Sunday, 28 July 2013

Magdalen Hill, Where All The Small Things Are Safe

One of the off-shoots of watching the Springwatch Butterfly And Moth Special (which could have spent more time featuring moths) was that we learnt of the existence of Magdalen Hill. Now, I have lived in and around Winchester for more than twenty years, but I had never hard of Magdalen Hill before, so today we paid it a visit.

It is an area of natural Chalk Downland which was historically the site of an ancient fair, but is now a nature reserve stuffed full of native plants and native species. My special reason for visiting it was that it is home to the Chalkhill Blue Butterfly, and I have a special thing for Blue Butterflies.

We parked opposite the cemetery, crossed the B3404 (an old Roman Road straight as a lance) and walked up the footpath. Within seconds I had seen my first butterfly- a marbled white, feeding on a Great Globe Thistle, and things only got better. 

This is the kind of view that greats you when you arrive....

We had barely entered the reserve when these Gorgeous Creatures appeared...

Large White

Small White


 Marbled White (with red parasite behind the head)


Meadow Brown



Red Admiral

I was marveling over seeing nine butterfly species in virtually as many minutes when we reached the Chalk Downland Proper, with it's view of the M3 snaking through the valley below....

And of the Old Church at St Cross off in the hazy distance

And then we saw them.....

  The Chalkhill Blues

You know when people talk about walking through a meadow and clouds of butterflies rise up before them? Well, that was what it was like here. There must have been close on a hundred of them, small blue people fluttering around in front of me, landing on the ground, twirling up around one another in the air in a delicate dance. I don't know how long I spent on my knees crouched over photographing them but it must have been a while because M and Teddy were almost asleep when I went back up the hill to find them. 

 Two Chalkhill Blues. 
The males are blue and the females dark brown, so this was a World Of Boys

Glorious, aren't they? I could watch them All Day Long, but my family would probably definitely disown me, or more likely drive off and leave me there and I'd only notice and wonder where they'd gone when it started getting dark. Teddy wouldn't though: Teddy would stay with me because he is a Loyal Hound, who also happens to quite enjoy running through clouds of small blue butterflies...

When I'd had my fill of Glorious Butteflies, it was Time For Moths.....
Yup, even here I can't get away from them (and nor do I want to). The reserve boasts some lovely Day Flying Moths, such as the 

 Silver Y 
(which I've only ever seen in the Moth Box at home before, so it was rather lovely to see this one flying wild and landing on plants. He is Very Well Camouflaged and was Hard To Spot, but I have a well-developed Moth Radar after these past weeks Getting To Know Them, and got the pic I wanted).

Dusky Sallow
A New Species for me

 Rather splendid isn't he/ she?

Forester Moth.
I think, Never Having Seen One Of These Moths . 
Very Exciting. You can imagine the state I was in by this time. Poor M rather regretted not having brought his running kit with him as he was forced to walk VERY SLOWLY while I stopped every two seconds to ooh and ahh over something new and take ridiculous amounts of photos. Next time he'll go for a nice run and meet me back at the car all hot and sweaty, which will be lovely for me to sit next to On The Way Home, won't it?

Six Spot Burnett.
Yipee! This one is New For Me Too and I've been Wanting To See One For Ages. 
We've not had them at home before so this was A Very Thrilling Moment Indeed.

Two 6 Spot Burnetts Mating. 
(Don't you think that's an infringement of Moth Privacy? says M).

And a Close Up of what I think are a pair of 5 Spot Burnetts, also a new species for me.
(You'll get arrested by the Moth Police, grinned M).

A Lovely Irridescent Green Beetle Whose Name I Sadly Do Not Know
 Can Anyone Help?

Ditto this one. If you look closely you'll see the wing casing on his left wing has been torn off half way down and the brown crumpled looking thing sticking out underneath it is actually his wing. Poor soul. I hope he will manage alright like that.

 Yay! Another Native Ladybird

 And another one!
(in fact there were loads, I just didn't photograph every single one, feeling that was a bit unfair on M whose mask of serenity was, by this time, starting to slip)

 Red-Tailed Bumble

I love the Pollen On His Bottom in this shot!

Even the birds were getting In On The Act, with this lovely Bluetit feeding among the seed heads. There were long tailed tits too.

 White Knapweed

 Great Globe Thistle

Beautiful Seed Heads

And More Wonderful Views of the English Countryside in Late July

Ripe Wheat

And a Funny Hen who was waiting for us beside our car 
when M finally succeeded in dragging me away.

If you are looking for a wildflower meadow and fantabulous reserve with oodles of life in it then I can't recommend Magdalen highly enough. Winchester, that fabulous Cathedral City that I love and have posted about before, is five minutes down the road, so you could spend a whole day doing the nature reserve and enjoying the beautiful City (where there are LOTS of fabulous places to eat and stay too).

