Still Beating Skippers

All followers of His Grace will have enjoyed watching his attacks on Dingy and Grizzled Skippers on many occasions. However, it is far less often that we are afforded the privilege of watching him beat up the Large Skipper; in fact I only recall ever seeing this once before.

Yesterday (26th June), while surveying a site on the Downs at Storrington, I was only mildly surprised by the relative abundance of spring skippers still flying, bearing in mind how late this season is still running. I even saw Green Hairstreaks, although they weren't very green. What did surprise me was this feisty old Duke who, despite visibly falling to pieces, was attacking every one of the freshly emerged Large Skippers that crossed his territory. This butterfly wins my 'Duke of Burgundy of the Year Award'.

Old Soldier

This afternoon I stopped off at Springhead Hill near Storrington, primarily to see how the Small Blue is faring. Numbers are much better than last year and females are still emerging, with two mating pairs seen.

What did surprise me, particularly so late in the day, was this geriatric male Duke, still taking on anything that crossed its airspace. The same individual was photographed a week ago, already looking bleached and well past its sell-by date. I'm pretty sure this is the same male I first saw eleven days prior to that, making it at least 2.5 weeks old. Good effort!

Farewell To The Duke

Yesterday (8th June) I performed my final 2013 count of Sussex Duke of Burgundy. For the ninth season in succession I have spent a great many hours surveying, monitoring and studying this species and, as in previous years, I would like to think that I have learned a little more about it. With 417 sightings logged, I'm pleased to report that on all Sussex sites His Grace survived the worst that the British weather could throw at him in 2012. Perhaps the best news of all is that the sun has shone brightly for more than two weeks, allowing the females an almost uninterrupted opportunity to lay eggs. 2014 could be a good year for the Duke.

Fantastic Day

Not the best picture in the world I know but representative of the fact that I found Dukes virtually every step of the way today - this is at the top of Butser Hill in Hampshire 270m amsl in a howling gale! 
As the season appears to be drawing to a close I thought I would spend a few hours walking all of the likely areas at Butser. When I turned up there was a strong cold north easterly wind blowing and although the sun was out it was cool. I headed down on to little Butser and was soon assured I had made the right decision spotting two males basking. I must have walked several miles along the entire scrub line around the north and west faces aventually scaling the humorously titled Grandfathers Bottom, which to use Neil's phrase is serious mountain goat territory - it rises 120m in 100m - seriously steep. In all I encountered no less than 68 Dukes in just under three hours ( which is conservative as I only counted definites - could have been  90+) some were still moderately fresh, others were very worn,  and the one pictured which was the last at the top of my climb. I even encountered eight males all defending a nettle patch no less and a battle between a duke, brown argus, grizzled skipper, common blue, green hairstreak and a small heath - the duke win hands down.
In all I don't think I went more than 100m without encountering a Duke which is credit to the park authority who have created some great habitat - bodes well for next year as they have had the best of weather for laying.

Making Hay ...

The spell of warm, sunny weather we have enjoyed through late May and early June is fantastic news for some of our rarer spring species. Duke of Burgundy, Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Wood White will all have had the opportunity to spend long periods out egg laying. As long as we don't see a summer drought, I'm optimistic that the numbers of these and other species will bounce back strongly next spring.

Although most Duke populations in Sussex peaked a week or more ago, the later sites on cool NW facing slopes are still producing freshly hatched females. Yesterday I counted 46 Dukes over three adjacent sites, including two mating pairs and a couple of females with only very minor wear & tear. Let's hope the egging continues for another week or more.

Sussex from Hampshire

To  compliment Neil's photo of Hampshire from Sussex here is the reverse also taken yesterday, Harting Down is in the centre - Neil might even be there! Taken from Little Butser.
Journeyed right across Hampshire yesterday visiting Dean Hill on the Wltshire border, Bentley Wood then some sites around Winchester finishing at Ramsdean Down. Pleased to say that I only failed to see Dukes at Bentley Wood , but plenty of Pearl Bordered Fritillaries  made up for that. 
I manged to see them in three locations where I had not seen them previously seeing 25 in total. Dingy Skippers are now beginning to predominate but I did see a few pretty fresh Dukes.