Tuesday 13th August 2013

La Belle Dame

Today we visited an area near Dumfries which achieved notoriety during the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak, as this was one of the sites where large numbers of cattle carcasses were disposed of by burning and burying. Out of this horror came a positive result for butterfly enthusiasts, as this blighted spot now harbours a new species for Scotland, the Essex Skipper, Thymelicus lineola. The larvae of this butterfly may well have reached the area in the hay used to burn the cattle, some of which must have been discarded, and the resulting butterflies have now colonised the site.

Not only does Essex Skipper now occur here, but so does its close relative the Small Skipper, Thymelicus sylvestris, which I have also never seen in Scotland. We approached the area with high hopes, as the butterflies had been reported only a few days ago, but despite intensive searching, we found no skippers. Nonetheless, as so often happens when one is looking for a particular species, one does not find that one, but another one appears. Today’s bonus was a beautiful, totally fresh Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui, which brought my 2013 Scotland list up to 21 species – not a bad total, considering the fact that I did not expect to get much beyond 15.

Today’s beautiful Painted Lady

Scottish butterfly list as of 13th August: 21 species

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