ISLE OF WIGHT, a short visit with David Dennis, June 1 - 4, 2015
Monday 1 June
Arrived at David's just gone 9am as he was returning from walking Shadow, a temporary rescue black terrier, and after a coffee departed for Lymington via the M40, M4, A33 etc to Cadnam reaching this point after 2 hours driving. Today was overcast and windy with a severe storm heading in from the south-west…Nevertheless we took a left turn just before Brockenhurst to the Standing Hat car park and went in search of Pearl-bordered Fritillaries (Boloria euphrosyne). Eventually our luck was in and a total of 6 - 8 individuals ultimately seen, along with a couple of male Common Blues (Polyommatus icarus) and Speckled Woods (Pararge aegeria).
Lunch was taken at the nearby Filly Inn and as the weather continued to deteriorate we decided to try for an earlier ferry, succeeding in catching the 4pm. White horses topped the waves but the short crossing was no problem and as the rain hadn't yet arrived we detoured inland to visit Mottistone Down, parking in the NT car park near the Manor. Our walk took us up through the woods past the Neolithic standing stones and across the windswept downs to the old quarries. It was windy, cold with rain threatening, and the only butterflies we found were a roosting Grizzled Skipper Pyrgus malvae) and Common Blue. The road, Strawberry Lane, was chosen for our return to the car. Opportunistically, as our detour took us into Whitwell, we called in to book a table for dinner at the White Horse for tomorrow evening, a pub previously recommended to David.
Eventually Cornerways, our B&B on the eastern edge of Ventnor, was reached at 7pm and Stuart suggested I move my car from underneath a large tree, just in case the pending storm brought it down! He then drove us up to the Bonchurch Inn for dinner at 7.45, and what a lovely old place this is! A super pub, lovely food, and a couple of pints of Bombardier. We walked back to the B&B down the country lanes with light rain driven into our faces by the stiff wind just in time to watch the 10pm BBC news before nodding off with my laptop still across my knees.
Tuesday 2 June
The storm that raged through the night failed to disturb David or me but we awoke to a grey, misty, low cloud windy day and wet roads, though at 8am the rain had stopped. Excellent breakfast at 8.30 after which we compared Lumix fz200 menus as David had never been satisfied with his settings. Around 11.30am we walked down to Horseshoe Bay, some 15 minutes away, with a distant hope of finding a Glanville Fritillary (Melitaea cinxia) but the prom was being lashed with salt-laden spray driven by winds that not long ago had reached 60mph. Photos were taken of sea scenes instead. After enduring the elements for a while we walked into town finding a bowl of soup lunch at the quaint, curio-filled Perks of Ventnor pub-café.
Still very windy, but with clouds slowly lifting, we took the car (covered in a green topping of leaf fragments) east to Brading Down, a very exposed hillside flank where a solitary Speckled Wood was our day's first sighting. Around 4pm the sun broke through and Common Blues began to appear in a sheltered spot, climbing up stems from their overnight roosts. Although by now it was getting late we decided to call in again at Horseshoe Bay where I found a single Glanville Fritillary heroically clinging on to a Red Valerian (Centranthus ruber) flower, still buffeted by the strong south-westerly.
45 minutes in the B&B was all we needed to get ready for the drive to Whitwell in time for our 7pm dinner reservation and whilst the food was good the same couldn't be said of the speed of service. Still, our coffees came 'on the house'. Back in time for the 10pm news and so to bed.
Wednesday 3 June
I heard David slip out at 7.30am on a lovely sunny, though still breezy, morning and waited for him to return in time for breakfast. He had seen Glanville Fritillaries at Horseshoe Bay so we took the car down there and found 6 - 8 individuals, plus a Large White (Pieris brassicae) and a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta). After a while we went back to Mottistone Down, this time using the car park near the old quarries to save our legs. In warm sunshine the Glanvilles were out in good number, as were Adonis Blue (Polyommatus bellargus) and Common Blues along with Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus), Brown Argus (Aricia agestis), Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages) and Grizzled Skippers, etc. Across the road, in a more conventional rectangular-shaped quarry, a tatty Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera) was seen and back in the car park 2 female Orange-tips (Anthocharis cardamines) were busying themselves around larval host plants.
A bowl of soup at the unimpressive Sun Inn at Calborne refuelled us ahead of a visit to the nearby Brook Down quarry, where another tatty Wall failed to warrant a photo - end-of-season by the state of the two we'd seen. Small Blues (Cupido minimus) were a 'new' species here along with others seen during the morning, plus a Peacock (Aglais io). Our plan was to take the lower track through Compton Farm to reach the coastal undercliffs but the OS map's footpaths appeared to have been eradicated and blocked by fences so we were thwarted in our plan and instead clambered up to the top of Compton Down duly returning breeze-assisted to Brook Down quarry under a cloudless blue sky, spotting a very worn Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) on the way. The quarry was by now largely in the shade and Adonis Blues were gathering en masse for the evening roost, some with wings still open including the beautiful female form semiceronus.
A final stop at Horseshoe Bay produced 3 Glanvilles roosting in the shade atop Red Valerian, facing into the breeze. And it was cold! To the rooms by 6.20pm and on a lovely sunny evening we walked up to the Bonchurch Inn for yet another fine meal and evening. In fading light we returned to Cornerways around 10.10pm.
Thursday 4 June
Sunshine and little wind, our best weather-day so far, and our departure day too! David snook out at 5.15am (?!) too early for me. After breakfast Stuart and his 10 year old son, Hugo, followed us down to Horseshoe Bay for the final time for what turned out to be a very satisfying visit as Hugo was hugely interested in the Glanvilles and wildlife in general - a very sparky young chap. David will send him one of the laminated Butterfly Conservation wall charts to support his interest. We then continued back to Mottistone Down, David in search of Wall and me to copper-bottom my Glanville shots. A bonus for David was the return of his lens cap lost yesterday, and retrieved by me today. The wind had shifted to an easterly and was still quite brisk although the weather in general was now sunny and warm.
Our final destination was Freshwater Bay for where we departed around 11.40am, parking up some 20 minutes later. David's research signified that this was a good location for most species but our stroll onto the east-facing cliff top was very unproductive, although scenically spectacular, quite an anti-climax in fact. So after an hour we left and found a pleasant al-fresco lunch at the Red Lion on the edge of Freshwater, adding a Holly Blue (Anthocharis cardamines) to the trip tally.
With no vehicles queuing for the ferry we were able to catch the 2pm crossing (booked on the 3.05) and decided to push-on home. I dropped David off at 5.30pm and was home by 6pm.
So, despite inclement weather, we'd seen 18 species - pretty good I reckon!