Slonk HillSlonk Hill:  A27 Motorway Embankment

Link to Slonk Hill Reports for 2005

30 September 2004
On Slonk Hill, there were so many orb webs of the Garden Spider, Araneus diadematus, it would seem that any butterflies would have had a difficult job avoiding them. No butterflies were seen on a passing visit along the overgrown path on the southern side. At least one isolated Kidney Vetch was still in flower.

12 September 2004
A pair of Common Lizards were surprised resting on an ant's nest on the south side A27 road embankment immediately north of Buckingham Park, under an overcast sky. At first I thought there were no butterflies around except for the omnipresent Small Whites which seemed to be everywhere in gardens and wasteland and footpaths, but then in the area of the Brambles, three Comma Butterflies, one Red Admiral and a Speckled Wood Butterfly appeared in quick succession.
Squashbugs on Blackberries This one was so quick that I was not sure if it was a hoverfly at first as it appeared to look like and behave like a bee; Eristalis tenax hoverfly

The Garden Orb Spiders were spinning their webs. Two Squashbugs, Coreus marginatus, were on the Blackberry fruits. The small hoverfly, Sphaerophoria scripta was noted and then another larger one landed on a leaf very quickly and then flew off. The hoverfly in the photograph above landed on a leaf very quickly and then flew off.  It is Erastalis tenax (the Drone Fly) remarkably mimicking a Honey Bee. (I cannot see any value in mimicking a Honey Bee though?).

7 September 2004
I checked out the crumbly north bank of Slonk Hill, not expecting anything of note. Snails (pulmonates) of two species in the photograph below were both common. (These are not common on Mill Hill  and snails were a target of biological collecting on Mill Hill [? exact location] in the recent past.) The tower-like snail is probably Cochlicella acuta.
Eyebright on Slonk Hill

The Eyebrights were taller than on Mill Hill and the only butterflies present were a handful of Small Whites. The grasshoppers were very lively. Devil's Bit Scabious was in flower. Dense youngish growths of Horseshoe Vetch were noted, not the very small seedlings, but the pinnate leaves lying prostrate with the ground. Bird's Foot Trefoil was in flower in small amounts.

14 August 2004
At first I thought it was the Small Blue again at the top of The Drive (opposite Buckingham Barn on the south bank) and then the possibility of a Brown Argus was foremost, but it turned out to be a female Common Blue. This is confirmed by the spots on the underside.
Female Common Blue Female Common Blue from the A27 bank south of Buckingham Barn (i.e. top of The Drive)

I think the idea is to get a good look at the underside, or a photograph and match up the spots to identify a Brown Argus.
Brown Argus Identification Notes

8 August 2004
Small Blue on Kidney Vetch (August 2004)I made a slight detour along the Slonk Hill (South Bank) trail and I noted the fall in the numbers of Gatekeeper Butterflies with only one positively recorded, but in the woodland Speckled Woods were frequently seen with at least twenty crossing my path. At the top of The Drive (opposite Buckingham Barn on the south bank), a grey Small Blue Butterfly was seen, possibly the same one seen on 25 July 2004. This second brood Small Blue is a notable record. (At this time of the year, small Common Blues are around, but this identification was confirmed with a clear photograph.)
Adur Butterfly List 2004
Adur Butterflies Flight Times
Temperatures reached 28.8 ºC with a steady breeze and high humidity (54% to 82%) (the lower humidity coincided with the higher temperatures) so it was not an optimum day for butterfly watching.

2 August 2004
No butterflies were recorded on the north bank of Slonk Hill in the area of Horseshoe Vetch and certainly no Chalkhill Blues on either side. In contrast over 200 Chalkhill Blues were seen on the lower slopes of Mill Hill yesterday.

1 August 2004
Despite the emergence of hundreds of Chalkhill Blue Butterflies on Mill Hill, there were none to be seen on the south embankment of Slonk Hill opposite the extensive Horseshoe Vetch on the northern side. The probablility is that this patch of the more upright Horseshoe Vetch does not support a Chalkhill Blue population, but this will have to be investigated to confirm or otherwise.
There was, however, at least 15 and probably 20 Chalkhill Blue Butterflies on the road embankment at the top of The Drive, Shoreham, opposite Buckingham Barn. This could be because of the small patches of Horseshoe Vetch on the southern side or because of dispersal on the Mill Hill butterfly population.

