With all the predictions of a Marsh Fritillary Big Bang Year, I was itching to get down to Murlough to see if they had emerged. And they had!

My first butterfly of the day was my 12th species of the year: the Small Heath. It’s a small buff and orange insect, very common in the reserve (I counted over 600 in total last year!)

22.5.11 Small Heath

Not long after came number 13: the gorgeous Marsh Fritillary!

22.5.11 Marsh Fritillary

Heading from J3933 into J4033, I found this big fella: the caterpillary of the Dark Green Fritillary. He was wandering across the path and I got him crawling on my hand (very theraputic!) before putting him in a nice patch of violets, which he tucked into straight away. I’ve never seen one before – he brings my species count to 14 but the adult butterfly count remains at 13 until he metamorphosises along with his mates.

22.5.11 Dark Green Fritillary caterpillar

J4034 brought 18 more Marsh Frits, a Mother Shipton moth (looks like a witch) and best of all, a hawkmoth-of-conservation-concern: the Narrow-bordered Bee Hawkmoth. Jeepers, what a name!

22.5.11 Mother Shipton 22.5.11 Narrow-bordered Bee Hawkmoth

Total Marsh Frit count for the day was 22 – not quite a Big Bang, although conditions weren’t ideal (very windy, occasional heavy showers) and I didn’t have the help of two senior butterfly recorders like I did last year when I counted 57! Nevertheless, a great day.

2011 BUTTERFLIES (NI): 13