East Midlands Railway and Notts Wildlife Trust working together for local wildlife

Railway stations and wildlife are two things you would not normally link together, but East Midlands Parkway is different. In a rural location, the station and car park are surrounded by over 11ha of wildlife habitat, part of a fantastic wildlife corridor linking with the River Soar and surrounding countryside.

East Midlands Railway’s Parkway Station group and Notts Wildlife Trust are looking for volunteers to help protect and develop this unique location and its wildlife.  More details can be downloaded here.

If you are interested in helping, please contact Ben Driver at bdriver@nottswt.co.uk

DaNES Insect Show 2023

Join Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Entomology Society for their 2023 Insect Show – ‘A celebration of Insects’. It takes place on Saturday 11th November at the NTU Brackenhurst Campus, from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm. Free entry.

Click here for details

Moths – The underestimated pollinators

A new study published in Ecology Letters (available here) suggests that moths should be as highly valued as bees because they play a larger role in pollinating plants than was originally thought.

The research involved collecting pollinating insects on sunny summer days and during calm, warm nights at eight allotments in the Leeds area. The researchers recorded which species were caught and sequenced the DNA of the pollen that was stuck to them to find out which types of plants they had visited during their foraging.

The scientists caught 67 species of moth, compared with 20 species of bee. According to the researchers, over half of the moths analysed carried pollen, significantly more than some prior studies had indicated. They were visiting several species of plants not previously known to be pollinated by them, including redcurrants and strawberries; eight percent of the plant species analysed in the study were pollinated only by moths.

Moths accounted for up to one-third of the plant-pollinator stops, and in late summer visited as many plants as bees, indicating that moths provide an essential but previously unknown role in urban pollen-transport networks.

One observation from the research is particularly troubling: “Given that macro-moth abundance has declined by ca. 33% in the last 50 years in the United Kingdom (Butterfly Conservation 2021) our results suggest that these declines may represent a significant and previously unacknowledged threat to pollination services for both wild and crop plants.”

However, the results suggested that gardeners can help support moth populations by growing plants such as buddleia. “Pollen from the plant was the most common found on the moths’ bodies, probably in part because the bushes give them a place to hide during the day” said the researchers.

Spreading Populations

On the theme of animals ‘new’ to our area, we have recently reported on our FaceBook page sightings in Rushcliffe of Marbled White butterflies at Wilwell and East Leake, a species very seldom seen before in Rushcliffe. The NBN Atlas shows one previous record at Bingham in 2015, (although I’m fairly sure there was at least one sighting on the Bingham Linear Path last year). According to Butterfly Conservation, it is widespread in southern counties from late June through to early September, with outposts found running up through the East Midlands into Yorkshire.

Marbled White pair mating

We also shared on FaceBook a sighting at Rushcliffe Country Park of Small Red-eyed Damselfies, not previously recorded there. According to Paul Simons in The Times on 24 June “The species came from Hungary before landing at the Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent in 1999. Since then it has moved northwards and is now found in Newcastle.”  The article also states that “Britain is experiencing a boom in dragonflies and damselflies flying over from Europe or native to the UK. Among the migrants were unusual numbers of Vagrant Emperor” and “another rare species that appeared this year was the Scarce Chaser”

A native species we also reported seen in June at Cotgrave Country Park and Ruddington was the Hairy Dragonfly. The NBN Atlas shows only three records in Rushcliffe since 2019.

Hairy Dragonfly (f)

Beewolf found in Rushcliffe

I recently posted an article on Philanthus Triangulum The Beewolf (click here), in which I speculated that based on sightings elsewhere, it was probably only a matter of time before this fascinating insect would be found in Rushcliffe.

Female Beewolf at Skylarks, 3 Sept 2022

So, it is with a mixture of surprise and embarrassment I report that, a few days after posting the article, whilst cataloguing images I had taken at Skylarks in September last year, I found two images of a female Beewolf feeding on ivy.

So, rather more quickly than I had imagined, the Beewolf is here!

Look out for Wolves!

Over the last year we have explored species ‘new’ to Rushcliffe that may have arrived as a consequence of range expansion: Silver-washed Fritillary, Ivy Bee and Purple Emperor. Tim Sexton’s recent talk, part of our Winter Wildlife Talks Programme, raised the possibility of adding to that list a small, but truly fascinating insect with a remarkable lifestyle.