Small Blue (worn)25 July 2004
The noteworthy butterflies were the two Small Blues definitely confirmed at the road embankment at the top of The Drive, Shoreham-by-Sea, of which one was in a clean newish condition and the second one in the photograph was worn. My suspicion is that these butterflies were overlooked by me in previous years (possibly identified as Common Blues or Holly Blues). The banks was covered in spider's webs and there were also at least two Common Darter Dragonflies.
Adur Butterfly Database (from 17 July 2004)
More July 2004 Insects

23 July 2004
Despite being the most prevalent of the butterflies in late July, it is not so often that Gatekeepers are observed actually mating, compared to many other butterflies. One 6-Spot Burnet Moth was confirmed in what did not amount to a visit, but more passing by on the path which was nearly so overgrown to be impassable. The apples were nearly edible and the blackberries were almost ready for picking.

18 July 2004
As the sun struggled to come out, so did the flying insects: hoverflies (at least five species) and butterflies (eight species in Shoreham town) in their dozens and scores, with bumblebees. This was just in a twenty minute detour along the road embankment of Slonk Hill South which showed all the eight species, and probably more if I had time to search. The highlights were a completely unexpected Small Blue (the first recorded in July) and a pale coloured Gatekeeper. The most numerous butterflies were the Gatekeepers and Small/Essex Skippers with numbers seen around midday over 40 each and many more hiding in the longer grasses. The other species in order of prevalence were Meadow Browns (20+), Large Whites, Small Whites, Holly Blues (4+) and at least two Red Admirals.
At the time of writing all the hoverflies have not been positively identified, but the following four were definites: the Marmalade Fly,  Episyrphus balteatus, Syrphus possibly vitripennis ?, Eupeodes corollae, Volucella bombylans and at least one much smaller species.
More July 2004 Insects
Adur Hoverflies
Adur Butterflies
Adur Bumblebees
Adur Butterfly Database (from 17 July 2004)
Adur Butterflies Flight Times
Adur Skippers Page

6 July 2004
It is really a pity that the noise of the traffic makes the area of the embankment directly north of Buckingham Park (and the whole of the bank) just too noisy to be pleasant.
Road embankment north of Buckingham Park
Originally identified as a Common Darter 
now thought to be a Ruddy Darter because of its black legs 

Otherwise, although initially unpromising the invertebrate life amongst the varied wild plants was interesting and colourful including butterflies, spiders, a Ruddy Darter dragonfly, bumblebees and their mimics, hoverflies, beetles and Odonata (grasshoppers and crickets). Meadow Brown Butterflies and a dozen amorous Small Skippers were immediately noticeable before the first Gatekeeper Butterfly of the year made an fleeting appearance. At least one Essex Skipper was identified by Guy Padfield on UK Butterflies.
Report and More Images of the Day
Skipper ID Page
Adur Butterfly List
Adur First Butterfly Dates 2003-2004
Adur Butterflies Flight Times

27 June 2004
Buffetted by a Strong Breeze (Force 6) from the south-east, there were just nine butterflies of five species to be seen in an hour in the late afternoon. All were recorded on the Slonk Hill South Trail, mostly at the Buckingham Road end, where there was a profusion of Pyramidal Orchids in flower.

Comma ButterflyThe list did include my first Comma Butterfly of the year and the first in the Adur district (but an earlier April record of one was seen in Tottington Wood near Small Dole). This butterfly appeared more more orangey than usual. I think this is a characteristic of the first brood of the Comma and this butterfly did appear slightly battered and was not pristine. The other butterflies of one each at the western end were a Small Blue, a Meadow Brown, a Red Admiral and a Speckled Wood in order in which they were seen. On the road embankment to the east where the Spotted Orchids were losing their petals, there were just four more Meadow Browns.
Adur First Butterfly Dates 2003-2004

24 June 2004
A Common Darter joined a Common Blue Damselfly with two Meadow Brown Butterflies, and then a shower soaked me. on the path parallel with the A27 Shoreham By-pass, on the southern side near the Buckingham Park end. The cocoons of the Burnet Moths were noticed on the grasses and tall plants.
Meadow Grasshopper on Silverweed
22 June 2004
On the southern embankment of the A27 Shoreham By-pass, near the Buckingham Park end, there were a pair of amorous skippers, but I was unable to confirm that they were Small Skippers* which they appeared like, or the very similar Large Skippers.
The red flying insect was a Cinnabar Moth.
(* The earliest date that I have photographed Small Skippers is 26 June, but they have been identified positively earlier than that. Large Skippers have been photographed from 21 June.)
There were two Common Blue Damselflies, Enallagma cyathigerum, in the long grasses. This was the first positive record of these damselflies on these Nature Notes pages.
Adur Damselflies and Dragonflies
Common Blue Damselfly Kidney Vetch (with the small green beetle)

Plants observed (not mentioned before) included Trailing Bellflower, Campanula porscharskayana, an alien garden escape in the linear wood between the gardens and the road embankment; Wild Carrot, Daucus carota, and Selfheal, Prunella vulgaris, on the bank; Garlic Mustard Alliaria petiolata, Yellow Rattle, Teasel, Weld, Kidney Vetch (with the small green beetle*) and numerous other herbs and grasses. (*The most likely species for the green beetle seems to be Cryptocephalus aureolus.)

