to the Wildlife Reports for 2005
A few Hairy Violets, plus a hand-sized patch of dried out and powdery Mucilago crustacea (a slime mould) near where the Devil's Bit Scabious was at the northern end, were the sum of interest on an unseasonably warm 13.4 ºC afternoon. There was also at least one patch of the blue-green cyanobacteria known as Nostoc commune.
Mucilago Discussion on UK Wildlife
With nothing of newsworthy interest, I noticed that a Sweet or Hairy Violet had holes in its flower as though it had been eaten by some microscopic bug and the Carline Thistle had lost the green on their prickly leaves and looked like the photograph on the right.
There were a handful of violets in flower. As always there was a problem identifying them between Sweet Violets and Hairy Violets.
A few shallow earthy depressions had appeared. I could not decide whether these were a Privet bush had been pulled out of the shallow soil, or were a Rabbit had attempted to burrow before coming up against the harder chalk bedrock below. I am inclined towards the latter from the visual evidence.
The particular mushroom which is regularly found on the lower slopes of Mill Hill presents a bit of identification problem in its deteriorated state, and it appears to look in a rather poor condition rather rapidly.
is probably a very old example of Leucoagaricus
leucothites, without a stem ring and with the mushroom turning
from white to brown in a week.
Nothing of special interest but a small brown mushroom on the lower slopes. This looks like the one I have seen before but been unable to identify. However, the creamy stem colour is different from the brown stem last seen. The Devil's Bit Scabious was virtually finished and there were just a few other flowers on show. Sheep were grazing down in the valley in the field to the west. In the Old Erringham pasture to the north of the stile, Carline Thistle was noted to have avoided the attention of the grazers. The solitary bee was not to be seen and there were no large flying insects at all.
Fungi of Shoreham
Autumn 2004 Fungi of Mill Hill
After heavy rain yesterday, the Nostoc commune seems to have disappeared. Not so the Lasioglossum solitary bee which was still attracted to the Devil's Bit Scabious. I declined to collect this specimen for examination as there seemed to be only one. In the absence of identification to species level, I have christened this one as the Zebra Lasioglossum and the scientific species name will have to wait until I can find a book with the identification features. It is was a reasonably obliging insect which could be examined moving around under a magnifying glass. From the side view I noticed the black abdomen underneath the black and white stripes.
The solitary bee is Lasioglossum xanthopus - the largest British species of the genus, with males that peak much later than any other species. It is a rather calcicolous species and frequent on the Sussex downs. It is graded Nationally Scarce at the moment.
Spiders of Wiltshire
Checklist of British Spiders
mushrooms on the slopes lacked a ring and were beginning to turn a
pale brown. These are ones seen before.
Flowers were exiguous but included what looked more like a Hairy Violet (rather than a Sweet Violet), a few broken Milkworts, even a few remnants of Self-heal, Common Centaury and Stemless Thistles were noted, as well the inevitable Hawkweeds and Wild Basil.
Some Devil's Bit Scabious flowers looked like they have been snipped off. I do not know if this was by animal or man. It looked too high up the stem to be the work of a Rabbit.
Empty tower-like snails were found on the steep slopes for the first time. The tower-like snails are probably Cochlicella acuta. Garden Snail shells were common as usual.
Fungi of Shoreham
Nothing of special note apart from the small bee (photographed below) on the Devil's Bit Scabious. It was much slenderer and smaller than the Carder Bee. Its abdomen was also more distinctly striped in black and white and not furry like the usual Carders. The legs are partly white in this specimen when bumblebee legs are usually black.
The consensus on the British Insects (Yahoo Group) is that it is not Colletes and this small bee is a species of Lasioglossum, but the species is unlikely to be identified by a photograph (I did not think it was anything special when I photographed it).
Bee Photo Gallery
Solitary Bees of Adur
Invertebrates and Calcareous Grassland
I had got over thinking how horrid and slimy (because of the rain) this
vegetation was I decided it looked more like a seaweed than anything else
and it was probably an algae.
This organism is classified (not really a species) as Nostoc commune.
The Nostoc commune is found on the ground, and is ordinarily not seen; but after a rain it swells up into a conspicuous jelly like mass. It is very common and widespread but rarely mentioned.
A single Common Darter (dragonfly) was noted.
The white mushroom mentioned on my last visit to the slopes, lacked a ring and its gills were light brown. The poor quality spore print was a a pale brown/fawn colour. A small brown mushroom had dried out. Few plants were in flower; but they included Milkwort, Common Centaury, Stemless Thistle, Carline Thistle, Devil's Bit Scabious, Wild Basil, Hawkweeds and Yellow Wort. I was not making any special notes and these were just noticed in passing. One of the Yellow Wort flowers had just five petals instead of a normal eight. The other petals appear to grow behind the early petals which are less in number. Around midday, most of the flowers were closed up.
Approaching dusk, it was nearly dark when I squelched the muddy trail.
were a couple of species of mushrooms,
a handful of a white species (now
turning slightly brown, and without a ring) and a smaller one with brown
gills illustrated above. The smaller brown one had a cap 20 mm across.
The spore print was dark brown
(my first successful spore print: not a work of art as when I broke the
stem off the mushroom fell apart).
ID notes: the radial grooves on the cap make me suspect that is a Coprinus (Ink Cap) but I do not know which one it could be? It seems to flatten rather than turn into the conical shapes of Ink Caps though. And Ink Caps are usually associated with woody plants or hedgerows rather than pasture.
How to take a Spore Print (Link)
Fungi of Shoreham
A Carder Bee (bumblebee) was asleep on the underside of a Devil's Bit Scabious flower.
In three of the bare patches on the lower slopes, out of about fifty, I observed the definite signs of new growths of Horseshoe Vetch, but a mixture if ruderal plants including arable crops, thistles and nettles were more common, as well as the beneficial Wild Basil.
one butterfly was seen in a twenty minute
sojourn on the lower slopes. A Small Copper
was at the northern end and probably the one seen before. A single Silver
Y Moth chose the shelter amongst some
Privet. A black Devil's
Coach Beetle was seen crawling near the
top of the slopes.
