summer plants of the upper meadows include Greater
Knapweed, Hardheads (=Lesser Knapweed),
Scabious, Meadow Cranesbill, Alexanders,
Meadow Vetchling, Yarrow,
St. John's Wort*, Great Mullein* and
many others. Herb Robert is
found amongst the scrub.
(*notably on disturbed ground.)
Plants of Ancient Downland
indicators on the lower slopes include Dropwort,
Ladies Tresses (upper plateau), Hairy
of which are rarely found on pastures, restored wildlife meadows or agricultural
downland. Other downland plants that are more likely on the biodiverse
down herbland are Wild Thyme,
Thistle, Dwarf Thistle, Squinancywort,
Flax, Small Scabious,
Basil. There are other more widespread
wild plants like the Mouse-eared Hawkweed,
Rough Hawkbit, Lesser Hawkbit, Autumnal Hawkbit, Bird's Foot Trefoil, Ground
Speedwell, Field Speedwell, Sweet Violet,
and Yellow Wort.
Wild Flora and Fauna on Chalk flickr
Adur Wild Flowers 2009
A large part (724 acres) of the downs including Mill Hill were presented to the people of Shoreham in 1937.Local Nature Reserve. This is divided into about 11 acres of grassland and meadows above the ridge, about 9 acres of scrub, the copse and glades at the northern end, and about half of the prime Chalkhill Blue area of 6.4 acres of herbland remaining. 6 acres has been lost to a Sycamore woodland on the southern slopes.
This is low fertility chalkland not suitable for grazing. The top area is effectively a wild meadow and the lower slopes a rabbit warren dominated by prostrate (not the upright form) Horseshoe Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa.
Hill is nationally important because of its population of Chalkhill
Blue Butterflies. Estimates of the numbers
are notoriously inaccurate. In the 1950s
the population was estimated by R. M. Craske
be 50,000. This may be an exceptionally good year. I would estimate the
numbers at that time to be nearer 25,000 for Mill Hill only. After the
cattle grazing and thorn incursions the numbers plummeted to the most reliable
estimate in 1960
of 6,000. The new road and Sycamore woodland further denuded the Horseshoe
Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa,
and bare chalk downland to a figure I have estimated at a top figure of
3,000 Chalkhill Blue Butterflies at the turn of the millennium (counted
in 2003). Almost
all these butterflies are now to be found on the six acres of the lower
family lived at The Mill House, Mill Hill, from around 1933
until about 1967, and every July we saw the
"Butterfly Men" walking past onto the Downs. My father used to tell
us that they were interested in the blue butterflies."
Heather Clark (née Eager), Ryde, Isle of Wight
Postcode: BN43 5FH
Grid Ref: TQ 21170 07444 (upper car park)
Geographic Link OS Map
Google Earth Map
Magic Map of Mill Hill NR
Local Nature Reserve Designation
Natural England: Local Nature Reserves
Multi-Map (Bird's Eye View)
Grid Reference Finder
The butterfly lower slopes at Mill Hill are under serious threat by a natural process known as ecological succession where the woody shrubs like Privet, Brambles and Hawthorn invade the herb-rich slopes gradually turning the downs into woodland and eliminating the butterfly larval food plants especially the Horseshoe Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa, on which the Chalkhill Blue Butterflies rely. The remedy is by expert professional removal of the Privet on a regular basis. This job is now being undertaken by volunteers.
Footpaths at Mill Hill
22 May 2017
On the lower slopes of Milll Hill, I tried to count the Adonis Blues in the designated one acre transect area (which now takes me half an hour to traverse if I do not pause) but at the count of 91 (including seven females), the numbers were too many together at the northern end to get an accurate count but estimated at 125 in the acre (10% females). They were accompanied by frequent Common Blues which almost all appeared to be males. A few Adonis Blues mated. Others were chased by the frequent amorous Small Heaths. Brimstone Butterflies were incessantly on patrol, although one did visit a Bramble flower. Two Dingy Skippers courted and one was seen alone. They were drabber than a Mother Shipton Moth of the same size and similar behaviour. A Peacock Butterfly flew overhead and was seen to be intact when it later landed. The most distinctive find were three Cinnabar Moths which quickly disappeared into hiding. Altogether there was not much variety which included a single Green-veined White. I only visited the lower slopes of Mill Hill, but access was over the top southern part and it looked as though there may have been a late in the day emergence of Common Blues as they were occasionally disturbed on passage.
