First of the year

I have been keeping an eye on the weather and paying short visits to Butser Hill over the last couple of weeks to search for Grizzled skippers. The south facing slopes here warm up very quickly and normally produce at this time of the year once we have had a couple of days of reasonable weather . I have found that Dukes normally appear here about 5/7 days after the first grizzly.
However it would seem that the earliest site in Hampshire is normally Noar Hill. So having seen a solitary Grizzled Skipper at Butser on Sunday and seeing the weather forecast for the first few days of the week were good I pencilled in a trip to Noar Hill on Wednesday.
As I travelled up theA3 the Hampshire Hangers looked like it was still winter with virtually no leaves on the beech trees whatsoever. However it was warm and sunny which was a bonus.
As I worked my way through the ancient pits at Noar Hill it was very warm in the sheltered micro climates of each bowl and reinforced why this is such a diverse site for flora and fauna. It always makes me smile when I visit Noar Hill to think that it is a man made site formed as a result of medieval chalk digging - imagine the furore such a proposal would cause now!
Butterflies were out and about in force and numbers of peacock, brimstone and orange tip were noted when I caught my first, if brief, sight of a Duke as it disappeared over the rim of one of the pits - result!
This focused my searching and shortly after I located another individual in an adjecent pit which appeared freshly emerged and still rather weak in flight. It gave a good photo opportunity but I then left it in peace to conserve its energy for the battles with other males which would inevitably lay ahead over the coming days.
I have earmarked a number of areas to explore over the weekend - some I know and some are new to me - one or two are just 'prospects' with no form known to me. With the weather looking good hopefully the outcome will be positive.


Tony James, who has walked the butterfly transect at Noar Hill since 1992, recorded a male there on Wed May 1st.

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