Tuesday, 5 July 2022

Culverhole Revisited

It is just over a year since my last visit to Culverhole, a quiet little spot rich in plants and creatures, on the Jurassic coast east of Axmouth. Today I finished work a bit early and headed out along the shingle. I had two targets. One, Marsh Fragrant Orchid. I already knew that at least two were present recently, so had no doubt they still would be! And two, Cliff Tiger Beetle. Last year I flukily came across one of these rare beasts - my first - and got a couple of poor photos. This time I wanted to find one on purpose and get better pics, if possible.

Things went pretty well...

The shingly plod was instantly rewarded with these 5 Med Gulls, plus at least another four offshore


Two Marsh Fragrant Orchids, settled and showing well. It felt like they were in exactly the same spot as last year's singleton.

A rich lushness of Marsh Helleborines.

With invert-hunting my main priority this time, I didn't really go to town on the flowers. Suffice to say there were hundreds of Marsh Helleborines, but most of the other orchids (Southern Marsh mainly) had gone over.

I spent a lot of time scanning the deck for scuttling things. I expected a lot of spiders, but amazingly the very first thing that caught my eye was a Cliff Tiger Beetle! It dodged and weaved, and eventually vanished in the vegetation before I could get any photos. Needless to say, the next hundred scuttling things were indeed spiders.

There was lots of other stuff to look at though...

I am pretty sure this is a teneral Keeled Skimmer.

Obviously I had an eye out for moths. This one as yet unidentified. Judging by its plain brown-ness, it might stay that way.

Serious jaws on these flies. I did look them up, and got as far as family, but can't remember what it was. Began with 'C' I think. I can't even cope with moths, so flies have go no chance.

Another Keeled Skimmer. Female I presume.

Safe ground at last. Male Keeled Skimmer. Definitely.

Keeled Skimmer was easily the most numerous dragon. I got plenty of photos, which means...

...I've got to use them.

Another as-yet-unidentified moth.

Finally, after several thousand spiders, another Cliff Tiger Beetle. Unbelievably it paused for a millisecond, so I got a record shot...

Cliff Tiger Beetle. Obviously.

The vegetation was short enough and sparse enough that I could follow it quite easily, but it rarely stopped moving, and I thought my chances of a decent-ish photo were slim. But then I had an idea...

Cliff Tiger Beetle. In the shade here, so not much colour.

In the sun. About as colourful as it gets.

The idea? Pretty obvious really. A bit of judicious 'shepherding'...

You. Shall. Not. Pass.

Actually, this only held it up for a few seconds, if that. Mostly it just changed direction without stopping.

A very satisfying encounter with this rare little beetle.

Finally, to cap things off, a couple of macro-moths on the way back...

Flushed off the beach - a Common Wave. We've had this one in the trap.

On the path back from the river mouth - Chalk Carpet. A new one for me, and not that common I think...though perhaps they are along this stretch of coast. Best shot I managed before it was flushed by a passing cyclist.

And home for dinner...


  1. A great haul but I love the tiger beetle.

    1. Cheers Dave, the beetle was excellent fun. 😊

  2. For the small brown moth, image recognition at says: Celypha lacunana - The dark strawberry tortrix

    1. Is that you, Ric? And yes, your suggestion looks spot on. It's dead common, so I'll have it! 😄👍

  3. Alas no Gav. I'm way too simple minded to cope with the erudite machinations required for moth ID.

    1. Ah, apologies Ric.

      PS. I doubt that. 😊

  4. Hi Gav, What a great spot that is. Your micro is indeed lacunana. The flies I think are what we colloquially know as 'Humpty-back Shaggers' as that is all they ever do! The real name is Sicus ferrugineus. Your other moth is a worn Pyrausta but Im not sure which, at least Ive narrowed your search...

    1. Excellent, thanks for your help, Stew. Culverhole is a little oasis. It's a fair old walk along shingle to get there, and no proper paths, so never anyone else there.