And I would walk 500 miles ...
Actually 531 miles, and I did use a plane and car, but it's still a long way to go
This year I promised myself a trip to see the last species of Grayling I've yet to see - ssp. atlantica
- found in north west Scotland. This mammoth journey took me to Ardnamurchan Point (recommended by Adrian Riley in his excellent book British and Irish Butterflies
), which is almost the westernmost point on the British mainland (the actual record holder being 1km to the south). The trip from Glasgow took me through some of the most spectacular scenery our nation has to offer and made the journey so much more bearable! The Corran ferry also provides a nice 15 minute break in the driving, and takes quite a distance off the trip, dropping you off on the Arnamurchan Peninsula. What I didn't realise is that you're then confronted with approximately 35 miles of single track road, although there are plenty of passing places, and I think I came across 5 or so cars for the entire length of the drive across the peninsula! Despite driving through drizzle for 30 mins or so, I arrived at my destination to see a good amount of broken cloud.
I really had no idea whether I'd see my target and was prepared to visit a few other sites up and down the coast, but started by wandering over the rocky outcrop near the lighthouse. Within a few minutes I flushed up a butterfly and it was unmistakably a Grayling! The contrast on the underside was really quite something - my first Grayling ssp. atlantica
, and a beautiful male at that!
I followed this chap for at least 5 minutes and then, on request, the clouds gave way to bright sunshine, and 5 or 6 Grayling suddenly appeared from nowhere, making the trip totally worthwhile as I managed to get more photos and spend some time just enjoying them, and the view! I saw around 30 individual Grayling in total and a lot of the males had great chunks taken out of the hind wings, no doubt the result of attacks from the local birdlife. As is usual for Grayling, the adults simply disappeared on landing, blending perfectly into their background. I even had several "double takes" while processing the photos - this species being a master of camouflage!
A nice addition was seeing my first ever Meadow Brown ssp. splendida
, although they were few and far between with just 2 male and 2 female seen in total. However, the adults were quite spectacular, with large patches of orange on their forewings, including the male.
Just as I was leaving the site, an Oak Eggar larva wandered right in front of me - a nice end to the morning! It was also great seeing various islands of the inner Hebrides as I drove back to the ferry, including Mull (sorry I didn't have time to pop over to Tobermory to see you, Jack!), Muck, Eigg and (a destination for next year to see Small Heath ssp. rhoumensis
Since it was on the way back to Glasgow, I decided to pop into Glasdrum Wood to see if I could find the Chequered Skipper larvae that will have emerged from the eggs that I'd found on a previous visit. Unfortunately, 3 of the 4 markers I'd put down (well, twigs) were missing and the last failed to produce anything. However, I did manage to see several newly-emerged summer brood Green-veined White ssp. thomsoni
and also managed to find a few Speckled Wood ssp. oblita
But the nicest surprise, was finding my first ever Scotch Argus ssp. caledonia
- a single male that had clearly just emerged, marking the end to an exhausting, but very enjoyable, day!