03
Aug
21

Saving the best ’till last

I’m privileged to have some good customers. A tour to Cumbria with some experienced butterfly hunters this last weekend was great fun.

As we drove up through Lincs, Yorks then Lancs the weather looked somewhat imposing. The forecast didn’t look much better; uncertain at best. Every whiter cloud prompted comments of ‘it’s looking brighter’ or ‘it’s definitely brightening up’. I’ve been here before with butterfly tours and grey skies. You just have to look a lot harder!

It didn’t take us too long to find one of our target species. In fact several SCOTCH ARGUS showed brilliantly. This surprisingly large bright butterfly was quite mobile but we managed to tie a few down and take a few photographs. We searched meticulously for the main prize, High Brown Fritillary, without success. It was quite difficult walking too with loose limestone scree tiring on the legs. We retired defeated to our luxury hotel to have a welcome hot shower and a wonderful meal overlooking a bay of silver water slithered with golden sands backed by beautiful mountains.

The following day we searched again. Eventually as morning turned to afternoon we turned up a CASTLE EDEN ARGUS the subspecies of Northern Brown Argus we had been looking for. And then another. Result.

At this point the sun broke through the clouds and it was if the ground became alive. I have never seen as many Grayling butterflies. The number we saw in the next hour doubled the figure I had seen during the last five years. Incredible. A supporting cast of twenty something species and despite no High Brown Fritillary, we were happy hunters.

We opened up the flasks to imbibe a final coffee and decided to prepare for our drive back to Norfolk. As we chatted and drank up a last shaft of sunshine cracked the cloud and lit up the limestone cliff above us. Down the ray of golden sun descended a number of fritillaries. All flew immediately away but one was tempted back by the budleia beside the car. What happened next is difficult to convey but coffee and biscuits were abandoned; cameras just packed were brought back into use and there was lots of stumbling around to get a view. We all took a close look – our visitor showed the arched fore-wing and rusty under-wing spots of a HIGH BROWN FRITILLARY. Our third target was in the bag. What a finale. This wonderful little creature gave us a 20 minute pirouetting ballet before ascending back to the heaven from which it came.

Look out for next years tour. You’ll regret not being involved even if it’s just for the good craic.

Scotch Argus
salmasis’ – Northern Brown Argus
High Brown Fritillary

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