White Hill Chalkhill Blues

The nature reserve of White Hill on the ridge above Shoreham in Kent is carved out of the high beech woodland. The reserve is managed by Butterfly Conservation as the small patches of herb-rich, chalk grassland support a strong colony of chalkhill blues as well as many other butterfly more common species.

The scrub encroaches the grassland; dogwood, whitebeam and guelder rose sprout from the edges. Yew bushes, dark green and appearing as though they are neatly clipped and carefully planted, add structure. There are no sheep here grazing the grasslands, just winter work parties making the space for grasses and herbs including the chalkhill blue’s sole foodplant, horseshoe vetch. This reserve, like many chalk grassland reserves, is more a wild garden.

Males are abundant and it is hard to locate a female; I think they spend more time hidden in the sward egg laying on the horseshoe vetch. A single female basks on a small Guelder-rose bush well away from the throng of males in the nearby grassland.

At dusk, the chalkhills settle head down on the tall grass stems and sedges, seeking the last hot spots on the west facing slope as the sun drops over the hill on the far side of the Darenth valley.

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