Butterflies and sun

Published: 15th June 2010

Have been fair-weather naturalists in Lochaber this last week, coming out with the sun and looking for butterflies and dragonflies.  This seems to have been an excellent start to the year for butterflies locally. Chequered Skipper continue to be found in good numbers, and we have recorded them along the Loy and even in our garden at Glenloy Lodge! We found probably yet another new site yesterday in an adjacent glen. We also saw large numbers of newly-emerged Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries on the wing; vivid orange flashes dancing about the heather. These were accompanied by the first Dark-green Fritillary of the year – larger, bolder and a tremendously swift flier, and a rather jaded-looking Pearl-bordered Fritillary. Small Heath are also out in their hundreds, and can be seen on the hillsides everywhere. We were still finding Green Hairstreak last week, although these surely must be close to the end of their flight period.

Dragonflies have also emerged with the sun. We had a look at a local bog and lochan last week to see what was about, and saw hundreds of Four-spot Chasers around the edges of the water, whilst there were even larger numbers of Large Red and Common Blue Damselfly throughout the vegetation. Bog pools and runnels were quite dry, but it will be worth another look later in the season. Yesterday there were lots of Gold-ringed Dragonflies out, again our first of the season. These handsome beasts were patrolling the deer paths high on the hillside.

A welcome sight was that of a Kingfisher fishing in the overspill from Loy Sluices. This is the first bird we have seen since the harsh wionter weather, and better still it appeared to be a juvenile. The kingfisher was sat on a low perch amongst dense vegetation and caught a fish, which it seemed to take an inordinate time to stun, and swallow after several attempts. There are several patches of Globe-flower in glorious full bloom by the edges of the overspill area – ones we must have missed in previous years. Presumably the construction of the canal has provided a basic substrate for this and other species that are otherwise scarce locally. There seems to be a particularly good crop of Melancholy Thistle about to flower this year. Other plant discoveries have included a couple of locally scarce Ancient Woodland Indicators. A lone Sanicle was seen in flower on a large dead log parched atop of rocks in the River Moy, whilst a single Goldilocks Buttercup (with suitably mangy -looking flower) was found on rocks in the Loy. Elsewhere the Wood Cranesbill is now spectacularly in flower, whilst the first orchids are finally starting to show. The Butterfly Orchids do not seem to be out yet, but we managed to find a small patch of Small White Orchid up Glen Loy, and it should not be long before the Heath-spotted Orchid cloaks the hillsides.