A few Swallows flying over Mill Hill, with just one Wall Brown Butterfly near the Wayfaring Bush by the path in a fleeting visit to the lower slopes. A white mushroom was discovered amongst the Horseshoe Vetch. This is the one with a ring. The cap measured 20 mm in diameter. I have tentatively identified this one as a species of Lepiota. The trouble is there are 59 species of Lepiota in Britain, although not all of them are white. I do not know if the other white species is the same mushroom that has lost its ring and looks tatty as it gets older.
This species is almost certainly the White Dapperling, Leucoagaricus leucothites. I do not think that the common name is actually used for this frequently encountered species. It used to be called Lepiotes leucothites
In the lee of an easterly Force 6 Strong Breeze, it was relatively calm on the lower slopes of Mill Hill, but there was only one butterfly seen on the brief passing visit and this was an good condition Wall Brown, which was seen at the southern end of the path before the Wayfaring Tree. At the northern end, a Common Lizard was basking in a bare earth hollow, but it seemed to find a hole to disappear into under the Horseshoe Vetch. There were well over a dozen Common Darters around. Most were a weak orangey-red, but there was one that looked more purple than any other hue.
The Yellow Wort usually has eight petals, but I think quite often with small plants, as shown in the photograph of the flower on the right, it will only have six.
Wild Plant Study Page (Large Colonisers of Bare Patches)
Early morning and their was a chill in the air with the temperature falling to 10.2 ºC, only rising to 15.5 ºC despite the sun being out in mid-afternoon. Could this explain the dearth of butterflies? Just a handful of Meadow Browns at the northern end of the lower slopes and a Clouded Yellow Butterfly. More than a dozen Common Darter dragonflies seemed to have replaced the butterflies.
The first two photographs (on the left) above is an unnamed yellow flower in an small path of disturbed land near the path. Although the leaves cannot me seen, I think this is a stunted, or diminutive, Ribbed Melilot striving to push through in a patch of long grass that has become established. Yellow Wort was in flower in the afternoon for the images on the right hand side above.
The male Kestrel flying above the ridge engaged in a courtship ritual with the larger female which was on the ground on the steep slopes of Mill Hill. The male dived at the female who had one wing displayed like a bird feigning injury and one of the two birds (I think was the female) uttered a piercing scream-like call.
A good condition Wall Brown fluttered over the lower slopes of Mill Hill and then more were discovered with four at one time, plus a damaged specimen which gave a minimum of five of these flighty butterflies and maximum of ten, the two counts because the higher one may have involved the same butterfly being counted twice. They visited Milkwort and Stemless Thistle but as usual with this butterfly they preferred to land on bare earth where available. Again it was the Devil's Bit Scabious that attracted a dozen plus Meadow Brown Butterflies. The worn Adonis Blue and a ragged female Common Blue (not the Brown Argus, too large and too much blue on the upper wing) were both present at the northern end of the Shoreham Bank after a five minutes wait and a wander around to see if they would appear.
a dozen Common Darter dragonflies
buzzed around and mated.
It seemed that some of the Autumn Gentian (or Felwort) were just coming into flower, the small plants easily missed. The Yellow Wort had opened flowers late in the afternoon under an cloudy sky. The Robin's Pin Cushions had turned a dark brown and looked redundant.
Rain was spitting just after midday, but for a very brief interlude there werea few rays of sunshine, which brought a few butterflies in flight, definitely confirmed were a handful of Meadow Browns, one dazzling bright Clouded Yellow that flew incessantly over the slopes without stopping, a Small Copper near the Tor Grass, a battered and worn Brown Argus, even more ragged than before, the worn and almost unrecognisable Adonis Blue, one Small White Butterfly and that was it for the butterflies, although there was the small moth Pyrausta nigrata. (A Wall Brown was not confirmed and Small Heath Butterflies appeared to be absent.) Other insects included a handful of Common Darters and an ominous looking black Devil's Coach Beetle. The abdomen/tail of this beetle arches up like that of a scorpion to further enhance its fearsome appearance. It crawled away to hide underneath the pinnate leaves of the Horseshoe Vetch.
Adur Butterfly List 2004
There was one mushroom on the steeper slopes which still remains unidentified. This mushroom may not be the same as the others. The steeper slopes location was near a rabbit warren and the flora was not typical of the lower slopes.
No either brief sign of the sun breaking through the clouds, although the temperature was 17.6 ºC in a Moderate Breeze; but still it was only just about warm enough to send the few worn and battered butterflies and bumblebees into flight. Again, I had to thank the Devil's Bit Scabious for any butterflies at all. A dozen Meadow Browns, some new, some badly worn, at the northern end, with one new Wall Brown, and a badly worn and slightly damaged blue butterfly, which was so damaged that a positive identification was not possible. It looked like an Adonis Blue, but not the one seen on 24 September 2004 as the wing damage was different. It had the same wing damage as the one seen on 26 August 2004.
The Wall Brown was observed nectaring on Wild Basil and the flightly Adonis Blue on Carline Thistle.
were quite a few of the diminutive and slightly larger herbs still in flower,
notably Dog Violets, Hairy Violets, Milkwort,
Common Centaury, Stemless
Thistle, Carline Thistle, Devil's
Bit Scabious, Wild Basil, Hawkweeds,
(few), Squinancywort (few), Autumn Gentian,
Greater Knapweed (few), Field Scabious (two),
Pimpernel, Burnet Saxifrage (probably, few),
Common Mouse-ear (few) and others as
I did not make any special notes. All but
one mushroom had disappeared.
Some more white mushrooms appeared and a very small orange species as well all in the same area as before, in the herbs and grasses to the south of the Tor Grass on the lower slopes of Mill Hill. The best suggestion was the species Stropharia coronilla.
