Silchester Wildlife Diary: June Highlights

June sees the start of summer and the Common and the forests around Silchester really come alive with a variety of birds, flowers and insects of many different kinds. I think for me though, June is the best month to see some of the special butterfly species that inhabit the woods and glades of Pamber forest. There are three in particular that I would like to mention as follows:

The White Admiral

White Admiral

Everyone has heard of the Red Admiral butterfly but did you know there is also a White Admiral? These are relatively common in Lords Wood and Pamber Forest. This butterfly is widespread in southern England, extending just into Wales and northwards. It has white-banded black wings and a distinctive delicate flight, which has short periods of wing beats followed by long glides. Adults are often found nectaring on Bramble flowers in rides and clearings. It is a fairly shade-tolerant butterfly, flying in dappled sunlight to lay eggs on Honeysuckle.

Silver-Washed Fritillary

These beautiful butterflies are really strong fliers and can be seen flitting about along the rides and edges of the forest. The silver-washed fritillary is a large, pale orange butterfly, so-named for the silver streaks on its underside. Adults are on the wing throughout the summer, from late June to the end of August. Silver-washed fritillaries live in large broadleaved woodlands (especially oak woodlands), and feed on Bramble and other flowers in sunny glades and rides. The caterpillars feed on violets, particularly common dog-violet. There are quite a few species of Fritillary but this one is very distinctive if you get to see it with its wings closed:

Silver-Washed Fritillary
Silver-Washed Fritillary
Silver-Washed Fritillary - underside
And here are those distinctive silver washes

Purple Emperor

Purple Emperor

In my view, one of the most spectacular of all the UK’s butterflies but, unfortunately, one of the hardest to see. It lives high up in the canopy of oak trees and only comes to the ground to get moisture and minerals. So, although there are many of them in Pamber Forest you will be extremely fortunate if you spot one. I hope you do though because they are quite beautiful.

One final fun fact – Purple Emperors are different from most butterflies, in that they does not feed on flowers. Instead, they feed primarily on the honeydew secreted by aphids. They will also feed on sap oozing from oak trees, on dung, urine and animal carcasses.

Happy spotting!