The joys of counting butterflies

June 2017

Nare Head epitomises the wildest of our wild landscapes. Its rugged and unforgiving geology defies all attack from the worst of the weather above, and the crashing ocean waves below. So it may come as a surprise that delicate butterflies and moths can thrive here.
Nare Head is one of my favourite wild Roseland places, inspired by the dogged determination of living things to survive in this challenging habitat. No tall trees here. Any shrub other than gorse  grows sideways, battered by extremes of weather, or becomes bonsai’d by the thin, nutrient-poor soil. Some plant species grow just a few centimetres in height in exposed areas; the gorse provides sheltered pockets for some of the taller ones. There is, nevertheless, enough nectar and pollen on tap to sustain many insects including butterflies and moths. As the spring and summer seasons advance, these animals appear in quite large numbers, even on the very tip of the rocky headland.
Butterfly Conservation has been recording butterfly species in the Roseland for a number of years. There is a special butterfly transect at Nare: a set route along which observers walk and record all the butterfly species they see. Observations are carried out throughout late spring and summer, so different species can be recorded as they emerge over time. I decided to get involved with recording, as it is a great way to learn how to recognise some of our more uncommon species and see them out in the field. It is only ever a fair weather activity, so all the more enjoyable.
The Nare transect follows the footpath from the National Trust car park, down through the wooded valley to Paradoe Bay, up to the tip of the headland itself, across towards the nuclear bunker, then back around and down towards Kiberick Bay before returning to the car park. Among the more common species you are likely to record are the Meadow brown, Wall, Ringlet, Common blue, Peacock and Painted lady. But if you are lucky, you may see some less common species. On my first transect walk I recorded my first Green hairstreak (Callophrys rubi), the UK’s only green coloured butterly. The Small pearl-bordered fritillary has also been recorded at Nare in previous years.
Though I was not recording moths, I did see a species new to me: the Speckled yellow (Pseudopanthera macularia). It is a day-flying moth, and worthy of mention here because of its striking appearance: bright yellow wings with black blotches.
Recording butterlfies is an enjoyable and worthwhile activity that I would thoroughly recommend; in the Roseland it is currently organized by Chris Townsend, who does this work in partnership with the National Trust team at Porth.
Sarah Vandome

Butterfly Conservation:


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