Sunday, 22 June 2014

Searching for Butterflies

Yesterday was cloudy, with a cool north wind blowing, so it seemed a good idea to look for butterflies on the south-facing ridge that runs along the back of Ormsaigbeg, Druim na Gearr Leacainn.

The small glens which cut its face carry the runoff from a substrate which is largely impermeable, so the burns are fierce after heavy rain, but reduce to no more than a trickle during the dry spells.  The air in them is still and warm, so they hum with insect life.

But, as so often happens, it was less the insects than the plants which caught our attention.  A year or so ago we'd have been very excited to find a single round-leafed sundew, but now the place seems crowded with them, to the extent that....

....we almost didn't notice that there was something different about this one.  Although it was the same very distinctive colour, it was larger, and its leaves were longer and stood more vertically.

Although we had had a light shower in the previous 24 hours, this couldn't explain the drops of moisture on the hairs of every leaf which had obviously been extruded to catch insects: this is the sticky 'sundew'.  And there were plenty of insects caught in it - a small fly is visible at the bottom of this leaf.

Looking up the group on Google, it could be one of two species, either Drosera anglica or Drosera intermedia, both of which occur on the west coast of Scotland.  One way of telling the difference is that D anglica has narrower leaves and flowering stems which are up to twice as long as the leaves and arise centrally - so this does look like D anglica.

The first bog asphodel were out, but it's still early for them so they were few and far between.

The main aim of the walk was to look for butterflies.  While there was no shortage of small heaths - it really does seem to be their year - the only other butterfly was this one, a fritillary.  Despite considerable patience, it simply would not close its wings so a photo could be taken of their underside, but it looks as if it may have been the small pearl-bordered variety.

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