30 Jul 2014

30 July 14 - Seeing My Last Regular Dorset Butterfly

I saw the last of the Southern UK breeding Butterflies back in the 80s, but there are a few species I've not seen since. In the last few years, I've focused on seeing the other UK Northern species (just Mountain Ringlet left to see), as well as looking for those species I've not seen since the 80s. Additionally, I've been trying to see all of the Dorset species. The only 2 regular Dorset breeding species I hadn't seen in Dorset up to the start of the year were Purple Emperor & Silver-spotted Skipper. Sadly, it looks like I started this quest a few years too late as Wood White appear to have died out in Dorset, in the last year or two. I succeeded with seeing a Purple Emperor back in mid July, but had to wait until now for Silver-spotted Skippers, as they are the last of the regular UK species to start flying. So I was keen to head to Fontmell Down having heard that the Silver-spotted Skippers had started flying there. It was also a chance to explore this great Dorset site for the first time. I would have liked to have got up there last year, but circumstances didn't allow it. There is a National Trust car park which I headed for, before heading out onto Fontmell Down.
Fontmell Down: The North slope of the Down is a mass of flowers
Fontmell Down: There are great views looking North
This is a great place for views over some superb rural parts of Dorset. But after the best part of an hour, I hadn't bumped into any species of Skippers. I figured I was in the wrong part of the Down & managed to get a response from my mate, Nick Urch, who had also out for the looking Silver-spotted Skippers. The fact I hadn't seen Nick was also an indication I was in the wrong area, but he might have already left before I arrived. Nick confirmed he had seen 4 Silver-spotted Skippers & gave the added directions to get to their favourite corner of the Down. Meeting up with Nick he pointed me in the exact area as he was leaving. There was a good selection of Butterflies on the wing in this area to keep me busy with the camera whilst looking for the main target.
Clouded Yellow: There has been a significant influx in Dorset in the last few days
Clouded Yellow: This is the regular colour form
Brimstone: The second brood have just emerged
Chalkhill Blue: Male. The broad white fringes are broken by dark lines. Whereas Common Blue has white fringes to the wings without any dark lines
Common Blue: Female
Common Blue: Female
Dark Green Fritillary: Getting faded & tatty now
Small Skipper: They have a plain upperwing compared to the other Skippers (except for Essex Skippers)
Small Skipper: Note, the orange tips to the antennae
After an hour of walking around & looking and getting distracted by the above species, I finally saw the first of 2 or 3 Silver-spotted Skippers that I saw.
Silver-spotted Skipper
Silver-spotted Skipper
This was my 48th species of Butterfly in Dorset. I've seen the 45 current breeding species: Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Orange-tip, Clouded Yellow, Brimstone, Purple Hairstreak, Brown Hairstreak, White-letter Hairstreak, Green Hairstreak, Small Copper, Small Blue, Holly Blue, Silver-studded Blue, Brown Argus, Chalkhill Blue, Adonis Blue, Common Blue, Duke of Burgundy Fritillary, Purple Emperor, White Admiral, Peacock, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma, Silver-washed Fritillary, Dark Green Fritillary, Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Marsh Fritillary, Marbled White, Grayling, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Gatekeeper, Small Heath, Speckled Wood, Wall, Grizzled Skipper, Dingy Skipper, Lulworth Skipper, Essex Skipper, Small Skipper, Large Skipper & Silver-spotted Skipper. Additionally, I've seen 3 vagrant species in Dorset: Monarchs in the Autumn of 3 years (1995, 1999 & 2012), 3 of the 5 St Aldhelms Swallowtails & a Large Tortoiseshell which spent several days at Durlston in July 2008.