Horseshoe Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa, abundantly covered the slopes but thousands of flowers were withering to seed. The first Dropwort buds and tiny flowers were on show, and I spotted a miniature Fairy Flax. The hoverfly Merodon equestris and the Thick-legged Flower Beetle, Oedemera nobilis, visited Bramble flowers. Looking up on occasions to the blue sky, there were no birds of prey to be seen. I saw what may have been the white rump of a Wheatear flying over the lower slopes as I was leaving by the southern steps.
21 May 2017
slopes of MIll Hill from the ridge
Annington (distance) and Old Erringham Farm in the background
As a weak sun was shining, I made a quick visit to the upper part of Mill Hill, where a female Adonis Bluelanded on the path in front of me just above the ridge. Occasional Brimstones were the most prevalent butterfly in the late morning fluttering strongly around the scrub, where I was surprised to see a lively female Holly Blue. Small Heath Butterflies fluttered around in the shorn vegetation.
butterfly visitors commented on the dearth of butterflies on the top of
Mill Hill alhough they could add two Small
Coppers and some Common
Blues to my tally.
Adur Butterfly Report
Mill Hill was covered in glorious swathes of the yellow of Horseshoe Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa, flowering the slopes, mostly the steep slopes and lower slopes but also some quite large patches on the upper part of the hill.
were common (over a hundred)
for the first time this year with male Adonis
the way with sixty plus and a few flighty females. About twenty male Common
Blues were seen for the first time this
year with frequent Brimstone
Butterflies, frequent Small
Heaths, just two Grizzled
Skippers, and one of each of Dingy
Wood, a first of the year Wall
and a Green-veined White.
made for eleven different species,
most this year in over an hour on Mill Hill,
and it was only sunny for some of the time and one
cloud let loose a few drops of rain. I also
spotted a Treble-bar Moth
and my first of the year pyralid
Rolf also spotted two Green Hairstreaks
and three Cinnabar Moths.
The small beetle Isomira
murina was recorded for the first
Full Butterfly Report
9 May 2017
Summer seemed to have put in its first appearance with the glorious blue of my first male Adonis Blue Butterfly of the year. It appeared on the lower slopes of Mill Hill at 3:00 pm with the sun still behind the fluffy cirrus clouds. It was the first of about ten, nine in perfect condition, but one slightly torn and ragged.
of the bright yellow flowers of the
Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa,
the slopes. This vitally important butterfly food plant was virtually at
is peak flowering. I noted a couple of Dog
Violets amongst the yellow exuberance.
Two Green-veined White Butterflies, three bright yellow Brimstones Butterflies, a worn Peacock Butterfly and the first of the dozen or more Small Heath Butterflies showed after five minutes or so. A flash of bright crimson was my first Cinnabar Moth of the year. My first damselfly of the year, a Large Red Damselfly, flitted around the short vegetation.
Skipper, Dingy Skipper
Adonis BlueLarge Red Damselfly
Nine species of butterfly were seen on Mill Hill, but I had to wait around for an hour before a spell of sunshine enticed a veritable flurry of activity and the appearance of the skippers, including my first of only a few (maybe just one or two seen several times) Dingy Skippers of the year.Grizzled Skippers were discovered mating on a Bramble shoot. A flash of orange was a surprise Small Copper Butterfly which was another first for two years. A Red Admiral was seen at the top of the southern steps as I left after an hour and half. The first shoots of Yellow Wort were spotted.
