Now THIS is a majestic butterfly.

23JUL11 Silver-washed Fritillary

23JUL11 Silver-washed Fritillary

The Silver-washed Fritillary is Northern Ireland’s biggest butterfly, 8cm from wingtip to wingtip. It’s named for the silver streaks on its underside (which are just about visible in the second photo). It has a graceful gliding flight and when a male and female meet they carry out a courtship dance which apparently is a beautiful sight. This butterfly can be found in deciduous woodland in July and August, and is definitely worth seeing.

I saw this butterfly for the first time last year in the Walled Garden in Castlewellan Forest, and then again the next day actually perched on a pile of books at the Donard Park car boot sale in Newcastle! Needless to say, I fell in love with it and so this year I hunted it down, again in Donard Park, and found four males flying along a sunny bramble-lined track in the wood.

The butterflies were occupying themselves with drinking nectar from bramble flowers and fending off other males – sometimes simultaneously, as this video frame shows:

23JUL11 Silver-washed Fritillary

There were no females to be seen at the time. A word of advice to anyone taking a trip to Donard Forest: the similar Dark Green Fritillary is there as well. It’s smaller, darker, and crucially has silver spots rather than silver lines on its underside. (Enter the forest from Greenhill Park in the Tullybrannigan estate to the right of the main park area. Bryansford Rd – Slievenamaddy Ave – Tullybrannigan Rd – Greenhill Pk.)

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