Fungi of Shoreham
After the rain and with the misty clouds rolling over the downs, it was humid (87 %) but still warm, up to 19.2 ºC, although it did not feel warm, it was certainly sticky. Butterflies were frequently seen but there were not all that many, just the one Small Heath Butterfly, the first seen, followed by a dozen or so Meadow Browns, four or five Wall Browns (northern end, not near the Tor Grass), one Brown Argus sparring with a Small Copper, and two amorous Common Blues, the bright blue of the male particularly noticeable as they chased each other rapidly. There were a handful of the "bleached" white Common Carder bumblebees, mostly on the Devil's Bit Scabious.
It was over five minutes down on the lower slopes of Mill Hill before I spotted by first butterfly flying in the distance. It was too far away, but when I arrived amongst the Tor Grass at the bottom of the slope in the central area, it looked like the same butterfly appeared again and it was a Wall Brown. It was unusual for this one to be the first butterfly of the day on the slopes (third of the day overall), although a suspected third brooder was observed in the same area last year. Less than a minute afterwards an splendidly iridescent blue butterfly, a strong flying Clouded Yellow and a Small Heath Butterfly appeared. Such a bright blue, I strongly suspected an Adonis Blue Butterfly, although the upper wing photograph made look like an exceptionally bright Common Blue Butterfly. The Devil's Bit Scabious and surrounding flora then immediately produced at least three Meadow Browns and the same Small Copper Butterfly as seen on my last visit. There were over 15 Meadow Browns, and a single Brown Argus Butterfly was definitely and clearly spotted as well as two or three or more female Common Blues*. A Large White Butterfly fluttered past. Later a Small White Butterfly was also seen. In the field to the north-west of Mill Hill Nature Reserve a Red Admiral fluttered amongst the Brambles. There were at least ten different species of butterfly on the lower slopes in 30 minutes and eleven if there were female Common Blues.
(* identity not confirmed)
PS: I At least one of the brown females was a Chalkhill Blue.
Adur Butterfly List 2004
of Common Darter
Dragonflies were noticed. There was a black and white furry bumblebee
that looked like a Common Carder except
there was no orange or brown showing. This been confirmed as the Common
Carder that has been "bleached" and lost its
New Image of the same mushroom on 27 September
species of mushroom was spotted in a short grass and herb area to the south
of the Tor Grass.
Fungi of Shoreham
purpose of my visit in the brief spell of sunshine around midday was for
a close examination of some wild plants to make sure of their identity.
Two of the large colonising plants were Hound's-tongue,
officinale and Great Mullein, Verbascum
Wild Plant Study Page (Large Colonisers of Bare Patches)
Ground Flora of the Lower Slopes (Technical Flora Images)
In the breeze under an overcast sky, few butterflies were expected and there may have been under twenty on the lower slopes of Mill Hill. The first to appear were a handful of Meadow Browns, a few Small Whites, at least one Large White until I reached the Devil's Bit Scabious at the northern end when one good condition female Common Blue with her wings closed nectaring on a the blue flowers, two more Meadow Browns and a Small Copper Butterfly were seen simultaneously. Less than a minute later there was a good condition male Common Blue Butterfly and more Meadow Browns and maybe another female Common Blue (may be a female Adonis), although it could have been the one seen before. Small Heaths were not seen. They are usually obvious and I kept an eye out for them. They had either finished for the year or were hiding in the breeze or roosting? All the butterflies on the day were very flightly. A few Common Darter Dragonflies were seen.
The black Privet berries were appearing on the bushes. The Wild Privet is threatening to incurse onto to the Horseshoe Vetch ground. Left unchecked it will completely swamp the lower slopes. Wild Basil and Milkwort were still in flower with one Greater Knapweed settled on my a Meadow Brown Butterfly for a brief moment. The small white flowers I have identified as belonging to Fairy Flax and Common Mouse-ear.
Extra Flora Images
|What plants is this?
An early coloniser, in bare patches near Rabbit warrens and occasionally in bare patches on the lower slopes as well.
Hound's-tongue, Cynoglossum officinale
Community and Leisure Services Adur District Council Committee meeting
Management of Mill Hill and Lancing Ring
Adur Civic Centre 7:00 pm
The Councillors passed the inadequate Management Plan prepared by the South Downs Conservation Board.
Management of Mill Hill and Lancing Ring
Lancing Parish Hall, South Lancing
This is the Public meeting to proceed the Scrutiny Meeting* decided by an Adur Council Committee meeting on 4 May 2002.
(* Adur Council ignored this Committee decision. A Scrutiny Committee has not been held and it appears that that Adur Council are not going to hold one.)
on Mill Hill and the Disadvantages of Grazing
It took until just after midday before I saw my first Small Copper Butterfly of the year on a clump of Devil's Bit Scabious with at least three Meadow Brown Butterflies, one Small Heath, and two Common Blue Butterflies all at the same time, at the northern end of the lower slopes of Mill Hill. A few Dog Violets and at least one Dropwort was in flower out of their normal spring season.
Butterflies numbered under a hundred in 25 minutes on the lower slopes including a total of 25+ Meadow Browns, 15+ Small Heaths, 10+ Common Blues, 1+ Small White, 1 Large White, 1 Small Copper and one Wall Brown (near the Wayfaring Bush by the path). One particularly worn blue butterfly, so worn it could not be identified, although probably a Common Blue, seemed to follow me wherever I went.
Adur Butterfly List 2004
After the gales and late in the afternoon, it was unlikely that I would spot more than a handful of butterflies on the lower slopes of Mill Hill in the fading light. The butterflies could still be around but they had already chosen to roost and two Small Heath Butterflies were actually discovered roosting on two Devil's Bit Scabious flowers, so torpid that they did not fly off even when tickled. This was despite an air temperature of 17.8ºC at 5:00 pm. Later I disturbed a two Meadow Brown Butterflies which took flight and a Small Heath and a Large White Butterfly were seen fluttering, the latter rather languidly.
Images of the Torpid Small Heaths (Link)
A small yellow herb, photographed on the right and found on the periphery of the herbland, has been identified by Tina Teearu on UK Botany (Yahoo Group) as probably a chewed or stunted version of Agrimony, Agrimonia eupatoria. This is usually a tall wayside plant, and is common. This specimen seems to have just the five stamens.
As ominous rain clouds rolled in from the west a Roe Deer grazed in the middle of the field immediately to the west on the Adur Levels.
