Sixteen of us met up in the car park of the splendid Glengorm Castle at the northern tip of Mull. The weather was poor for butterflies and moths - it was cool and overcast - but the scenery was beautiful and the atmosphere peaceful. To the north lay the Ardnamurchan peninsula and to the west lay the islands of Coll and Tiree. As the first of us gathered in the car park, a White-tailed Eagle flew over. But after that it was heads down as we made our way across flowery sheep-grazed pasture towards the shore.
With the cool and breezy conditions we knew that any Lepidoptera would be hiding in the vegetation and would not be seen readily. However, with sixteen pairs of eyes to the ground we soon started to turn things up. A Straw Dot moth was one of the first leps we disturbed, along with numerous micro-moths. Most of us could not identify the micros but fortunately, amongst our company we had the cream of Scottish moth experts - Mark Young, Roy Leverton, Tom Prescott and the Mull recorder Alan Skeates. No moth, no matter how small, would go unidentified today!
A resting Common Blue was our first butterfly of the day, to be followed later by Meadow Brown, Small Heath and Dark Green Fritillary. Not a bad list considering the weather conditions but unfortunately not including Marsh Fritillary, our target butterfly, which is known to be reluctant to fly except in very sunny weather. But what about our target moths – Slender Scotch Burnet and Transparent Burnet? We soon found our first Slender Scotch Burnet at rest on vegetation along with a few Six-spot Burnets. We stopped for lunch in the shelter of a rock outcrop and became aware as we sat there of the number of Slender Scotch Burnets at rest in the vegetation around us. There were lots!
After lunch we headed for an area where Alan Skeates had seen Transparent Burnet a week previously. Along the way we saw more moth species, including Brown China-mark, Clouded Buff, Yellow Shell and Speckled Yellow. One of my personal highlights was actually not a moth or butterfly but a damselfly – Beautiful Demoiselle. It was a gorgeous male with metallic green body and iridescent dark wings. It was an unexpected surprise to me but within Scotland is apparently found within about 100 miles radius of Oban. In spite of intensive searching, we eventually gave up on Transparent Burnet. We had seen only one of our three target species but all agreed that it had been an enjoyable day with a surprisingly long species list considering the conditions (full moth list to follow later). And let’s face it, we’ve got a great excuse to return next year!