This tour offers three full days visiting the best sites in Devon for seeing nationally rare and scarce butterflies, including several of the stunning and much desired Fritillary family and the exquisite Wood White. Butterflies are intricately linked to certain periods of the year; this tour has been timed to hit a narrow window when you stand the best chance of seeing as many of the rarest and most desired butterflies on the wing at the same time. Butterflies are also intrinsically linked to certain habitats and locations, so our search will take us across central and southern Devon, including Dartmoor, and out towards the neighbouring Tamar Valley in search of these special places.
To maximise our chances of seeing our target butterflies, each day involves a half day visit to a prime butterfly site either side of lunch to coincide with the air temperature being at its highest. Breakfast can therefore be more leisurely and you will arrive back at your accommodation in the late afternoon giving you the rest of the day to spend as you please.
Please note: While less so for other tours, for butterflies the weather will be a significant factor – in the event of prolonged periods of rain or cold, we may need to be patient and prioritise which butterflies we attempt to see, but all efforts will be made to see your top targets.
Available: May – June
(please inquire to discuss specific dates)
Group size: 2-6*
* group size is decided by you at the point of booking with a minimum group size of 2 people. Group sizes of 2-6 people are charged at the same standard rate stated above.
While the order we visit these areas may change, each tour will visit sites within these three main areas:
- Tamar Valley
- Teignbridge & Meeth
Day One: Our first full day will be spent on Dartmoor, one of the last strongholds for several nationally declining species of butterfly and home to two of the rarest, Marsh Fritillary and High Brown Fritillary (late May onwards), which will be our primary targets for the day. We will split our time between two main areas and habitat types. The first will be an exploration of the Rhôs pastures found in the farmland bases of Dartmoor’s river valleys and home to Marbled White, Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary and the gorgeous Marsh Fritillary whose colonies represent about a fifth of the English population. We will also spend some time looking for the stunning Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth which is another specialist of Rhôs pasture and a nationally scarce day-flying moth worth seeing! Following a delicious pub lunch, our second walk will be around the steep, south facing bracken slopes of the Dart Valley. Here we have a good chance of encountering many butterflies including Dark Green Fritillary, Green Hairstreak, Wall, Pearl-bordered Fritillary and the High Brown Fritillary. Despite suffering one of the steepest declines of any butterfly species nationally, High Brown seems to thrive here and has become one of the best places to see this species in the country.
Day Two: Our second day will take us to the western border of Devon and the Tamar Valley in search of one of the rarest and hardest to see species, the Heath Fritillary. On the verge of extinction and limited to just four main areas in the UK, two of which are in Devon, this butterfly is now the focus of much conservation effort in the hope it can be brought back from the brink. We will dedicate a whole day and visit two different sites in our attempt to find and enjoy views of this butterfly. Good sightings are heavily linked to sunny weather and so we will visit on whichever day appears to be the sunniest and warmest in order to maximise our chances. In addition to the Heath Fritillary, we also have a chance to see other species including Silver-washed Fritillary, Small Skipper, Marbled White and Small Tortoiseshell.
Day Three: Our final day will start with a trip to Meeth Quarry to target the nationally rare and arguably the second rarest butterfly on this trip, the Wood White. Devon now represents the last stronghold for this butterfly in southern Britain with Meeth Quarry, a well known hotspot for this species, holding one of the largest populations in the country. It’s also a newly forming nature reserve, evolving into a stunning post-industrial landscape, which is home to the increasingly rare Dingy Skipper which we will aim to see. After lunch, we’ll head towards butterfly hotspots in the Teignbridge area, targeting trickier and less commonly seen species which, dependent on our sightings earlier in the trip, may include sites favouring Dingy and Grizzled Skipper, as well as Pearl-bordered Fritillary (May only), Brown Argus, Common Blue and Green Hairstreak.
Once this afternoon session is complete, this will mark the end of the tour and it will be time for us to say our goodbyes, leaving you with lots of amazing encounters to share with friends and family.