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Dingy Skipper

The dingy skipper is associated with birds-foot trefoil and can be found in quarries, on open rough ground, edges of woodland, even on heathland; it is particularly on chalk and limestone. 


Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

Dingy Skipper: unfairly accused

Post date: Wednesday, 29 April, 2015 - 00:00

My dictionary defines dingy as lacking brightness; drab, dirty, discoloured. Whilst the dingy skipper (Erynnis tages) does not have the beautiful colouring of many of our more familiar butterfly species nonetheless, close up, it does have a unique and subtle colouring. I think the common name is some what unfair!

On the wing in May and June, with a possible second brood here in Dorset in late August, the dingy skipper can be seen where birds-foot trefoil grows and in Dorset that means almost anywhere! It is much more common than many think and can be found in quarries, on open rough ground, edges of woodland, even on heathland; it is particularly associated with chalk and limestone. 

Whilst possibly being a somewhat overlooked species the dingy skipper can also be easily confused with day flying moths like mother Shipton or burnet companion, especially as it often rests, like a moth, with its wings open. Indeed, it is rarely seen with its wings closed above its back like other skipper species.

Well worth looking out for, it is not really dingy at all in my opinion.


Dingy Skipper in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Post date: Saturday, 6 April, 2019 - 21:12

The dingy skipper can be mistaken for one of the similar day flying moths as it not only resembles species like the Burnett companion it flies and behaves like them too. Once settled identification is easier but the dingy skipper is a very active butterfly, especially on warm days, and finding one at rest can be difficult. Widespread and fairly common in Dorset but perhaps infrequent is a better description? The dingy skipper can be found where common bird's-foot trefoil occurs which its larval food plant. As bird's-foot trefoil is quite common it means the dingy skipper may be encountered on chalk grasslands, heath, coastal dunes, even woodland glades, but sunny downland slopes are where the majority are found.

The dingy skipper flies from late April until the end of June and there may be a second brood in good years. That is reflected in the weekly reports chart with the earliest record we have being from week 17 right at the end of April and then reports are weekly until week 23, about the third week in June. There are then reports from week 31 to 33 in August, three reports in 2017 but just one in 2018.

So far there are reports from 29 different sites with Ballard Down, Durlston Country Park and Giant Hill producing the most. The distribution map shows sites along the Purbeck Ridge, the Purbeck Coast, Portland, the South Dorset Ridgeway and the downland spine running through the county from roughly Bridport to Shaftesbury; this emphasises, I think, the preference for calcareous soils and certainly bird's-foot trefoil thrives in these conditions. A walk on Ballard Down starting from Ulwell in late May/early June should produce a dingy skipper sighting for you. 


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Fact File Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Hesperid Butterflies Skippers