Friday, 6 September 2013

Old Winchester Hill

View west from Old Winchester Hill

It seems that today may be the last hot sunny day for a while and so another butterfly walk seemed indicated. I fancied somewhere in Hampshire and the sightings page of the Hants and IoW Branch of Butterfly Conservation helped me identify Old Winchester Hill near the Meon valley as a promising location. I remembered that we had done a circular walk in this area with friends in 2011.

I then found Alan Thornbury's Hampshire Butterflies site to give me the low down on where exactly to look on the Hill. What a wonderful site! I am sure it will stand me in good stead for many a happy outing next season.

I parked just short of the official car park, having roughed out a plan for a circular walk including and going beyond the Hill. This at least meant I saw a number of Speckled Wood on my way to it.

Alan identifies two particular areas: one to the west of the car park and the other by the iron age fort to the south. I started by heading west and began a slow descent from the viewpoint pictured above. I had already seen all three types of White and a couple of beautiful yellow Brimstones. Now I began to see Small Heath, Meadow Brown, Common Blue and Chalkhill Blue in some numbers.

The most interesting sight was these Common Blues in a mating dance.

Alan says that the bottom of the hill is the best part and I was thrilled to see four separate sightings of Clouded Yellow and a couple of Silver Spotted Skippers, which proved to be completely distinct from any of the other golden Skippers - more so than the books would lead you to think.

I am pretty sure I also saw a few Brown Argus and, I think, some Adonis Blue - certainly there were many Blues with a really intense colour. This one lacked the absolutely distinct black veins crossing the white wing margin, which is the definitive identifier, and I tried to convince myself that the brownish underwings and possible scale loss on the wing margins, coupled with the veins of the upper wing which looked different from those of a Common Blue, were the marks of an Adonis. In the end I didn't quite believe it.

Having got to the very bottom of the hill and made a number of sideways meanders, I decided it was too hot, too late, and I was too under the weather to complete a circular walk, so I simply retraced my steps.

Conditions: hot and sunny again, no cloud.

Map: Explorer 132 (Winchester, New Alresford and East Meon).

Distance: 2 miles, but much of it small circles.

Rating: four stars.

No comments: