Manor Woods Valley Butterfly Survey 2019

This report prepared has been prepared by Peter Loy-Hancocks from the Manor Woods Valley Group

1)  Introduction and Methodology

Environmental science student and Manor Woods Valley Group member, Rachael Harvey, undertook three butterfly surveys in Manor Woods Valley Local Nature Reserve during the summer of 2019. In order to facilitate comparisons between surveys within the year, and in future years, the surveyor established and followed seven transects within the site (see figure 1).

Due to increasingly dense ruderal vegetation, it was not possible to survey transect 4 effectively.

Map of 2019 Butterfly Survey in Manor Woods Valley
Figure 1: Butterfly survey transects within Manor Woods Valley


The numbers of each butterfly species within transects were noted on to a field recording forms. These records form the basis of this report. All records were submitted to Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre (BRERC).

Additional records were obtained through casual observations made by the surveyor and others at different times throughout the year.

2)  Results

The first survey was conducted in the late morning of 27 June, on a sunny but breezy day. A total of 99 butterflies of eight species were recorded. The counts are summarised in table 1.

Species Transect Total
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7  
Common Blue     1 1       2
Large White     1   3     4
Marbled White     6   3     9
Meadow Brown 3 1 57 4 3 1 1 70
Red Admiral 1       1     2
Ringlet 2   2 1 3     8
Large Skipper         1   1 2
Small Tortoiseshell       2       2
  6 1 67 8 14 1 2 99

The second survey was conducted in mid-morning on 6 July, when there was 20% cloud cover. On this occasion 189 butterflies of nine species were recorded. These counts are summarised in table 2.

Species Transect Total
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7  
Common Blue     5         5
Large White   1       3   4
Marbled White     18 3 6     27
Meadow Brown 9 4 61 1 5 7 2 89
Painted Lady         1     1
Ringlet 5 4 16 1 5 4 5 40
Large Skipper 2 1 2   4   2 11
Small/Essex Skipper     2 1 8     11
Speckled Wood             1 1
  16 10 104 6 29 14 10 189

The third survey was conducted early on the 25 July, which was a hot day with 40% cloud cover. 155 butterflies of fifteen species were recorded. These counts are summarised in table 3.

Species Transect Total
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7  
Brown Argus     5         5
Comma   1     1     2
Common Blue 1   13 3 1     18
Gatekeeper 3 1 1 6 5 3 6 25
Green-veined White 3           1 4
Large White 4 1 1     4 1 11
Marbled White     2 2       4
Meadow Brown 1   22 1 1 3 2 30
Peacock 1       1 2 1 5
Red Admiral 1         1   2
Ringlet 1   2   2 1   6
Large Skipper 1   6   1     8
Small/Essex Skipper 1   13 2       16
Small White 3 2   1   5 4 15
Speckled Wood   3       1   4
  20 8 65 15 12 20 15 155

The total number of butterflies recorded in each transect are summarised in table 4.

  Transect Total
No. Butterflies 1 2 3 4 5 6 7  
27-Jun 6 1 67 8 14 1 2 99
06-Jul 16 10 104 6 29 14 10 189
25-Jul 20 8 65 15 12 20 15 155
Total 42 19 236 29 55 35 27 443

Casual records included observations of two Brimstones made on 15 February.

Including the two Brimstones, a total of 445 butterflies of eighteen species were recorded during 2019. These were Brimstone, Brown Argus, Comma, Common Blue, Gatekeeper, Green-veined White, Large Skipper, Large White, Marbled White, Meadow Brown, Painted Lady, Peacock, Red Admiral, Ringlet, Small Tortoiseshell, Small White, Small/Essex Skipper and Speckled Wood.

3)  Discussion

It is difficult to draw many conclusions from monitoring butterflies within Manor Woods Valley for a single year; however, what does appear to be clear is the importance of the Wildflower Meadow (transect 3), especially to Meadow Browns, Marbled Whites and Ringlets.

Download this report as a PDF file.

Lighting up the woods

Area of woods that has been coppiced

Peter Loy-Hancocks has contributed this blog post explaining the importing of coppicing and why it is needed in Manor Woods Valley.

As anyone who keeps houseplants knows, plants need light to grow and thrive – for most, the more the better! There are several different types of woodland in Manor Woods Valley Local Nature Reserve. The shade created by trees and shrubs in some of these are so dense that few plants grow beneath them. This is especially evident in Allotment Wood; the woodland along the northern, Bishopsworth Road, side of Manor Woods Valley.

