WOLD RANGER RAILWAYS - Railway photography around Yorkshire and the UK

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Butterflies & Flowers at Deep Dale

Pyramidal Orchids
This morning we headed up to the high Wolds on what was a mostly sunny and pleasantly warm July morning, though there was a moderate to fresh westerly breeze, especially on the exposed Wold tops. However thanks to the deep and winding nature of Deep dale (which is near Bishop Wilton) we spent most of the morning sheltered from the breeze, and indeed without the breeze it soon became quite hot in the valley and it was actually quite a relief to get back up into the cooling breeze by the time the sun reached its zenith high in the southern sky. However the warmth and sunshine meant conditions were perfect for butterflies today, an all too rare occurrence during this summer so far, and for this reason alone I was more than willing to suffer a bit of discomfort in order to enjoy the spectacle of these colourful and seemingly delicate insects.

Meadow Brown

Small Heath


Upon arrival at Deep dale the first butterfly we encountered was a Ringlet, a species which seems to be doing well this year, and throughout our walk we would come across loads of these dark brown butterflies, especially amongst patches of Ragwort where up to a dozen could be seen feeding on just one plant. A healthy number of Small Heaths would be noted too throughout the walk, these seemingly attracted to Wild Thyme, and we would also encounter a few Meadow Browns here and there (these favouring areas with longer grass). Amazingly these are the first Meadow Browns I have seen this year!!! Other species recorded this morning included a lone Small Tortoiseshell, a healthy number of Common Blues, a trio of Large Skippers, a single Burnet Companion Moth, a Silver-Y Moth, and half a dozen Six-spot Burnets.

A multitude of Ringlets

A very small and somewhat scruffy Common Blue

female Common Blue

Six-spot Burnet Moth

However the stars of the morning were the Marbled Whites, a species I hold with a great affection and are undoubtedly my favourite species of butterfly. These handsomely marked black and white butterflies were abundant on the south facing slope of Cot Nab, the many thistles which grow on this hillside attracting dozens of them with many plants having as many as half a dozen Marbled Whites feeding on them at any one time.  Marbled Whites are a wonderfully photogenic species and compared to most grassland species of butterfly they are not particularly flighty, a dream come true to an average amateur wildlife photographer such as myself.

A stunning Marbled White

Marbled White under-wing

Marbled White from below

yet another Marbled White busily feeding away on a Thistle of some sort

Marbled White feeding on Red Clover amongst a sea of other wildflowers at Wayrham

This location, which is incidentally a SSSI, is also fantastic for wildflowers and wild-grasses, and today I managed to identify and record a good variety of flowers on this herb-rich down-side. Undoubtedly I over looked many species out of ignorance, and indeed I may have incorrectly recorded others (if you note any errors please get in touch as I would welcome any alterations), but at least two dozen varieties of flower were recorded here, including the likes of Wild Thyme, Rock-rose, Birds-foot Trefoil, Medick, Milkwort, Dropwort, Fairy Flax, Eyebright, Self-heal, Hawkweed, Salad Burnet, Lady's Bedstraw, Hedge Bedstraw, Quaking grass, and Harebells.


Dropwort (at least I think it is)

Rock-rose and Wild Thyme

Fairy Flax

Eyebright (a particular favourite of mine)

In other areas of our walk, especially where the grass was lusher, we would come across further wildflowers, with the likes of Knapweed, Woundwort, Meadow Vetchling, Nipplewort, Ragwort, Mallow, Meadow Crane's-bill, Tufted Vetch and Rosebay Willowherb to name but a few. On our way back home to Beverley we also paid a quick visit to the Orchid meadow at Wayrham, and here the Spotted and Marsh Orchids are still providing a beautiful spectacle, though undoubtedly it is now beyond its best and many have now finished flowering for yet another year (especially the Marsh Orchids). However the Pyramidal Orchids which also flower here are now at their best with their distinctive pink flowers growing amongst an abundance of vetches, clovers and other wildflowers which likewise thrive at this location. Indeed searching for these relatively small Orchids amongst the sea of varying shades and transient blooms was very pleasing to the eye, and all in all the whole morning was a very pleasing one, a much needed tonic after a difficult few weeks.

Three Pyramidal Orchids growing together at Wayrham

A good example of a Pyramidal Orchid

Cot Nab scene