Months of nothing on this blog just has to be broken for this news!
Several years ago, probably eight or nine, I heard of a rapid increase of Essex Skippers in the Weymouth area - which ever since has put this species firmly on my radar for the patch, seeing as we in the far south east corner of Devon.
I have concentrated my efforts on the one place I see most skippers around here, Lower Bruckland Ponds. I have photographed not far off 100 skippers over the years - mostly head shots - but to no avail. All the small skippers photographed here have indeed been Small Skippers, some even with dark-tipped antennae but still showing orange on the underside of the tip, which can fool in the field I can tell you! If you are as mad as me and fancy doing the same, be wary of Large Skipper too if you've not noticed the wing pattern, surprisingly easy to do when you're busy looking at the head-end all the time! Large Skippers also have dark-tipped antennae but thankfully their antennae are a distinctly different shape so any confusion should be short-lived.
Anyway, a few years ago I did start to lose hope. It really felt like it was never going to happen, but then...
In July 2019 EDDC warden James Chubb unknowingly photographed an Essex Skipper just off-patch at Trill Farm, near Axminster. Which is less than two miles from Lower Brucklands!
|Taken from @TheTiercel twitter account|
So I went back to Lower Brucklands Pond with renewed enthusiasm that summer and each summer since, but still no luck. However last weekend I had luck elsewhere on patch...
During a family dog walk last Saturday, when I came across a beautifully unkempt and overgrown weedy corner at Axe Cliff, and noticed several skippers in amongst it, I ditched the family and spent twenty minutes getting scratched legs chasing butterflies! Yes it was great seeing the skippers, but I was so thrilled to see good numbers of insects of all taxa considering how poor this year has been for insects.
And 15 skippers later, of which at least five were definitely Small, I photographed this...
|Seems an awful lot of dark on the antennae tip there!|
|Jackpot - Essex Skipper!|
|Even closer and from the other side|
Absolutely made up! Had to leave very shortly after photographing the above, but hope to revisit again soon to see how many are actually there...
So for the last eight or so years I have had the right idea, I've just been looking in the wrong place!