Pale brown butterfly with distinctive white marking on a grass stalk

Silver-spotted Skipper female. Photo: Ken Dolbear.

A sun-loving butterfly, this is only to be found in the warmest areas. The butterflies are unlikely to be flying unless the air temperature exceeds 20 degrees centigrade.

In Dorset it is only known on Fontmell Down (North Dorset), where it is slowly moving up the slope of the hill.

It can be a very vulnerable species because it seldom migrates far, especially if it has to fly over intensively farmed land. Nationally it is faring rather better than the figures for Dorset suggest.

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.

Reported from the following locations last year*:

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*:


Notes

Size Small.

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.

Photo gallery

Click thumbnails to view larger images.

*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.