Butterfly of the Week 29th July 2020

Small Copper:  This handsome, brightly copper-coloured, small butterfly lives up to its name.  It is about the same size as a common blue.  It is widely distributed and found in a great variety of habitats across the wider countryside, where its chief food plant – common sorrel grows.  Woodland rides, hedgerows, arable set aside, parks, gardens, and churchyards where it is relatively dry and open, and which contain suitable nectar sources.

 

They are, usually, only a few adults on the wing at the same time in their favoured sites.  They over-winter as caterpillars which go into hibernation by the middle of October.  In the following March, these caterpillars complete their development and pupate in April, after which the first generation emerges in the latter part of May or early June.  The males are territorial chasing away other males and checking out any passing females.  Eggs laid by this first generation, go through to pupate in late June and July such that the second generation emerges at the end of July and into August. These are the butterflies on the wing now.

 

 

A third generation is then produced which emerges in the latter half of September.  It is this third generation, which can appear in large numbers in favourable years, as in Westbury in 2018 after the long hot summer.

 

Photos  Mick Fletcher      John Ball        Peter Bright

Coronavirus Community Support – Update 24.07.2020

For all previous Parish Council Coronavirus updates please select the Covid-19 Category on the News Page of the Westbury Website  http://westburysubmendip-pc.gov.uk/category/covid-19/

 

Beware of scams

Although we still plan to reduce our regular updates to once per week our attention has been drawn to a very plausible scam that has been reported to us by two people in the village in recent days and we felt it best to alert everyone promptly. One villager emailed us with the following summary of a conversation she had had this week

 

‘Good afternoon I’m calling from the NHS track and trace service. According to our system, you are likely to have been in close proximity to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. This means that you now need to self-isolate for 7 days and take a COVID-19 test.’


‘OK. Can you tell me who that person was?’


‘I’m not able to tell you that. That is confidential information.’


‘Right. Um… so ….’


‘But you do need to be tested within the next 72 hours. So can I just get the best mailing address so that we can send a kit to you?’


‘Ok (gives address)’


I just need to take a payment card so that we can finalize this and send the kit to you.’


‘Sorry – a payment card? I thought this was all free?’


‘No – I’m afraid not. There is a one-off fee of £50 for the kit and test results. Could you read off the long card number for me, please, when you’re ready.’


‘No – that’s not right. This is part of the NHS so there’s no charge.’


‘I’m afraid there is. Can you give me the card number please – this is very important, and there are penalties for not complying.’

 

At this point our neighbour sensibly put the phone down.

 

A full description of how the test and trace system works is here but the essential messages are

The NHS Test and Trace service will not:

  • ask for bank details or payments
  • ask for details of any other accounts, such as social media
  • ask you to set up a password or PIN number over the phone
  • ask you to call a premium rate number, such as those starting 09 or 087

Another current scam suggests that you can get a tax rebate for work clothing.  This is a copy of a plausible email that has been widely circulated but is intended to get the unwary to give away important information and possibly cash. Have nothing to do with it.

 

Wearing face masks in shops

Since we are emailing everyone we thought it worth also putting out a brief reminder that it is now compulsory to wear a face mask in a shop as well as on public transport – unless you have a medical reason not to – and this of course applies to Westbury Community Shop.  A light hearted poster describing the correct way to use a mask is here

 

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Sue Reece (870618)   Mick Fletcher (870531)   on behalf of the Parish Council

 

 

The Strawberry Line – bridge blockage

Plans to develop a section of the Strawberry line through Shepton Mallet have hit a blockage – the Department of Transport which claims to be promoting sustainable transport options is blocking plans for safe access under the A371 by not allowing use of a former railway bridge. This article explains more.

Butterfly of the Week 22nd July 2020

Chalkhill Blue:   This elegant butterfly, somewhat larger than the common blue, is confined, as its name suggests, to unfertilised chalk and limestone short grasslands.  Ideally, and perhaps nearly essentially, rabbit grazing to create this short sward height is important.  Certainly, scrubbing up of such habitats, as rabbit numbers have reduced, is connected to reduction in Chalkhill blue numbers.  There may also be climate effects as many populations are struggling, at the moment, across England.  The male is a stunning and unmistakeable milky blue colour while the females are milk chocolate brown.  Both male and female have conspicuous dark lines through the white fringes on edges of the wings that the smaller common blues do not have.  The butterfly is entirely dependent on horseshoe vetch which is, in turn, dependent on suitable grazing to keep the sward relatively short.

