Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Trip to the seaside

On Sunday I joined up with the Donegal Butterfly Survey group at Murvagh, west Donegal. Murvagh is on limestone and has excellent coastal grassland and forested areas inland, with the occasional dune and also scarce foodplants, so there is a wide range of unusual butterflies to be found.

When I arrived I immediately saw half a dozen Small Heath butterflies. These are very flighty at this early part of their season, so decent shots are quite difficult:

Small Heath butterfly

A little further along we found Horseshoe Vetch:

Horseshoe Vetch

Horseshoe Vetch is the sole foodplant of the Small Blue butterfly - the smallest butterfly in Europe - so we started to look in sheltered areas behind the dunes:

Small blue butterfly
The wingspan of this specimen was roughly 15 - 17 mm.

Dingy Skippers were seen, although not by my group, so I didn't get a shot of those. I did, however, get a decent shot of the day-flying Burnet Companion moth, which can very easily be mistaken for Dingy Skipper, and is often found in the precise locations that Dingy Skippers prefer:

Burnet Companion moth

One of my favourite early summer flowers is Heath Speedwell, with its tall, thin, elegant spikes of pale mauve flowers. It never gets very tall, with the tallest spikes reaching perhaps 15 cm from ground level. The following shot, however is quite fantastic:

Heath Speedwell and Creeping Willow
The oval-leaved plant surrounding the Speedwell is Creeping Willow, which is actually shorter than the Speedwell, so this 12-15 cm. flower is actually towering above the tree tops!

Here's a shot of the Creeping Willow seeds being produced:

Creeping Willow seed production

Further along the route, we turned more towards the Atlantic and found an interesting mix of plants and insects. This is Marram - the grass that binds the dunes together:

Marram
And this is Lyme Grass, another dune associate:

Lyme Grass

Close to these we found Wild Pansy:

Wild Pansy
And Spiked Sedge (if you think grasses are tricky, try doing sedges):

Spiked Sedge

I also spotted the larva of Garden Tiger moth:

Larva of Garden Tiger moth

And the larva of Dark Green Fritillary (a wonderful and scarce butterfly):

Larva of Dark Green Fritillary

Mouse-ear Hawkweed is identified by its lemon-yellow petals which are squared off and the fuzzy oval leaves:
Mouse-ear Hawkweed
Back at the car park, I noticed a single Cinnabar Moth:
Cinnabar Moth
Cinnabars are entirely dependant on Ragwort for their survival.


3 comments:

Jean said...

Great photos of the life around you.

Ger said...

By any chance are the Lyme grass and marram grass photos mixed up? Ger

Stuart said...

Jean, welcome to the blog. I hope you continue to find something of interest.

Ger, I don't think so. The first (bluer) leaves were about 12-15mm wide, whereas the leaves in the second image were around 5mm. Cross-sections were fine, too.