Butterflies of Welshmoor
Walk through Welshmoor, a hidden paradise for wildlife. Over the years, within this protected area, more than 25 different species of butterflies have been seen. It’s one of the most reliable locations in Europe to see the very rare Marsh Fritillary and the more common, but equally stunning, Green Hairstreak.
Handy hints for your walk
You’ll be walking through a wet heath habitat. Conditions underfoot can be quite boggy in places, sturdy walking boots or wellingtons are recommended. There are no well-marked paths, although fairly easy progress can be made by following the desire lines left by grazing livestock. Due to the grazing animals, please keep dogs on leads under close control at all times. Weather conditions play a very big part in the chances of seeing butterflies; sunny warm days with little or no wind are ideal when planning to visit. For species such as the Marsh Fritillary that have very short flying seasons timing the visit is important. More information on timing can be found within each step.
Welshmoor car park (Grid ref SS51924)
Starting at the parking area walk 100m south to the edge of the moor where the trees mark the boundary. Search along the edge of the trees and scrub for passing butterflies.
This part of Welshmoor is often sheltered from the wind that blows predominantly from the south-west. Looking for butterflies here can be rewarding in most months from April to September as they follow the edge of the wood and navigate gaps in the scattered scrub along the edge of the moor. Look out for Red Admiral, Peacock, Speckled Wood, Orange-tip, Green-veined White and Meadow Brown.
Walk away from boundary in an ENE direction into the moor for roughly 100m. This area is a Marsh Fritillary hotspot.
Marsh Fritillary hotspot
The slightly drier ground at this location can be a very good place to look for Marsh Fritillaries. On warm, sunny, early spring days the larvae can be found basking in the sun. Look for flying adults on sunny, warm days from the last week in May to middle of June. Freshly emerged adults can be found basking low in the vegetation or nectaring on Tormentil. The distinctive larval webs can also be found in this area on Devil’s-bit Scabious from the middle of August into the autumn.
Next walk in an ESE direction for 150m towards the edge of the moor again. Look out for a clearing that runs behind a thin line of trees. This is a Green Hairstreak hotspot.
Green hairstreak hotspot
The clearing between two lines of trees slightly narrows as you walk along it heading east. This sheltered area produces a micro-climate, often feeling a few degrees warmer than elsewhere on Welshmoor, which is favoured by butterflies. It is one of the most reliable locations to see Green Hairstreaks at this site. The males often sit on the lower level scrub waiting for females to pass by and are frequently involved in territorial disputes between other males that result in elaborate spirally aerial battles. This small enchanting butterfly can be found flying from late April to mid-June.
From the clearing, walk in a NE direction for 125m until it starts to become quite wet underfoot on approach to a runnel. Marsh Thistle, a pollinators best friend, is found here.
Marsh thistle is one of the very best sources of nectar of all British flowers and so is very important to pollinators. The flowering period for Marsh Thistle is from late June to September and any visit to Welshmoor in search of butterflies during this period should give some time to watching what species can be found feeding on them.
Next walk north for 50m to the top of a ridge. This track runs east to west through the moor. Following the track west for 375m will end back at the parking area.
This ridge track runs back to the parking area, but it is worth exploring it widely on both sides, especially near to the bottom of the banks, near the wetter areas. The scrub found here provides shelter and the flowering plants are worth checking. From late May to early June, pay attention to the insects that are flying around, they may not be exactly as they first seem. Look in detail at the Bumble Bee, which in most cases, they will be just that, but occasionally, closer inspection will reveal it to be a Bumble Bee mimic – the Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth. Lots of luck is needed to see this species, but getting good views for the very first time is a truly unforgettable experience.
Welshmoor car park (Grid ref SS515924)
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