Whilst Cheshire contains a respectable number of important areas for wildlife with internationally important wetlands such as the estuaries of River Mersey and the River Dee, Tattenhall, like many other parishes in Cheshire, is unexceptional in terms of rare species. Nevertheless the parish contains a rich and varied natural history which is being enhanced due to the work of Tattenhall Wildlife Group. Some 35% of ponds in the parish are home to the globally threatened Great Crested Newt and one of this countries rarest aquatic beetles – the Lesser Silver Water Beetle – is also present in a few ponds.
Of the sites managed by Tattenhall Wildlife Group, land along the Mill Brook adjacent to Jubilee Wood has produced records for twenty species of butterfly, follow this link. The disused railway line is home to many species of wildflower including the Early Purple Orchid, Common Centaury and Yellow-Wort.
Within 500 metres of the heart of the village Snipe can be found in the marshy vegetation adjacent to the Mill Brook during the winter months with their place taken by Sedge and Grasshopper Warblers during the summer months. Swifts scream through the village for a few short weeks during the summer and resident Tawny Owls make their home in the small patches of woodland scattered throughout the Parish. Barn Owls, too, have nested in 2012 on the village periphery, and were regularly seen hunting for Field Voles along the Mill Brook Wildlife Corridor.
Fields in the parish play home to Redwings and Fieldfares during the winter months and the ever present Buzzard population provides an aerobatic display throughout the year. Large mammals such as Foxes and Badgers are common and the Brown Hare can be seen occasionally. Water Voles are present in Keys Brook and (probably) in Mill Brook and the presence of an Otter was recorded in the Golborne Brook and Keys Brook in 2012.
For a view of wildlife in other parts of Cheshire visit the Cheshire Wildlife Trust .
At least 20 species of butterfly can be found in the parish of Tattenhall. The list below includes those recorded along the Mill Brook Wildlife Corridor.
This species inhabits rough grassland, where tall grasses grow, and may occur on roadside verges, beside hedgerows, on overgrown downland, in woodland clearings and along woodland rides. The main foodplant is Yorkshire-fog, a common grass in the British Isles, although other grasses are also used
This species is found in sheltered areas of grassland, where grasses grow tall. Typical sites include meadows, hedgerows, roadside verges, woodland rides and woodland clearings. It can also be found in urban areas, such as parks and churchyards.
This single-brooded butterfly can be found in most months of the year, although peak flight times are in April and May as the hibernating adults emerge, and again in August when their offspring reach adulthood. Autumn is a good time to see this species as the adults are avid nectar-feeders as they build up their fat reserves in preparation for hibernation.
This butterfly normally has 2 broods each year, and there is often a 3rd brood. The first brood emerges in April, with a peak in May. In typical years, their offspring emerge in July and fly through August and into early September.
The Small White, along with the Large White, can claim the title of “Cabbage White” that is the bane of allotment holders all over the British Isles although the damage caused by this species is significantly less than that of the Large White.
There are generally 2 generations each year, with 3 generations in good years. Second brood adults have noticeably darker markings that those of the first brood. First-brood adults typically emerge in late April, peaking around the middle of May and gradually tailing off through June. The second brood, which is always stronger than the first brood, starts to emerge in early July. However, in good years, the second brood may emerge in late June and give rise to a third brood.
This is a common butterfly of damp grassland and woodland rides and is often mistaken for its cousin, the Small White. It can be found from spring through to autumn in parks and gardens, as well as less-urban areas such as meadows and woodland rides. The first brood has lighter upperside markings than later broods, but darker underside markings. The so-called green veins on the underside of the adults are, in fact, an illusion created by a subtle combination of yellow and black scales.
First-brood adults typically emerge in late April, peaking around the middle of May and gradually tailing off through June. The second brood, which is always stronger than the first brood, starts to emerge in early July. However, in good years, the second brood may emerge in late June and give rise to a third brood.
The male and female of this species are very different in appearance. The more-conspicuous male has orange tips to the forewings, that give this butterfly its name. These orange tips are absent in the female and the female is often mistaken for one of the other whites, especially the Green-veined White or Small White.
There is a single brood each year, with adults flying from the beginning of April, through May and into June. In exceptionally early years a small second brood may appear.
