24 April, 2014

Noar Hill

Noar Hill has always been high up on my list of sites to visit in spring, not least because of the healthy population of Duke of Burgundy that frequent the chalk downland there. 40 miles is about the furthest I'd be willing to drive for a butterfly, but the supporting cast of invertebrates and vertebrates alike, as well as the stunning scenery made it well worth the trip.

The Dukes took a while to appear this morning, but were soon flying about in double-figures as the temperature warmed, along with several Dingy Skippers and Green Hairstreaks. I was surprised at how docile and mellow DOBs actually are- these particular butterflies seemed much more content with sunning themselves than worrying about passing dog walkers, other intruding butterflies, or the instinct to find a mate.

Duke of Burgundy- what a gem. 

The most exciting find of the day came in the form of a monstrous 'staph', soon identified as Platydracus fulvipes. This beetle carries nationally notable 'B' status in the UK, and doesn't appear to be well recorded in the country- I'll have to wait to find out if it's an interesting record for Hampshire. Best of the rest included a nice array of chalk loving moths- Pyrausta aurataPancalia leuwenhoekella and Falseuncaria ruficiliana, as well as a welcome vocal cacophony of Yellowhammer and Tree Pipit, whilst an almost constant stream of Red Kite glided overhead.

Falseuncaria ruficiliana- my first record of this day-flying tortrix, which utilises primrose as a foodplant

Platydracus fulvipes- The unexpected star of the show... I was genuinely scared for my life as went to pot this one up!

Osmia bicolor, a scarce but distinctive mason bee which nests in empty snail shells.

As you can see from the reflection on the thorax of this shiny Epistrophe eligans hoverfly, I like waving at insects. Don't judge me. 

An obliging Tree Pipit kept me company amongst the Cowslips. 

Early Purple Orchid in bloom by the entrance gate.

Cowslip is the main foodplant for Duke of Burgundy, so you can begin to get an idea as to why the butterfly is doing so well on Noar Hill.

I could quite happily spend the rest of my days wandering the South Downs- a fantastic part of the country to appreciate wildlife.

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