Saltmarsh and woodland butterflies
Butterflies tend to be quite seasonal and some will rely on their particular food plant being available. As a result early summer is often the best time of year and they will always be more active and easier to spot on a sunny day.
On the saltmarsh around the south of the Reserve the most common butterfly is now the Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus). This butterfly has made a remarkable advance north in its range. Until a few years ago this was never seen on the Reserve.
Scotch Argus (Erebia aethiops) which is very much a butterfly of northern Britain is also present around the saltmarsh. In some of the woodland areas by the edge of the Reserve, particularly along sunny paths and glades, common butterflies include Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria), Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines), Small White (Pieris rapae), Large White (Pieris brassicae) and Green-veined White (Pieris napi).
On some of the shingle banks of the River Findhorn Little or Small Blues (Cupido minimus) can occasionally be found.
Heathland and coastal butterflies
The heathland area around the beach car park has a good mixture of flowering plants and as a consequence is one of the best locations around the Reserve to see butterflies.
Peacocks (Inachis io), Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta) and Small Tortoiseshells (Aglais urticae) have a relatively long season and can be seen any time from spring through to Autumn.
Small Heaths (Coenonympha pamphilus) and Meadow Browns (Maniola jurtina) are a common sight on a sunny day in summer. Other butterflies have shorter seasons tied in with the availability of the larval food plant.
Common Blues (Polyommatus icarus) need Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Small Coppers (Lycaena phlaeas) are associated with Sorrels and Dark Green Fritillary (Argynnis aglaja) with violets. All these butterflies have a flight period between June and August.
Other butterflies are much more coastal in their range, such as Grayling (Hipparchia semele) which will usually settle on the shingle and sand just inland from the beach.
Another unusual butterfly occurring along the Moray coast, including the Reserve, is the Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages). This is the most northerly colony for this species north of the south-western Scotland coastal sites. A few isolated sites can also be found on the Black Isle and inland Inverness-shire.
Dragonflies are relatively uncommon on the Reserve mainly due to the fact that outside the tidal areas there is very little in the way of standing water and ponds.
However, some do occur such as Common Darters (Sympetrum striatum), Black Darters (Sympetrum danae) and Common Goldenring also known as Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii). For those looking for dragonflies then a visit to Culbin is well worthwhile as there are several ponds in the forest with a good selection of species.