Friday 10th August 2012 - Prestbury Hill (Gloucestershire)

For a couple of years now, since I first heard about the site, I have toyed with the idea of going to Prestbury Hill near Cheltenham to catch up with some of it's speciality butterfly species, all of which would be lifers for me.  I  didn't go earlier in the year when Duke of Burgundy and Small Blue were on the wing but with this latest warm spell I decided to try for Chalkhill Blue. 

Earlier in the week MP had suggested possibly going down to a site in Gloucestershire today to see the latter species but as the week drew on my fellow local patch blogger's plans changed from Gloucestershire to Shropshire to East Worcestershire and finally to doorstepville.  However the Chalkhill seed had been sown in my mind and I decided to visit Prestbury.

Prestbury Hill has two areas of reserve owned by Butterfly Conservation the first on the south side of the hill is the Bill Smyllie reserve and to the north is Cleeve Common.  I decided to visit the Bill Smyllie reserve first and was immediately hit by how rich the flora was.  There was Scabious and Knapweed everywhere and much more besides.  I saw two rather stunning flowers that I hadn't seen before:  Viper's Bugloss and Clustered Bellflower.  But it isn't just the flora and fauna that make this Cotswold hillside special, the views are absolutely fantastic!

Anyway on to the butterflies.  On this reserve I counted 10 Dark Green Fritillary, c.30 Marbled Whites, 5 Small Heath, 1 ♂ Common Blue, 2 Peacock and 1 Small TortoiseshellEssexSkippers, Small Skippers, Small Coppers, Ringlets, Gatekeepers and many Meadow Browns were also noted, as were Green-veined, Large and Small White.

The highlight for me though on the Bill Smyllie Reserve was seeing a Dusky Sallow moth.  This day flying moth was a new species for me and one that I hadn't expected (although this is its preferred habitat)

I then headed up the road to Cleeve Common.  I had spoke to a couple of butterfly enthusiasts earlier who had said that there were small numbers of Chalkhill blue present on the lower slope on the old quarried surface.  When they said it was steep they were not kidding but it was worth the effort as I saw 4 ♂ Chalkhill Blues flitting around there.  As previously mentioned it was a lifer for me and it just about kept my spirits up as I nearly hyper-ventilated on the ascent. 

Also recorded on Cleeve Common were 2 Brown Argus, 1♂ Common Blue, 10 Small Heath, 13 Dark Green Fritillary and 20 Marbled Whites.

Not much to mention birdwise although there were a few Yellowhammers singing and a Raven was kronking away from a nearby woodland.

All in all an enjoyable day out and now I know the lie of the land a place I shall visit earlier next year for Duke of Burgundy.

The Bill Smyllie Reserve

click on image to enlarge

Dusky Sallow

Dark Green Fritillary
(crappy record shot...they were very flighty!)

Chalkhill Blue


  1. What a wonderful sounding day you had Jason! So many butterfly species! Congratulations with the Dusky Sallow, a nice bonus for you and of course the Chalkhill Blue.
    I have Viper's Bugloss in my garden, it is a stunning looking plant and attracts a lot of Bees and Hoverflies, certainly worth growing if you have space for it. It is biennial and can be invasive.
    It has been a few years since I visited Cleeve Hill. My Daughter studied Geology and Cleeve Hill formed part of her studies, a spectacular area!

    A great read and images Jason!

  2. A lovely day out Jason! Well done on the Dusky Sallow and the Chalkhill Blue. I saw my first Chalkhill on Friday on a similar, killingly steep and hot hillside! Try as I might I cannot get a DGF so am very envious of yours ;-) Lovely photo of the Chalkhill Blue!

  3. It was great Pam. I'm interested to hear that you have viper's Bugloss in your garden, I may have to try some myself. Your right Cleeve is just stunning!

    Thanks Jan. It was blooming steep but well worth the effort!