Butterflies steal show on trip to old favourite
SMARDALE in Cumbria has been a favourite with the Rochdale Field Naturalists’ Society for many years.
The nature reserve follows the line of an abandoned railway through a beautiful but relatively unvisited valley leading up to a stunning old viaduct.
Although the height of summer is not the best for birdwatching, still a total of 31 species was seen.
This included a family group of the spectacular and still very rare hen harrier and there were still a few swifts feeding up before their imminent migration. A heron was fishing in the muchdiminished stream and it was good to see a wheatear.
It was the plants and insects that really dazzled.
The sides of the railway path were awash with colour.
Harebells fluttered in between banks of the common summer flowering species, like willowherbs, thistles, knapweed and scabious.
Great burnet flowers, like vertical purple raspberries, were abundant.
Tiny flowers like eyebright peeked through, as did vetch species and herbs such as marjoram and woodsage.
There were banks of heather in full flower. Bees were buzzing, but it was the butterflies that exceeded all expectations.
The Scotch argus has its most southern colonies at Smardale and they were very easy to see, just where they were promised. A very good total of 16 species of butterflies were observed, including painted ladies and the common blue.
Day flying moths can be hard to identify, but the well-named hummingbird hawk moth was spectacular, if hard to photograph. Several members saw one for the first time.
Smardale lived up to its billing as one of the society’s best-loved reserves that RFNS visits.
We reassembled, thirsty and tired, in the busy cafe near the coach and vowed we’ll be back again soon.
The Society runs coach trips every month. Visit www. rochdalefieldnaturalists. org.uk .
●●Rochdale Field Naturalists’ Society members at the start of the Smardale trail
●●Scotch argus butterfly.
●●Hummingbird hawk moth about to land