Monday, June 10, 2013

A Butterfly Bank.....

Along the old disused mineral railway line between Garmondsway and Trimdon Grange, on the magnesian limestone in east Durham, there's a 200 metre south-facing stretch of embankment that's near perfect habitat for the the limestone flora and its associated butterflies.

When we visited last week the first generation of small coppers had just emerged. This one is sunning itself on one of last year's carline thistles - a very painful plant to kneel on when you are trying to take a photograph.

The bank is also an excellent site for the dingy skipper butterfly which, despite its derogatory name, is very attractive when it settles for long enough to be examined at close quarters. Chasing butterflies around on a hot day is frustrating and unproductive, and can only lead to extensive tramping of the flowers, so I just sat and waited for the butterflies to come to me. Dingy skippers like to sunbathe on patches of bare soil and sure enough a female settled right next to me, soon to be joined by a male, on her left here.

Once she recognised that she was being courted she cocked up her tail and opened her scent glands, releasing pheromones that are the butterfly equivalent of Chanel No. 5, to secure his undivided attention. Double click this and the above image for a large, clearer view.

This is the butterfly bank in question.

At the moment it's dominated by drifts of common hawkweed Hieracium vulgatum but some of the choicer limestone flowers are coming out, such as .....

..... common milkwort Polygala vulgaris , and ....

..... and spotted orchid, growing here amongst salad burnet.


  1. Great shots once again. It's a grand spell of weather we are enjoying.

  2. Thanks Adrian, it's a delight and a relief to see plenty of butterflies around after that grim winter...