Gortmaconnel Rock and the Painted Lady

Today dawned so bright and sunny and we were treated to a lovely sunny morning in the garden while mum and dad tidied everything up after the many days away we have been having. I photographed some visitors to our garden, counted lots of meadow brown butterflies in our garden and just enjoyed watching nature fly and buzz around. It wasn’t long though before we got itchy feet, we fancied a short climb and only one place will do, Gortmaconnel Rock!

One of our lovely resident Great tits. I love watching them


Gortmaconnel Rock is part of The Marble Arch Caves Geopark, an amazing place  – a geologist and naturalists’ haven! It includes one of the most amazing show caves in the world  and covers to counties – Fermanagh and Cavan. It is one of the most treasured places in my county and a very special place indeed! We love it!

The climb is short but steep and very fun. It’s a wild and free place to be. We saw lots of butterflies for our Big Butterfly Count on the way up and the meadow pipits bobbed around us. When we reached the viewpoint, the feeling is always exhilarating because you are so high up and the views are spectacular! You have 360° views of Culcaigh mountain, Lough MacNean, Belmore Mountain and you can also see Florencecourt House through the trees. My camera could zoom really far in.

When I was looking through my camera, my dad spotted a flutter that was a bit different. On closer inspection we thought it was an aged fritillary but thanks to a Facebook Page (Insects and Invertebrates of Ireland) we got an ID of Painted Lady! We were confused as it was so dishevelled and the colours were so worn, when I researched it, I realised why.


The Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) is a migratory butterfly and  its journey is astounding. When we caught sight of it, resting on a log and fluttering around the knapweed and nettle, we did not give it enough high praise. Now, when I realise its voyage, I feel privileged to have seen it. This lady travels 9,000 miles, up to 1km above the ground and makes its journey to us from the deserts of North Africa, the Middle-East and central Asia. They re-colonise in mainland Europe and lucky for us, they choose the UK and Ireland too.

Here is a photo from the UK Butterflies website to show how a Painted Lady usually looks.


Our Lady was aged and probably nearing the end but the sight of her gave us great joy. As we were descending, I caught sight of a Long-tailed tit, it bolted from tree to tree and was far to fast to capture. The sun was blazing down on us and still we waited for another view. It didn’t reappear unfortunately but we were still pretty happy with our fabulous outing to one of our favourite places.


Don’t forget The Big Butterfly Count is still happening, we logged our sightings on our mobile phone app and also logged The Painted Lady on the migratory map, please do the same should you see one. The sun is out and so are the butterflies and it’s beautiful to see.

I would like to thank the members of the Facebook Group – Butterfly Conservation N. Ireland for their encouragement and comments. It means a lot.

I am really excited to be researching lots of blog posts at the moment and one in particular, all about Hen Harriers is really important. Looking forward to writing them.


Thanks for reading



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7 Responses

  1. Great writing Dara, can feel the thrill of the climb!
    I love your personification of the beastie, Painted Ladies a flying miracles when they reach us 🙂
    Thank you once again for promoting the Butterfly Count, I hope you encounter some more Painted ladies before the summer is through 🙂

  2. Sorry, didn’t mean to post that comment, let’s try again…
    Nice post! You are very lucky to live near a place like Gortmaconnel Rock. We found our own Painted Lady today in the Lake District, it was in a similar condition to the one you found. Only my second ever!

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