To find out more, read our article here

Moles, fortresses and Jacobites

Moles are very rarely seen as they spend most of their lives underground. They are stocky animals, with a wedge-shaped body and short tail. They use their spade-like paws to dig tunnels and hunt for their favourite meal of earthworms. They also like to eat underground grubs that would usually feed off crops, so moles can help to control unwanted visitors.

By digging up the earth, moles help make the soil healthier by aerating it. This allows more types of plants to grow, which in turn feed more insects. Not only this, their tunnels improve soil drainage, which helps stop flooding and huge puddles forming on the ground. Moles truly are the unsung heroes of the animal world!

A mole can dig up to 20 metres of tunnel in a day using its spade-like forepaws to effectively breaststroke its way through the soil. Every now and again, loose soil is pushed up to the surface, resulting in what we see as a mole hill. The mole’s velvety coat helps it to move easily through the soil, and its mouth and nose are protected from debris by their down-facing position.

Tarmacking and increasing numbers of hard surfaced gardens mean that moles are being pushed out of their natural habitats. Why not help green up the grey by making your garden a home for wildlife?

Whilst you may think that moles will hibernate through winter, this isn’t the case. Their main tunnels and nesting burrows are far enough under the frosty surface that they are able to still be active during the cold winter months.

The vast majority of molehills are relatively small and without internal structure. On occasion, though, moles construct large and structured mounds containing upwards of 750 kg of soil. Fortresses are commonly found in areas with a high water table which are liable to flooding. When the waters rise the mole can retreat from the waterlogged tunnels and take refuge within the fortress. There it can remain, dry in its nest and sustained by the stores of worms, until the waters recede. Fortresses also feature in shallow soils lying on a hard substrate.

Moles prefer to make their nests deep in the soil where temperatures are relatively stable and for most of the year rather higher than at the surface. Moles living in thin soils cannot dig deep nests and a fortress may offer a degree of insulation to the mole asleep in its nest. Fortresses are built with the soil excavated from tunnels that would have been dug anyway but there is a considerable extra cost in moving this large quantity of soil to one central point. (from The Natural History of Moles, Martyn Gorman and David Stone).

In early March 1702 King William III of Orange died after he was thrown from his horse when it stumbled on a molehill while he was riding near Hampton Court. The king suffered a broken collar bone in the fall and died a few weeks later after bronchitis set in. That deadly mole became revered amongst Jacobites and, on March 8th each year on the anniversary of the King’s death, a toast ‘to the wee gentleman in the velvet jacket’ became common place amongst Jacobite supporters, a nod to their underground assassin.

Birdlife IS beneficial

The Times, on 27th October, reported that

 ‘Listening to birdsong for a few minutes each day may hold the key to feeling happy.

Scientists found that watching birds and enjoying their chorus lifts the spirits for up to eight hours and can help to ease depression. They said birdlife has a major role to play in helping people with mental health conditions, highlighting the importance of efforts to maintain biodiversity.

The study by King’s College London involved 1,292 people, who were asked three times a day whether they could see or hear birds and about their mental wellbeing. The team found that among those with mental health conditions, hearing or seeing birdlife was associated with improvements in mood and happiness. Healthy people also experienced a similar effect, with improvements lasting for up to eight hours’

So, although there may be little birdsong to hear at the moment,  there should still be plenty of birds to see, so why not see them at local wildlife sites around Rushcliffe? Click here for some useful links to nature reserves in Rushcliffe, both NWT and Friends of sites, and some other sites outside of Rushcliffe.

Silver-washed Fritillaries in South Notts

1 Silver-washed Fritillaries in the New Forest

Silver-washed Fritillaries (SWFs) are spectacularly wonderful butterflies: big, blowsy, gingery-orange with an intricate filigree upperwing and silvery underside. Watching one flying down a sunny woodland ride is a truly wondrous sight. So, it was with great interest that I read Gordon Dyne’s recent Facebook post (18/7/22) about SWFs at Wilwell. I saw my first SWF in Suffolk in 2012, and remember with great pleasure seeing it fly towards me, glowing ginger in the sun, before perching on a nearby tall thistle; I was so overwhelmed that I forgot to take a photo of it! I have since seen SWFs over the years in the New Forest but, perhaps my most memorable experiences came in August 2013, which strike a chord with the Wilwell sightings.