The lower slopes of Mill Hill on a breezy sunny day hosted 8 male Chalkhill Blue Butterflies, at least 5 male Adonis Blues, a dozen or more Common Blues of both sexes, one or two Clouded Yellow Butterflies, 20+ Small Heaths, 15+ Meadow Browns, a handful of Small Whites and a Speckled Wood or two amongst the Brambles at the top of the slope near the Wayfaring Tree (near where the stile used to be).
Adur Butterfly List 2004
Late in the afternoon from five o'clock because it was too hot (26.7 ºC at 3:30 pm) and humid (74%) before then, it is rarely a good time because the blue butterflies would have already gone to roost. And so it proved on the lower slopes of Mill Hill with just six confirmed Adonis Blue Butterflies, of which five of them were females, about ten Common Blues with eight smaller than normal females and just two males, two Brown Argus, and just the one intact Chalkhill Blue, which was a male with a lot of brown on the wings.
Rosehips of the Dog Rose in the foreground
Felwort is the OE name
Yellow Butterflies fluttered by, one a
particularly vivid yellow, 25+ Meadow Browns,
25+ Small Heaths some
in an amorous mood, and a handful of Small
At least a dozen Hairy Violets were flowering on the lower slopes. There was also Milkwort and Bird's Foot Trefoil occasionally in flower, as well as the expected plants in September (e.g. Stemless Thistle).
More Adonis Blue Butterflies could have emerged on the lower slopes of Mill Hill as I counted 31 and I think there were more as the females were harder to spot. In contrast the Chalkhill Blues were over with only eight definitely seen. Two Clouded Yellow Butterflies were seen fluttering strongly over the short herbland on the steepest slopes. The only surprise was a very late Peacock Butterfly flying east to west south of the reservoir on Mill Hill.
Full Butterfly & Moth Report
With many of the Adonis Blue Butterflies worn at the edges, it was not easy to immediately differentiate them from the Common Blues that were also on the wing. There were more than 30 of each on the lower slopes with at least a dozen possibly 20 worn Chalkhill Blues. Small Heaths were frequently seen almost constantly just in ones, numbering about 30+ almost all female Meadow Browns were erratic, not so many, but all the butterflies clustered around the Carline Thistle plants and there were five Meadow Browns and two Adonis Blues on one plant with two Adonis Blues mating adjacent to it. The total of Meadow Browns on the lower slopes alone exceeded 25. There was at least one confirmed Brown Argus and one Small White Butterfly. One small brown butterfly with brown and golden wings (probably worn) and orange upper wing spots was probably an old female Common Blue. Altogether there were at least 150 butterflies of six species in 15 minutes.
is one of the smaller female Common Blues.
It is 20% smaller than normal.
on Devil's Bit Scabious
|Mushroom in the short
herbland next to a Rabbit warren.
were in flower with one example on the lower slopes and another cluster
beneath the ridge near the rabbit warren where a mushroom
was growing. These appear to be Hairy Violets,
although they were originally thought to be Sweet
Bit Scabious was in flower and it began
to show a few days before.
Fungi of Shoreham
The butterfly season looks like coming a close with very few flowering plants apart from Stemless Thistle and Carline Thistle attractive to them. Adonis Blues and Common Blues, mostly in new condition were around on the lower slopes in about equal numbers, about a dozen males each with the brown females hiding in the grass and the same number of Chalkhill Blues which were battered and worn. There were at least two Brown Argus Butterflies on the lower slopes with 20+ Small Heaths and few Small Whites. The Meadow Browns were worn with plenty of females and over 30 on the lower slopes and more of the females close to the scrub everywhere on the hill.
The second brood Adonis Blue Butterflies were out on Mill Hill, a count of 29 males were recorded, all on the lower slopes. A similar number of at least 29 Chalkhill Blues were also out on the lower slopes of Mill Hill. The female Chalkhill Blues were observed to be well hidden and I am inclined to think that I missed most of them and the total was more like 40, half of which were females. The commonest butterflies were the Small Heaths with fifty plus. Other species included Meadow Browns, Common Blues, Holly Blues and Small Whites. There were unconfirmed possibles of at least one each of Large Whites and a Brown Argus.
Adur Butterfly List 2004
was a small mushroom amongst Goosefoot
and near the Tor Grass
on the lower slopes (illustrated above).
The best suggestion was the species Stropharia coronilla.
Woodpecker called drawing attention to itself as it flew with a characteristic
dipping flight over the Old Erringham pasture to the north-west of Mill
Hill Nature Reserve. I had a close look
through my binoculars at the hovering Kestrel
parallel to the ridge edge as it hovered and then descended. I was struck
by thethick black border on the wings, both on
the upperside and underwing.
In the late afternoon, the lower slopes produced a count of 7 male and 10 female Chalkhill Blue Butterflies in a half transect which took 15 minutes with only a couple of stops for photographs. The lower slopes produced the first confirmed Brown Argus Butterfly, 50+ Meadow Browns, dozens of Small Heaths and Common Blues. Carline Thistle was a favoured nectar plant for Chalkhill Blues.
Brown Argus Images
The Privet growths seem to be increasing faster than they are being cleared. In the bare patches, ruderal thistles and arable crops have settled and in other areas bare earth remains.
The Chalkhill Blues all almost over with just 17 males and 12 females on the lower slopes, with one male Adonis Blue, 40+ Meadow Browns, Common Blues, Small Heaths and a few Small Whites.
The Chalkhill Blues were past their best with 45, 39 on the lower slopes and six above the ridge. Other butterflies in order of prevalence were both male and female Meadow Browns and Small Heaths, a handful of Small Whites and a few Large Whites,
In a heatwave (25.3 ºC), it was disappointing as I seemed to have missed the peak for the emergence of the Chalkhill Blue Butterflies this year. On the lower slopes of Mill Hill; my estimated count was about 175 evenly distributed over the slopes with a few in the long grasses on the top, giving a total number of about 500.
the northern end of the lower slopes a pristine Adonis
Blue was immediately distinctive from
the Chalkhill Blues,
which were all worn and battered to some extent. Wall
Browns numbered about ten mostly just
south of the reservoir where the Cocksfoot is, it was difficult to be sure
of their numbers because of their repeated sparring with the Meadow
Browns. These Wall
Browns fluttered over the southern end of
the lower slopes. Small Heath Butterflies
were frequently seen, and their numbers must have been underestimated before.
