17 July 2015

High Brown Fritillaries at Aish Tor: 7, 8 and 9 July

Visited Aish Tor on Dartmoor a few times over the last few days to look for High Brown Fritillary and other butterflies. Sadly, the High Brown Fritillary has declined in Britain by 90% since the 1970s and extinct over 94% of its former range. Categorised as Critically Endangered by the IUCN (one of only two Critically Endangered butterflies in Britain, the other being Large Blue Glaucopsyche arion), south-west England is now the species stronghold. There is some good news though - last year their numbers increased by more than 180% compared to 2013 - a ten year high.

A walk from Aish Tor to Newbridge and back on the 7th produced at least 8 High Brown Fritillary (including a female egg-laying beneath the bracken), 1 Dark Green Fritillary, 1 Painted Lady, 1 Comma, 2 Brimstone, 1 Red Admiral, 2 Small Heath, several Gatekeeper, lots of Meadow Brown and several Ringlet, and lots of unidentified fly-by fritillaries. A single Greater Butterfly-orchid Platanthera chlorantha still in flower beneath the Bracken at Aish Tor was a nice surprise, and 1 Grey Wagtail on the River Dart and a Yellowhammer were the best birds noted.

A quick visit late afternoon on the 8th found just a single High Brown Fritillary, 1 Dark Green Fritillary and a Red Admiral. A few Stonechat and a Yellowhammer were also noted.

Several hours from dawn on the 9th were best for photography, when there was a short window between the fritillaires emerging from the bracken and becoming too warm to settle for long. Along with several High Browns a Silver-washed Fritillary was also seen. Birds noted on the 9th include 2 Raven, 2-3 Bullfinch and 1m Stonechat.

High Brown Fritilary, Aish Tor, 9 July. A worn individual but a shot of the underwing showing the diagnostic ocelli just inside the
outer margin on of hindwing.

High Brown Fritillary, Aish Tor, 9 July

High Brown Fritillary, Aish Tor, 9 July. Note the missing third dot from the apex on the forewing on this one (compare with above).
Saw a few like this - an aberration perhaps?

Female High Brown Fritillary egg-laying, Aish Tor, 7 July

1 comment:

  1. Great post Lee. I must go and see High Brown, it has so far eluded me.