Tom Gray’s Nature Notes: Hoping for good spotting

Tom Gray
Tom Gray

So far it has hardly been a butterfly year, although a few Small Tortoiseshells did make an early appearance across the country, induced by warmer days in February and March when on sunnier days the temperature had unseasonally soared into the twenties!    

Since then I’ve hardly  caught sight even of a passing Small White!

In spite of this I have recently  had an invitation to travel to Deeside to take part, as I did successfully last year, in a survey to find the breeding sites of an uncommon butterfly, the Pearl-bordered Fritillary, which was encountered feeding on the nectar of Bugle flowers.    

This year the organisers of the outing, bearing in mind the chill of prevailing weather, have cautiously set the date for this proposed visit to the Aberdeenshire reserve at the Burn o’ Vat for 10am on 14 May, with the proviso that the event be postponed continuously by two day intervals until the butterflies do appear, feeding to schedule on Bugle Flowers as they did last May?

If we have a successful outing I shall report back and publish any butterfly photos courtesy of our local Pitcairn Society web-site.

Pearl-bordered butterflies do not occur in Fife, but I had heard rumours of the presence of its close relative, the Small Pearl-bordered Butterfly, at Fife sites when I first settled in the county in 1970.    

This species, whose caterpillar shares the same wild Violet food plants as its close relative, occurs quite local to Glenrothes, but I had to be persistent and wait quite a number of years  for a sunny June day before I found the Small Pearl-bordered making its first appearance.  

Nevertheless, I’ll be out again this year to check its success in the clearings of Wemyss Woods.

If you are a real optimist and hope that our summer, yet to come, will extend into July you may be lucky enough to come across yet another and even larger Fife fritillary, the so-called Dark Green species, on the slopes of the Lomond or North Fife Hills, or elsewhere along the ‘Spine of Fife’.

Whatever wildlife  you come across, keep us informed through the columns of the ‘Gazette’.    

Meantime, with thoughts of the season ahead, I am just about to shake out last year’s debris from my butterfly nets before laying them handy in the boot of the car!  

*Tom Gray writes for the Glenrothes Gazette