Where have the past six months gone? Here we are celebrating the Summer Solstice and contemplating the relentless march of time. And, the fact that none of us are getting any younger, irrespective of the restorative powers of the magic Mull mud! Afforded a huge slice of luck, thanks to some beautiful weather, our recent walks have provided us with a wealth of wonderful wildlife memories to re-live as conversation pieces during the long, dark nights of Winter.
The Slender Scotch Burnet moth is found at a handful of locations on Mull and Ulva, where adults are on the wing for a few short weeks in June and July. We were concerned on a recent walk that we may have been too early to view this marvellously confiding day flying moth. Thankfully, our fears were quickly dispelled when we began searching the grassland where we had enjoyed such wonderful experiences with this rare and beautiful insect last year. Not only that, an individual took an obvious fancy to the pink fleece one of the ladies in our group was wearing and promptly settled on her arm, providing her with what was truly a once in a lifetime’s experience!
The grass verges that flank ‘Mull’s Motorway’ are a riot of colour at present. These wildflower strips are not only aesthetically pleasing to the human eye, but assume the role of a life-giving nectar café for many of the marvellous moths and butterflies that inhabit the island. The roadsides are ablaze with Ox-eye Daisies, Red and White Clover and Bird’s Foot Trefoil, within whose ranks we found a solitary Greater Butterfly Orchid. Highly scented, this exquisite and delicate plant relies on long-tongued night-flying moths to aid its pollination. As the insect sips nectar from the orchid’s flower, pollen glues itself to the moth's eyes, in another fascinating example of how the eyes of Mull’s wildlife remain open, long after we humans have turned in for the night!
Walking amongst the carpets of Heath Spotted Orchids that had sprung up almost overnight on the island’s moors, we were suddenly stopped dead in our tracks by a fast moving caterpillar. Looking more Porcupine than the alluring Garden Tiger Moth that it was destined to become, this ‘Woolly Bear’ certainly lived up to its nickname. Seeming out of habitat, it wasn’t for hanging around and stayed just long enough to pose for our camera before making good its escape to the sanctuary of the bogland heather.
Some of our most cherished wildlife moments are not necessarily those that are shared with the rare and unusual birds and beasts of this wondrous isle. A male Large Red Damselfly had caught sight of an unsuspecting female and had carried her off in tandem to mate on a secluded grass stem. In flagrante delicto! It seems that nothing is sacred, however, as lifting the courting couple on to a finger provided our guests with the most incredible and voyeuristic experience of their trip. It appears that nothing else matters when you are caught in the throes of passion. Ooh, er, missus!