Season closes in for Butterfly Counting

Moving towards the end of Butterfly Counting at Knoll for this season.

Report and pictures from our lepidopterology and odonatology expert, Keith Powrie

Week 24

Butterflies, similar to last week except the warmer temperature enticed a late Meadow Brown and a Peacock to put in an appearance.

Dragonflies also similar to last week.  A couple of Southern Hawkers, one of which was very inquisitive and kept investigating us at Mill Pond.

A pair of Common Darters were egg-laying on Upper Falls Pond, whilst a couple of males were just sunbathing around Dragon Pond.

Common Darter (at Dragon Pond)
Common Darter

The photograph shows the yellow stripe down the black legs.  The very similar, Ruddy Darter has legs which are completely black.

Week 25

The penultimate week for butterfly counting.   Judging by the weather forecast for next week, it may well be the final one!

The autumnal nights are taking their toll, and even the ‘white’s ‘ numbers are dwindling.

However, a couple of Peacocks and a pristine Red Admiral, apart from a nibble on the port forewing, put in a welcome appearance.

Red Admiral

The male Southern Hawker that scrutinised us last week at Mill Pond, did so again this week, at Dragon Pond – either him or his twin brother!  This time it was short-lived, as a female flew by and he instantly turned his attention away from us, shot towards her, grabbed her by the scruff of the neck, after a short tussle and the pair flew off and were never seen again.

Southern Hawker (at Mill Pond)
Southern Hawker at Mill Pond
Week 26

Well, last week yielded a total of just 11 butterflies. With all the cold nights since then, we were expecting to see even fewer on the last week of  counting. How wrong can one be!

Eventually, 18 were counted of 7 species.

Among them were, 6 Speckled Woods – the third brood has certainly been fruitful, 4 Large Whites, 3 Meadow Browns and a very late Holly Blue.

But the biggest surprise was a pristine Clouded Yellow, feeding on the Scabious, where the first one was seen back in 2009. This is only the 3rd record for Knoll.

Clouded Yellow

Dragonfly numbers have dropped slightly, but Common Darters were plentiful. sunning themselves on the warm wood chipping pathways.

Common Darter

See Keith’s previous report HERE

Latest Sightings

Report and pictures from our lepidopterology and odonatology expert, Keith Powrie

Week 22 Report

After 2 missed weeks, due to incessant rain and/or wind, we managed to fit in a walk, before the next lot of rain arrives!

Week 19 produced a count of 25 butterflies, so we weren’t expecting a tremendous number, after all the rain and cold winds of late. However, the warmth of the sun, albeit accompanied by a fresh breeze, enticed 33 to take to the wing. The majority were Whites, with 15 Large, 5 Small and the first of the summer brood of Green-veined Whites with 3.

Green Veined White

And the first Purple Hairstreak of the year.

Dragonflies were mainly seen around Dragon Pond and various sites in the Gardens, away from the various water features.

Dragon Pond boasted a very inquisitive Southern Hawker, who hovered close enough that the broad antehumeral, or shoulder stripes could be clearly seen.

A Migrant Hawker, chased off by the previous species.

A coupled pair of Ruddy Darters trying to mate, but being chased off by a bumble bee. And 2 coupled pairs of Common Darters, egg-laying, with a lone male resting nearby.

Week 23 Report

A blustery day but sunny, until until the clouds built up!
The first half of the walk produced mainly ‘whites’ again, with a few Red Admirals, a Holly Blue and a fleeting Speckled Wood.

Red Admiral

Dragon Pond, once again held all the dragonflies.

A single male Blue-tailed Damselfly, a male Ruddy Darter, 2 Common Darters and a female Southern Hawker, busily egg-laying. We followed her to both Lower and Upper Falls Ponds where she deposited further batches of eggs.

Common Darter

Then the clouds rolled in and very little was seen after that!


See Keith’s previous report  report HERE

2020 Annual Garden Survey

Now in it’s sixth year, the Knoll Annual Garden Survey was once again conducted on August 4th. Due to restrictions resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, it was undertaken  this year with a reduced number of “experts”, “social distancing” and also a lack of data from visitors with the Gardens remaining closed.

Nevertheless, the day once again highlighted the diversity of wildlife present in the garden and will provide useful source material for further analysis together with comparison against previous years survey’s. (You can see  results from some of the earlier surveys on our Reports page)

Our great thanks go to Mitch Perkins for coordinating the event, and also  all the ‘experts’ and ‘helpers’ who made the day possible.

Mitch has pulled together a short Summary Report which together with photos taken by both herself and other participants which provide highlights and an insight into the activities and sightings made.

Look out later in the year when we will have more detailed results from the survey.

Summary Report

Fine and dry weather greeted us for a ‘special’ socially distanced wildlife survey. With the gardens being closed to the public, due to Covid-19 restrictions, it was a great day to observe some amazing creatures and to try out a few ideas for future events.

Jan kicked off the survey by setting up mammal traps and bat acoustic recorders on Monday evening. At the same time, Roy and I deployed some additional trail camera’s to see if we could pick up some of the other night time visitors. A moth trap was set up by the marquee.

