Wednesday 20 May 2020

Hot Butterflies and Birds... 20th May 2020

With such glorious weather it seemed a shame to waste it so another fairly local venture was called for and by 10.30am I was exploring Hutchinson’s Bank LWT reserve just into Surrey and south east of Croydon.  With no traffic it was only 40 minutes from home!

This chalk downland site is known for its butterflies and the Small Blues have been overshadowed by the thriving colony of Glanville Fritillaries that were introduced here some years ago.  I had heard that the frosts early last week had killed off the last of the first brood but that one or two were newly emerging so it was very pleasing to find one of these delightful little chequerboards sunning on the path.

Glanville Fritillary

Rather amazingly a Marsh Frit had also been seen (and photographed) but I could not find it but was more than happy with the numerous Small Blues who rather frustratingly would not pose for me. 

Small Blue

Small Blue - not quite sharp but posted as you can see that from above with all that body hair they look a Kidney Vetch leaf and become almost invisible

Common and Holly Blues flicked around and Dingy and a single Grizzled Skipper were feeding on the Horseshoe and Kidney Vetch alongside several Burnet Companion and Cinnabar moths.

Common Blue on Horseshoe Vetch

Dingy Skipper

Burnet Companion

Kidney Vetch

Great Yellow Rattle

Blackcaps were well in song and I could hear Ring-necked Parakeets who kicked off when a Sparrowhawk circled over.

Back at ground level a Green Hairstreak came down and Small Heath, Brown Argus, Green Veined, Small White, Speckled Wood, Peacock and Brimstone were all seen as I ambled the short way back to the car.

Small Heath



oh and a Large Red Damselfly

Southwards now towards Ashdown Forest passing three Red Kites and Buzzard over the fields along the deserted roads.

I did not expect to get a spot in the Old Lodge shady car park but the most perfectly placed one had obviously been reserved for me and so after a spot of lunch I set off on the circuit.

I had barely got out of the car park when I could hear Crossbills and what I think was a family party ‘gypped’ around before heading out of my view.

My ensuing walk was an ornithological wonder. It was like the clock had been rewound and I had stumbled on a tiny patch of the south–east  where nothing has changed.

Willow Warblers cascaded on all sides with their delightfully uplifting then melancholic refrain with Woodlark and Tree Pipit singing out on the heath amongst the dotted mature pines and birches.  

Tree Pipit

Stonechat, Blackcap, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests joined in and I soon heard the first of six male Redstarts still stridently enforcing their territories from the tree tops.




Further Tree Pipits displayed and parachuted back to a lofty perch and a silent bird came up at my feet with a beak full of insects en route back to its nest.  It paused in a huge birch and crept along the branch like an Olive Backed Pipit.  

Tree Pipit

The same trees had a foraging Nuthatch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was investigating the bottom of another tree while a flyby Woodcock was somewhat incongruous. 


Great Spotted Woodpecker

The heathland pools were still wet and the Cotton Grass was flowering and they held numerous Large Red and Azure Damselflies along with several non-stop Four-spot Chasers and an electric blue male Broad-bodied Chaser.  I checked all the edges for Raft Spiders but had no joy.

Large Red Damselflies

Large Red Damselflies

Broad-bodied Chaser

Cotton Grass

Siskins and Lesser Redpolls twisted in haphazard buzzing jingling song flights and Buzzards circled high up above.  I am not sure when the last time I saw breeding Redpoll was, although it was probably just here!

Buzzard - this one confused me to start with as it was an odd shape. With moult and no tail bar and worn primary tips perhaps it is a second year bird?

A squeaky nothing of a song attracted my attention and at first I wondered about Hawfinch but soon remembered what Spotted Flycatcher sounds like and indeed a pair was up in a still half bare oak and a second pair was up closer to the car park.  These were another of those species I have not heard in song for some time and joined the list of new birds for the year.

Spotted Flycatcher - pants pic  but still pleased to encounter them!
The first Foxgloves of the season
Only one potential target was missing and I was delighted to discover a female Dartford Warbler silently collecting food in some scattered gorse to round things off nicely.

Dartford Warbler

It was now 26c and it was getting a little too toasty, so a pleasant cross country drive home was called for with the windows open all the way.


  1. What a great day Howard. A rare cross section of Birds and a superb butterfly haul.

  2. I do miss working on Hutchinson's Bank. There's a few additional species of butterfly since I was there!