Thursday, 17 July 2014

High and Over

Up with the larks this morning and, with the weather set fair, I decided to make an early start. Martin and I had visited High and Over recently and we were so busy with the Chalkhill Blues that we didn't have time to investigate the whole site. So, having parked at amongst a host of camper vans occupying the National Trust car park, I gave the High and Over side a cursory glance and made my way across the road to Cradle Hill.

With temperatures rising lots of butterflies were on the move, Commas, Walls, Marbled Whites, Chalkhill Blues and Small Skippers were the main suspects. However, I did note that the number of whites is on the up. Unfortunately I didn't find a single Silver-spotted Skipper, conditions look to be ideal, perhaps they are a bit later on the wing here.

Below the hill is a huge wild flower meadow and it was teeming with Small Skippers and an unbelievably large population of Six-spot Burnet moths, many emerging and getting down to the serious business in hand, immediately.

Wild flower meadow looking east

Wild flower meadow looking west - to the north, a new vineyard - unfortunately they were spraying


I made my way back to the HandO side, sat on the plateau above the steep scarp and watched the world go by. It was nice to contemplate the Cuckmere Valley from another viewpoint. I was jerked out of my reverie by what I can only describe as "a gang" of Gatekeepers, at least 8, all flying in a spherical formation the size of a football. Central to the swarm was a mating pair and everyone else wanted to get in on the act.

There are still hundreds of Chalkhill Blues to be found, and a week after their frenetic emergence they have calmed down and are happy to be nectaring on the huge range of plants on the site.

On the way back to the car park I came across another Gatekeeper, ab excessa . This time a female but, unfortunately, she gave me the slip and I ended up chasing a male that buzzed through.

When I reached the car park I realised that it had to be time for home. It was full of mad hang gliders hurrying to throw themselves off the scarp. Something that I can rationalise as it is obviously a very exciting pastime. What I can't understand are those people who drive out on to the Downs and set up table and chairs to have a picnic in the car park. Just yards down the path is some seriously enjoyable scenery - is it me???

The Cuckmere Valley

A different view of the Coastguard Cottages

Nice to see Skylark plots  - this farmer gets my vote. (Skylark plots are undrilled patches created by briefly switching off the drill when sowing winter cereals.)

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