Mill Hill Nature Reserve
Adur Butterfly List 2004
I visited Anchor Bottom, (Dacre Gardens entrance), near Upper Beeding, for a comparative look at the lower part of this downland, which in historical times (pre-1950), before the "improvement" and cattle gazing, had a reputation for butterflies. Dodging the cow pats in the long coarse grasses, I observed just a dozen butterflies of four species, including one smaller than usual Chalkhill Blue.
I also visited the Slonk Hill North road embankment which contains an expanse of more upright Horseshoe Vetch which is within the dispersal area of Mill Hill Chalkhill Blues, but despite being established for over 30 years, this area was noted by a complete absence of butterflies and no Chalkhill Blues, not even a vagrant were to be seen.
In contrast a small garden plot sized area of road embankment south-east of the bridge, over the by-pass, to Mill Hill contained twenty male Chalkhill Blues.
conclusions I drew were:
1 August 2004
By far the largest Slow Worm I have ever seen was basking on the chalk path that leads down to the lower slopes of Mill Hill. Coiled it completely covered the path, and it must have sensed the vibrations of my approach, as it uncoiled and slid off into the wayside scrubbery, revealing its length to be at least 30 cm.
the lower slopes, I must a have missed a few emergences and the Chalkhill
Blue Butterflies I attempted to count
and eventually arrived at a estimate of about 225
the half transect ramble (within ten metres each side of my walk*).
This would make me estimate about 600 Chalkhill
Blues on the hill. They were already beginning
to disperse. Females were frequently discovered but they could be outnumbered
by about ten to one by the blue males. Many of the Chalkhill
Blues were worn, not yet frayed at the edges,
but none seemed to be in new pristine condition. A few of the Chalkhill
Blue Butterflies had an extensive brown tinge
on the wings. Fifteen different species of butterfly
were seen during the day. Two second brood Brimstone
Butterflies were on the lower slopes of
Mill Hill, although one was in the scrub to
Adur Butterfly List
(* In 2003, the Chalkhill Blues were much greater in numbers and I only counted two metres each side of me so the count of 300 were converted to a much higher estimate of 3000.)
A Green Woodpecker flew arrow-like along the top of the ridge calling loudly.
Immediately as I descended the path on to the lower slopes, I disturbed a female Kestrel in a bush.
Visits to Mill Hill late in the afternoon always find a reduced tally of butterflies and a quick walk around the lower slopes was no exception with just 35 Chalkhill Blues positively counted on the lower slopes with another five mixed with half a dozen Common Blues on the longer grasses of the upper slopes. It is still a bit early for the Chalkhill Blue emergence. No Marbled Whites showed.
Adur Butterfly List 2004
A steady Moderate Breeze (Force 4) from the south-west were not the ideal conditions for butterflies on the exposed downs. It was also slightly hazy which with the restless butterflies made photography less defined. The approximate count of eighty Chalkhill Blue Butterflies, all but two on the lower slopes of Mill Hill indicated the peak time was probably still at least a week off. This is not a rounded up number but an actual count which included just one female. It was mating as shown in the photograph. This is at least the second occasion (and probably many more times) that I have noticed that the mating occurs in the proximity to Brambles. The Chalkhill Blues seem to be about 13 days later than 2003, when all the butterflies seemed between 10 to 14 days early. The similar numbers occurred on 11 July 2003.
Whites were passed their peak with only
two seen over the slopes in contrast to the frequent Large
Whites. A Small/Essex
Skipper was definitely confirmed from
the northern end and these are usually much more common in the longer grasses
on the plateau, so I do not know if I recorded them specifically before
from the Shoreham Bank. A handful of Small
Heath Butterflies were noticed as well
as a few other species indicated on the database.
Mill Hill Nature Reserve
Adur Butterfly List 2004 (including the Database)
In the hedgerows and on the road embankments and scrubby parts of Mill Hill, Gatekeeper Butterflies were the commonest species around with well over a hundred. Chalkhill Blues were now appearing in dribs and drabs with 32 males and one female counted in a half transect trek. Just three males were on the upper slopes and the rest on the lower slopes. This is contrast to Marbled Whites which prefer the longer grass with 20 counted on the upper slopes and just two flying over the hedgerows on the lower slopes.
Adur Butterfly List (including the Database)
Adur Butterfly Database (17-31 July 2004)
Adur Biodiversity Network: Butterflies, Direct Entry Database
There were over seven 6-spot Burnet Moths on the lower slopes with more on the upper slopes. Just one Small Heath Butterfly was seen on the lower slopes.
Adur Burnet Moths
Half a dozen Swifts put on an acrobatic display over the ridge of Mill Hill. On the lower slopes 8+ Chalkhill Blue Butterflies were my first of this year. Just two Marbled White Butterflies fluttered over the lower slopes scrub with Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns, Large Whites and one or two Small Tortoiseshells. No Small Heaths were observed.
Full Butterfly List
The photograph on the right shows the plant gall made by the midge Lasioptera rubi.
As the Kestrel hovered over the ridge, on my half transect walk on an overcast morning, just a couple of the Marbled Whites flew over the lower slopes, where a handful of Gatekeepers were amongst the brambles at the northern end. The Small Heath Butterflies were not observed. No Chalkhill Blues were seen.
was a small mushroom
in the grass by the path in the dog mess zone.
Chalk Hill Fungi
Fungi of Shoreham
At least half a dozen Robin's Pin Cushions were seen, these red galls very distinct without searching for them.
The first Chalkhill Blue Butterflies of 2004 are seen on Mill Hill. Two blues emerged in the morning.
