Marsh and Small Pearl- bordered Fritillaries on Dartmoor

It was a sunny morning when I left Exeter yesterday to go to Dartmoor but as the afternoon progressed it clouded over and eventually broke into heavy rain. I was therefore quite lucky to find what I went to Dartmoor to see.

A Marsh Fritillary sunning itself as the sun broke through the clouds momentarily

In total I saw 6 Marsh Fritillaries in the rhos pastures at Challacombe

If you look carefully individual butterflies are all subtly different in their markings

Marsh Fritillaries are now a very rare species but do flourish in a few selected locations on Dartmoor (and elsewhere)

I also found a couple of Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries – another rare and declining species for which Dartmoor is another stronghold

Just before the heavy rain arrived I found this individual

Amazing details and colours in the wings

Here is a shot of a Pearl-bordered Fritillary I photographed a few years ago at Hembury Woods


Marsh fritillaries

Whilst we were out on 10 Tors training on Saturday we came across a marsh fritillary project run by South West Lakes Trust. Marsh fritillaries are one of the very special and very rare butterflies that live on Dartmoor. The caterpillars feed on devil’s bit scabious plants and the adults fly in May and June.

Warren House walk 3Information board on the northern shores of Fernworthy reservoir

marshfrit I have never seen a marsh fritillary in the UK but I did manage to photograph this one over 15 years ago in Portugal

Warren House walk 10 The project is using these Dartmoor ponies to manage the rhos pastures (wet flower rich Dartmoor meadows) where they live

Warren House walk 12The area consists of open grassland and patches of scrub – along with a very useful boardwalk

Warren House walk 11Great multi stemmed moss covered trees

Warren House walk 6 Lovely light through the trees to the pastures beyond

I will definitely be going back in June to see if I can find and photograph the butterflies