Bird's Eye View of Bute

The Scotch Argus

(1) The Scotch Argus
(1) The Scotch Argus
(2) The Scotch Argus
(2) The Scotch Argus
(3) The Scotch Argus
(3) The Scotch Argus
(4) The Scotch Argus
(4) The Scotch Argus
(5) The Scotch Argus
(5) The Scotch Argus

 

 

The Scotch Argus Butterfly

Up in the hills of Bute, you will come across butterflies, not just one or two, but many hundreds of one species called the “Scotch Argus”. On a warm sunny day the high countryside is teeming with these delightful and colourful butterflies. At first there are only a few to be seen, but as you walk on, they appear from the long grass on which their caterpillars feed on. You soon realise that it is the vibrations you are making as you walk, that is making them take flight. It is an amazing scene.


With each step you take there may be about a half a dozen of them taking to the skies, but, if you step harder, you will disturb even more, and if you jump high and come down with a great thump, then as many as 20 -30 will take fright. So if you venture high in the hills and want to see for yourself how many you can disturb with great thumps, then, have a good look around first to check that there is no one around to see you make a fool of yourself. Even worse, I might be up there with my camera? So tread carefully.

There are that many of them that they are now descending to the lower levels, and indeed, I have also seen them at Ettrick Bay on numerous occasions over the years, so keep your eyes peeled. In flight, they are very similar to other species like the Small Tortoiseshell, and the Red Admiral as they are all very dark in colour and it is only when they land that you will be able to see the difference. Rich brown upper parts with reddish/orange bands and eye spots, which are white dots encircled with black.

On the forward wings there are two spots together and one on its own. On the tails there are three spots on each. They fly from July to September, so if we get more hot weather, keep a look out. Those are ones that as they land, they open their wings, making identification easy, unlike some who keep them closed, causing problems, and the only way to see which species that you are looking at, is to catch one. Which is not a thing to do as they are very easily killed when handled, so wait and wait a one will eventually unfold its wings.

If you look very closely at my photo, then you will see beads of water on the stems of grass. These are morning dew drops, only seen if you get down on your knees and have a good look. It means that butterflies, insects, mice voles, birds, etc. will be able to get a drink when required in the mornings and not be depending on the rain or streams etc., and as there are dew drops on most days, they will never go short. (no dew as original image was not good enough to use)

One thing that I do notice is the absence of predators like the Swallow, Swift and Sand Martins, who may feed on these butterflies. Normally these birds will follow you as you go walkabout, hoping that you will disturb flying insects for them to feed on. There is a possibility that the butterflies are too big for them, or perhaps they don't taste nice, but they seem to be left alone to get on with their life, maybe that is why there are so many of them over the hills.

Norrie Mulholland.

First published in the Buteman 10-09-2004


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