Overcast with a few spots of rain, the three Marbled White Butterflies were seen almost immediately. After the rain, I did notice that the Round-headed Rampions were about a dozen that I saw in the shelter of the hedgerow, with at least four red Robin's Pin Cushions, a handful of orange or orange-red Bird's Foot Trefoil flowers, and a linear patches of Eyebrights that bordered the path.
The Scabious looked rather stunted.
Marbled White Butterflies were the first butterflies easily noticed fluttering over the short grass and herbs. Only three were seen on the lower slopes, but this is most seen amongst the short herbs and grass. There were the usual Small Heaths (15+) and a handful of Meadow Browns, a Large White, and one very orange Skipper with black marks (flying over the Bramble hedge at the north end). The all dark moth (without the burgundy red of Pyrausta aurata) Pyrausta nigrata is thought to be the second brood (although the books will say that there is not an earlier emergence). The most eventful observation was the disturbance of a large glaucus-coloured (more green than brown) lizard that skittered ophidiously (with a pronounced undulation) into the undergrowth. The most likely species is the Common Lizard, Lacerta viviparous. The view was fleeting, less than a second, just enough to recognise it as the first lizard I have seen on the lower slopes of Mill Hill.
There was just one Round-headed Rampion noticed, (this bright blue flower is more a feature of the upper slopes, north of the reservoir). Squinancywort, Asperula cynanchica, was a common part of the ground flora of the lower slopes.
Botanical Study in Yellow (Pontentilla)
Two orange Comma Butterflies danced over the lower slopes in the Fresh Breeze (Force 5). The small and common and easily noticeable day-flying moth Pyrausta aurata * flew amongst the herbs. (* not sure if I double-checked this against the similar Pyrausta purpuralis ?)
On the lower slopes the Small Heaths were amorous and were estimated at 30+ with the occasional Meadow Brown and at least two Common Blues, one female and one male. One Cinnabar Moth flew in the weak sunshine.
Pin Cushion on the lower slopes of Mill
A plant gall created by the Gall Wasp larvae, Diplolepis rosae.
Plant Galls by Gall Wasps
British Gall Society
Much to my astonishment, an early (one week early) Marbled White Butterfly settled on a patch of grass immediately in front of me on the lower slopes of Mill Hill (at the northern end as the path leaves the open into the Hawthorn scrub). A handful of battered Adonis Blues and 40+ Small Heath Butterflies and a handful of Meadow Browns were noticed, but I did not walk the transect, I just followed the path with a small detour and returned by the route just above the ridge.
Adur First Butterfly Dates 2004
With a almost cloudless blue sky, the air temperature reached 28.8 ºC in the early afternoon.
A midday visit to the lower slopes of Mill Hill in almost identical conditions to two days ago produced nine definite Adonis Blues of which five were the brown females and there was two females receiving the attentions of one battered turquoise-blue male on one occasion, and the females looked worn as well. Small Heaths were even more numerous and estimated at 60 plus. One Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly, one Brimstone, a handful of Meadow Browns were also recorded. Nectaring in the Old Erringham grazing land to the north of Mill Hill, there were several male Common Blue Butterflies and this usually barren pasture had Common Milkworts, Bird's Foot Trefoil, Eyebrights and Hawkweeds in flower. A 6-spot Burnet Moth, Zygaena filipendulae, was distinctive.
Link to Photographs of the Turf Flora
were stridulating. A new plant has appeared on the lower slopes of Mill
Hill. It may be just that I had not put a name to it before.
Dropwort, Filipendula vulgaris
On a breezy overcast afternoon the 30+ blue butterflies plus at least one brown butterfly were all Common Blue Butterflies, even though they were often a very bright blue. There were no confirmed Adonis Blues to be seen on the lower slopes (although they have just been too fast for me to be sure). As the butterflies were not in active flight and only rose to the air at my approach, the numbers were thought to be far larger. The same applies to the Small Heath Butterflies when 40 were disturbed. A large battered Brimstone Butterfly, flying strongly, with a greenish tinge was a bit of a surprise although not my first record in June. There was one Meadow Brown Butterfly near the Tor Grass.
The commotion in the western hedgerow sounded like Magpies attacking young chicks.
Earlier in the day a pair of Brimstone Butterflies were seen.
NB: I had my doubts over the ID. I have been advised that the black veining that extends on to the wing is characteristic of the Adonis Blue, but I cannot say I have seen this all that often.
I'd say these were Adonis for two reasons. The first is the lines running across the white wing margins to the very edge of the wings. This can even be seen on the female underside. The second is the relative size of the body to the wings.
Twenty pairs of Adonis Blue Butterflies are observed on the lower slopes of Mill Hill.
25 May 2004
Early afternoon was not as impressive for the butterflies as two days before and the counts were as follows: Adonis Blue males 7, Small Heath 30+ (estimated), Grizzled Skipper 1+, Dingy Skipper 2+, Brimstone 1, and a handful of Small White Butterflies.
There were three species of large moths including the Burnet Companion and a Aplocera plagiata ? Moth. There were a handful of different smaller moths as well including at least one and probably more Pyrausta nigrata.
Vegetation showed subtler changes with Milkwort in blues and pinks becoming larger and more noticeable, the Horseshoe Vetch showing a few signs of being past its best, at least half a dozen Hairy Violet plants were discovered, the hairs clearly seen on the leaves and the blunt sepals and blue spur enabling the identification with relative ease and confidence after being viewed through a magnifying lens. (I am not sure in September 2004, the spurs look purple and the hairs appear only on the underside of the leaves?)
In one area where the conservation workers have been at work, a bare patch has been created that has attracted nettles and arable crops which are first to seed in any bare ground. Where the Tor Grass has been sprayed the Wall Brown Butterfly was absent.
The Horseshoe Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa, stretched up the steep slopes and was spectacular. There were a few bare parts where the scrub had been cleared.
Sunshine was intermittent and rather weak but it was still just about shirt-sleeves weather around midday with the butterflies in order of first observed on the normal transect routes as follows:
Adonis Blue 19 (males 18 female 1)
Small Heath 20
Grizzled Skipper 5+
Dingy Skipper 13
Large White 1
Small White 1
Cinnabar Moth 1
numbers are actual counts with care taken not to count a butterfly twice.