Horseshoe vetch flowers obviously in late May but otherwise the fine leaves of the plant are very inconspicuous. The caterpillars are also dependent on attendant ants that they supply with attractive secretions, who, in turn, benefit significantly from these as a food source.  When the butterflies emerge in mid-July and perhaps flying into September the males are particularly conspicuous covering the colony area searching out unmated females.  These females can be inconspicuous but are easily found nectaring on suitable plants such as marjoram and knapweeds and show off the dark lines through the white fringes of their wings.  The eggs are laid on or near the foodplant but seem to fall easily to the ground, where they are invisible in the chalk or limestone rocky soil, and they spend the winter at this stage.   The egg hatches in the following April and the young larvae begin their mutual relationship with the local ants such as the Yellow Meadow ant while feeding on the horseshoe vetch leaves and later flowers.  It is possible that pheromones from ant trails help determine exactly where the female butterflies lay their eggs.  The pupa is formed in June or July and is probably buried by its ant partners that are still collecting its secretions.  Like other Lycaenids the pupa is believed to make ant-attractive sounds!   The single generation is then ready to emerge in late July and onwards.  In Somerset, Chalkhill blues are confined to the Mendips from Wookey Hole Fields to Brean Down and to the reserves on the Poldens.  Most of the sites are in Nature Reserves of one sort or another where suitable grazing can be maintained.  We are fortunate – if you want to see this spectacular, and Near Threatened, butterfly, that Westbury Beacon, Stoke Camp and Draycott Sleights are all good sites even if numbers have fallen in recent years.  They could also be expected on Deerleap and Cook’s field if the food plant survives there as well.  Please let me know if you see any, particularly in out of the way places!

Photos  Peter Bright

A Quartet of Westbury Butterflies for the Week 15th July 2020

There are 4 hairstreaks that have been seen in the Parish of Westbury, but they are all rare and, maybe, particularly hard to notice as well.  Green hairstreaks are over, Purple and White-letter hairstreaks are flying now and Brown Hairstreaks fly from mid-August into September.

  Green Hairstreak:   The butterfly overwinters as a pupa, unlike the other hairstreaks that over-winter as eggs.  These handsome bright green adult butterflies emerge from mid-April through to the beginning of June.  It is the underneath of the wings that are green and, settling with wings always closed, you do not see the brown upper sides of the wings.   They do well in areas with scrubby vegetation mixed with shrubs.  The males are territorial flying out to investigate any passing butterfly for females.  The eggs can be laid on a wide variety of food plants such as bird’s foot trefoil and common rockrose, and on the shrubs buckthorn, dogwood and gorse.

 

 

 

By the end of July, the caterpillars are fully developed, and the pupa is formed hidden at the base of the vegetation.  Like other members of the Lycaenid – Blue Family, there is some relationship with ants, and it is perhaps as pupae that the ants offer some protection.  The pupa is reported to squeak just like an ant!

Photos  John Ball    Peter Bright

 

 

White-letter Hairstreak:  This is the rarest of this quartet and has suffered greatly from the loss of elms from Dutch Elm disease.  It is entirely dependent on elms and has a preference for Wych elm.  The adults, about the size of a common blue,  emerge in late June and can fly for the whole of July.  They feed on aphid honeydew and can spend their whole life at the tops of elms and so be almost invisible.  Some may come down to visit flowers at ground level in the early morning or late afternoon as do Purple Hairstreaks.

The adult butterflies rest with wings closed showing the white W that gives it its name.  It has tails and eyespots on the hind wings which is believed to protect it from fatal bird attack with some flying butterflies being seen with this part of the hind wing missing.  The eggs are laid on small twigs of any of the various elms and it is in this stage that it overwinters.  The newly emerged caterpillars feed high in the canopy during March, April and May, and pupate in late May or early June to emerge at the end of the month.  One was seen in Westbury in 2011 and another in 2019 and there are regular reports from Lord’s Wood near Pensford, but there is nowhere you can guarantee to see them.

Photo  Peter Bright

 

 

Purple Hairstreak:  This is a butterfly of oak woods or even single oak trees.  During June and early July, the pupae are formed in the vegetation at ground level below oak trees.  It may be that at this stage as well as a caterpillar, that there is some relationship with ants to which they can ‘sing’!

The adults emerge from pupae at ground level and having expanded their wings fly up into the oak tree canopy.

There, the silver undersides of the flying butterfly can be seen flashing in the sunlight high in the tree.  The upper surfaces of the wings have a purple sheen that shows as they bask in the sunshine.  They are a little larger than common blues.  The adult butterflies can spend their whole life high in the canopy feeding on aphid honeydew and mating out of sight of human observers.  They are reported to come down to ground level to nectar on flowers in the early evening so are hard to find at ‘normal butterfly times’ in the middle of the day.

The eggs are laid at the base of oak buds and it is at this stage they over-winter. The following March, April, and May the caterpillars feed inside the developing buds later transferring to eating the young developing leaves at night after resting camouflaged on the twigs.  Fully mature at the end of May the caterpillar descends to ground level once more.  This is the most abundant of the hairstreaks but being so hard to see its distribution and numbers are extremely hard to gauge accurately.

Photo    Mick Fletcher  John Ball   Peter Bright  Simon Bright

 

 

Brown Hairstreak:  This handsome butterfly is the largest of the hairstreaks being about the size of a gatekeeper.  It is a butterfly that depends on Blackthorn and needs 2 and 3-year-old young shrubby growth on which it lays its eggs in late August and September.  Flailing of blackthorn hedges every year is a disaster.

