Despite an overcast windy day on Sunday 19th June 2022, 9 of us managed to stay dry and find butterflies in a sheltered spot in the lee of the wind, on warm south facing banks. Our target species was Silver-studded Blue, Small Heath and Fritillary (chequered). Half of the team had never seen a Sliver-studded Blue Plebejus argus so the excitement was brimming, and people were thrilled when the first one was found. We managed to record 16 more but the only other butterfly we spotted was Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina.
As we walked, talked and kept a keen eye close to the ground, we recorded 53 plants and sighted grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, a slow worm and many day flying moths. We also found the caterpillar and pupa of the six-spot burnet moth.
To everyone’s delight, seven choughs tumbled along the cliffs together as we looked out to sea. Susan Wilthew has reported the sighting. Skylarks, buzzards, black caps, goldfinches, a gannet and magpies also accompanied us.
Since 2007, I have been recording butterflies on the cliffs as you walk south towards the bar with butterfly expert Phil Harris. Each year people join in and help to record the day. Phil teaches newcomers how to look for butterflies and also about the amazing life cycle of the Silver-studded Blue. On some years the team makes it to the bar or into the trees but often they get caught up with the Sliver-studded Blue colony – studying the mutualistic symbiotic relationship between it and two species of black ant, Lasius niger and Lasius alienusits, and its foodstuff common bird’s-foot-trefoil – and barely make it to the coastal gate that marks the Penrose Estate.
Over the years changes in the vegetation and general lay of the land as well as the butterfly colony are tracked. The good news is, the colony is surviving. On warm days with warm dry weather running up to the recording day, you get the best records – we recorded 84 in 2017 and 130 in 2010. Phil also believes, thanks to the work of the National Trust, the chance for the butterfly colony to expand is looking good, due to the habitat management on the fields next to the cliff top.
We always have a cream tea on the cliffs and listen to the sounds whilst resting from the work. Everyone always does a brilliant job at recording, learning how to tune in to the different elements of the day.
The recorders were: Linda Blouldstridge (photographs), Michelle Costello, Gill Gilchrist, Mike Newell, Rosemary and Miriam Stone and Sue Wilthew.
With thanks to Wildlife Groundswell for advertising the event and sharing this report.