Glasgow & SW Scotland Butterflies

Glasgow & SW Scotland Branch Website

July 27, 2010

Chequered Skipper spreading along South Loch Etive

Filed under: Butterflies — Andrew Masterman @ 9:44 pm

2010 was the second year of Chequered Skipper Surveys in Argyll and Lochaber organised by the branch. And while not all records are in yet, I can report some exciting new records in and around Taynuilt.

Distribution of Chequered Skipper Records around Loch Etive

Distribution of Chequered Skipper Records around Loch Etive

 

The only previous Chequered Skipper records on the south side of Loch Etive were a bit further north but in 2010, there were five just east of Taynuilt including two along Glen Kinglass and one in Taynuilt itself at Brolas Farm which is a well-known Marsh Fritillary site. This site is visited most years for Marsh Fritillary so Chequered Skipper would certainly have been spotted before by visiting Lepidopterists if not by the inhabitants of Taynuilt so this new record must reflect recent colonisation rather than under-recording.

There appears no obvious reason why Chequered Skipper should not be found further south in Argyll than Loch Etive as its foodplant, Purple Moor Grass is abundant throughout Argyll and coastal parts south of Oban also have a mild and very wet climate like North Argyll and Lochaber. It remains to be seen whether there is further spread of Chequered Skipper along the south side of Loch Etive in future years but it would be good if it did so because its current very limited distribution of 30 10 km squares makes it vulnerable when colonies go extinct.

Next year, it would be interesting to see if Chequered Skipper can be found further west than Taynuilt. If it turns up in Connel, then it is possible it could spread to the Oban area which would be great.

Here are some photos of Chequered Skipper and Chequered Skipper sites taken in 2010:

Male CS at Glasdrum 29 May 2010  Credit: Andrew Masterman

Male CS at Glasdrum 29 May 2010 Credit: Andrew Masterman

 

Male CS at Creagan 28 May 2010  Credit: Andrew Masterman

Male CS at Creagan 28 May 2010 Credit: Andrew Masterman

 

CS Site East of Taynuilt NN037332  Credit: Owen Figgis

CS Site East of Taynuilt NN037332 Credit: Owen Figgis

 

 

CS site Glen Kinglass, Loch Etive NN083373  Credit: Owen Figgis

CS site Glen Kinglass, Loch Etive NN083373 Credit: Owen Figgis

CS site Glen Noe, Loch Etive NN053346  Credit: Owen Figgis

CS site Glen Noe, Loch Etive NN053346 Credit: Owen Figgis

 

CS site Creagan Buidhe, Loch Etive NN058356  Credit: Owen Figgis

CS site Creagan Buidhe, Loch Etive NN058356 Credit: Owen Figgis

 

Written by Andrew Masterman

July 21, 2010

Argyll is alive with the fluttering wings of Scotch Argus

Filed under: Butterflies — Andrew Masterman @ 7:58 pm

Although we have yet to receive the first sighting of a Scotch Argus in 2010 on the date of writing this blog post (21 July 2010), the first ones are very likely on the wing now.

While the Scotch Argus can be found in much of highland Scotland and in parts of southern Scotland, the greatest numbers occur in Argyll where for a few weeks from late  July to early September each year, the multitudes of this stunning butterfly are an amazing butterfly spectacle! You can find them everywhere in Argyll: along roadsides; in woodland rides; on hillsides, on coasts etc. Although they are only on the wing for two months of the year (mid-July to mid September), the Scotch Argus is Argyll’s most numerous butterfly.

As the flight period progresses, Scotch Argus become progressively more worn and tatty. To see Scotch Argus at their best, you need to visit Argyll between late July and mid-August on a sunny day although if you want to photograph them, choosing a warm cloudy day is the solution. The following Scotch Argus photos were taken at Bridge of Awe NN033302 on 26 July 2008 when warm but cloudy conditions meant the butterflies were sufficiently inactive to make photographing them possible. This Bridge of Awe meadow is a great butterfly site worth stopping at anytime from May to September as you are guaranteed to see a number of butterfly species on a sunny day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So a trip to Argyll is strongly recommended between late July to mid August to see Scotch Argus in their prime and in multitudes. Good places to stop and look for Scotch Argus and other butterflies are shown on this spreadsheet which details the results of a voluntary survey I did in Argyll during the lovely warm dry summer of 2006.

Andrew Masterman

Commas confirmed breeding in South West Scotland

Filed under: Butterflies — Tags: , , , , , , — Scott Shanks @ 1:11 am

In recent years we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of Comma sightings in SW Scotland. Until now these records have all been of adult commas, but thanks to Heather Young of the SW Scotland branch we now have proof of Commas breeding in the branch area.

Comma Caterpillar 13-07-2010

Comma Caterpillar 13-07-2010

On the 13th of July, Heather found this nearly full grown caterpillar on an elm near Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire (NS788988). She suspects it was wych elm, but is having the elm species confirmed by a botanist to be sure. The caterpillar began to pupate a few days later.

There have been only 2 other records of comma caterpillars in Scotland in recent times. On both occasions they were in the Borders. The first was seen in 2006 at Sprouston near Kelso, on elm, and the second at Duns in early July 2010, on nettle.

The Comma caterpillar is quite distinctive, with a large white patch at the rear of the body which gives them the appearance of a bird’s dropping. The mature caterpillar will sit happily on the upper surface of leaves, trusting in their bird-dropping mimicry to keep them safe from predators. In England and Wales comma caterpillars can be found on stinging nettles, elm, wych elm, hops and occasionally currents. The pupa resembles a dried leaf dangling from the food plant and is much harder to find!

If you are out for a walk and pass patches of nettles or a stand of elms in SW Scotland keep an eye out for Comma caterpillars (and adults!) and let us know.

Heather Young & Scott Shanks

Caterpillar photograph (c) Heather Young 2010.

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