Ivys and Ferns in a coppiced area
Ivy and ferns are the only plants that thrive in the dense shade

Allotment Wood is very young; developing naturally following the abandonment of war-time, ‘Dig for Victory’, extensive allotments on the site – hence its name. It has developed through phases, from well tended plots, to a massive Bramble patch, then through a stage of impenetrable, mainly Hawthorn and Blackthorn, scrub. Today the shrubs and trees are tall enough to allow access beneath them, but the leaf canopy is so dense that little light hits the woodland floor.

A few woodland plants, such as Ramsons, currants and young Hazels, are appearing beneath the trees, but all are struggling to survive. Ivy and ferns are the only plants that are thriving!

In 2017 Manor Woods Valley Group commenced coppicing small areas in Allotment Wood. Coppicing is the now largely forgotten practice of cutting back shrubs, especially Hazels, every few years, to encourage prolific new, strong and straight growth. Historically this re-growth was used to make a variety of items including baskets, hurdles or pins to hold thatch. There is little use for these items today! Now, when shrubs are cut-back, the debris is made in to ‘dead-hedges’, which often become covered in Brambles and Nettles, and form the same valuable wildlife functions as traditional living hedges.

Dead hedge in Manor Woods Valley
A ‘dead-hedge’ in Allotment Wood

Coppicing has the added benefit of creating lots of variety within the structure of woodland. Within a relatively short time of coppicing, Ramsons start to thrive and flower, followed by Nettles and Great Willowherb. As the Hazels and other shrubs re-grow, they again start to shade out the flowering plants, and its soon time to repeat the coppicing cycle. All this plant growth encourages a range of wildlife, such as basking butterflies and their feeding caterpillars, hunting dragonflies, pollinating bees and nesting birds.

Area of woods that has been coppiced
An area coppiced earlier this year – note how dark the surrounding woodland is and how quickly vegetation has grown once the light is let-in.
Coppiced area after 2 years
An area coppiced two years ago. The Hazels stools are growing strongly, Ramsons are in flower and Nettles are growing.

The areas that have been chosen for coppicing during the winter of 2019/20 are on the edge of Allotment Wood, near the cycle-path. These areas are sheltered and south facing, so encourage rapid growth of flowers and shrubs, which make ideal habitat for the likes of Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper and Brimstone butterflies, and Southern and Migrant Hawker Dragonflies.

Speckled wood butterfly
Speckled Wood butterfly
Close up of Southern Hawker Dragonfly
Southern Hawker dragonfly


If you would like to help Manor Woods Valley Group with the rewarding work of coppicing this winter, look out for notices posted in and around Manor Woods Valley, or on our Facebook page. Why not sign-up for our regular newsletter and receive notifications of our volunteering sessions – which are usually on the second Saturday of the month?

Butterflies in Manor Woods Valley Local Nature Reserve

Rachel Harvey has contributed this blog post about the range of beautiful butterflies you can find in Manor Woods Valley Local Nature Reserve.

Head down to Manor Woods Valley Local Nature Reserve, behold the meadows and relax watching butterflies flutter on a sunny day.

It’s the time of year for one of my favourite butterflies the marbled white. A beautiful butterfly often seen on purple knapweed and clover or resting near the top of long grasses. Black markings with a hue of white to cream. Be quick with a camera as they are quick to take flight.

Butterfly Ringlet

The Marbled white butterfly belongs to the family of brown butterflies. The brown butterflies include Meadow brown, Ringlet and Gatekeeper who are flying in the meadow and hedgerows at Manor Woods Valley and Highridge Common.

Often difficult to tell apart in flight, look out for the darker brown of the Ringlet, almost black on fresh newly emerged butterflies. Once settled its easy to spot the rings given this butterfly its name.

Butterfly Meadow Brown

The Gatekeeper butterfly is likely to be seen near or in the meadow hedge rows whilst Meadow brown flutters along and within the meadow grasses  and rests upon the wildflowers, grasses and brambles of the hedgerow.

Butterfly Gatekeeper

You may also spot Red Admiral, Common blue, Small tortoiseshell, Large white, Small white, Green – veined white, Large Skipper, Small skipper, Comma and Painted lady a visitor from the continent in these first weeks of July.

Happy spotting, leave a reply and let us know any butterflies you spot.

With thanks to Rachel Harvey for contributing this blog post.