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 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).
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.
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.