Bat Recorder and Mammal Trap setup

2nd bat recorder setup

Trail Camera setup

First thing on Tuesday morning, we were joined by mammal experts Angela and Ann, to see what we had caught. There was ‘no joy’ with the camera and small mammal traps, but the bat detectors recorded several different species! This data is still being analysed, but it looks like 2 of the UK’s largest bats (Noctule & Serotine) were both recorded as well as several Myotis species. All enjoying the tasty moths, beetles and flies feeding in the borders and hatching from the ponds.

Next up were Peter and George, who arrived early to survey the birds. Not easy in August as they are elusive and quiet after all their efforts leading up to and during the breeding season!! Despite these challenges, a variety of birds were recorded including the very ‘shy’ Bullfinch which likes to hide in the cover of shrubs & trees. A top spot!

Tracy, George and Nick helped identify the colourful selection of moths (and a European Hornet!) trapped over night.  Highlights included a Rosy Footman and a male Black Arches (great antennae!).

© Dave Peckham
(DJP imaging)

Rosy Footman
© Mitch Perkins

Black Arches
© Mitch Perkins

Black Arches
© Mitch Perkins

A micro-moth Metalampra italica, identified by Nick, was a rare find in Dorset. This tiny moth lives under the bark of dead wood and originally believed to be only found in Italy. It seems to be extending its range (probably accidentally introduced) and was first recorded from Devon in 2003..

Knoll’s resident reptile expert Rob, recorded grass snake and smooth snake under the refugia.  Tracy spotted a young grass snake having ‘a dip’ in the upper pond.  Tricky to see amongst the duck weed!

Snake searching
© Dave Peckham (DJP imaging)

Grass Snake
©Mitch Perkins

The ponds were full of life! Lots of microscopic water fleas and copepods providing food for newts, fish and small damselflies.

Pond Dipping!
©Dave Peckham (DJP imaging)

Water Measurer
©Tracy Standish

Damselfly Larvae
©Mitch Perkins

Pond skaters and water measurer were seen hunting on the surface and a brief pond-dip revealed greater water boatmen, diving beetles, worms, shrimps, water hog louse and flatworms.

Keith, Ann, Nick, Jackie, Ro, Liz & Jane used their expertise and ‘hunting skills’ to find a range of amazing insects.

Bees on Echinops
©Dave Peckham (DJP imaging)

Scarce Chaser
©Mitch Perkins

Brown Argus
©Keith Powrie

Bee on Scabious
©Dave Peckham (DJP imaging)

Some of the highlights included a Four Banded Flower Bee which was recorded in  the ‘New Meadow’. This burrowing bee has a high pitched buzz and is often heard before it is seen! It has amazing pale green eyes & feeds on nectar from the Labiate family including catmints and salvias. Like many Flower Bees it prefers light soils on south facing slopes.

Lots of tiny burrows, seen by Liz, Nick & Jackie, highlighted the importance of bare earth for many burrowing bees and also predatory beetles, spiders and solitary wasps. As a result of these observations, Neil is planning to maintain some bare areas of soil and help increase the diversity of life at Knoll.

Anthophora Flower Bee
©Tracy Standish

Meadow Brown
©Dave Peckham (DJP imaging)

©Dave Peckham (DJP imaging)

Metalampra Italica
©Tracy Standish

Another insect spotted in the ‘New Meadow’ was a Migrant Hawker. These dragonflies, uncommon migrants in the 1940’s, now breed in the South of England and, with climate change, are expanding their range.

Under the oak trees, Nick used a pheromone to lure Clearwing Moths. These beautiful moths are fast fliers and are notoriously elusive!

Southern Hawker
©Mitch Perkins

Holy Blue
©Dave Peckham (DJP imaging)

Val, Jane, Julia, Helen, Anna & Jean kindly volunteered to ‘test run’ a timed survey, recording pollinators in five areas around the garden.  They provided very useful feedback which will enable us to improve the survey design.  It might be something we can use to engage the public in future years.  Thanks to all for their help!

Our great thanks to Dave for capturing some great images of the wildlife and the people involved in the day and also to all the others who captured on camera some of our interesting finds.

Report Mitch Perkins Photo Credits Photo credits: Dave Peckham, Tracy Standish, Mitch Perkins

If you would like a two page printable summary (in pdf format) to retain – select the image here to view/print

Some footnotes from the Editor!

Another interesting sighting this time reported by Rowena Jecock was the Bee spotted below, she writes:-

“I was sure this was a red-tailed queen bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) when I saw it during our survey, but now looking at the photo I’m not certain: it could be a female B. rupestris (a cuckoo bumblebee that parasitises the red-tailed bee). I will submit this photo to i-spot to see if the experts can help.”

…and finally

‘….unfortunately none of our 3 trail cameras setup found anything in the early hours – later in the day however, one interested party did decide to come and investigate!



Butterflies flourish

The continuing warm weather continues to result in some interesting sightings over recent weeks.

