BUtterflies are back

Published: 14th May 2010

The warm spring weather in Lochaber last weekend brought the butterflies out in force. Thursday 6th was a great day with more Green Hairstreak at Torlundy (first seen with Angela on Sunday 2nd). I had wildlife cameraman, Mat Thompson with me, and he was able to get some great shots of this active little butterfly nectaring on gorse. The sun picked up the irridescent green of the underwing to full advantage, and he was even able to capture the subtle stripes on the antennae and legs. Two males sparred, circling around each other above the bush. These hairstreaks move extremely quickly when not settled, however, and are very difficult to capture in direct flight. To make amends he was able to catch some nice shots of an unconcerned Yellowhammer singing from the top of an adjacent bush, and we saw a Tree Pipit displaying further down the track. Other butterflies about that day included Orange-tip (in abundance), Green-veined White and Peacock. Angela and I had glimpses of fast-flying butterflies that were probably Pale-Bordered Fritillaries in various locations all week, including this one, although we have yet to obtain a definitive sighting this year. An excursion to the Allt Mhuic butterfly reserve on Sunday yielded the first Chequered Skipper of the year. One virtually landed on Mat's boot – not a great place for filming, unfortunately. Other butterflies that day included Speckled Wood, along with more OT, GVW, Peacock and Small Tortoishell.

Mat had a successfult week (let's hope his luck holds when he accompanies one of our tours) – he managed to capture film of 8 Blackcock competing vigorously over a single female on the local lek, and found Otter at least four times over the course of 5 visits to the same location. The Great Northern Divers are still lingering and made a pretty picture in their full breeding plumage. Mat was able to film these, and as a bonus had a pair of Black-throats on Loch Lochy.

Angela and I had a trip on the Sheerwater out to Muck last Friday, to look at the feasibility of accessing the seabird cliffs on a short day trip. Although we managed to achieve this, the walk was unsuitable for wildlife guests, but it was a lovely day, nonetheless. We did see several Puffin on the water, and heard a Corncrake rasping in the flag beds next to Port Mor. We should have stayed and watched as our boat skipper told us he almost stepped on a Corncrake outside the tea-room. We will be back to look next week!

We had a hunt up Glen Loy during the week for signs of Water Vole. We didn't find any real evidence, apart from one possible grazed 'meadow'. We covered a really nice stretch of river, upstream of Achanellan, however. Some of the rocks had montane plants such as Alpine Lady's Mantle and Mountain Everlasting growing on them. One of the adjacent pools contained long sticky threads of Toad spawn – thicker and coarser than I remembered. A spent moth perched on my thumb for some time and was easily photographed. I suspected this to be a Ringed Carpet, a national 'rarity', subsequently confirmed by our county recorder, Tom Prescott. I also had this a couple of days later in my garden moth trap. As Tom says, some of these 'rare' moths are turning out not to be as uncommon as previously thought, once people start looking for them. We are sufficiently off the beaten path for moth trapping always to be a potentially exciting event!