Management for Brown Hairstreaks means cutting blackthorn back on a 3-year cycle.  They overwinter as eggs and the easiest way to detect the presence of this elusive butterfly is to look for the bright white eggs laid in the forks of small twigs.  On hatching in early May, the caterpillar feeds inside the young leaf buds but transfers to eating the young leaves as they appear in May and June.  The pupa is formed in July in the ground and it seems that it may be buried by ant activity in a cell of dry earth.  The adults emerge in August and September.  The males gather in assembly trees such as tall hedgerow ashes feeding on the aphid honeydew and waiting for the visiting females.  After mating the females search out suitable blackthorn so that they are the ones that people come across easily at human eye-level.  The males rarely come down from the tall trees where they spend their time and so are hardly ever seen.

 

 

Several Brown Hairstreaks have been seen in the Village but on the lower parts facing onto the moor.  It is reasonable to speculate that there are colonies in the Parish somewhere on the hedgerow blackthorns that are not cut every year.  The Somerset strongholds are in the centre of the county around Taunton.

Photos  Peter Bright

Coronavirus Community Support – Update 20.07.2020

Coronavirus Community Support  –  Update 20.07.2020

For all previous Parish Council Coronavirus updates please select the Covid-19 Category on the News Page of the Westbury Website  http://westburysubmendip-pc.gov.uk/category/covid-19/

 

So what are the rules now?

The government is implementing a phased reduction in the lockdown restrictions so we are reissuing a link to the latest guidance, updated on the 17th July.  There is a lot in this document, and we recommend you read it.  For those short of time however the headlines are

 

  • from the 24th July (next Friday) we will need to wear face coverings in shops & supermarkets as well as public transport
  • from 25th July sports facilities including dance studios, indoor gyms and swimming pools will reopen
  • from 1st August more venues will open and indoor performances to live audiences will be allowed
  • from 1st September it is expected that all school and nurseries should be open for all pupils

 

Note however that the social distancing rules remain in place and the government is only thinking about relaxing them, if possible, in November.

 

What is the impact on Westbury?

These rules impact upon local services and we have messages in relation to the

  • Community Shop   The shop will be implementing the rules on wearing face masks while shopping but also taking other measures to help keep customers safe. A full  update from the shop is here
  • Westbury Inn  The pub is looking at the arrangements for the ‘Eat out to help out’ scheme and hopes to announce plans shortly.  Meanwhile they are keen to tell people they have fresh lobster this weekend.
  • Westbury Church. Because of the pandemic the Friends of Westbury Church have had to cancel fundraising events and are unable to finance necessary repairs and improvements to the Church fabric.  A summary of what they do, what they would like to do and how you could help is here.

 

Spending time safely.

Although there are still many things we cannot do there is much that we can still enjoy. Things to consider include

  • Walk in the countryside, perhaps guided by one of the Westbury Walks you can get from the shop.  We have been warned however about some aggressive bees at the end of Short Drove. If you are concerned about getting stung perhaps avoid this route for a while.
  • Make facemasks.  Cathy Hancock would be interested to hear from anyone who would like to help make facemasks for distribution to local institutions and via the village shop. Email her at cottagefarm@hotmail.com
  • Record butterflies. If you have been following Peter Bright’s butterfly of the week postings you might want to take part in the Big Butterfly Count which runs until the 9th August. You can find all his butterfly posts (and more besides)  on the Westbury Wildlife pages of the village website.
  • Count glow worms.  A reminder that although we cannot have a convivial evening before and after the count we will still be out and about counting.  Anyone wanting to take part should contact Peter Bright (870640)  Details are here.
  • Read poetry, particularly our own Covid related poems which you can now find all together here.   Tonight’s addition to our collection – Masks –  has been contributed by some of the younger members of our community.

 

 

 

Sue Reece (870618)   Mick Fletcher (870531)   on behalf of the Parish Council

Masks

Masks

 

To wear or not to wear, that is the question….

 

Face masks might be quite uncomfy

But hospital beds are rather lumpy

It might be tricky to speak

But you won’t be part of the peak

With a mask you cannot eat

But death you will not meet

Red masks might clash with blue

But you won’t turn a sickly hue

You might think masks are a lot of money

But Covid isn’t very funny

 

p.s.  Wear a mask outside

Also wear a mask inside

So you could save lives

 

Hannah, Orlando, Izzy

Poem of the Week 18/05/20

Poem of the week

Finally our poem of the week is a parody of John Masefield’s ’Cargoes’ set in the time of coronavirus. Cargoes   

Poem of the Week 25/05/20

Poem of the week

Since it is a Monday we are putting out our regular ‘poem of the week’.  To encourage those who might want to compose a poem but have difficulty starting Andrew Buchanan has suggested that people might try to compose a ‘Cinquaine’ –  a five line poem written to a specific format.

Look around you and write down a favourite thing you can see

Use one word to name it; Use two words to describe it; Use three words to tell what it is doing; Use four words to tell how you feel about it; Use one word to wrap up your experience.

 

Here is his example:

Car

Standing there

Waiting for action

Lockdown keeps it idle

Trapped

Poem of the Week 15/06/20

Poem of the week

Finally, continuing our mission to fight the pandemic with poetry, we have a contribution here prompted by the opening up of non-essential shops.