Wednesday 24th July 2013

Graylings on the rocks

Having reached 13 species of butterfly since I arrived in Scotland, I find myself hard-pushed to find any others! There are still perhaps another five I could find before I return to the Netherlands at the end of August, but these have not yet emerged.

Despite this obstacle, I am nonetheless seeing plenty of butterflies. Common Blues, Polyommatus icarus, are commoner this year than I have ever known them, Green-veined Whites, Pieris napi, are out in force, and Ringlets, Aphantopus hyperanthus, are in evidence in almost all damp habitats.

A visit to the far southern end of the Machars peninsular, near Isle of Whithorn, produced much better views than I had previously obtained of that specialist of rocky terrain, the Grayling, Hipparchia semele. The low cliffs here, with their warm, south-facing, wildflower-covered slopes provide ideal conditions for these vigorous butterflies, which chase each other across the steep slopes, landing every now and then on the rocks, where their cryptic camouflage renders them almost impossible to see.

A warm, sheltered gully, favoured by Graylings, which settle on the rocks to take the sun

Obtaining a photograph of the Graylings on the steepest slopes was impossible, but luckily I came across one feeding on a flower-head at the top of the cliffs, which allowed an extremely close approach – although as usual, grass-stems blocked the camera’s view.

A Grayling lurking behind the inevitable grass stems

The Grayling, with an almost grass-stem-free view – but not quite

Today I am heading northwards to the Outer Hebrides, where again I am unlikely to add much to my list, but it will be interesting to see what species I can locate on those remote, windswept islands in the North Atlantic.

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