Late August and time for one last butterfly hunting trip of the year. My target was the wonderfully named Adonis Blue. This is another species that as a child I longed to see, in those days travel was limited to a family holiday, so it was just an image in my books and imagination. Named after the Greek God of beauty and desire, this sums up this butterfly perfectly. The population suffered a severe collapse as farmers stopped using the hills for stock grazing. Myxomatosis decimated the rabbit population and the grass grew too long choking out the Horseshoe Vetch the sole food plant of the Adonis caterpillar. By the 70’s the butterfly was predicted to become extinct. Luckily conservation of it’s habitat has reversed the decline. It is still quite scarce being restricted to south facing unimproved chalk downs with it’s stronghold in Sussex, Dorset and Wiltshire.
The most northerly site to find the Adonis is the south Chilterns. The reserve my wife and I visited was Yoesden Bank at Bledlow Ridge in South Buckinghamshire. What a beautiful place, a steep south facing hill leading down to the Radnage Valley. The top of the hill is a beech wood, the hill itself carpeted with wild flowers including the rare Chiltern gentian which was just coming into flower and overhead Red Kites circled. The weather on our visit was, warm, sunny and the lightest of breeze, a perfect summer’s day and ideal for butterflies.
We had only walked a few yards onto the reserve when we saw the first Adonis. The blue unlike any butterfly I had seen, electric sky blue? however you describe it is was stunning and changes hue with the light. This second brood must have reached it’s peak of emergence as there were dozens of males fluttering low over the sward looking for mates. Several had already got lucky, I found quite a few mating pairs. Unseen in the grass their presence given away when other males tried to join in.
This was butterfly heaven, scores of Chalkhill Blues sadly mostly quite worn mingled with loads of smaller Common Blues. Meadow Browns looking surprisingly fresh, Small Heath and Brown Argus lurked in the vegetation and Brimstones flitted from bloom to bloom, and everywhere that brightest of blues the Adonis.
This was a fantastic day out, four hours of travelling well worth it, the best was certainly saved for last, this is the nicest place I have been to this year. England’s countryside at it’s finest. Having had my fix of nature’s beauty, time to visit the Boot PH in Bledlow for a pint and late lunch.
Returned in August 2019 and had another fabulous day amongst the Adonis Blues. Not so many this year and no females noted.
It was a touch breezy on the bank and every now and then the clouds would hide the sun. We sat and watched. When the sun appeared so did the butterflies. Hundreds of faded milky Chalkhill Blues rose from the turf flapping weekly about as their life cycle draws to a close. Smaller but vivid Common Blues fed on the scabious and marjoram making you think Adonis? Then the real deal, so bright and electric. The males kept low down to the grass, searching for newly emerged chocolate brown ladies without luck. Not interested in nectar they were difficult to photograph. I had to wait for cloud cover, then they settled, carefully get in position and try and clear a few grass stems. When the sun comes out they open their glorious wings to warm up allowing time for a couple of shots.