Sunday, 25 July 2010

Smardale NNR and More Butterflies.

Dark Green Fritillary
Scotch Argus

Common Blue and Small Skipper

Common Blue (female)

View from the viaduct

Small Skipper

Water Avens Geum rivale. A flower in my top ten.
Small Skipper

Scotch Argus

24th Jul. After the successful previous day at Bishop Middleham I was off today to Smardale NNR in the hope of more butterflies. I had targeted Scotch Argus and Dark Green Fritillary. I was with the Local Group today and the weather was once again kind to us. Birding got little more exciting than the Kestrel and Common Buzzard seen on the journey over to Cumbria, and the Common Tern seen as we crossed the Tyne. This is not to say that there isn’t some good birding to be had in the area of the reserve and individuals in the group had sightings of Raven, Redstart and Wood Warbler. At the reserve I had little more than Swift, hirundines and Willow Warbler, but I was again concentrating on the botany and butterflies.

The Smardale Reserve is close to Kirby Stephen and covers part of the disused Darlington to Tebay railway line, closed in the 1960s. It was well worth the visit and I point you to this site for details. I am quite sure the locals and other visitors are not used to seeing a thirty-five seater coach parked in the small car-park, and to be honest I at one point thought we wouldn’t make it down the very narrow road. Our driver managed to negotiate the problem without knocking down the stone walls or denting his almost new coach, but only just! Anyway the natives were very friendly and quite happy that the coach be parked on the grass, once the horse had been removed to a safe area.

On the initial stage of the walk all that was seen was a Small White Butterfly, but the wildflowers were holding the interest and today included Water Avens and I found one only just coming into flower whilst all the others around it had long past flowering. Other interesting pants included Fragrant Orchid in some number, cranesbills of several species, Betony and Enchanters Nightshade. We had timed the walk in the expectation that given a decent day weather wise both Dark Green Fritillary and Scotch Argus would be on the wing. Just as we finishing our lunch the first Dark Green Fritillary Butterfly was found and gave hope that more were to come. More did come, giving everyone the chance of good sightings. It wasn’t too long before the sun and more open area brought out a number of Scotch Argus Butterflies. The reserve is only one of two areas in England where this butterfly can be found. Both these butterflies were lifers for me.

Amongst the other butterflies seen were Small Skippers, by the dozen. I have never seen so many. There were also lots of Common Blues and many of them female. Other butterflies seen were Green Veined White, Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown, Ringlet and Small Heath. One or two of our group reported seeing Northern Argus. I’m not fully convinced that they did, but perhaps I’m just jealous.:-) I have a feeling they might have been looking at the Common Blue females. Whatever, it was certainly a good butterfly day. On the return walk the rains appeared to be approaching from the west coast although we were back at the coach before there was any real shower. The benefit of the cloud was that the Scotch Argus Butterflies were settled and very easily photographed.
We do live in a small world and on the return walk we chatted to a lady who seemed to have a slight American accent. She was walking with her partner, and her mother who she was visiting. Last night I Googled Smardale and I came across a report on a certain bird forum which I won’t name.:-) It was a report from about six years ago from a Cumbrian lady who now lived in the USA, who was then visiting her mum. The lady’s latest post showed that she was presently in Cumbria. I’m sure that is the lady I spoke with. I’ve sent her a PM to say hello.
I'm now ready for some serious birding!

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