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Devil’s Punchbowl – 28 May 2011

On Saturday 28 May, Jan Haseler led a walk at the Devil’s Punchbowl, near the Ridgeway between Lambourn and Wantage. It was a cold morning with a strong wind, but the steep valley was fairly sheltered. Resting on clumps of nettles were Green Hairstreak and Common Blue butterflies, while black and white striped Wood Tiger moths were sheltering in the grass. Flowers included Horseshoe Vetch, Common Rockrose, Salad Burnet and Weld. Both Common and Chalk Milkwort were found and Roger Kemp showed how, with the help of a hand lens, these two species could be separated by the small veins on the sepals. In Common Milkwort, the small veins rejoin the main veins to form a closed network, while in Chalk Milkwort, the small veins form an open pattern. In a brief burst of sunshine, the butterflies started to fly and Small Heath appeared. A clump of nettles had large caterpillars of Small Tortoiseshell and a mass of much smaller Peacock caterpillars.

The steep side valley had abundant rabbit holes with loose bare chalky soil and this is where the Henbane was found. In total, about 50 plants were counted. Green Hairstreak butterflies were particularly numerous in the side valley, both on nettles and on Elder blossom. A recently emerged Small Elephant Hawkmoth was found in the grass. A few Burnet moths were found. Given the early date and the conjoined spots on some of the specimens, these are likely to be Five-spot Burnet, spp palustrella, a chalk specialist, rather than the much commoner Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet, which does not emerge usually until later in June. Back at the top of the valley, Nodding Thistles were coming into flower, Corn Buntings were singing from the fence posts, there were numerous Skylarks and a Cuckoo was spotted.

Pictures by Rob Stallard and Jan Haseler

Devil’s Punchbowl, Saturday 28 May 2011

Glaucous Sedge  Carex flacca
Bulbous Buttercup  Ranunculus bulbosus
White Campion  Silene latifolia
Red Campion  Silene dioica
Thyme-leaved Sandwort  Arenaria serpyllifolia
Common Rock-rose  Helianthemum nummularium
White Bryony  Bryonia dioica
Wild Mignonette  Reseda lutea
Weld  Reseda luteola
Salad Burnet  Sanguisorba minor
Meadow Vetchling  Lathyrus pratensis
Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil  Lotus corniculatus
Horseshoe Vetch  Hippocrepis comosa
Fairy Flax  Linum catharticum
Common Milkwort  Polygala vulgaris
Chalk Milkwort  Polygala calcarea
Dove’s-foot Crane’s-bill  Geranium molle
Cut-leaved  Crane’s-bill  Geranium dissectum
Hedgerow Crane’s-bill  Geranium pyrenaicum
Henbane  Hyoscyamus niger
Early Forget-me-not  Myosotis ramosissima
Wild Thyme  Thymus polytrichus
Nodding Thistle  Carduus nutans
Great Lettuce  Lactuca virosa
Prickly Sow-thistle  Sonchus asper
Common Spotted-orchid  Dactylorhiza fuchsii


Green Hairstreak  Callophrys rubi
Common Blue  Polyommatus icarus
Small Tortoiseshell  Aglais urticae
Peacock  Inachis io
Small Heath  Coenonympha pamphilus 124


Scoparia pyralella
Five-spot Burnet  Zygaena trifolii palustrella
Silver-ground Carpet  Xanthorhoe montanata
Small Elephant Hawkmoth  Deilephila porcellus
Wood Tiger  Parasemia plantaginis  218


Garden Chafer  Phyllopertha horticola


Red Kite  Milvus milvus
Buzzard  Buteo buteo
Kestrel  Falco tinnunculus
Cuckoo  Cuculus canorus
Skylark  Alauda arvensis
Greenfinch  Carduelis  chloris
Goldfinch  Carduelis  carduelis
Linnet   Carduelis cannabina
Corn Bunting  Miliaria calandra