We shall be returning in August because they have the Painted Lady butterfly on the reserve then. This is an amazing butterfly who migrates in stages from Africa by laying eggs in different countries. The eggs then hatch, the caterpillar pupates into a butterfly and flies to the next country, where the process is repeated again and again until eventually they reach the UK, when they turn round and do the whole thing again in reverse. Astonishing. And only recently discovered too.

Sunday evening and a pheasant is roasting in the oven so I'd better stop there. Just a quick note on tomorrow's post- I found a baby froglet in the road this afternoon which I will put up here tomorrow. He is now up by our pond. Also, the moth eggs have hatched! More on that later too.

Enjoy your evening all,

CT :-)

ps- I haven't checked for spelling or grammatical errors so if you find any please be kind and ignore them. The photos took HOURS to upload, so I've been writing this post since about three- I'd better go and spend some time with my family before they forget what I look like and wonder who this stranger is in their house!


  1. Hi CT Your post does make me laugh. I can't imagine how your familt would forget you!!! Well, that certainly was a wonderful day with so many butterflies and moths. It was fantastic for you to see so many Chalkhill Blues. Great shots of other insects and seed heads.

    1. I couldn't believe how many there were, really stunningly beautiful creatures, it made my heart glad to see them :-)

      When I'm in a "let's all visit a nature reserve" mode I suspect they wish they could forget who I was!! x

  2. Oh CT what a fabulous day out for you. The butterflies are fabulous and it must have been so good to see the Chalkhill Blues. Love the Marbled Clover Moth-it has a beautiful plumed head 'oh so furry' :)

    1. The blues were blissful I'm still smiling about them, such wonderful colours. Glad you liked the marbled clover (if indeed that is what he is), the ruff/ mane is very magnificent ;-)

  3. Looks like a Spanish Fly Beetle but I don't think it can be this far North! More research required.....

    What a FANTASTIC haul of butterflies still enough to photograph, you lucky thing. Absolutely beautiful.

    1. I've looked through my books to no avail :-( Gorgeous shiny thing he was too.

      I could not believe the numbers of butterflies- it rather made me feel all the doom and gloom about falling numbers is ill-founded. It was a real privilege to see so many and as you so rightly say, still enough to be photoed! x

  4. A wonderful location and it must have been fantastic walking through the clouds of butterflies. The chalkhill blues are my favourites.
    Sarah x

    1. A magical experience Sarah and one that I will always remember. x

  5. What a fabulous place to visit, I wish it was on my doorstep! I am envious of your sightings of the Chalkhill Blues. A cloud of butterflies has to be one of the most beautiful sights in nature. Your other photos are lovely, too.

    1. We are very lucky- just can't believe I didn't know about it before! It is worth a visit if you have a spare day and the weather/ time of year is right for butterflies, bees and beetles etc, there are just so many of them to see, and very few people there too.

  6. Lovely moth and butterfly photos and beautiful views. What a wonderful place to have close to where you live - you are so lucky!!! Clouds of butterflies don't seem to occur very often for me these days - a glorious experience :)

    My family have actually driven off and left me when I was taking too long over butterfly id and photos at Newtown Reserve on the Isle of Wight!!! I had to wait an hour for them to return and was somewhat panic stricken having no mobile with me!!!!

    1. I agree- we don't get them in those types of concentrations very often anymore.

      The answer to our families grumbling and leaving us behind is for you and I to meet up and go to these places together! If only we lived nearer :-)

  7. The Chalkhill Blue would be worth the trip in itself.
    I am trying not to think about the poor pheasant in the oven..

    1. I haven't stopped smiling since seeing those gorgeous blues.

      Best not tell Ptolemy about my dinner last night...

  8. What a gorgeous plethora of butterflies and flowers with many species I would love to see but sadly don't occur this far north (especially the Chalkhill Blues). Marbled Whites always seem very prone to those red parasites, though I have seen them on a number of other species too (usually in grassland locations).

    By the way I agree with you that the Springwatch special was a bit short of moths.

    1. I saw the parasite for the first time this year, I think it was on Roy's blog. If it's the same thing apparently it doesn't harm the butterfly.

      Magdalen is a fantastic place- we were really spoilt - and then today walking in the woods there were loads of fritillaries flitting about- it's an embarrassment of butterfly riches here at the moment!

  9. What a glorious day you had! So many fluttering things and brightly coloured insects! I also love little blue winged people, but so far this year have only seen one common blue. Not that I am complaining about that :) I love the photo of the globe thistle too :) and if the burnet moths have no shame in doing their business where you can see it, then what do they expect from interested moth enthusiasts?! :)

    1. You would love it there, loads of Interesting People photo opportunities :-)

      No, I wouldn't complain about one blue either, I so often don't see any at all :-( Still, at least I know where to go next year :-)


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x