First Sussex Duchess

Yesterday (11th May) I met up with Charlie Elder, author of 'While Flocks Last' (2009), an account of his quest to see all of Britain's endangered (Red List) birds. Charlie had travelled up from Devon, specifically to see the Duke of Burgundy, despite a highly dodgy weather forecast. When I set off from Worthing it was still raining, but by the time I approached Heyshott Escarpment via the familiar country lanes, the sun had appeared and it seemed a little less windy than of late. We spend a very enjoyable few hours on the slopes chatting about butterflies, and specifically the problems facing the Duke. It will come as no surprise to learn that this species will make an appearance in Charlie's next book. It sounds like a very interesting project, but I shall say no more than that. His first effort got excellent reviews.

We had only seen an Orange Tip and Green-veined White on the way up to the reserve, but soon after 11.30 am the first Duke appeared. Closer examination showed this to be my first Duchess of the year, with a fat abdomen bulging with as-yet-unfertilised eggs. We soon started to find more, including a second female. One pair of males provided my first clash of the season, but they didn't ascend to any great height given the gusty conditions. It was over all too quickly as the clouds rolled in, but I think Charlie returned to Devon with a smile on his face.


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