At our Summer Planning meeting back in February, Paul Lund suggested a Society visit to Fineshade Wood, Northants (just north of Corby) to look for the Chequered Skipper butterfly. This attractive species went extinct in England in 1976 but a recent reintroduction, as part of the Back From the Brink project, has been successful, and for the first time Forestry England were allowing the public to come and see them in Fineshade Wood.
We decided against a large group visit this year as the population remains very small (further releases are planned) and they still don’t want very large groups visiting.
Instead, on Sunday 29th May, 8 MKNHS members travelled up for a reconnaissance visit! Martin Kincaid worked at Fineshade Wood in 2005-2007 when it was the home of the Rockingham Forest Red Kite Centre, so he had some idea of the layout there. The Red Kite centre is now a cycling shop however.
The weather was somewhat mixed, far from ideal for looking for insects. We went on a 5.5 mile walk through the forest, with most of us seeing only 1 chequered skipper – a male, but we were quite satisfied with that. The butterfly settled on white bramble flower so we were able to see it well and photograph it.
You can see from the photograph that the specimen was already quite worn and we later discovered that they had emerged in mid-May, somewhat earlier than usual. Butterflies were generally scarce on the day with only Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Speckled Wood and Common Blue seen although Paul Lund was fortunate to see a Grizzled Skipper egg laying on creeping cinquefoil. Hopefully this compensated for missing the chequered skipper.
Other notable findings were a stunning Wasp Beetle, Spotted Flycatcher, Greater Butterfly Orchids and several reptiles. Simon Bunker found an Adder basking at the edge of one of the forest tracks and later a second adder and several Slow-worms were found close to the visitor centre.
The café at the visitor centre was very good. The vegan sausage rolls were filling and well-priced.
We will try again in May 2023 and hope for better results. However, Fineshade Wood and the wider Rockingam Forest is a delightful place to visit at any time of year, with abundant wildlife.