I woke up one morning about three weeks ago… and got an email from Steve Wheatley at Butterfly Conservation. He reminded me that it was the time to go looking for the Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argus), which is quite rare though does occur on lowland heath such as Ashdown Forest. Looking at the map he sent of previous years’ sightings I headed over to an area south(ish) of Long car park to see if I could find any.
Now, it was a bakingly-hot day and I’d remembered to bring water, camera and GPS, but I did forget to check what habitat and food plants I was looking for. So, there was much wandering around fruitlessly, and I managed to even step in what must have been the only bit of squelchy mud left in that part of the forest. Nevertheless, after about half an hour I found some small blue butterflies gently dancing above the plants; a nice patch of (what I now know is) all the classic food plants: Heather (Calluna vulgaris), Bell Heather (Erica cinerea), Dwarf Gorse (Ulex minor) with attendant Cross-leaved Heath (Erica teralix) and Gorse (Ulex europaeus).
It was rather delightful watching them manoeuvre around the plants, with the males occasionally having a bit of a set-to, though it wasn’t especially easy to photograph them. But, at last, I managed a few decent-enough shots.
Encouraged by my success, and now knowing what sort of habitat to look for, over subsequent days I had several other trips out on to different parts of the forest looking for these small butterflies. There is a great bit of suitable habitat on the golf course, but no show.
It was the same near the visitors centre, Hindleap and some parts of the centre of the forest.
If I’d not seen any the first day I might have got a bit disheartened, but other people managed to find some too, and in the end I think there was a reasonable number of sightings. So, I’m rather glad I got the silver-studded blues after all.