We live in Ruddington, not that far from Wilwell. On the morning of August 5th that year, looking out of the window, I saw an unfamiliar butterfly in the front garden.  Grabbing my camera – kept ready, just in case! – I dashed outside to see, on the buddleia, what at the time seemed like an apparition, but was in fact a male Silver-washed Fritillary! I watched it for several minutes feeding first on the buddleia and then on Echinops flowers, before it flew off, leaving me to wonder if I was dreaming (although the images I captured told me I wasn’t).

2 Feeding on Echinops, Ruddington

Then, two days later, I went to Staunton Quarry near Newark ( a gem of a place, home to Grizzled Skippers and so much more) hoping to find butterflies to watch and photograph. And my luck was well and truly in.  Walking through the entrance, the first butterfly was a lovely Large White and the second was – you’ve guessed it! – another Silver-washed Fritillary, this time feeding on Ragwort.

3 On Ragwort, Staunton Quarry

So, to misquote Oscar Wilde, whilst seeing one may have been fortunate, was seeing two in South Notts, in two days more than a coincidence? And was my astonished enthusiasm misplaced?

According to The Butterflies of Britain and Ireland (1) ’They were once found as far north as southern Scotland, but in recent years have been virtually unknown beyond a line between the River Mersey and the Wash’. The Eakring Birds website (2) shows only 9 records in the whole of the county for the years 1995 to 2012.

I recall contacting the County Recorder, who confirmed there had been a number of similar sightings in South Notts in 2013. Sadly, since then, I have not seen any more SWFs in my garden.  However, almost regular annual visits to Cotgrave Forest over the past few years have produced a number of sightings, the last of these visits a fortnight ago producing at least a dozen sightings of SWFs in flight.

So, like Gordon, I wonder where they came from – natural range expansion northwards, possibly linked to climate change, or introduction?

The excellent Eakring Birds website(2) at one point seems to favour introduction, saying that  ‘The Silver-washed Fritillary was released into Gamston and Eaton Woods near Retford a number of years ago, and where it still survives in small numbers. But recent years have seen an increasing number of records from across the county, which includes known releases of captive bred stock at both Dyscarr Wood and Cotgrave Forest in addition to Gamston and Eaton Woods, but probably also at several other sites.’

However, it follows this up by conceding the possibility of natural range expansion, saying ‘The number of isolated records from across the county suggests that the butterfly is making some natural attempt to recolonise Nottinghamshire. In July 2014, we found a dead Silver-washed Fritillary at the side of the A60 near Mansfield Woodhouse. Completely distanced from any suitable breeding habitat (or possible release site) the location suggests likely migration and so do other recent records from Newstead and Annesley CP, Annesley Pit Top, Staunton Quarry, Bestwood Lodge, Idle Valley NR, Rainworth and from gardens in Calverton, Cotgrave, Woodthorpe and Radcliffe-on-Trent.’

Neil Pinder, on his equally-excellent website (3) says ‘According to The Invertebrate Fauna of Nottinghamshire, 1916 by JW Carr, SWFs were formerly present quite widely in the first decade of the 20th century. Locations given are Rowhoe Wood (Widmerpool), Owthorpe and Bunny Woods, woods about West Leake and Gotham and Plumtree. The species was already in decline by then with the reduction of coppicing being blamed’. He goes on to say ‘In late July and August 2013 several sightings of this species were reported in Rushcliffe with at least 2 separate reports from Cotgrave village. They were present in good numbers in 2020 in Cotgrave Forest and now seem to be firmly established there’.  Neil  concludes ’the continuing presence of Silver-washed Fritillary (in Cotgrave Forest) since 2013 … suggests to me that recent introductions are the origin of these populations.’

So, perhaps it’s a case of paying your money and making your choice, Whatever the choice, the good news is that, on the face of it, we have a continuing SWF presence in Rushcliffe and we can only hope, as Gordon does, that ‘a local population is developing’ at Wilwell.

Chris Overton

July 2022


  1. The Butterflies of Britain and Ireland. Jeremy Thomas & Richard Lewington. British Wildlife Publishing. 2010.
  2. An historical review and modern atlas of Butterflies in Nottinghamshire. Eakring Birds. http://www.eakringbirds.com/butterfliesnottinghamshire.htm
  3. Rushcliffe Wildlife. The Wildlife and Wildlife Sites of Rushcliffe. https://www.rushcliffewildlife.co.uk/butterflies.html.

Images copyright Chris Overton