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ISSUE 128 | SUMMER 2018




A GARDEN FULL OF SECRETS Looking out the window, you see flashes of colour darting about your garden, before making the wonderful discovery that a robin has taken up residence in a hedge. While you’re observing this small visitor and his eye-catching plumage, he’s diligently looking for suitable twigs to make a nest. It’s at times like these that the CL Pocket compact binoculars from SWAROVSKI OPTIK impress with their unique optical quality, optimum viewing comfort, and intuitive use. The perfect binoculars for the whole family, always ready to hand to bring the small wonders of nature closer. SWAROVSKI OPTIK – enjoy those moments even more.




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Building space for butterflies and moths

President: Sir David Attenborough OM Head office and registered address Butterfly Conservation, Manor Yard, East Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset BH20 5QP T: 01929 400209 E: W: Butterfly Conservation is a company limited by guarantee, registered in England (2206468) Charity registered in England and Wales (254937) and in Scotland (SCO39268) Vice-presidents: Maurice Avent, Nick Baker, John F Burton, Dudley Cheesman, Sue Collins, The Earl of Cranbrook, David Dennis, Mike Dilger, Clive Farrell, Julian Gibbs, Ian Hardy MVO, Anthony Hoare, Chris Packham, Prof Jeremy Thomas OBE, Alan Titchmarsh MBE. Chair: Dr Jim Asher Council members: Dr Andy Barker, Andrew Brown, Kathryn Dawson, Mike Dean (Vice Chair), Roger Dobbs, Dr Susan Foden, Karen Goldie-Morrison, David Hanson (Hon Treasurer), Michael Johnston, Simon Saville, Sue Smith, Nigel Symington, Ilija Vukomanovic, Chris Winnick. Chief Executive: Julie Williams Director of Science: Dr Nigel Bourn Director of UK Operations: Dr Sam Ellis Director of Policy & Land Use: Russel Hobson Director of Development & Engagement: Peter Moore Northern Ireland Office: Catherine Bertrand T: 028 4377 1497 / 07584 597690 E: Scotland Office: Paul Kirland T: 01786 447753 E: Wales Office: Russel Hobson T: 01792 642972 E: Main cover image: Large White by Rob Blanken Editor: Liam Creedon Assistant Editor: Natalie Ngo Butterfly magazine email: Butterfly is published three times a year and distributed to members and to institutions, conservation bodies and others interested or involved in the conservation of butterflies, moths and related wildlife. Estimated readership: 60,000. Butterfly is printed on Magno silk paper which conforms to all international environmental accreditations. Butterfly Conservation and Fellows Media cannot take responsibility for advertisements or offers put forward by third parties.

Design, production and advertising sales: Fellows Media Ltd, The Gallery, Manor Farm, Cheltenham GL52 3PB T: 01242 259241 E:


utterfly Conservation (BC) is well into its 50th anniversary celebrations and our Symposium in April proved a great success as part of our aim to promote international work for butterfly and moth conservation. More than 200 delegates from 24 countries, professional scientists and dedicated volunteers, exchanged experiences and knowledge, with an understandable focus on the most threatened species. One emerging theme was the provision of greener infrastructure to improve conditions for butterflies and moths in developed landscapes, an approach that can also save money for land managers - a real win-win. Dr Phil Sterling, BC’s new Building Sites for Butterflies Programme Manager, described fabulous work on the Weymouth relief road in Dorset, and delegates heard also about encouraging projects in the Netherlands on power station land and in Sweden on urban areas. This type of work lies at the heart of trying to make more suitable space for nature in our built landscapes and increasing numbers of our more widespread species near where people live and work. After a prolonged cold start to 2018, we hope for a favourable summer, given the loss of numbers of butterflies and moths in recent years, to allow a fair opportunity to show how our strategy can make a difference. We also want sunshine to inspire even more people to take part in Big Butterfly Count 2018 (starting in July) – we would welcome their support. Dr Jim Asher, Chair




Contents 7. Hot streak

24. Another tough year

10. All together now

30. Barkham’s butterflies

15. Count and be merry

35. Small is beautiful

Hairstreak breeds in Scottish first Branches celebrate 50th anniversary Is spotting butterflies good for you?

