Expectations were high in the weeks leading up to this trip to the chalk hillside of Pewsey, as the trip last spring was awesome….but as 15 of us assembled in the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust car park at the base of the Downs, we were not too confident of a good day!
The skies were grey, the wind was on the cool side, to put it mildly, and a few spots of rain were in the air. Unperturbed, we set off through the kissing-gate, and up the hill, where we’d had such great views of Orchids and Butterflies last year. Alas, though we searched, and spread out across the hill-top, we didn’t even see a single Butterfly, and only 1 Early Purple Orchid! Spring was running about two weeks later than usual, and boy, did it show!
I did however manage to find a spider that was new to all of us…a female Larinioides cornulus, the Funnel Spider!
Whilst we took an early lunch, a single Marsh Fritillary landed on a bare patch of earth behind Lucy, so everyone rushed to see it…but some members were not fortunate and thought they their chance had gone, due to the weather!
But, good things come to those that wait….and as the sun broke through and the cool wind dropped, we aborted our decision to leave early, and made our way down the hill and around to the warmer, chalky, south-facing side. On the way Alan showed us a small patch of Clustered Bellflower and we saw the caterpillar of the 5-spot Burnett prior to it changing into its chrysalis stage.
The sun was now out, and it became very warm indeed, and as we followed the narrow chalky paths along the hillside, we were rewarded for our patience in spectacular style!
Over 100 (maybe many more) Marsh Fritillaries we’re out, including mating pairs amongst the males and females, and thousands of Garden Chafers were flying around and courting in the grass. The Butterfly sightings began in earnest, with Green-Hairstreak, both Dingy & Grizzled Skippers, Brown Argus, Small and Common Blue, Small Copper, three Whites, including Green-veined, and a Wall-Brown…all in all a total of 13 species seen by all of us!
We were also fortunate to find a few moths, though not the profusion of Forester Moths that we had last year.
This time, sharp-eyed Steve found a Small Elephant Hawk, and a freshly emerged Fox Moth also gave good views. 5 moth species were counted, including a Common Heath and Five-spotted Burnett, also freshly emerged. Also Alan pointed out, among the Birds-foot Trefoil and Rock Roses, patches of beautiful blue Chalk Milkwort.
So, after initially thinking we would have to abort our field-trip early, it was so good, that we all ended up staying another hour!