Having left my planned revisit here to the late afternoon, the brightening forecast materialised and I was rewarded with perfect butterfly conditions. As on 20th April I concentrated on Rake Bottom, a deep dry valley on the western flank of the highest point on the chalk ridge of the South Downs. Walking in from the top end then down along the valley bottom, I quickly began to see Grizzled Skipper but these all looked well worn compared to that first visit.
Then I began to find Duke of Burgundy that were flying in good numbers. I knew that Butser Hill was a site for this threatened species, but not that Rake Bottom was the spot for them until now. They were present in low scrub all along the valley floor.
Next up came the visit’s target Dingy Skipper. There can be no more appropriately named British butterfly than this nondescript little number. I have only been used to seeing small numbers of the conservation priority species at any site visited but they are locally common on the South Downs. My experience today bore that out. This was the most numerous butterfly present and given the site’s vastness they must occur here in very large numbers.
This species had been frustrating me locally over the previous three weeks, with just one found on the Chilterns escarpment at Linkey Down prior to today. Dingy also sums up my past attempts at photographing the butterfly that always seems to look “smudgy” in captured images. I had not previously achieved a really satisfying picture of one, though these are better than average.
As well as both spring skippers and the Dukes I also saw my year’s first Small Heath and Common Blue here. This is a clearly a butterfly site par excellence as well as a spectacularly beautiful location, and all the common downland species must be present in high season.