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Luck of the Pearl

June 26, 2017

I had been getting restless for a while. I knew the butterfly season was about to open but other than the holly blue and orange tip, it would have been hard to find any of the other species around Salford or Manchester.


Out of curiosity I did a search for the Pearl bordered fritillary, one of the rarest UK butterflies but also an early riser. They would be out at this time of year. A quick online search led me to a place called Warton Crag - "never heard of it" - but before I knew it my bags were packed and I was northbound. 


The first things you notice at Warton Crag are the views. This dense stretch of limestone pavement borders Morecambe Bay and the Lake District, as well as the famous RSPB reserve Leighton Moss just across the way.   



Three or four hours passed without any luck. Even with the most beautiful sunshine and rolling fields of bracken (classic fritillary habitat), the closest I came to any butterfly action was the occasional orange tip fluttering by looking for something to feed on - or someone to mate with. 



It wasn't until I reached the summit, with all hope fading, that I heard the word "pearl" dropped in a sentence by a couple of ladies who seemed to be staring at a rock (typical signs of a butterfly watcher - or onset madness). 


I spoke with them for a while and it turned out they were Butterfly Conservation volunteers doing a survey on the crag. They kindly offered to let me tag along, but after 2 hours of absolutely nothing (a large white kindly broke the monotony for a moment), my hopes were beginning to wear thin. 


And then we met Andy. 


In the middle of a bracken forest Andy appeared out of the green armed with a pen and paper, and a butterfly net. We stopped and had a chat - he seemed to know the ladies leading the survey - and they kindly told him about my growing desperation to find the Pearl bordered fritillary. 


"Oh, you should go to the south side of the crag. We've counted over 50 there already". As always with wildlife photography, the species you are looking for is hanging out in the one corner you haven't explored yet. All was forgiven though, and I quickly headed up and over the top of the crag to the south side, where I met some researchers carrying out research on the pearls, and within moments of chatting, I heard the words every wildlife photographer longs to hear.


"Oh, there's one". 


The Pearl bordered fritillary. 


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