Marsh fritillaries on Dartmoor

Finding a marsh fritillary butterfly on Dartmoor has proven to be a very long and drawn out process. Over the past couple of years I have tried on six separate occasions on specific trips and numerous other speculative occasions. Today I was finally successful.

Marsh fritillary
I managed to see four different individuals in the Challacombe / Widecombe area but only managed to photograph this one individual. I think it is a female – what a stunning animal.

Marsh frit map 2000-16map
Marsh fritillaries have declined considerably over the past few decades – the red squares indicate extant colonies since 2000 whilst the yellow squares represent those that have been lost. Colonies are rarely large and often exist in an area of around a couple of hectares. (Map courtesy of the National Biodiversity Network).

Rhos Pasture 1
On Dartmoor they live largely in Rhos Pastures (see here). They are a matrix of wet meadows, bogs, heaths, woodland and scrub  on the lower enclosed lands of Dartmoor. Without the care and attention  of the Dartmoor farmers assisted by the agri-environment grant schemes these places would have been lost.


Rhos Pasture 2
The species rich grasslands remind me of the fen meadows of Wicken Fen where I used to work.

Bog bean
This is the bog bean – a species which is very uncommon but is common in the Rhos Pastures and is a nectar source for the marsh fritillaries.

After much effort I have now managed to see and photograph  all seven species of Dartmoor fritillary butterflies: pearl bordered, small pearl bordered, dark green, silver washed, high brown, marsh and heath. Happy days.

6 thoughts on “Marsh fritillaries on Dartmoor

  1. I’m more than somewhat envious – I’ve never seen a Marsh Fritillary. A Fritillary highlight for me was seeing high browns at Holnicote (and also in Silverdale many years previous).

  2. Pingback: When butterflies die | look around!

  3. Pingback: Return to Challacombe Farm | CampaignerKate

  4. Pingback: Some different sheep at the magical Challacombe – A Dartmoor blog

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