Magpie 20 – Butterflies  of Abney Hall

Brown, I. (1991) Butterflies of Abney Hall. Mapie 20, p.8-9.

Butterflies  of Abney Hall

Being isolated, by the M63 Motorway, from the main part of the Mersey Valley, one is apt to forget that Abney Hall Park is part of the Mersey Valley Area and in the Green Belt. The park is an attractive area and has a good variety of wildlife habitats; the two marsh areas to the east are separated by a meadow Which, though abundant in grasses, is not particularly noted for its variety of wild herbs. There are two ponds, though one is to the north of a steep bank and overshaded by mature trees. Of the two lakes, the new lake, to the south, has recent tree planting alongside while the other, at the north of the park, is set in more mature woodland. Trees abound, but they are mostly in a parkland setting, surrounded by mown grass, or in narrow woodland strips which leave little opportunity for creating the clearings so necessary for a varied woodland fauna and flora; ivy abounds, but little of it is in a sunny enough situation to be useful as a food plant for a second brood of Holly Blue Butterflies.

However, I decided that I would include the park on my list of sites For the Manchester Wildlife Butterfly Survey. Starting in early April, during the 12 visits so far made, I have found 13 species of butterflies though only Orange Tip, Green-veined White and Meadow Brown are present in large numbers and Small Skipper is fairly plentiful. My greatest thrill was in late April when I saw a Holly Blue; a first record for the Mersey Valley and my first in Greater Manchester. A second high point was a sighting of a single Common Blue on the 10th of July. They may be called “common” but I have only seen two this year, the other being on Bruntwood Hay Meadow, in Cheadle. Another singleton was a Small Copper which was well spotted by young Manchester Wildlife Member, David Jackson, during our Butterfly Safari on the 3rd of August.

Other butterflies sighted in the park have been Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Small White, Large Skipper, Large White and Wall Brown, though only in singletons or small numbers. One problem may be the shortage of nectar plants, especially in the late summer. More meadow management, with hay cutting, could improve the situation. The picnic area, near the main entrance, would particularly benefit from having mowed margins round its woodland edge as this is a damp meadow where Lady’s Smock grows prior to the first grass cutting.

Finding butterflies is easy enough, but to obtain positive evidence of breeding is more difficult. Meadow Browns must breed at Abney Hall because of their great numbers in mid-July but only Orange Tip can be confirmed, as many eggs were found on Lady’s Smock in late April.

I have much enjoyed the three mile cycle ride to Abney Hall and surveying the butterflies there, despite flooded footwear on the marsh areas where the insects bite like serpents, and I can highly recommend butterfly surveying to our members and I hope you will take part next year and go hunting in your local area. Phone me on 437 7040 to find out how.

Other flying creatures which make Abney Hall a place worth visiting are bats. The most southerly seat on the east side of the new lake is an excellent position to take at dusk. To look out over the water and watch the bats wheeling and fluttering, as they search for food, is most restful. But don’t forget to leave a space for me. //

If those who are participating in our Butterfly Survey would send in their results, as soon as the season is over, it would be greatly appreciated. //

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