Yesterday we decided to repeat our trip to Ballard Down near Swanage, hopefully with much better weather than the last visit. Things did not look promising on the way down, but after we arrived, the Sun came out and it really warmed up.
The first thing we noticed were the Adonis Blues-they were everywhere and seemed to be the most abundant species,, though there were large numbers of Common Blues and Brown Argus around. As usual, plenty of Painted Lady, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Small Heath, whites and Tortoiseshells could be seen, and there were even a couple of Clouded yellows too. There were even a few Small Blues though hard to see. One thing was missing-Skippers, in particular Lulworth. Try as we might none could be seen.
After about an hour we decided to carry on across the down and then cross the road to the other hills. The local Buzzards were very vocal and rather distracting until Colin suddenly found a Skipper. A bit surprisingly it was a second brood Dingy, that was it as far as butterflies went for some time. Three Raven, a few Linnets and Chiffchaff were all we had until a flyby Wall Brown frustrated me. I also got good views of a femal Bullfinch feeding two young.
After a coffee we returned to Ballard Down and searched the southern area. Luckily I got good views of Wall Brown and then another Skipper-Dingy again. A few minutes later I noticed a dull Skipper on the marjoram but it was disturbed by an Adonis. Another was then picked up and we finally got images of a Lulworth Skipper. A search of the main area of Marjoram failed to find any more (despite what seemed to be ideal condituions) and we started to leave when I noticed a Grayling settle in front of us for a moment. Unfortunately it did not stay for long and having spent three hours here we decided to leave.
Noar Hill near Selbourne is a famous butterfly site and I hoped to see Brown Hairstreak here. We found plenty of Whites and Brimstone, a family of Spotted Flycatcher and a bonus Willow Tit. I bumped into one of the regulars who told me that he had only seen five this year-luckily one was just round the corner in an Ash tree. Half an hour went by and with no sighting we gave up. I did see a small butterfly fly off, maybe this was it. Another bonus was a rather battered Silver Washed Fritillary which brought the butterfly day list up to twenty eight.
We ended up at Box Hill near Dorking, overlooking the (for England) vast vineyards of Denbies. Despite being very busy, rather late in the day and with what seemed to be rather poor habitat, I managed to find a single Silver Spotted Skipper, but it was disturbed by Burnet Moths and I never relocated it. This is supposed to be one of the best sites, with a very large colony of Silver Spotted Skippers, and despite searching the southern slopes no more were found. There were several clumps of Autumn Gentian and Autumn Ladies Tresses, so it was not a total loss.