But­ter­flies steal show on trip to old favourite

Rochdale Observer - - WHAT’S ON WITH ALL ACROSS THE ARTS -

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

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