Friday, 9 August 2013

Hazelbury Common trip report

Wednesday 7th August 2013:

  Chalk-hill Blue 
A party of 20 met on a mild morning of light cloud and hazy sunshine that was ideal for the main purpose of the day, which was to see and enjoy the varied insect life of this small oasis set in the middle of well-farmed fields.  Within minutes the group had fragmented into interest groups as various butterflies and moths were being discovered.  After a dismal early start to the year, the last month has seen a great improvement in not only the variety but also the numbers of butterflies, and none more so than the “whites”. During the course of the two hour walk we saw hundreds of white butterflies, the bulk of which were Small & Green-veined, then later some Large Whites.  Of especial interest to most of the group were the Chalk-hill Blues where we saw both the showy males and the more subtly camouflaged females. Other delights were the Common Blues, Small Copper, and both Small and Essex Skippers.  A very dilapidated and heavily worn Dark-green Fritillary was admired despite its rather woebegone appearance, but it is right at the end of the flight period for this species.
Moths were also in evidence with the cryptically coloured Dusky Sallow nectaring on the heads of Knapweed, Field Scabious or Woolly Thistle.  Others recorded were Six-spot Burnet, Shaded Broad Bar and many Silver Y. A particularly colourful and pleasing micro moth called Pyrausta purpuralis was present in numbers on the Marjoram that grows abundantly on the lower part of the slope.  The depredations by the tiny Horse-chestnut leaf miner micro moth were discussed, as the Horse-chestnut trees at the entrance to the site were heavily infested.
Other forms of wildlife were not ignored as Chiffchaff, Bullfinch and Nuthatch were heard, comment was made concerning the parasitic nature of both Yellow Rattle and Red Bartsia, which are helping to combat the spread of coarse grasses that are having a detrimental effect on the traditional downland plant communities.  Dr Alan Rayner identified and expanded on the tiny fungus Bolbitius vitellinus, which is brilliant yellow in its early stages, before the cap expands, and also pointed out the very smart male Red-tailed Bumble bees with their yellow faces.  One very small and very nervous Common Lizard was seen on an old ant-hill but did not linger to allow more that two people to see it.
By the end of the walk we had seen 16 species of butterfly, 6 macro & 5 micro moth species, and a very pleasing variety of other insect forms plus other wildlife.   Finally a bonus of a non natural history nature came when the old  Plaister “pilgrims chapel was opened especially to allow  members to view it.
Small Copper 

Female Chalkhill Blue

Dusky Sallow    

Photos by Paul Wilkins

Thanks to Richard Pooley & Elisabeth Allen  

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