With the birding scene looking rather quiet in hot weather under a high pressure system, I decided it was time to break out the macro lens again today. Rather than chase around a number of sites, I decided to spend a decent amount of time looking for some scarce species in one area – near Dunstable, in Bedfordshire. After just 45 minutes in the car, I arrived at my first stop: Bison Hill (near the Whipsnade Animal Park, if you hadn’t guessed!).
[Access details: large car park at approx TL000185, by the B4540 west of Whipsnade village. I walked NW down some steps by the road, and then headed N and gradually uphill on a path in a cutting, passing east of the Icknield Way Farm shown on the map. The butterflies seemed to get better the further I went!]
Common butterflies were much in evidence as I walked from the carpark – Common Blue, Orange Tip and Brimstone providing plenty of colour. There were also several Green Hairstreak… over the course of the day, I must’ve seen at least 30 of these – probably my highest count.
After a while, I reached a sheltered area of scrub at the foot of chalk downland – this was particularly good for Grizzled Skipper and Duke of Burgundy.
Continuing along the same path, with great views to the NW, I came across a few fresh Small Heath, and a rather smart Mother Shipton moth.
After a spot of lunch, I headed the short distance across to Totternhoe Quarry. [Access: free carpark signed from the minor road through Totternhoe village, approx SP986218. Climb steps out of the back of the carpark, turn right for 20 yards, then left for 50 yards, then right again along a track – ultimately heading north west. When the arable fields on the right give way to scrub, go through a kissing gate and explore the chalk grassland]
Species seen here included at least 5 Dingy Skippers and 10 Small Blue – the former were a complete nightmare to photograph, since the sun was now really high and hot and they were hyper-active! One Duke of Burgundy and more Green Hairstreaks also showed well. To cap a really enjoyable day, a Turtle Dove was purring around the scrubby bushes – my first of the year.