Sunday, 12 July 2015

Mountain Ringlet and Large Heath

We stayed over at Carlisle and planned to drop into Meathop Moss and Arnside Knott the next morning before heading for the South Coast and home.  Meathop Moss proved a little confusing. One sign welcomed you to the site whilst the other told you that it was members and permit holders only.

There had been no mention of this restriction on their website. Perhaps we should just head for home? No, I don't think so, not after coming all that distance.

And what a great place it turned out to be. You could have spent all day investigating  the butterflies, moths, unusual flowers and other wildlife inhabiting the area. Key target for us on the day was the Large Heath butterfly and we soon found a few specimens.

Large Heath

This one trapped in an old spiders web but we released him unharmed once we had taken a picture

We saw plenty of the Large Heath but they were hard to photograph. They became more active as the temperature picked up and they did not settle out in the open, preferring to hide in the long grass.

With the pictures in the bag we then had a change of plan. We were on a roll so instead of going home we headed back up towards Keswick in the north of the Lake District and drove up onto the Honister Pass to park at the slate mine. We had dipped the Mountain Ringlet three times in Scotland but it was worth giving it another go in the lakes where they fly a bit earlier in the year.

The walk up from the slate mine to the area marked as Fleetwith on the OS map is steep but its not very long and when you find the first Mountain Ringlet you know it's been worthwhile.

View down to the Slate Mine and parking area

The view South from the Slate  Mine track.
Mountain Ringlets found in the middle distance beyond the collapsed wall and to the left of the footpath

The colony has been here for a few years but I am not sure how it survives. The butterflies are weak fliers and only live for a few days. They are safe if they stay tucked down in the grass, as below, but only living for a few days the males need to get out and find a mate. With the wind that was blowing on the hill that day, as soon as they appeared, they were swept off down the hill and out of sight, completely out of control.

Mountain Ringlet in cover.

We didn't get home until close on midnight but it was worth the change of plan. Mountain Ringlet seen, only two UK butterflies to go, and it probably saved another visit to Scotland.

It was a great trip. Four new butterflies seen and one new bird but perhaps more important, a lot of knowledge gained about various sites that we would like to revisit. A return trip will probably happen next year. I keep looking at the pictures of the Chequered Skipper. It was great to get the record shots but they are not really good enough. I need to find a freshly emerged specimen.

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