Martin Down, Hampshire
Rockbourne village was only a few miles drive from the nature reserve of Martin Down, which is on the rolling chalk hills of the Cranborne Chase area. So, during our week there, I visited the site on three occasions and I loved the extensive wild flower meadows that were there. My first visit was on a very hot morning with the boys and I was actually quite overwhelmed by the number and variety of species on offer! I was seeing unfamiliar things every few minutes, but it was too hot to stay out for too long. So, I went back in the evening to the top part of the reserve with my dad, but it was rather blowy by then, and so few insects were flying. A few days later, I had another nice sunny hour or so there, but again it was quite breezy. I know that I only really scraped the surface of what was there and could have found a lot more. I had visited Martin Down years ago when I was a student with the BUBO lads and I remember seeing Adonis Blue and Stone Curlew there, but that was just a distant memory now of course.
The reserve isn't really there for birds but Buzzards were regularly soaring overhead and a Raven was also seen. We had what seemed to be a family party of Corn Buntings on the top, but the highlight for me was the calling Turtle Doves which were no doubt breeding in the little copses that dotted the meadows.
There was a good selection of butterflies seen although I only saw one species which was totally new to me - Essex Skipper. For this I had to look through the more common Small Skippers until I found one with jet black dots on the underside of the tips of the antennae. As well as the more common species that I also see in Guernsey, I saw quite a few Brimstones and some fast-flying Dark Green Fritillaries. My favourite though was a Marbled White, a species I had only seen once before and that was over 20 years ago!
Moth-wise, I saw surprisingly few day-flying species, with Six-spot Burnet being the most obvious. I did flush the odd micro as I walked but I mostly ignored these. The other species recorded were Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet, Silver Y and, just sat resting on a leaf, my first Small Waved Umber.
I saw a variety of other insects in the meadows, most being left unidentified of course. However, I did take some snaps of the obvious ones and so ticked off a couple of new ones shown in the pictures below. My nephew found a fabulous Bloody-nose Beetle on the track by the car park which he picked up and it promptly did what it says on the tin!
The biggest variety of new species came from the plants and flowers, quite a few of which I needed internet ID assistance with from photos after returning home. I saw plenty of species that do not occur in Guernsey but I was familiar with from the old days back in the UK. The new species I recorded were: Wild Parsnip, Yellow Rattle, Squinancywort, Wayfaring Tree, Common Rock-rose, Wild Mignonette, Common Valerian, Dropwort, Dwarf Thistle, Traveller's-joy, Small Scabious. I definitely saw other, less obvious species but I'll have to leave those for another time.