Report and pictures from our lepidopterology and odonatology expert, Keith Powrie

Week 19

A fairly early start, (for butterfly counting, that is) because of the expected high temperature yielded 25 butterflies. Most of them had been seen during the previous weeks, but a couple of Brown Argus were seen avidly nectaring on the Eupatorium.

Vey few Odonata were seen, although a very brief glimpse of a Hawker dragonfly with untinted wings was seen in the vicinity of where a Common Hawker was spotted during the ‘bioblittz’, a few days earlier.  A more positive sighting was made of a Black Darter, flying off from Lower Falls Pond.

Week 18

The butterfly count fell below the weekly average this week. Whether it was the fact that we started early to avoid the excessive heat, as butterflies are not overly fond of extreme heat, nor are we for that matter. or the cold nights of recent. or a mixture of both, who knows.

24 butterflies were counted, compared to the average of 42 for Week 18. Still no evidence of the normally abundant Green-veined Whites!
Gatekeepers & Meadow Browns were few and far between, as were Peacocks and Red Admirals. One Large Skipper was discovered, in a new haunt, by Lower Falls Pond.  The dark background with clear and distinct orange markings, indicate that it was probably a female.

The summer species of dragonfly have started to emerge with several Common Darters seen, plus one, competing with a Ruddy Darter, for territory on Upper Falls Pond.

Week 17

After several below average night-time temperatures, butterfly numbers were down on last week, however, they were still above average.

Peacocks and Large Whites were still in evidence in reasonable numbers and one of the Small Coppers seen last week continued to frequent its favourite spot at the end of the Long Walk, opposite the Decennium Border.

Small Copper

Commas, the least numerous of the common Nymphalids,(Admirals etc.) have now started to appear. Their name derives from the small, white, ‘comma-like’ marking on the underside of the otherwise camouflaged, hindwing. Like many other species, they are attracted to the Eupatorium.


Dragonflies were still few and far between. The Brown Hawker, seen last week was still present. Southern Hawkers were observed at 2 different sites, or it was the same one, twice.

A few stalwart Azure Damselflies, were hanging in there, trying to keep the species going. along with a lone male Blue-tailed Damselfly.

Blue-tailed Damselfly
Week 16

The average butterfly count for Week 16 is 36.

With the temperature in the mid 20’s and sun for the majority of the walk, and astounding 55 were counted today (17th) It is the highest count since the phenomenon of 2014. The second emergence of Brimstones, saw a record count of 12.

Last week’s figure of 12 Peacocks was increased to 15, and the discovery of 2 Small Coppers was the earliest for this species’s summer brood. Whether the warm weather has brought them out early, or the fact that they might have hatched from within the Gardens and not had to migrate in, who knows. The larval food-plant is Sheep’s Sorrel, mot something desirable in the Gardens!

2 Brown Hawkers, or possibly the same one in two different sites, were seen hawking around the Gardens – the first sign of any dragonfly activity for some while.

Week 15

While the dragonflies appear to remain as larvae in the ponds, probably as a result of the cool weather of recent weeks, the butterflies continue to flourish.

This week, last year, a grand total of 15 were counted. This year, more than twice as many were seen, 37 in all. The most abundant were, without doubt, the Peacocks, with 12 being seen, often in groups of 2 or 3.


The summer brood of Brimstones were also on the wing, numbering 6 in all.
Both Large & Small Whites were seen but strangely, none of the more common Green-veined Whites were discovered. As well as the more regularly seen Large Skipper, a single, less frequent, Small Skipper was also spotted.

Small Skipper

But the star attraction has to be the pair of male Silver-washed Fritillaries in an aerial dispute over territories. Whether the reduction in disturbance, due to ‘Lockdown’, has prompted this upsurge in numbers, who knows! Then why haven’t the Odonata responded similarly?

Silver Washed Fritillary


Warm Weather Butterfly Increase

A report from our lepidopterology and odonatology expert, Keith Powrie

The bout of warm weather has kick-started the summer broods into early action.

The average number of butterflies to be seen during Week 12 has been established at 3.6, over the years of monitoring. In fact, last year, none were found at all. Yesterday, 25 were counted, 11 of which were Meadow Browns. The highest count for this species, during Week 12, so far, has only been 6.
The first Ringlets also appeared. This has been the earliest emergence for them since monitoring began.

Dragonflies, however, were noticeable by their absence, and only damselflies were to be found at any of the ponds.

Below is a photo of a Ringlet. Note how similar it is to a Male Meadow Brown. (Inset) Close-up, it can be distinguished by the extra number of ‘eyes’, or ‘ringlets’. In flight, it appears much darker, almost black, as it lacks the paler areas, outboard on the wings.


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COVID-19 – Updated

As notified previously, further action has been required at Knoll Gardens


Earlier Notification (18-March)
The charities policy on protecting volunteers and staff has been communicated directly to those involved.
As the situation develops we may well be required to consider further action.

All garden events have been cancelled up to the end of May but the gardens and nursery remain open as usual.