We spent the day looking for a few Cumbrian specialities using my dads car to help us get around.
The main target for the day was Mountain Ringlet. A species of butterfly that is considered potentially the 'oldest' species of butterfly in Britain due to it being the first butterfly present after the ice age due to their cool, high altitude habitat.
We started off the day at Cold Pike near to Little Langdale in brilliant sunshine which is perfect for Ringlets. It was a decent walk in terms of distance before we started getting to appropriate territory and altitude, but this allowed us to spot a couple of other upland species. Small Heath and the occasional Large White were the only species of butterfly present on the ascent, but Large Red Damselfly, Four-spotted Chaser and a single Golden-ringed Dragonfly (new for Nick) kept us our spirits high.
When we reached Red Tarn, we knew we were close to the right habitat, but the sun suddenly went in! We decided to sit down on a large rock, waiting for the sun to reappear. When it did, we spotted 2 small dark brown butterfly appear from the Matt Grass. Closer inspection revealed them to be Mountain Ringlet...superb!
These proved to be a real challenge to photograph as they very rarely landed and when they did, they kept deep down into the medium-length Matt Grass.
Moving on slightly south, we headed to Yew Tree Tarn to change our focus to Odonata. The two main targets at this site were Downy Emerald and Beautiful Demoiselle. The latter is a species I have wanted to see for several years now, but have never made the effort to go and see. Sadly, we were unable to locate any, but 2, maybe 3, Downy Emerald made up for this (even if they evaded my camera!)
The second butterfly target species of the day was Large Heath which we know to be present at Foulshaw Moss and Meathop Moss. The latter is more reliable due to more dense colonies in the smaller habitat, but Foulshaw Moss also has White-faced Darter, which is another species I have always wanted to see.
Within about 3 minutes of arriving onto the more compact heathland, a Large Heath flew past and gave me gripping views.
(Mountain Ringlet, Black Darter and Large Heath photos taken by myself. The rest are kindly donated by Nick Patel)Not to worry however, as these became reasonably regular and I was able to get a record shot showing the characteristic underwing of the, in my opinion, prettiest of the 3 British races of Large Heath.
I was however not expecting what happened next. Whilst leaning forward to get a better photo of the Large Heath, I put my hand down to keep myself stable. Feeling a sudden 'prick' in my hand, I pulled away thinking it was a thistle or something. What I wasn't expecting was that I had put my hand down into the striking range of a rather angry Adder, which was now hanging from my finger!
We decided to call it a day after we let the snake go so that I could nip into a local chemist in Milnthorpe to get an anti-histamine for the bite in case I reacted badly. The chemist were shocked about my nonchalance and said I it would probably be wise to get to A&E asap. I thought this was a bit extreme but went anyway just to make sure.
(I went to Kendal hospital and was quickly transferred to Lancaster by Ambulance)
I was seen straight away and was given a huge 10mg dose of European Viper Anti-venom. I really wasn't expecting them to say that I would need to stay for a minimum of 48 hours to make sure I didn't react badly. (Apparently this is more common than the initial bite)
As the photographs below show, I reacted pretty badly to the bite and the swelling went from the tip of my finger to the base of my neck. It is still partially swollen as I write but it much better
I am more than grateful to Nick for helping me keep in regular contact with my parents and to keep me from going mad when I started growing a boxing glove for a hand!
As Thursday 14th July 2011 has shown, taking photographs of butterflies isn't a danger free pursuit and all I can say is, if you can avoid an Adder...do so!
Obtaining a slightly better photo of a Large Heath is not worth 5 days of Hospital meals and no use of your writing arm!
Thank you for reading and hopefully, I've learnt the hard way, so you don't have to!