Wednesday, 1 September 2010

A good day for butterflies

A recurring theme of mine is how few insects there are in the UK, compared not only with areas of similar climate in North America, but also with the UK of 100 or even 50 years ago.  A quick glance at old identification guides or museum collections show just how much diversity has been lost, and how the numbers of many species have crashed.  No surprise given the changing land use in this country... hedgerows, for example, have been lost at an alarming rate, despite their role as wildlife refuges in the otherwise monoculture environments of England.

This weekend was one of those rare days when I've seen a lot of insect life.  The Yorkshire Dales are one place you would think would be a good place for seeing butterflies and moths, given the diversity of habitats and the smaller scale of farming, but years of bad weather have, I suspect, knocked down the numbers of leps in this region.  Yet this weekend, on a nice warm day near Hawes, I saw more butterflies (and more numbers of butterflies) than at any other time in the years I've lived here.

On top of the more common Small White and Green-veined White, there were the less-seen Large Whites, Small Tortoiseshells, Peacock butterflies and even a Red Admiral, but the prize for the day was seeing a Fritillary, a rare sight at the best of times.  Unfortunately, I was too slow with my camera (and the butterfly itself was in no great shape) so I don't know what type it was, but if I had to guess I would say it was a Silver Washed Fritillary.  Hopefully when I can look up some range information I'll have a better idea.

Some of the butterflies I saw:

Small Tortoiseshell

Large White


Red Admiral

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