Thursday, 15 June 2017
I spent all of yesterday wandering the slopes of Pewsey Downs in Wiltshire, a return to my ancestral roots. From the top of Milk, Walker's and Knapp Hill, you can look southwards across the fertile plains towards Salisbury Plain or north through farmland peppered with burial mounds and standing stones. It is a world of big skies and lay lines, a place with one foot still firmly in the past.
From a distance it appears an unbroken green. But if you venture into the steep-sided valleys, or contour you way around a hill, you will soon come across the chalk downland flowers, in places a riot of colour. Orchids carpet the ground, with Common Spotted numbering well into six figures.
Apart from the ubiquitous Common Spotted I also recorded Frog (two individuals showing the variation in colour above), Lesser Butterfly (below, just going over), Bee, Chalk Fragrant and Pyramidal. I have seen Burnt here, but they are a late flowerer at this site.
Although the day was sunny and hot, the south-westerly breeze picked up as the day wore on, that kept butterflies and moths down. However, at least 20 Cistus Foresters (below) were found, some posing well for the obligatory portrait, which showed off the clubbed antennae.
I was particularly pleased to find Down Shieldbug (Canthophorus impressus) which is scarce nationally due to its foodplant, Bastard-toadflax, being of limited range. Pewsey has a fair amount of this plant, and out of six 'mats' checked, two revealed the shieldbug (below).