Che­quered skip­per sea­son is with us again

The Oban Times - - Outdoors - Glen­loy Wildlife www.glen­loy­

ONE of the wildlife spe­cial­i­ties of the re­gion is that the che­quered skip­per thrives in Lochaber and North Argyll, its only Bri­tish lo­ca­tion.

This pretty lit­tle choco­late-brown but­ter­fly, no big­ger than a thumb­nail, has yel­low che­quered mark­ings. De­pend­ing on the weather, the skip­pers fly from mid-May to the end of June. Their favoured lar­val food plant is pur­ple moor grass, and they are of­ten found where bog myr­tle also grows in con­junc­tion.

Of­ten thought of as a but­ter­fly of shaded wood­land, skip­pers can also be found on damp hill­sides, par­tic­u­larly in prox­im­ity to burns or rivers. The adults like to nec­tar on blue or pur­ple flow­ers, par­tic­u­larly blue­bells, bu­gle and louse­wort.

Skip­pers are feisty lit­tle in- sects, with the males guard­ing a ter­ri­tory, fly­ing up to see off any in­trud­ers off a sprig of myr­tle or heather.

The fe­males lay a sin­gle egg on a blade of pur­ple moor grass and the cater­pil­lars have a nifty trick of cut­ting a cou­ple of notches on one side of the leaf to stim­u­late growth.

This al­lows them to con­tinue to grow well into the au­tumn, and they over­win­ter as a cater­pil­lar, the larger, the bet­ter. This, to­gether with the warm, mild cli­mate may be the rea­son they do so well lo­cally. Pu­pa­tion takes place in spring.

Good lo­ca­tions to find them in­clude Glas­drum na­tional na­ture re­serve (NNR) on the shores of Loch Cr­eran, Ari­un­dle Oak­woods NNR at Stron­tian, Loch Arkaig, in­clud­ing the but­ter­fly re­serve at Allt Mhuic, and Glen Loy. We even get them oc­ca­sion­ally in the gar­den at Glen­loy Lodge.

Re­cent work co- or­di­nated by But­ter­fly Con­ser­va­tion has shown that the che­quered skip­per is much more wide­spread in Lochaber and North Argyll than once thought.

Tar­geted record­ing in spe­cific 1km grid squares from 2012 to 2014 has re­vealed a wider dis­tri­bu­tion, with but­ter­flies be­ing found in no less than 104 new 1km squares, an in­crease of some 42 per cent.

It is not clear whether the but­ter­flies are spread­ing or peo­ple have sim­ply not looked widely enough be­fore.

All in­for­ma­tion on dis­tri­bu­tion is wel­come and sight­ings are par­tic­u­larly use­ful.

Records should be sent to But­ter­fly Con­ser­va­tion Scot­land www. but­terf ly- con­ser­va­tion. org.

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