Llanelli Naturalists Newsletter - September 1998 - No 3
Ian Morgan

[Note: In the butterfly account, grid references are normally only given at the first usage of a site name]

Painted lady butterflies Cynthia cardui dominate the memory of the 1996 butterfly season, from the first sighting on 30 May (Barry and Sandra Stewart, BSS; at Bynea 21/54-99-) to later in the summer when this migrant was widespread and common. Red admirals Vanessa atalanta - of which there was a moderate number recorded - appeared earlier, on 5 May initially at Betws 22/642121 (Steve Lucas, SL).

After several seasons of near absence, it is pleasing to note two records of the related comma Polygonia c-album - at Pembrey Forest 22/405013 on 3 April (Mark Pavett) and one inland at Taliaris 22/663296 on 3 Aug. (Alan Clarke, ACLA).

Again with migrants, clouded yellows Colias croceus were noted from 4 August, when one was sighted at Sandy Water Park, Llanelli 22/497005 (IKM). Subsequently, there were ten other records, mostly at the coast but also inland.

There were 11 observations (at 9 sites) of the brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni, all within the regular SE Carms. range of this species. The first was a male near Betws 22/628102, noted by R E Lucas on 18 March, whilst on the 30th of that month one was seen at Morfa, Llanelli 21/517785 (BSS). The next sighting was a singleton at Hendy 22/577031 on 7 April (SL), then another by the same recorder, three days later at Maesquarre Road, Betws 22/642121. Julian Friese (JF) also saw one at Dinefwr CastleWoods 22/619221 on 20 April. There were three records (all SL) from the Wildlife Trust's reserve at Rhos Cefn Bryn 22/555072 near Llwyn-teg, Llannon (where the food plant, alder buckthorn grows sparingly in the hedgerows) - 2 on 7 May, 1 on 17 June and 3 there on 18 June. Others were seen at Coed Gwempa (near Llandyfaelog) 22/436115 on 15 June (JF) and at Parc Howard, Llanelli 22/505012 on the next day (IKM).

Two dingy skippers Erynnis tages on rough ground at Bynea 21/54-99- on 30 May was an useful record (BSS), as were the green hairstreaks Callophrys rubi near Telpyn Point 22/192075, at the far west of the county's coastline on 15 May (Graham Motley, GSM). The best hairstreak record (and competing with the pearl-bordered fritillary sighting - see below - for the most interesting record of 1996) was the elusive brown hairstreak Thecla betulae, noted at Taliaris 22/663296 on 1 September by ACLA. Small blues Cupido minimus were at their usual stations on the Pembrey dunelands, including an estimate 60 individuals on Pembrey Burrows 21/41-99- on 23 June (BSS), likewise, dark-green fritillaries Argynnis aglaja aglaja were at their usual Pembrey Forest haunts (22/37-04- and 38-03-) in late July (SL) Only two records of small pearl-bordered fritillaries Boloria selene were submitted - at Blaen bydernyn-uchaf 22/560440 on 4 July (GSM & Jamie Bevan (JMSB)) and at Garreg lefain 22/721367, 6 July (4 seen, JF). GSM made a most significant record on 15 May, in the form of a solitary pearl-bordered fritillary Boloria euphrosyne near Telpyn Point 22/182073. There are very few recent records of this critically declined species in the county, though it is still known from the same stretch of coast further east at Morfa-bychan 22/225075.

The elegant silver-washed fritillary Argynnis paphia was noted at four localities, including Pembrey Forest (22/38-03-, SL and 22/41-01-, BSS); Llwyn-treharne 22/236194 (GSM); Llangynog 22/342179 (SWD) and Cwm Crychan 22/823392 (SL); all records were in the mid July - mid September period.

Marsh fritillaries Eurodryas aurinia were carefully monitored at Rhos Cefn Bryn NR, 22/555072, where up to 59 were seen (on 18 June) by SL and Janet Crowden. Four were also seen by GSM & JMSB at Plasmynydd 22/453168 on 14 June and again four at Blaen bydernyn-uchaf 22/560440 by GSM on 5 July. The status of this species in Carmarthenshire has been comprehensively summarized (Lucas, 1996) in a report which lists some 50 post-1989 colonies (one third of the Welsh total), of which 40 can be classed as small, 2 medium and, 2 large and 6 of unknown status. In addition there are 17 post-1989 sites where single adults have been recorded.

Butterflies 1997

In direct contrast to the previous year, painted ladies were conspicuously absent, with just two records - one at Johnstown 22/399187 on 22 Aug. (J Treharne), and another singleton at Llandeilo 22/62-22- on 28 August (GS M). Red admirals were around from 28 March, when one was seen in company of a peacock and a small tortoiseshell, at Ffrwd Fen Nature Reserve 22/420028 (IKM); subsequently late summer saw many records of this attractive migrant. A comma at Stradey Woods 22/487016 on 22 March was the first seen by the writer after the dearth of records for several years, contrasting with the mid-late 1980's which witnessed an upsurge in the fortunes of this species; seemingly it is now making a marked recovery. Commas were also reported from several other sites: Pwllau, Taliaris 22/663296 (A Clarke) - 21 Mar. & 2 Aug.; Pembrey Forest 22/38-03-, 20 July, Betws 22/642121, 7 Aug. (both Steve Lucas); Brohedydd, Llangynog 22/342179, 28 July & 24 Sept. (Mrs S Wynn-Davies, SWD); Llwyncelyn, Llansadwrn 22/689325, 11 Aug. (J Humphrey, JH) and several times in the autumn at Llystyn Cottage, Brechfa 22/530309 (Mrs E Grey). It was also seen twice at Nantgwyn near Trawsmawr 22/365238, 19 to 23 Aug. (Mr J Baker, J Br); and at Nant-y-llyn, Ffarmers 22/671493, 12 Aug. & 27 Sept. (Tony Braithwaite, TB).

