By Scott Shanks

If I asked you to think of your most cherished memories of summers in Scotland, they’d probably include sunny days filled with the sights and sounds of nature: colourful wildflowers, fluttering butterflies, buzzing bees and birds singing everywhere.

That’s a pretty good description of Ardeer.

The Ardeer Peninsula is one of the best locations in Scotland for spotting rare butterflies, moths and other wee beasties.

The warm microclimate of the Ayrshire coast, combined with a wonderful mosaic of wildflower-rich habitats including grasslands, coastal heathland, warm sandy dunes, sheltering gorse scrub and sunny woodland glades, mean that Ardeer is a paradise for butterflies.

Butterflies are great indicators of the health and quality of the environment.

A fantastic 17 species of butterflies have been recorded at Ardeer, including familiar garden species and several exciting rarities you’re unlikely to see in the local park.

The caterpillars of beautiful Small tortoiseshells, Peacocks and Red admirals can be abundant at Ardeer, feeding on patches of Nettles in the more nutrient-rich areas

Later in the summer the new generation of adults will disperse to brighten gardens and allotments across Ayrshire.

Feisty wee Small Coppers and Common blues swirl in impressive numbers among the wildflowers, while Ringlets and Meadow Browns bob through the grasses.

The flower-rich Ardeer peninsula is also a magnet for migratory butterfly species such as Painted ladies and the rarer Clouded yellow.

One of the special butterflies doing well at Ardeer is the Grayling.

This master of camouflage emerges in late summer and loves basking on sunny rocks and bare ground.

Its caterpillars feed on fine bladed grasses.

Unfortunately, its camouflage hasn’t helped it much as they have suffered an alarming 90 per cent decline at Scottish monitored sites in the last 10 years.

Loss of coastal grassland to development and intensive management is likely to blame.

Ayrshire’s smallest butterfly, the Small Blue could be the next butterfly to colonise Ardeer.

It was re-introduced to SWT Gailes Marsh in Irvine in 2012, after going locally extinct in the 1980s. It’s caterpillar’s feed on the seed heads of Kidney vetch, which is abundant at Ardeer.

(Photo of Grayling by Iain Leach)