June is a great time to see butterflies, and Exmoor is home to some quite rare species. Saturday was my husband’s birthday, and was a lovely warm day, so we set off for a day in the Exmoor valleys to find butterflies.
First stop was the Heddon Valley, which is one of the few places in the country where you find the rare High Brown fritillaries, along with Small Pearl-bordered and Dark Green Fritillaries. We climbed up a very steep hill, luckily in dappled shade, before emerging on a path along the top of the south-facing, bracken-covered hillside.
We soon saw the small, fluttering Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, but they just wouldn’t pose for photos. We needed to find some flowers where they might pause for nectar. This clump of thistles proved to be just the spot, and we soon saw several more Small Pearls, and some of the larger, slightly less fluttery fritillaries. The question was, were they the nationally rare High Brown, or the less rare Dark Green? Both should have been present on that slope, but every one we looked at appeared to be High Brown.
The difference is very small…to do with the tiny dot on the row of dots on the forewing…..
Happy that we had at least seen two species, plus Small Heath, Small Tortoiseshell, and Red Admiral, we headed back down into the valley for lunch at the Hunter’s Inn, a favourite of ours.
After lunch we had a wander around Lynton, stocking up on cold drinks, and then drove up onto Countisbury, to a site where I have seen Green Hairstreaks before.
Barely ten minutes walk from the car park, and there they were, in exactly the same patch of sheltered gorse, on yet another sunny south-facing slope. Beautiful!
To finish our day in the Exmoor Valleys, we parked in Lynmouth and strolled slowly up the East Lyn river, enjoying the shade and the sound of the many cascades and waterfalls. There were plenty of birds to see, including this heron intent on catching dinner.
We saw a young dipper, and quite a few young grey wagtails, all learning to catch their own food, as well as a very smart pied flycatcher, catching flies over the river.
The setting was superb, at the confluence of two rivers, with wooded hills all around, and only five tables on the patio. With candles and fairy lights to add atmosphere as the sun went down behind the hills, it was a magical evening, with the most delicious food.
We even had a tame chaffinch to talk to!