On 17 May butterfly enthusiasts travelled from across Dorset as well as from Devon and London to join a guided walk over the ancient chalk downland above Cerne Abbas. They were rewarded with the sighting of eighteen species, one of the most significant of which was the Duke of Burgundy. At least forty examples were seen and keenly photographed when perching along the lower western escarpment.
This is a nationally scarce and localised butterfly and the only European representative of the Central American family Riodinidae (the metalmarks). With few sightings over the previous twenty years, the colony has become more widespread and numerous during the past three seasons. The caterpillar foodplant is cowslip, which is favoured where the plants grow in the partial shade of the lower scrub.
The number of sightings of this species on the day was a record and made for a memorable occasion, which included a glimpse of Green Hairstreaks dancing in the deep drove on the eastern side of the hill. Other notable species making an appearance were the Small Copper, Brown Argus, Holly Blue, Marsh Fritillary and Wall Brown, as well as the Dingy Skipper, Grizzled Skipper, Brimstone, Small White, Orange Tip, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Speckled Wood and Small Heath. A Painted Lady was found on high ground, a famously migrant butterfly currently known to be congregating in Spain and travelling northwards!