place at Foots Cray Meadow and was led by Mike Robinson.
Starting a little later than our normal bird walks (butterflies are not such early risers!), 11 people met at 10.45 at Leafield Lane, hopeful that the overnight rain would not return. After a short welcome introduction by Mike, we headed off over the meadows keeping our eyes peeled for anything flying that wasn't a bird. The air was warm and humid, and the sun was desperately trying to poke through the clouds, giving a hint of how hot it might get, which was promising for butterflies just waking up.

It wasn't too long before a small copper butterfly was spotted, low down on a blade of grass preparing itself for flight, and then a holly blue flittered past the group but didn't settle. We walked towards the river and over the five arches bridge and continued towards the wildflower meadow straight ahead. The sun was out fully by now, so all eyes were peeled for flying insects but everything seemed to be a mayfly! We had some luck when a couple of the group found a white moth, sitting very still giving everyone good views. This was later determined to be a light emerald moth.


Having been on bird walks before it was strange to be looking at our feet rather than upwards towards the sky, although we were momentarily distracted by a circling sparrow hawk overhead, being seen off by a very determined crow.

As we continued our exploration of the wildflower meadows it seemed luck was in our favour and we spotted a small heath butterfly, a small white butterfly and another small copper butterfly all quite clearly. In addition to these a couple of striking moths were also seen; burnet companion moth, mother shipton moth and mint moth. We were in for a real treat though when we found a male and female common blue butterfly, conjoined on a blade of grass, totally oblivious to the several pairs of eyes watching in fascination. We were on a roll!

However, in typical British weather it soon clouded over and large grey stormy clouds appeared above us, which was a bit of relief from the unyielding heat although it seemed to instruct all the butterflies to hide away once more. All too soon it seemed it was time to make our way back to the car, however we were all very pleased with our sightings and everyone had enjoyed themselves immensely. A big thank you must go to Mike for leading the walk, we very much look forward to the next one!

Foots Cray Meadows has an abundance of wildflowers and for anyone interested in butterflies, moths and insects, it's a great place to visit and explore. A personal recommendation though. Make sure you wear insect repellent. Otherwise whilst you are trundling through long grass looking for butterflies, the mozzies are having a field day!

Species seen (and numbers)

common blue butterfly (3), holly blue butterfly (2), small copper butterfly (6), small heath butterfly (4), small white butterfly (1) , unidentified white butterfly (1)
burnet companion moth (1) mint moth (2) , mother shipton moth (1),
Report - Nicky Wilson, RSPB Bexley