Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Small, but perfectly formed...

Despite some brighter weather recently, it's still been a bit cool for butterflies. Having spent the early hours of Sunday morning trudging around a relatively birdless Portland, some mid-morning sunshine saw me heading for the warmer micro-climates of the Bottomcombe quarrylands, home to the Small Blue, our smallest British butterfly.
Small Blue: note the dusting of blue scales on the forewing
This individual was catching the light beautifully
The sun was in and out and they were quick to snap their wings shut and roost up in cloudier conditions
As well as nectaring on wildflowers, the Small Blue apparently has a taste for dog dirt. They certainly won't be going hungry on that bit of Portland...
Dorset is a stronghold for this widely distributed but still rare species, whose range has declined significantly since the 1970s. In a bit of good news locally, however, seeding of Kidney Vetch, the larval foodplant, and other wildflowers alongside the Weymouth Relief Road during its construction has proven successful in enabling it to colonise. Also at Bottomcombe was a Wall, a species which has experienced an alarming decline, particularly at inland sites.
Wall - a pristine male
In contrast to the colourful upperside, the cryptic hindwing serves as camouflage when at rest on bare ground
Nectaring busily in amongst the Small Blue colony
With warmer weather forecast this week, we should see more emerging in the coming days
Encouraged by the butterflies at Bottomcombe, I detoured via Cerne Abbas on the way home but, like the Wall, the weather had deteriorated significantly inland by the time I got there. It was certainly looking good though with Early Purple Orchids emerging among the commoner wildflowers.
Bluebell at Cerne Abbas
Cowslips - also a good display of these on the Weymouth Relief Road as I journeyed north
Early Purple Orchid
Marsh Fritillary larvae were on the move at Cerne Abbas, so still a way to go before the adults emerge 

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