As many butterflies would be missed or not disturbed the actual numbers
would be higher than the counts. The transect walked involves the lower
slopes only from the south skirting the western hedge/scrub on the lower
path and a return by the main path. The distance
as calculated by a ruler on a OS Explorer map (a larger scale map would
be accurate) of the full transect is 700 metres (350 metres each way).
The half transect from the south involves skirting the hedge/scrub on the lower path but returning up the steps and through the scrub to the north on to the upper slopes.
Mill Hill Nature Reserve (including map)
Blue looked at bit different in colour:
is more blue on the upper wing.
This is probably within the normal variations.
was a possible Green-veined White,
but unfortunately this butterfly flew towards the levels
and could not be confirmed as the first on Mill
Hill. Both the species of skippers
and the Small Heath
could have been undercounted as at the northern end the butterflies were
congregated together and there were too many fluttering together and more
than usual could have been missed. However, unlike previous years for the
first broods, the Adonis Blues
were found all over the area south of the path with just one record of
an Adonis Blue
on the steeper area. The female Adonis
Blue (photograph above) looked at bit
aberrant in colour and underwing spots, but I have not really seen enough
of this butterfly to be sure how unusual it was.
At least one Dog Violet was seen in flower on the lower slopes near the scrub.
Back to Mill Hill Wildlife Reports 2004
The Horseshoe Vetch was spectacular covering the whole of the lower slopes where the first butterfly to flutter past was a Brimstone followed by a handful of Small White Butterflies, an estimated 20+ Dingy Skippers, a half a dozen Small Heath Butterflies, an amorous pair of Grizzled Skippers mating, before finally an Adonis Blue was spotted. One Cinnabar Moth was seen.
Notes on Hippocrepis comosa
Horseshoe Vetches, Hippocrepis comosa, are loaded with a toxin called 3-nitropropionic acid (3NPA). Apart from blue butterfly caterpillars of the Chalkhill Blue and Adonis Blue, very few things actually eat it. On the south Gower cliffs it is avoided by sheep, ponies and rabbits. The extent to which the ruminant digestive system of cattle can deal with this toxin is debatable. With large numbers of cattle, trampling could be a problem, but eutrophication would probably be a more significant one. Hippocrepis comosa is a nitrogen-fixing legume and prefers soils that are deficient in nitrogen. Addition of fertilisers, deliberately or through run-off would have a big effect (1) by stimulating the growth of course grasses and (2) by decreasing the competitive advantage of nitrogen fixation in the Hippocrepis population.
Deposition on Land (Message from Richard Collingridge on UK Botany)
the photograph on the left with the one on
13 May 2004 below.
Horseshoe Vetch, Hippocrepis comosa, has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby
appeared to be at least one Hairy Violet,
hirta, with blunt sepals and hairy leaves
This was seen 10 metres or so north of the Tor Grass near the unruly hedgerow/scrub
that separates the slope from the pasture below.
Violets of Mill Hill
The Horseshoe Vetch is now flowering over almost its complete range on the lower slopes of Mill Hill, including the southern end of the steeper slopes that was not showing at all a week ago and could not be seen from a distance three days ago.
|The Horseshoe Vetch is not so prevalent on the steeper slopes above the path, but it is absent on the flat expanses of the ridge.|
all the Dog Violets
on the open chalk face had diminished and the blue and pink was that of
It is almost certainly the Common Milkwort,
Chalk Milkwort, Polygala calcarea, the rarer of the two Milkworts of the chalk downs has not been recorded from Shoreham.
Message about Chalk Milkworts (from Rodney Burton on UK Botany Yahoo Group)
Flora of Shoreham-by-Sea (List)
in height on occasions
a gap in the Stemless Thistles
The only butterflies on the lower slopes of Mill Hill today were Dingy Skippers (12), Small Heath (1), Small White (1) and Peacock (1). There was a Pyrausta nigrata moth and one Aplocera plagiata moth.
Jeremy Thomas (butterfly researcher) has investigated the Dingy Skipper larvae and thinks that this species may use Horseshoe Vetch as the first choice larval feeding plant. This would tie in with my observations on Mill Hill where the main population of Dingy Skippers are associated with Horseshoe Vetch rather than Bird's Foot Trefoil.
A very fleeting visit of five minutes at most to examine the extent of the Horseshoe Vetch: less than half was in full flower, and there were at least two Dingy Skippers in flight and quickly settling on the lower slopes. One Small Heath Butterfly settled with its wings closed.
On an overcast day, the butterflies out on the lower slopes of Mill Hill were at least four Grizzled Skippers, at least four Dingy Skippers, about seven Small Heath Butterflies and one Large White. One small moth Pyrausta nigrata was seen.
examined closely, I am not even sure that turf and grassland is even the
correct description. Much of greenery are the herbs and because the Horseshoe
Vetch is prostrate sending scores or hundreds
of multi-leaved stems running parallel with the ground in many areas more
than 20% of the greenery is produced by this dominant plant which remains
green throughout the winter.
Link to Photographs of the Turf Flora
My first Small Heath Butterfly, the first of just three (these were the first recorded in Britain this year), were amongst a handful of Dingy Skippers and a Brimstone Butterfly on the lower slopes of Mill Hill. The bank looked much greener in the sunshine after the recent rain and the Horseshoe Vetch was in flower but it has not yet turned the lower slopes yellow, accompanied by the frequent Milkwort in blues and pinks. This latter plant seems to be able to push up through turf seemingly covered in more leafy small plants.
British Butterfly Conservation (First Sightings)
Adur Butterflies Flight Times
is no evidence of new seedlings of the Horseshoe Vetch and it appears
that the colony of this plant if it sets seed, it rarely germinates on
the slopes. This will be casually investigated this year.
PS: The investigations revealed ample young growths if not actual seedlings. The new growths are vitally important as they seem to be preferred by the Chalkhill Blue female for laying her eggs.
