Friday 19th July 2013

Boiling in Scotland!

We are currently enjoying a spell of incredibly warm, sunny weather here in Scotland, and the butterflies are appearing at last – not that there are many new species for my overall list here, but the numbers are encouraging.

On Tuesday 16th July, we visited the beautifully located Corsewall Point, at the northern end of the Rhins peninsular, offering panoramic views to Arran, Kintyre and the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland, with the pudding-shaped rock of Ailsa Craig towering out of the Firth of Clyde in the middle distance.

In addition to large numbers of Common Blues, Polyommatus icarus, the vegetation just above the rocks produced numerous Meadow Browns, Maniola jurtina, and a few Green-veined Whites, Pieris napi. Here I was able to locate a new species for my Scottish list, Small Heath, Coenonympha pamphilus, of which at least three were quite vigorously defending their territories against passing Common Blues. Small Heaths, formerly common and widespread in Galloway, seem to have declined noticeably in recent years, so it was encouraging to see these individuals here.

A rocky area at Corsewall Point, Wigtownshire

Down at the very bottom of the rocks, just above the tideline, two larger, more boldly marked butterflies flew by, and a binocular view revealed them to be a new species for my overall as well as for my Scottish list for 2013, the Grayling, Hipparchia semele. I was unable to approach them in the hope of obtaining a photograph, but as this species is widely distributed around the rocky areas of the Galloway coastline, I should see several more before their flight season ends.

Wednesday 17th July saw me walking up the 711 m Cairnsmore-of-Fleet, our local hill. Following another Small Heath, once I had passed through the first belt of woodland, I came out into a relatively recently felled area, and fairly soon spotted a rather faded butterfly gliding over the bracken. This turned out to be a Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Clossiana selene, a new species for my Scottish list. I later went on to see four of these, all looking close to the end of their lives.

A Small Heath, a formerly common butterfly in Galloway

Also in this zone there were numerous Ringlets, Aphantopus hyperanthus, and a few Meadow Browns, Maniola jurtina. A little further up, particularly where a forestry road crosses the main hill path, an open area held several Common Blues, Polyommatus icarus, and another new species for Scotland in 2013, the Dark Green Fritillary, Argynnis aglaja. At least 25 of these splendid gingery-brown butterflies (their name refers to the ground colour of the underside of their hindwings, with the incredible silver spots setting off the green ground colour) were sailing about of the bracken, the males chasing the females, at least one of which I observed fluttering low through the grass, searching for violet plants on which to lay her eggs.

A Dark Green Fritillary, showing its green background colour with the silver spots

Today, Friday 19th July, has again been a blazing day, and a short walk this evening added two new species for my 2013 Scottish list: Peacock, Inachis io, and Small Tortoiseshell, Aglais urticae, bringing the total up to 13 species.

2013 butterfly list as of 19th July: 68 species

2013 Scottish list: 13 species

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