Before this year, I had only seen an Essex skipper once, and that was only a possibility, not a certainty, based on a photo I took in July 2017 of what I thought at the time was a Small skipper. This year I’ve found them at three different sites, reinforcing my thinking that, for me personally, there’s really no substitute for taking the time to observe something closely.
There are physical differences that differentiate the Essex from the Small skipper – the black tips of its antennae and, in the male, the size and angle of the sex brand on its upper wings (see images below). But I’ve found that they seem to act differently too. Their flight pattern seems more relaxed, less frantic than the Small skippers, and they also seem more inclined to perch and be looked at – or maybe I’ve just been lucky!
Close observation and taking lots of photos of their antennae for verification has meant I’ve now found Essex skippers at Cardiff’s Hailey and Grangemoor Parks, and also at Cosmeston. But will I remember what to look for when they begin to appear next year? Only time will tell.