Mid May, Sheskinmore.

Orchid plateau, Early Purple ?
Orchid plateau on the rabbit warren.

Lucky enough to spend a May weekend at Rosbeg, I went off on my own to explore the Sheskinmore reserve and to spy on the cuckoos on the Mullyvea slope.

I knew it was not quite Peak Bluebell week but there was a good show near the Mullyvea gate and dune track. The delicate scent and the purple haze was lovely.


Bluebells and primrose, Kiltoorish in background

Whilst admiring the bluebells a slight movement caught my eye, a Small Copper butterfly, seeming to nectar on the bluebells.


Small copper - Copy

Small Copper butterfly.

Small copper has an amazing residency range, from North Africa to 81 degrees north in North America. What a survivor! So pretty that I have to post another picture.

small copper 2

Small Copper again.

Wandering on, up the track and down near the (very dry) dune slack to the left, I heard and saw a lapwing pair. I also caught a brief glimpse of a Small Heath but couldn’t get a photo.

Keeping tight to the Mullyvea rocks I saw Common Blue Damselflies basking on the sandy edge of the pond.

Common Blue Damsel

Common Blue Damselfly

I used to be able to identify dragonflies easily but seem to have lost the skill without regular practice. Continuing towards the cuckoo slope left of the old Mass House. I was rewarded with long calls from the cuckoos in the low woods above me. I clambered up the slope to enjoy wonderful views across the machair and the sounds of cuckoos and lapwing. The cuckoos were doing a good job of scaring up the small birds in whose nests they want their eggs to “squat”.

When I was up on the slope I caught a glimpse of a Dingy Skipper and on my descent I got a photo of this tiny butterfly.

D skipper

Dingy Skipper, Mullyvea.

This is seems to be Erynnis tages tages, a slightly different form from its Burren relative, baynesi. Any discussion on this is welcome. I also saw two Wall Brown butterflies on this sheltered area of the slope, just below the pretty little stone holy well described by McGill in The History of the Parish of Ardara. The Wall Browns were too fast for me to photograph.

Down on the machair, just below the rabbit warren and above the main track, I found the orchid plateau. I risked ticks and ants to crouch down and photograph the wonderful mini forest of orchids. I am not sure if they are Early Purples or some Sheskinmore hybrid.


Early Orchids.

I followed the track round to the main dragonfly pond where I saw swallows swooping over the water and more damselfies basking. Then I explored behind the new dune line on the front of Tramore strand and was really pleased to spot Small Blues flying near their food plants of Kidney Vetch. This was in a spot where I can sometimes find bee orchids so it seems  both fauna and flora appreciate the sheltered corner facing into the sun away from the sea “breezes”. This seems to be quite early for the appearance of the Small Blue.

Small Blue

Small Blue Butterfly, on Birds’ Foot Trefoil, Tramore.

And another view,

Small blue 2

Small Blue, showing dark wings. Tramore.

This is Ireland’s smallest resident butterfly, a Sheskinmore treasure. Here is its larval food plant, Kidney Vetch, demonstrating its rosette formation.


Kidney Vetch, Tramore.

It was just one of those lovely days when some of Sheskinmore’s treasures came out to play. Lucky me.



3 thoughts on “Mid May, Sheskinmore.

  1. I was also up at Sheskinmore for a few days from Monday 15th to Wednesday 17th May! I was also puzzled by the orchids in the dune grassland – they don’t seem to have spots on the leaves like textbook early purples. I guessed maybe northern marsh or green-winged?

    I did see one textbook early purple in the woods though. I’d a good few days as always and there’ll be a blogpost to follow when I get a minute!

  2. I do not think they are Green Winged. I have seen those at Killard Point, County Down, for the last couple of years, and they seem quite different.

  3. Pingback: Wildlife in May | Friends of Sheskinmore

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