4 May 2017
Vetch, Andrena bee,
Carline Thistle, Hounds-tongue, Small Heath Butterfly
Too breezy for photography, too cool for butterflies, and my days are numbered for scrambling about on steep hillsides. Nevertheless the Horseshoe Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa, was flowering in abundance on he lower slopes of Mill Hill with most yet to burst out into full bloom. Three Swifts darted to and fro over the upper plateau at great speed, possibly feeding on small flies. Half a dozen or more Jackdaws were attracted to the steep slopes amongst the Horseshoe Vetch (corvids seen at this time of year more often than not), joined by a few Crows and Magpies. At least one of the Jackdaws was collecting nesting materials of small dried grasses and sundries of which there was plenty on the slopes. Red-tailed Bumblebees and Honey Bees were frequently seen visiting the Horseshoe Vetch. And I stayed long enough to record three Peacock Butterflies on the edges of the scrub on the middle slopes, three Grizzled Skippers on the lower slopes followed by my first Small Heath Butterfly of the year. Hounds-tongue was very frequently seen on some cleared ground above the winding footpath through the lower slopes, and just one Mouse-eared Hawkweed by the gate to Old Erringham pastures. No Violets were casually spotted on the lower slopes, but frequent Milkwort was on the upper plateau (immediately south of the upper car park) scattered with more Horseshoe Vetch.
was in blossom at the northern end of the lower slopes on Mill Hill.
were in good voice from the bushes. I think I recognised the song of a
Lackey Moth Caterpillars in their silken tent on Blackthorn on the upper part of Mill Hill, with Slow Worms, both found south of the Reservoir on a rainy day.
At Mill Hill, to help find some roosting Grizzled Skippers. By now everything was asleep, but a careful search of the scrub revealed 5 snoozing Grizzled Skippers, 2 dozing Dingy Skippers, 3 sleepy Small Heaths and a comatose Brown Argus (which may be a national first for the year).
I walked Mill Hill late morning in the fading 'grey' sun and in the sheltered areas out of the cool easterly breeze at the bottom of the steep slope, I counted at least 12 Grizzled Skippers, 10 Dingy Skippers, 3 Small Coppers, 4 Small Heath and one very fresh and surprisingly sprightly Adonis Blue that wouldn't pose long enough for a picture.
19 April 2017
On the lower slopes of Mill Hill, the first hundred or so flowers of Horseshoe Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa, were showing along with the the first flowers of Milkwort. Young Privet was everywhere over the southern part of the lower slopes. coming back vigourously every year and threatening to shade out the chalkhill plants. Thee was not much to see: a group of five Rooks, Slow Worms and a Common Lizard on the top part. On the lower slopes two Peacock Butterflies and two Grizzled Skippers were reluctant to settle within camera range. I spotted a worn small pyralid moth Pyrausta despicata, and frequent micro-moths Pancalia leuwenhoekella and many small spiders running in the short vegetation. Pyrausta nigrata was not seen. Two Common Bee-flies hovered around the lower slopes.
It was cold and cloudy at Mill Hill this morning with nothing flying but eventually the sun came out for a few minutes and I managed a picture of a Green Hairstreak. The wings look slightly crumpled so maybe they weren't quite dry (though it was able to fly).
9 April 2017
Blue larva with
Photograph by Su Reed
I accidentally caught an Adonis Blue, Polyommatus bellargus, larva complete with it's attendant ant while trying to scoop up the spider! I was amazed, what a find! I knew they were there, and I knew others had seen them but I never expected to find one myself.
The ant in the photograph is probably the Meadow Ant, Lasius flavus. There is no certainty that the caterpillar is the Adonis as it could be the Chalkhill Blue. Because of the date I think the Adonis Blue is much more likely.
7 April 2017
of Holly Blue Butterflies
fluttering high in the trees at the top of Chanctonbury
Drive, north Shoreham, were my first of the year. This is on the way
to Mill Hill, where the highlight on the lower slopes was another first
of the year: a pair of mating Grizzled
Skippers on a dead Carline
Thistle plant. Dog
Violets were now the dominant violets
on the lower slopes. On a hazy late afternoon, there was not much movement,
my first Swallow
of the year flew over the Blackthorn
in blossom, a Kestrel
hovering and descending on ot the steep slopes, a handful of Peacock
Butterflies and a Small
Tortoiseshell, the fattest Slow
Worm I have ever seen, Common
and frequent active small Alopecosa
crawling amongst the short vegetation. At least two species of micro-moth
flitted around in amongst the short herbs, including occasional Violet
Cosmet Moths, Pancalia
Adur Butterfly List 2017
At least 2 Grizzled Skippers have emerged on Mill Hill. 3 Brimstone, Small White, Green-veined White, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma and several Peacock in half hour walk at lunchtime today.