As the first Horseshoe Vetch and Milkwort were beginning to flower on the lower slopes of Mill Hill, I observed the first skipper butterflies of the year. An amorous pair of Grizzled Skippers danced around the bramble borders, with at least one Dingy Skipper and two or more Brimstones. The Grizzled Skippers were nectaring on Ground Ivy and Horseshoe Vetch and none were seen on the violets. In the north of the vetch trail near the Cowslips there were a few Dog Violets missing their spurs, but with long thin and narrow pointed sepals. There was a small moth that could be mistaken in flight for a Grizzled Skipper. It was only about half the size though and I have now identified this species as Pyrausta nigrata. The books record this moth flying in June and July or September and October. The main flying time on Mill Hill is April and May. Historic records show that this moth has frequently been seen in a handful of locations in Sussex from April each year. (Its larval plant could be Squinancywort.) (This moth has been observed in other areas flying in May, so the book must be wrong.)
In the scrub in the north-west of Mill Hill there were two Speckled Wood Butterflies and a single Peacock Butterfly.
the Horseshoe Vetch
to be missing its spur
of Mill Hill
Adur Butterflies Flight Times
UK Moths Yahoo Group
UK Leps Yahoo Group
A further check on the violets of Mill Hill revealed that the violets on the upper slopes (the Triangle) and the scrub in the north-west were all Sweet Violets, and the violets on the lower slopes were almost all Dog Violets. Their flowering period could be short. The violets out in the sunshine five days ago were now diminished and battered by the rain of the last few days. The violets do not seem to be eaten by rabbits.
On the lower slopes the first Horseshoe Vetch was beginning to flower.
The Dog Violets, Viola riviniana, on the parched slopes were a bit more showy in the sunshine, but the wild downland plants are always diminutive. The height of each plant was no more than 45 mm and usually less. The leaves seem to be concave on the open chalk slopes. On the upper slopes, the violets are past their best or overgrown. In the scrub the violets grow higher up to an estimated height of 150 mm.
Violets of Mill Hill
Click on the images for a closer look
|HAIRY VIOLET||Viola hirta||March-May, occ. autumn|
|SWEET VIOLET||Viola odorata||March-May, occ. autumn|
|COMMON DOG-VIOLET||Viola riviniana||April-June, occ. autumn|
|EARLY (WOOD) DOG-VIOLET||Viola reichenbachiana||Late March-|
on the upper slopes over the ridge
at the top of the woods:
March to early April
on the Triangle:
March to early April
on the Shoreham Bank (Lower Vetch Slopes):
Late March to the end of May. One record from December.
Further observations would help. Some chalkhills are known to contain only or mostly the Hairy Violet, Viola hirta (sepals).
How to identify these violets from their sepals (UK Botany message)
Botany Yahoo Group
Dictionary of Botanical Words
Wild Flower Society
BioImages - Virtual Field-Guide (UK)
There was at least one Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly and a Peacock Butterfly in the scrub to the north. There was a clump of Cowslips in the northern end near where the conservation workers had created a bare patch by burning some cuttings. But this area usually has Cowslips, if they have not been strangled by Bramble growth.
9 April 2004
splendidly coloured male Emperor
pavonia, rested among the grasses at the top of the lower slopes
of Mill Hill. It was discovered by Katherine
Hamblett and Tacita French. The feeding plants
for the caterpillars varies according to location: it has been recorded
on Bramble, Hawthorn,
Privet and many other plants.
(The females of this moth are grey coloured.)
There were six Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies and one pristine Peacock Butterfly.
A Kestrel was perched on top of a Hawthorn bush and then it flew from its perch and briefly hovered before it disappeared from view.
The first butterfly of the year on the lower slopes was a pristine Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly in an orange livery.
Hundreds (probably thousands) of violets in purple were scattered over the Shoreham bank. Because of the rudimentary leaves I was unable to be sure of their identity. These violets appear to be a different species from the one photographed on 15 December 2003, or at least a different colour.
These could all be Sweet Violets. (ID corrected.)
The scrub at the bottom of the slope was full of bird song, but the birds were hidden and I could not put a name to the small songsters.
Back to Mill Hill Wildlife Reports 2004
A handful of workers in hard hats were chain-sawing the Privet and making small bonfires down on the lower slopes of Mill Hill.
MultiMap Aerial Photograph of the Adur Levels and the Downs
Mill Hill 2004 (with new map)
It was only on a sombre but warm, 12.3 °C mid-afternoon, January that I noticed a couple of small Holly Trees, without berries, on the steep slopes higher than the path that weaves its way through the lower slopes.
Scrub Incursions Page
on Hippocrepis comosa (Horseshoe Vetch) plus
Message on Hippocrepis comosa
"The prostrate downland tetraploid race of Hippocrepis comosa is not harmed by moderately heavy sheep grazing and is resistant to moderate trampling, but doesn't persist after ploughing or disturbance of the ground, or in areas grazed by cattle." Journal of Ecology Vol. 61, pp. 915-926 (1973). Notes on this text.
a recent study of lowland calcareous grasslands important for butterflies
60% were found to be ungrazed.
UK Biodiversity Calcareous Grasslands
On the path down to the lower slopes of Mill Hill, a Robin Redbreast put in a seasonal (they are present all the year) appearance. And a solitary thrush dug for worms in the short wet grass. From its pronounced yellow throat-breast colour, I think it was a Song Thrush. Incongruously, it was feeding much more out in the open than was usual for the normally timid Song Thrush. There were a score or more of empty snail shells, more than usual. I saw one solitary small Violet flower, but an absence of any grassland fungi, although in the scrub to the north, one small tree provided home for a common woodland toadstool, probably the parasitic Honey Fungus, Armillaria. This species is almost certainly a Common Dog-Violet, Viola riviniana with a short (not visible or non-existent) spur. The distinguishing marks on the sepals (cf. calyx) cannot be distinguished in this photograph.
Message about this Violet
Another Message about this Violet
Lower Slopes: Extra Images
Plan of Mill Hill
in the North-west of Mill Hill NR
Waterworks Road & Butterfly Copse 2004
comosa (Horseshoe Vetch)
Mill Hill (lower slopes) Flora Images (technical)