The Purple Hairstreak is our commonest hairstreak, and may be found in oak woodland throughout southern Britain, and more locally elsewhere. It is often difficult to locate, due to its habit of flying in the tree canopy, where it feeds on honeydew. However, the adults are occasionally seen basking at lower levels, on various small trees, shrubs and bracken.
Adults emerge in July and may be seen into September, with a definite peak at the end of July and early August, or later in Scotland. There is one brood each year.
The Small Copper is a fast flying butterfly that, once settled, is unmistakable with its bright copper-coloured forewings. It is a widespread species and a familiar and welcome sight for many naturalists throughout the summer months.
There are typically 2 or 3 generations each year, depending on the weather, with 4 generations in extremely good years. The first adults emerge in May, occasionally at the end of April, with the last adults being seen around the middle of October, depending on location.
This species has 2 broods in the southern counties of England, and 1 brood further north. There may be a 3rd brood in favourable years. Time of emergence is highly variable. In good years, adults may be seen as early as the middle of May on more southerly sites. These peak at the end of May, giving rise to a second generation that emerges in the second half of July, peaking in the middle of August. Colonies in northern England and Scotland typically have a single brood that emerges in June, reaching a peak in July.
The Holly Blue is primarily found in the southern half of the British Isles, and is a frequent visitor to gardens. This species is renowned for fluctuating wildly in numbers, forming a predictable cycle over a few years, believed to be caused by parasitism from the wasp Listrodomus nycthemerus whose sole host is the Holly Blue. The wasp lays its eggs in Holly Blue larvae, with a single adult wasp eventually emerging from the Holly Blue pupa.
There are two broods each year, although there may be only one brood in the north. Adults from overwintering pupae emerge as early as the first week of April in a typical year, with the next generation emerging at the end of July and early August.
The Red Admiral is a frequent visitor to gardens throughout the British Isles and one of our most well-known butterflies. This butterfly is unmistakable, with the velvety black wings intersected by striking red bands.
This butterfly is primarily a migrant to our shores, although sightings of individuals and immature stages in the first few months of the year, especially in the south of England, mean that this butterfly is now considered resident. This resident population is considered to only be a small fraction of the population seen in the British Isles, which gets topped up every year with migrants arriving in May and June that originate in central Europe. Unfortunately, most individuals are unable to survive our winter, especially in the cooler regions of the British Isles.
The number of adults seen in any one year is therefore dependent on the number of migrants reaching the British Isles and numbers fluctuate as a result. In some years this butterfly can be widespread and common, in others rather local and scarce.
Adults may be seen throughout the year but there is build up in May and June as migrants arrive from the continent. These breed and give rise to the next generation of adults with a peak of emergence between mid-August and early October. There is a single brood each year.
This species is a migrant to our shores and, in some years, the migration can be spectacular. The most-recent spectacle, in 2009, is considered to be one of the greatest migrations ever, with sightings from all over the British Isles that are definitely on a par with previous cardui years.
This species originates from north Africa, and it has been suggested that the urge to migrate is triggered when an individual encounters a certain density of its own kind within a given area. This theory makes perfect sense, since this species can occur in high densities that result in foodplants being stripped bare on occasion with many larvae perishing as a result.
Unfortunately, this species is unable to survive our winter in any stage. This is a real shame, for not only does this species often arrive in large numbers, but is a welcome sight as it nectars in gardens throughout the British Isles in late summer.
Adults are first seen in late March as they start to arrive on our shores and numbers build up in May and June as further migrants arrive from the continent. These breed and give rise to the next generation that peaks between mid-August and early October. There may be more than one brood in the British Isles each year – depending largely on the weather.
This butterfly is continuously brooded on the continent, which may be the cause of its ultimate demise in the British Isles, since it seems unable to survive our winter in any stage. However, it is thought that some individuals may make an attempt at a return migration in autumn.
The Small Tortoiseshell is one of our most-familiar butterflies, appearing in gardens throughout the British Isles. Unfortunately, this butterfly has suffered a worrying decline, especially in the south, over the last few years.
This butterfly has always fluctuated in numbers, but the cause of the most-recent decline is not yet known, although various theories have been proposed. One is the increasing presence of a particular parasitic fly, Sturmia bella, due to global warming – this species being common on the continent. The fly lays its eggs on leaves of the foodplant, close to where larvae are feeding. The tiny eggs are then eaten whole by the larvae and the grubs that emerge feed on the insides of their host, avoiding the vital organs. A fly grub eventually kills its host and emerges from either the fully-grown larva or pupa before itself pupating. Although the fly attacks related species, such as the Peacock and Red Admiral, it is believed that the lifecycle of the Small Tortoiseshell is better-synchronised with that of the fly and it is therefore more prone to parasitism.
