30 Jul 2017

30 July 17 - Butterflies on the Edge

In 2014, I spent a lot of time trying to see the regular breeding Butterflies that occurred in Dorset that I hadn't seen to date, as well as, trying to get photographs of as many of the Dorset Butterflies as I could. Photos of  many of the Dorset species were added to the Blog during the year with a couple of round up Posts: Whites, Hairstreaks & Blues & Nymphalidae (Aristocrats, Fritillaries & Browns) and Skippers. At the time, there were considered to be 45 breeding Dorset Butterflies left, with the news that Wood White had probably gone from the county, following its demise at Powerstock Common. So I was probably a few years to late to see a Dorset Wood White. The nearest colony was in Devon. At the time, I was told that they occasionally had flown over the border in previous years, but that hadn't been any recent records that my mate knew of. So I was resigned to the likelihood that I should have made more effort in my earlier years of living in Dorset. But fortunately, people have kept looking & I recently heard one of the Dorset Birders had managed to see some about a week ago. It was then a case of having to hope for decent weather this weekend. Yesterday was far too windy first thing & then went downhill as the rain set in for the rest of the day. Further heavy overnight rain didn't help, but it looked more promising this morning. So following clear signs of blue skies at home this morning, I had a hurried chat with Peter Moore, before we decided to head West. Even better, it was still sunny when we arrived. Soon after we were at the site to find James Lowther & his wife had beaten us there, but no sign of the Wood Whites. We spread out to look & about ten minutes later, Peter had found one at roost. By the time I got there it had flown, but it quickly settled down again in a more promising position for photos.
Wood White: A species I never expected to see in Dorset
Soon after it started warming up & we were regularly seeing sightings of the approximately ten individuals there. They were quite easy to pick out in flight having a much weaker & fluttery flight compared to the true Whites. There were also a couple each of Dingy Skippers & Clouded Yellows there, but neither were particularly photogenic & more flighty. No photos of either as I didn't want to get distracted from the Wood Whites. A lot of the Butterflies seem to be having a good year in 2017 & I guess they have just expanded a little bit onto the Dorset side of the border.
Wood White: Preparations for the next generation. Male to the left
This brings me to 49 species of Butterflies seen in Dorset, having seen vagrant Swallowtails, Large Tortoiseshell (Durlston) & Monarchs (Winspit (1995 & 1999) & Portland (2012)). This excludes the Swanage Maps which are now understood to be an illegal introduction, (surely accidental escape according to the individual involved to escape a potential prosecution - Ed). I guess it's too much to hope that there are still Pearl-bordered Fritillaries tucked away somewhere waiting to be rediscovered in Dorset since they disappeared. Probably the most like species for no 50 for Dorset will be a Long-tailed Blue.