Monday 19 July 2021

Hot Stuff

Something bad has happened to my ability to get up early. So, following another morning of failure, I finally got out for some birding in this afternoon's heat. West Bexington to East Bexington was predictably quiet but, as so often happens, there was still a surprise or two...

The first surprise. This Red Kite drifted E over Labour-in-Vain Lane at around 2pm.

I haven't often been birding in such hot weather and, like me, the countryside was wilting a bit. Barely a breath of wind...

This view towards Portland from East Bexington sums it up. Very hot. Very still.

And down to the sea from East Bex Farm. Almost flat calm.

Surprises two and three were in the sea. The water was crystal clear, and pulsating around just of the beach were several small jellyfish. I don't know what species, but they were pretty smart...

Although these jellyfish were alive they were recklessly close to the shore, and a few of their mates had washed on to it.

Clearly a different species, and there looked like one or two other varieties as well.

Also in the sea were some fish. Not far offshore I could see a few backs out of the water. It was like a carp lake in the languid torpor of high summer. And like carp these backs were slightly humped. Sizeable beasties too, and I am pretty sure they were sea-bass. I left them to their sunbathing and headed back towards West Bex.

Surprise number four...

Two of a trio of Great Crested Grebes. You know what I was saying about a carp lake in high summer?

There were disappointingly few gulls, and my hopes of coming across a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull rapidly shrivelled to a crisp.

Still, heading for home I thought of a way to make the most of the afternoon. If you've read this post you'll know about my abortive search for Lulworth Skipper a couple of weeks back. I hadn't tried again since, but surely this was now excellent weather for a butterfly hunt?

So, just after 5pm I was striding optimistically through the Tor Grass at Burton Bradstock. I've done my identification research, and knew to look for a small circle of pale marks on the forewing. I also knew that Lulworth Skipper was supposed to be quite dull in comparison with Small Skipper, and of course the first couple of skippers I saw were bright orange jobs. I pressed on...

The garishly vibrant Small Skipper.

I assume this is a female Great Green Bush Cricket, but am a bit unsure because of its lack of proper wings. Maybe not a full adult? It was pretty hefty though.

Lots of these about. The day-flying Six-spot Burnet moth.

And heaps of these. Marbled White. Lovely to see so many. Like this one, most were lurking in the grass. They tended not to fly very far when flushed.

Marbled White again. A last feed before roosting perhaps.

So yes, there was lots to distract from the task in hand. However, pretty soon I began to see the occasional dull-looking skipper, and eventually one settled well enough for a proper look and a triumphant photo...

Lulworth Skipper. A female.

In the end I saw plenty. Perhaps 10-15 or more. Mostly they were right in the Tor Grass, and I only saw one feeding, briefly, on Bird's-foot Trefoil. Smart little things, with those subtly attractive markings on the forewing.

These two photos of a second individual illustrate how those pale markings are almost translucent. Neat.

Last year I saw my first Essex Skippers, and it's gratifying to add another skipper species to my feeble butterfly list, especially this Dorset speciality. Although I did have a pretty good idea where to focus my local search for Lulworth Skipper, both butterflies were the result of effort rather than having them pointed out to me. I'm not saying this in order to toot some personal trumpet, rather to illustrate one of the many, very simple ways to extract great satisfaction from local wildlife. A fine way to while away the heat of summer and, if you ask me, much better than this...

Burton Bradstock beach and car park just after 6pm this evening.


  1. Well done for braving the heat and a great collection of sightings too. The blue jellyfish is, err, a blue jellyfish. T'other one is a compass jellyfish. I googled it - of course.

    Skippers are easily overlooked but seem to be undergoing their own little evolution, one day there will be a species for every town.

    1. Thanks Dave. I followed your googling lead and am now genned up on jellies. 😊

      Now that I've found some Lulworth Skippers close by (and Grizzled Skipper earlier in the year) I think Silver-spotted and Chequered are the only skippers I've never seen. Fat chance of either of them on a local walk! 😄

  2. Great stuff, well done buddy! If ever you're in the Land of Steve Gale, he could show you the Silver-spotted Skippers - there are good populatons in the Box Hill/Mickleham area. Jump a train to Spean Bridge and check out the woods upslope of the station for Chequereds, first fortnight of June is about right, couldn't be simpler, haha! What else would you like me to sort out for ya? ;)

    1. Ha ha! Thank you Seth. If I ever need to be in either location I will try and get the timing right, for the sake of my skipper list! 😄

  3. Great stuff! Once you start, there's no going back - bees next, then wasps, beetles, flies even. As you say, the cricket is a young female Great Green, wings still buds - very long straightish ovipositor is a good clue.

    1. Thanks Tim. 😊👍
      Every year a bit more knowledge, a slightly increased repertoire. Unfortunately though, so much to learn, so little time! 😄