Here we are on nearly the last day of June, and what a month it has been!
At the end of May, I was walking on Iping Common in hot sunshine. the heathland was very dry - you could almost smell the heat. By the time I headed home, I was concerned about the clearly increasing risk of wild fires. I need not to have worried - a few days later and West Sussex, along with many other parts of the country, was drowning under days of torrential rain. Flash floods appeared across many areas of the county, particularly on coastal regions where the heavy rain coincided with extremely high tides. There were some days when it seemed as if the bands of wind and rain sweeping across the country just would not stop coming. For wildlife that needs warm sunny days and low winds, such as bees and butterflies, it had the potential for a disaster.
As featured in previous Blog posts, Iping Common is a strong hold for a rare blue butterfly, the Silver-studded Blue. This butterfly has a short flight period; a few weeks in June, and for them, the unseasonal storms couldn't have come at a worse time. It was a sad thought that perhaps these stunning little jewel like butterflies would struggle to survive and breed in the awful weather.
But then, last week whilst idly browsing the list of latest sightings and photos on Sussex Butterfly Conservation's website (http://www.sussex-butterflies.org.uk/sightings.html) I suddenly spotted a report of a handful of Silver-studded Blues seen on Iping and Stedham Commons in a break between showers. A couple of days later, another report, with slightly higher numbers.
Over the past few days, here in the south east, the weather has flipped from rain to blazing sun with temperatures yesterday reaching the high 20s
Feeling a little more optimistic, I visited Iping Common on 23rd June and achieved a count of 33 Silver studded Blue butterflies during my walk, including 3 females. Other visitors have since counted higher numbers, well into the 40s!
On my visit, although warm it was very breezy and the butterflies did seem to be struggling to fly, often being blown well off-course or sheltering in tall grasses. Today high winds, cool temperatures and dark clouds have returned, I just hope the downpours don't come back too soon.
Silver-studded Blue (male)
Silver-studded Blue (female)
Other treats from my walk on Iping Common included two new species for me. Not extreme rarities, but species I had yet to catch up with - a dragonfly and a moth.
Downy Emerald Dragonfly (mating pair!)
Clouded Buff moth (female)