Plant IDs with help from by Richard Collingridge and Martin Sherlock on UK Botany
Adur Beetles
More Images (CD-ROM only)
Adur Butterflies
Adur Damselflies and Dragonflies

19 June 2004
On an overcast breezy day with showers and rumblings of thunder, it was the Pyramidal Orchids that had taken over from Spotted Orchids on the southern bank of the A27 Shoreham By-pass (Buckingham Cutting to Slonk Hill South).

Pyramidal Orchids amongst the long grasses +

The only butterflies in flight were a couple of Meadow Browns. There was one Burnet Moth (or possibly a Cinnabar Moth?) in flight and one Burnet Moth caterpillar seen crawling up the stalk of a tall (24+ cm) Greater Bird's Foot Trefoil plant. The White-tailed  Bumblebee, Bombus lucorum, was identified later, the first record on the Nature Notes pages.
The Small Blue Butterflies were no longer to be seen.
Adur Bumblebees
Extra Images
Burnet Moths (notes)

13 June 2004
I have underestimated the number of Small Blue Butterflies on the road embankment on Slonk Hill South as I was not looking in the prime spot where the Kidney Vetch grows mostly on the A27 By-pass roadside at the bottom of the steep crumbly slope, whereas I usually approach from the boundary copse on the south side. A further twenty of these butterflies were seen in different areas from where they were previously recorded. This brings the cumulative total actually seen in different areas to well over a hundred and with this tiny butterfly, most of them remain unseen, so the actual numbers must be much higher.
The first Small Skipper* of the year nectared on Kidney Vetch. (* Only the unmarked orange side view was observed: I was sure of my identification until I mistook a Large Skipper for a Small Skipper on 21 June 2004.) At least one male Meadow Brown Butterfly was restless in the breeze. There were numerous clumps of Bird's Foot Trefoil in flower and Ox-eye Daisies. Yellow Wort was flowering in the late morning. It is also looked as though the Chinese Bellflower, Platycodon grandifloris, was naturalised on the bank.
Adur First Butterfly Dates 2004
Chalk Downland Insects (David Element)
Spotted Orchids
Kidney Vetch

11 June 2004
Amongst the hundreds of Spotted Orchids, Dactylorhiza fuchsii, and at least eight Small Blue Butterflies, I saw my first Meadow Brown Butterfly of 2004, which was restless and settled with its wings closed, on the A27 road embankment at Slonk Hill South. There was also a Red Admiral in flight and on the wooded path there were two Speckled Wood Butterflies, at least two Small White Butterflies, and a Green-veined White Butterfly fluttered past. Bird's Foot Trefoil was in flower and there were still patches of Horseshoe Vetch on the south side, although the bright yellow patches of this legume could no longer be seen decorating the northern bank.
Adur: Spotted Orchids
Small Blue Butterfly
Kidney Vetch
Kidney Vetch
Small Blue Butterflies were not evenly distributed along the bank. In the second opening, only one was seen, but on the same longitude as Buckingham Barn (near the top of Buckingham Park) where Kidney Vetch and Pyramidal Orchids are in flower, there was a count of 12 and almost certainly 20 of these tiny butterflies in view, with many more hidden. It was in this roadside area that I was amazed by the bright colours of my first Clouded Yellow Butterfly of the year, the black edges on bright yellow to the upperside of the wings clear in flight (this butterfly settles with its wings closed)  and the underside with a heavy greenish tinge. It settled briefly on Kidney Vetch. A male Common Blue Butterfly settled.
The small metallic green beetle found frequently on the Kidney Vetch, Ox-eye Daisies, Spotted Orchids and other plants is the Thick-legged Flower Beetle, Oedemera nobilis. NB: the book common name is also Swollen-thighed Beetle which can be seen in the photograph. There is a similar smaller green beetle called Oedemera lurida. There was another small green beetle present that lacked the swollen thighs, or thick legs. This is the female of Oedemera nobilis. The brown insect was a Squash Bug, Coreus marginatus (pic).

Beetle, Oedemera nobilisAdur Butterfly List 2004
Adur Butterflies Flight Times
Adur First Butterfly Dates 2004
British Beetles (Yahoo Group)
Beetles of Lancing
23 May 2004
On the road embankment at Slonk Hill North, I disturbed a dozen Small Blue Butterflies roosting amongst the taller plants near the roadside. Some of them looked greyer much darker than the others but they were all very small and unmistakable now that I have confirmed their identity. I disturbed other areas of vegetation but this did not cause any more butterflies to take flight. The dangerous slope prevented me from exploring more than a fraction of the area, but I would envisage a larger population, but this is by no means confirmed and this could be just a small pocket of these tiny butterflies.
Small Blues mating on 10 June 2004Much of the vegetation, even the Bird's Foot Trefoil looked different from normal, longer, mostly upright but occasionally creeping over the slope.
17 May 2004
Compelled to further investigate this intriguing wildlife and butterfly embankment, I took a couple of hours out of my day for a 30 minute stumble around the crumbling 45° bank. The noise from the road traffic deters any longer stays. However, with considerable difficulty (because of the limitations of my Pentax 330GS Digital Camera) I was able to get one decent photograph of the Small Blue Butterfly out of the four butterflies seen. This was more than enough to confirm my original identification. This chalk bank has only been in existence since 1971 when the road was built and it is a pity that it is a far from tranquil spot because the variety of wild chalk plants would please a botanist, albeit even of some of them are from continental seeds. It is ungrazed and will never be because even humans would disturb the fragile bank. A Grizzled Skipper settled and this was a useful size comparison being slightly larger than the blue butterflies. The first Adonis Blue Butterfly of the year was also seen nectaring on a Hawkweed.
Adur Butterflies
Small Blue Butterfly
 View from Slonk Hill towards Southwick and Brighton
Small Blue Butterfly

SalsifyA dark brown weak flying moth (image) was also disturbed as it tried to hide rather than fly away. This moth was identified by Ian Rippey (Ireland) on UK Leps (Yahoo Group) as the Burnet Companion Moth, Euclidea glyphica, a common day flying moth (May-June) mainly of chalk and limestone areas, whose larvae feed on Bird's Foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus.
Message on UK Leps
UK Moths

There was a rather dramatic large violet coloured plant near the roadside and sheltered by a signpost. This is the alien Salsify, Tragopogon porrifolius, a native of the Mediterranean which is edible but with a taste that is not popular in England. It is grown in gardens and has naturalised in several places in Britain.

Identification by the members of UK Botany (Yahoo Group)

16 May 2004
Close examination of the Horseshoe Vetch on Slonk Hill (A27, north road embankment) revealed this plant to be growing upright in clumps, In this respect they differ from the prostrate form on the lower slopes of Mill Hill on two main counts:
1) the lack of long green stems and leaves running prostrate over the ground means that although the flowers may be impressive it does not dominate the flora in quite the same way as the prostrate forms and there are not nearly as many leaves and consequently this form does not support as many Chalkhill Blue Butterflies, if any at all.
2) although environmental differences seem most likely, there may a chromonsonal/genetic difference; it could be diploid instead of tetrapoid but needs an expert to distinguish the two.
Horseshoe Vetch growing upright in clumps
Slonk Hill North

There were a handful of small dark blue butterflies fluttering over the Horseshoe Vetch and Common Vetch on the steep chalk south-facing bank in the humid sunshine as the traffic roared past. These butterflies were Small Blue Butterflies, which is the first record on these Nature Notes pages. I counted half a dozen, but I would estimate that there were at least a dozen in flight in the hot sunshine around midday, but they were not be be seen when I returned in the evening.  These butterflies were smaller than a Grizzled Skipper. Some of the yellow flowering was because of Sow Thistle and there was an Ivy covering on the top of the cliff. The Slonk Hill banks on both side of road are rich in wild flowers and although not abundant in butterflies, can show a variety.

Salad Burnet & Horseshoe Vetch
Salad Burnet (probably a continental variety)
Small White Butterfly from Slonk Hill north

On the Shoreham bypass, I heard that the Vetch used to seed the cutting faces when that road was constructed was a continental variety, and not the genuine wild UK product. That's why it looks so odd!

Extra Information by Jim Steedman on UK Leps (Yahoo Group)

More Images from 17 May 2004:

Common Milkwort
 Burnet Companion Moth Euclidea glyphica
Adonis Blue on a Hawkbit

Yellow Rattle, Rhinanthus minor Salad Burnet (probably a continental variety)
Door Snail ?

Cuckoo Spit is produced out of the anus of the immature stages of sap-sucking insects known as froghoppers.

Cuckoo Spit Page

Slonk Hill South features on the Town & Gardens pages 2003 (Link)

Adur Nature Notes 2004

Meaning of Slonk

Establishing Species Rich Wildlife Meadows/Grasslands