Hackhurst Downs, Surrey ... 8th August 2011

A site that I hadn't previously visited, along the North Downs between Dorking and Gomshall. Hackhurst Downs is owned by Surrey County Council and managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust.

Richard Bartlett had kindly offered to take me there to search for Silver-spotted Skippers and we found about six of these pretty butterflies along with a couple of Silver-washed Fritillaries. There were plenty of Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers with singles of Peacock and Common Blue.

Silver-spotted Skipper

Silver-washed Fritillary

The highlight of the visit though, was a huge Hornet Robber Fly Asilus crabroniformis, a nationally scarce species, with Richard managing to get the photo below.

Hornet Robber Fly

We found a few moth species, including Yellow Shell, numerous Treble-bars, a Black Arches and several Pyrausta nigrata.


Yellow Shell

Black Arches

In the woodland, there were quite a few Broad-leaved Helleborines, all well past their best and on the grassy slopes a couple of Autumn Gentians were coming into flower.

Autumn Gentian

One Common Lizard was seen scurrying through the grass and old Roman Snail shells were plentiful but no live ones were found.

Birds were not numerous, but a Marsh Tit was seen and heard early on in our visit and a Common Buzzard flew low from the trees along the escarpment into the woodland. Nuthatches seem plentiful in the area if the calls are anything to go by.

A fascinating area to explore, even if the birding is somewhat limited, and well worth a visit.


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