Friday, 12 June 2015

Butterfly Heaven !

Saturday 6th June and I headed off to Cerne Abbas in Dorset on a bit of a butterfly twitch, arriving at 10am. Having visited the Cerne Abbas giant last month on our Dorset tour I had noticed on the information boards at the site that marsh fritillaries were found there and on doing some internet homework I found out that it is actually a really good place for butterflys.

Butterflys are fickle things - you need to be in the right place at the right time in the right conditions - and so I have never made a trip purely to see them. I was a little apprehensive about making such a long trip (2 trains and a bus each way) but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

It was sunny day with cloudy periods and a strong south westerly breeze and out on the slopes of the Giants Hill it was cool and blowy. However the bottom of the slopes were warm and sheltered by trees and there was quite a profusion of flying insects here - bees, flies, moths and butterflies - and as the day warmed up there were insects flying everywhere to the point it was impossible to keep track of them all.

Within an hour I had found my 2 targets - Duke of Burgundy and marsh fritillary - beautiful butterflys and excellent views. I even had a slightly worn Duke of Burgundy resting on my hand and I also found 2 pairs mating.

Pair of Duke of Burgundy mating

Duke of Burgundy

Duke of Burgundy - on my hand!

Pair of mating Duke of Burgundy

Marsh Fritillary

Despite the beauty and rarity of these 2 new butterflys for me the butterflys of the day were grizzled skipper and brown argus. Having seen my first ever grizzled skipper at Wembury last week ( a brief view only), it was nice to get some amazing views of such a smart butterfly. Likewise it was nice to see brown argus in pristine condition after seeing some rather worn individuals for the first time at Dawlish Warren last year.

Grizzled Skipper

Grizzled Skipper

Brown Argus

Also seen were a male orange tip, 2 painted ladys, dingy skipper, common blue, small heath, large skipper, small copper and speckled wood - making it a 12 butterfly species day.

Moths seen were 2 silver y, my first ever Mother Shipton, cinnabar, a burnet companion and my first ever Pyrausta purpuralis.

Cinnabar Moth

Mother Shipton

Pyrausta purpuralis

Bird wise I didn't see very much as I was always looking down! But I did see a sparrowhawk, a kestrel, a buzzard and a swift flying over and a pair of yellowhammers in the hawthorn bushes on the hill. Blackcap, willow warbler and chiffchaff were also heard singing.

Early purple orchids had gone over but I did see lots of common spotted orchids. And sitting down in the grass to eat lunch and watch the insects flying past I noticed a few common twayblade, a new orchid for me, and almost overlooked amongst the grass due to their green colouring.

Common Twayblade

Common Twayblade


Common Spotted Orchid

Five hours later and I headed off home, the time had just flown by and I had had an amazing time. It had definently been a case of right place, right time, right conditions!

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