Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Lulworth Skipper

The weather has not been brilliant but it has still been a good spring for birding. Here we are nearly half way through June and there are still good birds turning up. Last year it all seemed to dry up towards the end of May and Dave and I switched over to concentrate on Butterflies for the summer. The problem is, that this has left outstanding business for us. Forty eight butterflies seen last year but another ten to go to get the full set.

I should have been reporting Large Blue in the bag but unfortunately a six hour two hundred and fifty mile round trip to Collard Hill on Monday left us empty handed, despite one seen flying there the day before. Enthusiasm undaunted we headed of today for Ballard Down near Swanage to look for the Lulworth Skipper. A slightly more acceptable five hour two hundred mile round trip. At least this time we were successful.

I don't even attempt to explain to anyone why I would want to sit in traffic for five or six hours to see a butterfly that I then have difficulty telling from a similar one that I can find half a mile from home. I think it's something about grown up train spotting.

We parked at the village of Ulwell and walked the short distance up onto the lower slopes of Ballard Down. Even at nine in the morning there were lots of butterflies on the wing, Large Skippers, Common Blue, Adonis Blue, Meadow Brown, Dingy Skippers, Small Heath, and Dave even found a couple of Green Hairstreaks. But, no Lulworth Skippers.

Large Skipper - close but its no Lulworth

Large Skipper - forewing with diagnostic lighter panels and distinct dark sex brands for the male 

Fortunately a couple of locals came to our help and pointed us in the right direction to find the Lulworths. A short walk and we found our first specimen. Smaller and darker than the other "orange" skippers and with other diagnostic features but you have to look closely. These pictures are all of males. I didn't see a female or if I did I failed to photograph it, which is sad, as the colours and markings are more distinct on the female. Does this mean a return trip?

Lulworth Skipper - darker colour especially the males and sex brands less ditinctive

Lulworth Skipper - showing "cresent of rays" in lighter wing panels - more distinct on female

Lulworth Skipper - plain pale underside.

Lulworth Skipper

As the day warmed up the butterflies became more active. We were on a sixty degree slope and it became harder and harder to keep up with their rapid movement. I had intended to photograph all the other butterflies we could see but in the end it just got too hot and we retreated in search of a cold drink. I missed some beautiful Adonis Blue specimens and then Large Whites and Orange Tips down near where we had parked the car but here are a couple of others that were flying.

Brown Argus

Dingy Skipper

Small Heath

Forty Nine up but there are still a lot of miles to do. I can see that this is going to require a bit of manipulation of our future family holiday plans.

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