Thursday, 18 June 2015

Aish Tor Fritillaries

Wednesday June 17th and my mate Mavis had organised a short walk with friends at Mel Tor on Dartmoor as part of her 70th Birthday celebrations. The weather forecast was initially promising but it changed and on the day it was cloudy, misty and breezey but warm and humid. Very annoying as the previous day was very pleasent as is today. Never mind.

We met at Bel Tor and walked to Mel Tor, enjoying some wonderful scenery despite the mist and gloom. A willow warbler was singing and showed well and 2 ravens flew over croaking and tumbling. A skylark sang overhead as we tucked in to sandwiches and cake, Mavis calls it her bird of happiness because if you can hear one you must be somewhere nice.
Willow Warbler

After lunch was finished and everybody had drifted away we took a walk along Dr.Blackalls Drive to nearby Aish Tor, a good site for fritillaries including the rare high brown. Stonechats were seen along the walk including a few singing males and on arriving at Aish Tor I initially dismissed a singing bird as a stonechat due to my fritillary focused mind. Something twigged in my brain and I had a quick scan around and saw a very smart male Dartford warbler singing from a gorse bush before flying off being chased by a female - a nice and unexpected surprise in what has been a bit of a Dartie year so far.

 Dartford Warbler

Dartford Warbler

A small tortoiseshell flying past in the strong breeze had my pulse racing and brown silver line moths were disturbed from the vegetation. A few small heath were also seen flitting about but no fritillaries. I saw a chap searching through the bracken on the lower slopes so headed over for a chat - he was visiting from Surrey and had seen a few fritillaries fly past but had been unable to ID them properly as they had failed to settle on vegetation. Just then a ray of sunshine burst through the clouds and 2 fritillaries flew past very quickly without landing - large and very orange looking but high brown or dark green? A few more fly pasts later and I still hadn't caught a decent glimpse of them and that was that.

I did get some nice views of 3 green hairstreaks on gorse bushes and a large dragonfly species flew over the bracken. A small fritillary species landed briefly on the ground before flitting off, it was quite worn and probably a pearl bordered but it could have been a small pearl bordered.

Pearl Bordered/ Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary - Honest!

A male yellowhammer was a splash of colour on a gloomy day although it was starting to clear up and the sun was beginning to show more and more. But it was time to head off back to Plymouth and it had been a case of right place, right time but wrong conditions - too windy and cloudy - but at least I had seen some fritillary species and the Darties were a nice consolation. I certainly want to revisit here again on a better day and soon!

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