Brimstones were observed at Derwydd 22/613177 a _ on 18 March, a _ at Cwrt Henry 22/544226 on 4 April (both Julian Friese); in Stradey Woods, 22/489015 _, 31 March and another _ flying speedily over Pont Abraham 22/576073 on 16 May (both IKM). No less than 11 sightings of brimstones were made by Janet Crowden (JC) and Steve Lucas during 1997, seven at Llwyn-teg 22/555072, on the Wildlife Trust’s Rhos Cefn Bryn NR from 1 April to 29 May. Here, on two dates (14 & 27 May), two individuals were seen. SL also saw this species at Saron 22/5912 (1 May), Betws 22/642121 and also at the Cilrhedyn Peat Workings, Sardis 22/577062 on 14 April. Another individual was at Pant y pwll, Meinciau 22/49119 in May (Miss J Isley), and Tony Braithwaite at Nant-y-llyn, Ffarmers 22/671493 provided three records of brimstones on 27, 31 May and 3 June, presumably members of the perhaps outlying ‘population’ that exists in the NE of the county. A grizzled skipper Pyrgus malvae was out in the sun at Pembrey Forest 22/390025 on 19 April whilst a dingy skipper was noted on the limestone/quartzite ridge at Mynydd y Garreg 22/433083 on 14 May (both IKM).

Sarah Andrews reported the presence of a marbled white Melanargia galathea at Broadoak & Thornhill Meadows 22/581120 on 30 June and a small pearl-bordered fritillary at Caeau Caradog 22/652458 (24 June); she, together with Pamela Williams, saw three silver-washed fritillaries feasting on bramble blossom at Coed Deri 22/745280 on 30 July. This fritillary was also recorded at Nantygwyn, Trawsmawr 22/365238 on 19 Aug. (J Br), at Pant Gwyrdd, Llanfynydd 22/555286 on 2 Aug. (M Williams) at Brohedydd, Llangynog, 20 July & 25 Aug. (SWD), Llwyncelyn, Llansadwrn, 19 Aug. (JH) and Felindre 22/347388, 8 July (SL & Lin Gander). JF saw a single silver-washed fritillary at Felin-newydd, Milo 22/596181 on 19 July, and two at Pontynyswen 22/531248 on 10 Aug. The wooded Brechfa- Pontynyswen-Abergorlech area remains a stronghold for this butterfly; both of JF’s records ‘were alongside river clearings with bramble blossom’. Small pearl-bordereds were also noted at Nant-y-llyn, Ffarmers on 3 & 17 June (TB), and at Nantsaise farm 22/346335, where up to four were seen by GS Motley & JMS Bevan on 17 June. Marsh fritillary monitoring continued at Rhos Cefn Bryn NR by JC & SL, with a maximum of 12 seen on 29 May. A single individual was also recorded by GSM & JMSB at Nantsaise farm on 12 June. A marbled white was present at Ffrwd NR 22/4102 on 14 July (SL) and, interestingly, one was noted on the Drysgol ridge, Glanamman 22/689149 by Dr S Spencer on 27 July, where graylings Hipparchia semele were also seen. The latter species is long known from the dry, thinsoiled south-facing slopes of Mynydd Du and elsewhere on the adjacent coalfield. Green hairstreaks were seen on several occasions at Rhos Cefn Bryn NR (JC & SL), at Teague’s Wood, Pendine 22/1908, 1 May (SL), Grogwynion Farm, Porthyrhyd 22/506147, 14 May (Mrs A M Jones) and on 27 July (SS), and at Nantgwyn, again in July (J Br). To compliment the 1996 sighting, there were two records of brown hairstreaks - at Brohedydd, Llangynog, 6 Sept. (SWD) and at Llwyncelyn, Llansadwrn Oct. (JH). A butterfly which has seemingly been distinctly scarce in the last few years is the holly blue Celastrina argiolus; one was observed by Steve Lucas at Teague’s Wood, Pendine 22/19-08- on 1 May.

Another useful coastal record was that of a brown argus Aricia agestis at Pendine 22/23-08- on 9 Aug. (BSS).

Acknowledgements: Thanks are due to all the recorders mentioned above and particularly the County Butterfly & Moth recorder, Steve Lucas for providing much data.

Reference:

Lucas, S (1996) - The Status of the Marsh Fritillary Eurodryas aurinia in Carmarthenshire.

Unpublished Dyfed Wildlife Trust (now the Wildlife Trust - West Wales) report to CCW.