2 April 2017
I went back to Mill Hill with Chris Corrigan. There were plenty of micro moths including a number of Small Purple and Gold. I also saw a Toad and a couple of Common Lizards. There were butterflies about including Brimstone, Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells, Speckled Woods and a single Red Admiral. About ten minutes after I had abandoned all hope, I caught sight of a Grizzled Skipper out of the corner of my, sitting on vetch. It was amazingly vivid so had probably just emerged. Unfortunately in the fumble for my camera I took my eye off butterfly and it was gone. Half an hour of searching failed to find it again. Fortunately, some time later Chris spotted a second one just six feet in front of the spot Neil had deemed propitious. This was the earlierst sighting of a Grizzled Skipper in England for 2017.
31 March 2017
Slopes, Dog Violets. Dog Violet, Sweet Violet
Common Bee-fly, Slow Worms, Hawthorn
Falcon soared and rose of the thermals
over Mill Hill on a sunny but breezy
(steady Force 5)
afternoon. The Dog Violets
were already flowering on the lower
slopes, in roughy equal numbers with Sweet
Violets. A Common
Bee-fly buzzed around the lower slopes,
which were sheltered from the easterly breeze. Peacock
Butterlies were courting high into the
blue sky from which a Skylark could
be heard but scarcely seen after the falcon had flown away.
I cycled to Mill Hill, where a Peacock Butterfly put in appearance over the pasture north of the Bridge, east of the road followed by a Comma Butterfly. Only a few Sweet Violets were scattered over the lower slopes of Mill Hill, so I ventured not much further than the southern steps, but I spotted a handful of Peacock Butterflies in as many minutes.
A Buzzard soared over Mill Hil where I also found my first Slow Worm of 2017.
The sun came out and the air temperature measured 14° C at its highest at 4:00 pm. A Crow mobbed a small (male?) Kestrel high over the ridge. A clump of Daffodils was flowering.
Hill Wildlife Reports 2015 (Link)
Mill Hill Wildlife Reports 2014 (Link)
Mill Hill Wildlife Reports 2013 (Link)
Mill Hill Wildlife Reports 2012 (Link)
Mill Hill Wildlife Reports 2011 (Link)
of Grasses (Link)
Mill Hill Grasses
SPECIES OF BUTTERFLIES DEPENDENT ON MILL HILL
(Estimated numbers for Mill Hill Nature Reserve only are in brackets)
Blue (3000 +)
Adonis Blue (50 -100)
Dingy Skipper (75)
Wall Brown (12)
Meadow Brown (300)
|Marbled White (50)
Speckled Wood (>50)
Green-veined White (2+)
Small Blue (5)
Large Skipper (10+)
Grizzled Skipper (20)
Brown Argus (>30)
Green Hairstreak ( a few)
The other species may breed on Mill Hill, but there main breeding area will be adjoining fields or slightly further away. e.g. Small Blue (included above), Small Copper, Small Tortoiseshell, Green-veined White, Peacock, Ringlet, Small White, Large White, Comma, Holly Blue, Orange Tip. (=10)
The following are immigrants &/or hibernators: Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Clouded Yellow.
The following have not been positively identified (because of ID difficulties): Essex Skipper. This species is now included for a local field on the Adur Levels within 500 metres of Mill Hill.
following was confirmed only in 2009:
following was confirmed only in 2014: Dark
The next one is no longer
found on Mill Hill but were there in the distant (1947) past: Grayling.
The next one has been recorded near Mill Hill in the middle distance past: White-letter Hairstreak
does not appear to ever have occurred
on Mill Hill
The Silver-studded Blue has never been recorded from Mill Hill
The Short-tailed Blue was recorded as a single immigrant in 1956.
A possible (unconfirmed) Brown Hairstreak Butterfly was spotted. A confirmed one was spotted nearby.
History of Mill Hill
Lower Adur Levels (MultiMap) including Lancing Clump and Mill Hill
First Draft of the Article for the Shoreham Society Newsletter