Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Unexpected Wanderer

Late this morning I ventured out for a little 'wellness check', arriving at Cogden around 11:15. My first outing for almost a week, so I was wary of overdoing it and figured a short, circular route would be enough for now. Slowly I plodded east from the car park, traversing the first four fields and then dropping down to the coast path. I felt fairly okay at this point, but it seemed wise to loop back towards the car now rather than press on any further east. I'd seen nothing of note. A couple of Chiffs calling from the hedges, but really it was dead quiet.

I spent a lot of time looking down. The meadows are just awash with flowers, and look fantastic. I wish I'd taken some pics now. Butterflies everywhere, and the odd bit of Tor-grass had me checking the skippers, but I only saw Small Skippers. There was an interesting moment when a plant stopped me in my tracks. It had tiny, intricate flowers of the kind which open sequentially along a spike. Some were in perfect condition, while those below were blown and those above, in bud still. Looking around, there was quite a lot of it. Momentarily I wondered what it was, and considered taking some photos in order to find out later. And then I had what might have been a small watershed moment: I suddenly realised I didn't care what its name was. I had looked at it, enjoyed it, and somehow that seemed to suffice. This kind of thing has happened before, but never registered quite so powerfully. At times my curiosity and wonder is satisfied by just looking and marvelling, and naming seems superfluous...

I continued along the coast path, intending to head uphill soon to return to the car. There is some low scrub at the back of the beach, and I noticed a butterfly flying across it, heading west like me. It had that 'off-white' appearance that Marbled Whites do, and I assumed that's what it was. It landed on a flower. Not close, so I raised my bins. And was astounded to see, not a Marbled White, but a strikingly pale blue butterfly. Surely a Chalk Hill Blue? I wrestled the camera out and managed just one shot before it flew again, disappearing over the inland side of the scrub. My route back to the car was now set for me, but sadly there was no sign of it.

12:06 on 3/8/21: Male Chalk Hill Blue, Cogden.

I know it sounds daft, but I think this is only the third time I've knowingly seen Chalk Hill Blue. My first were at Branscombe, near Beer in East Devon. There was a tiny colony at the foot of the chalk undercliff, which I believe is long gone now. Next, on Portland last summer. Loads of them. And now this one. As far as I'm aware, the Portland population is the nearest, or maybe those on the Weymouth relief road, between Weymouth and Dorchester. To see one at Cogden seemed bizarre, but what do I know? So I texted Mike and asked if Chalk Hill Blue at Cogden was unusual. Er...yes. It was. Apparently it has never previously been recorded on the West Bex & Cogden patch.

Anyway, I'm a bit concerned now. I've hardly been out at all in the last week or so, yet last Monday there was Melodious Warbler, and now this. Is all my autumn fairy dust used up already...?

8 comments:

  1. I know you will have read it, Gavin, but your NQS posts are starting to remind me of Gilbert White's daily peregrinations that he recorded in A Natural History of Selborne. Nothing to do with rarity status, just a keen eye and a delight in everything around him. Of course, he didn't have to tackle the hot potato of low-carbon birding. Seriously, though, I read that classic at least once a year, and it is a marvellous antidote to the somewhat frenetic world of natural history observation in the 21st century.

    Malcolm

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    1. I'm not sure why, but no, I've never read it, Malcolm, not even a library copy. But your comment prompted me to order a second-hand copy to add to my reading list.

      Thanks ever so much for your kind words. They are much appreciated, because if there is one thing that I would really hope comes across in this blog, it is the uncomplicated pleasure I derive from my time in the natural world. Especially birds of course, but I genuinely do take delight in everything around me.

      Except horse-flies obviously...

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  2. Glad you're feeling better Gav. I have to admit that my list of botanical names is negligible. Nothing much beyond thistles, nettles and dandelions. I do however have alternative names for horse-flies, usually prefixed with 'f'ing.

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    1. Thanks Ric, this lurgy is very stubborn - I'm definitely not out of the woods yet. One problem I have with plant names is that many don't stick properly, and I forget them.

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  3. Your CHB could be the pioneer for a new colony and you'll be knee deep in them soon. Then again... Great spot though and a stunning little insect.

    Go easy on yourself as you get your stamina back. I've had two bouts of man-flu since early May and they would give me a good few days then took my legs out again. Yesterday I played football with the grandbrats so I guess I'm better now.

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    1. Cheers Dave, my wife has offered (offered?! Ha! 😄) similar advice and I'm taking it. A slow, early walk today felt okay, but easy does it...

      I wondered about the 'pioneer' possibility too. Presumably they need to find the foodplant and some friendly ants of the correct denomination. A tall order.

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  4. Until a few days ago I’d only ever seen one Chalk-Hill Blue, Monday I went out and saw thousands of them - stunning butterflies - nice one!

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