The Peacock is a familiar sight in gardens across the British Isles and is unmistakable, with quite spectacular eyes on the upperside of the hindwings that give this butterfly its name. These eyes must appear very threatening to predators, such as mice, that confront this butterfly head-on, where the body forming a “beak”.
The underside is a different matter altogether, being almost black, providing perfect camouflage when the butterfly is at rest on a tree trunk, or when hibernating. In addition to camouflage and large eyes, the butterfly is able to make a hissing sound by rubbing its wings together that is audible to human ears. All in all, this butterfly must appear very threatening to any predator that might come across it.
This butterfly is generally single-brooded. However, in good years, a small second brood may appear. Adults may be seen at any time of the year, with warm weather waking them from hibernation. The majority emerge from hibernation at the end of March and beginning of April. These mate and ultimately give rise to the next generation that emerges at the end of July.
Looking like a tatty Small Tortoiseshell, the Comma is now a familiar sight throughout most of England and Wales and is one of the few species that is bucking the trend by considerably expanding its range. The butterfly gets its name from the only white marking on its underside, which resembles a comma.
When resting with wings closed this butterfly has excellent camouflage, the jagged outline of the wings giving the appearance of a withered leaf, making the butterfly inconspicuous when resting on a tree trunk or when hibernating.
The butterfly can be seen at any time of the year, occasionally awakening on warm winter days. The butterfly emerges from hibernation in March, giving rise to the next generation which appear at the end of June and start of July. The majority of the offspring have dark undersides and these go on to hibernate. However, the remainder of the offspring have quite light undersides and brighter uppersides, and are known as the form hutchinsoni.
The Speckled Wood is a common butterfly and familiar to many observers, especially in woodland where, as its name suggests, it is most often found. The appearance of this butterfly changes from north to south, forming a “cline”, where individuals in the north are dark brown with white spots, with those in more southerly locations being dark brown with orange spots. This has given rise to a number of named subspecies.
This species is unique among the butterflies of the British Isles in that it can overwinter in 2 stages, as both a larva and pupa. As a result, there is a mixed emergence with adult butterflies on the wing from April through to September, with a few adults being seen as early as March or as late as October, especially at southern sites. There are 2 or 3 generations, depending on location and weather conditions and adults of later generations are generally darker than those emerging earlier in the year.
The Gatekeeper, also known as the Hedge Brown, is a golden butterfly that provides a welcome sight in the middle of summer, when the fresh adults start to emerge. This butterfly spends much of its time basking with wings open, when the sexes are easy to tell apart – only the male has the distinctive sex brands on the forewings.
There is one generation each year, with adults emerging in July, peaking in early August, with only a few adults remaining until the end of the month. In contrast with its close relative, the Meadow Brown, this butterfly has a relatively-short flight period.
The Meadow Brown is one of our commonest and most widespread butterflies, and a familiar site throughout the summer months across the British Isles. This is a highly variable species, particularly with respect to the amount of orange on the forewings and the number of black spots found on the underside of the hindwings.
There is one generation each year and the flight period can be quite protracted, with adults being seen from the middle of June to the end of September in most years.
This is a relatively-common butterfly that is unmistakable when seen at rest – the rings on the hindwings giving this butterfly its common name. The uppersides are a uniform chocolate brown that distinguish this butterfly from the closely-related Meadow Brown. Despite this uniformity, a newly-emerged adult is a surprisingly beautiful insect, the velvety wings providing a striking contrast with the delicate white fringes found on the wing edges. The dark colouring also allows this butterfly to quickly warm up – this butterfly being one of the few that flies on overcast days.
Variation in this butterfly is primarily focused on the rings on the hindwings, the lanceolata aberration being particularly striking, where the rings are elongated to form teardrops. Other aberrations occur where the rings are greatly reduced or completely absent.
There is one generation each year, with adults emerging in the second half of June, peaking in mid-July, with a few individuals continuing into August. The flight period is relatively-short when compared with its close relatives.
*Thanks to the ukbutterflies.co.uk for the use of images. Copyright of all photos shall remain with the photographer at all times.