6-spot Burnet Moth, black & yellow striped caterpillars, black butterfly or moth with red spots, cinnabar moth larvae, eristalis arbustorum, eristalis pertinax, eyebright, hoverflies, large black slug, meadow grasshopper, sawfly, small skipper, toadflax, vervain
The weather took its toll on the cliff-top flora and fauna of the Little Orme too, although I think perhaps it’s not so much that the insects were not there, more that they were less able to be mobile, so were not as visible as they are in warmer, drier conditions. I took the following pictures on a warmish, sunny but fairly windy day just past the middle of August when everywhere was still damp from rain.
Ragwort is blooming strongly and every plant is supporting a colony of cinnabar moth caterpillars.
The flowers of the ragwort are much in demand too, particularly by hungry hoverflies.
I was still on the lookout for soldier beetles and did eventually manage to find one pair; there were dozens of them this time last year. I didn’t even manage a very good photograph as the wind was blowing the ragwort stem they were on.
I walked towards the cliff edge above Angel Bay, drawn by a large patch of sunny yellow birds-foot trefoil mixed in amongst long grasses.
As I had hoped, this flowery area turned out to be quite productive in terms of insects. I first spotted a Common Blue butterfly very low down on a grass stem, then followed a Small Skipper until it too came to rest on a flower.
That was followed by a first sighting of a Burnet Moth fluttering across the grass and flowers, and once I had ‘got my eye in’, I soon realised there were a good few more.
The Burnet moths were mostly attracted to the thistle flowers growing at the side of the pathway; at one point I found four of them all on the same plant.
Stopping to photograph the single moth I was distracted by the chirping ‘song’ of a grasshopper, which I found on a grass stem just behind me. I am not great at identifying grasshoppers, but I think this was most likely a Meadow Grasshopper – Chorthippus brunneus.
Walking along a narrow track through the long grass I saw an insect I did not immediately recognise on a thistle flower. It took little notice of me taking photographs of it, just carried on working its way around the flowerhead. To identify it I searched my favourite website for insect identification http://www.naturespot.org.uk, which is a Leicestershire site but usually comes up trumps for me. From that I believe my mystery insect may be of the Sawfly species, Tenthredo notha – but as always I am more than happy to be corrected.
At the bottom of the steep grassy track that takes you higher up on the cliff, a decent number of butterflies were dancing around the bramble flowers. There is red valerian growing there too which is also a favourite nectar plant of butterflies and more ragwort attracting hoverflies. Butterflies included Large, Small and Green-veined Whites, Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers and a Tortoishell.
I stopped half-way up the incline to draw breath and to take a photograph of the view.
At the top there is a flat grassy area, popular with Jackdaws that nest on the cliffs and grazed by sheep, where the remains of some sort of winding mechanism still stands as a memorial to the quarrying that is responsible for the shape of the Little Orme.
Back down at the bottom and a quick scout around before heading home produced more flowering plants:
Another grasshopper, which I think is a Mottled one as it has curved antennae, but if not then its a Field one.
Then finally, as testament to all the recent rainfall, a big fat slug…
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Thank you Tony, I am learning all the time and still find the more I learn the less I know. I just love being out there and watching everything happening around me. I still have to spend hours identifying things too, especially insects, there are just so many of them.
Tony William Powell said:
Ditto, dreaminginstitches’s comment. You possess awesome knowledge of the many insects and the plants on which they feed.
What a brilliant post – I feel as if I was walking along with you. Although I was brought up to identify a smattering of wild flowers, I know next to nothing about insects, so these posts are very valuable. Thank you.
Thank you for your lovely comments, it’s good to know there are people who appreciate my ramblings – it makes all the funny looks I get while kneeling in long grass or skulking around in the undergrowth stalking insects completely worthwhile!
Finn Holding said:
Lovely post Theresa, you did well to find so many species of butterfly. They seem to have been decimated round here, apart from the occasional ringlet and the even less occasional gatekeeper, the only abundant species are large and small white and red admiral.
Lovely view from Little Orme too!
Thank you Finn, I fell lucky with the butterflies for just a few minutes that afternoon, otherwise there are definitely less individuals than last year. It is a great view – spoilt a bit by the large (and growing) number of wind turbines installed just off the coast though.