Where to see
Habitat: South-facing, close-grazed chalk downland
Caterpillar foodplants: Sheep's Fescue grass
Best places: Fontmell Down is the only Dorset site where these are known in the 21st century, though it used to be found more widely. Even on Fontmell the colony is steadily retreating to one area of the down.
When to see
Usually the middle of August, but they are only out for around three weeks
Sightings by month (last 5 years)*:
Sightings this year*:
Look in pockets of bare ground, or for the butterflies making short flights just above the top of the short grass. Identifying the butterfly from the upperwings is not so easy – try to see the underwings, which have the ‘silver spots’.
The most likely confusion with another species, if you are judging by the upperwings, is if there are any faded Large Skippers still flying. The underwings are very different.
Only the Silver-spotted and the Large Skippers have such a pronounced scent mark on the upper forewings.
Be warned: when the a butterfly is disturbed from its brilliantly camouflaged resting place, often among Eyebright flowers which mimic its silver spots, it takes off with the speed of an Olympic sprinter out of the blocks.
It is highly unlikely you will see this butterfly in your garden or anywhere in Dorset other than Fontmell Down.
*Please note: The charts shown on this page are drawn only from casual sightings submitted to this website. Records from this website will be added to a lot more data collected throughout the year and used to compile the five-yearly Butterfly Atlases for Dorset and the UK.