Survey reveals butterflies’ fate in 2017 Author reflects on a decade of change Nick Baker celebrates micro-moths

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No part of the magazine may be reproduced in any form in whole or part, without the prior permission of Butterfly Conservation. Butterfly Conservation would like to assure readers that we never sell or swap your details and we follow a strict code of conduct. Find out more at BUTTERFLY SUMMER 2018


The evolution of Butterfly Conservation’s work Director of Science, Dr Nigel Bourn charts the growth of BC’s conservation work


rotecting butterflies and latterly moths, was the principle on which BC was founded 50 years ago but it was in the early 1990s that the charity’s conservation delivery really started to flex its muscles. In 1993, former Chief Executive Dr Martin Warren and BC’s Trustees set the tone of what we do today: the planned and targeted approach to conservation and the importance of building the evidence base that underpins our work. Shortly after this the Action for Butterflies project helped shaped BC’s conservation strategy for the next 20 years. Action plans were written for the UK’s 25 most threatened butterflies and Branches were involved in developing Regional Action Plans to guide local volunteer conservation work. This work

revealed the need for better distribution and monitoring data and it became a priority to get support for the Butterflies for the New Millennium (BNM) recording scheme which had been launched in the 1990s.

Recording gets going

In 1997 Richard Fox was recruited, working full time on the BNM, to gather distribution data. The publication of The Millennium Atlas of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland in 2001 and a series of ‘State of Butterflies in the UK’ reports at the end of each five-year recording period followed. The National Moth Recording Scheme (Moths Count) was launched in 2007 and has gathered 25 million moth distribution records leading to next year’s publication of the first complete macro-moth atlas for Great Britain and Ireland.

Tom Brereton was also recruited in 1997 to assess volunteer transect monitoring. It soon became clear that the scale and commitment to monitoring amongst our volunteers had been seriously underestimated. Tom found established data from more than 400 sites, offering huge potential for developing indicators for an important part of the UK’s wildlife. BC and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology have since worked tirelessly to develop the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS) launched in 2005. This jointly run scheme has seen a 20-fold increase in the number of butterfly monitoring sites from just over 120 sites in 1996 to over 2,400 in 2017. This growth enabled Defra to publish Trends in Populations of Butterflies as one of 18 biodiversity indicators in 2007. We are now in a position

to produce regional and country trends across most of the UK because of this huge increase in sampling and have recently produced a trend for urban areas.


The Butterfly Guardians – a project developed in 1998 by then Senior Conservation Officer John Davis – provided support to Branches and help in responding to the growing issue of devolution. BC’s office was established in Wales and the Scottish Office opened when Paul Kirkland became the first paid member of staff working solely in Scotland. BC’s Northern Ireland Office, run by Maurice Hughes, opened in 2001 with the support of the Environment Agency NI. Developments across the UK were matched in England with a growing regional network. Dr Sam Ellis replaced Paul Kirkland

with responsibility for the north of England in 2001 and the network grew rapidly to include the West Midlands, East of England and South East England by 2002. Total coverage was achieved in 2017 with the appointment of a part-time East Midlands officer.

Moths emerge

Moth conservation has always been integral to BC’s core aims and a dedicated moth team led by Mark Parsons was launched in 1999. Led through the Action for Moths project and given impetus through the UK Biodiversity Action Plan process (UK BAP) the prioritisation central to our work on butterflies was adopted for moths, with the rarest and most rapidly declining becoming the focus of our work.

Landscape-scale work

Throughout the 1990s butterflies had become the study organism of choice for how animals function across landscapes. ‘Metapopulation theory’ showed how it was important to think beyond single sites to multiple sites that a species might use through space and time. By 2005 our landscape-scale approach was developing with innovative partnership projects; many of these are still running today, working with local farming communities to ensure the habitats are improved in terms

of quality, area and site connectivity. In 2008 we launched our first landscape project aimed at moths in the Norfolk and Suffolk Brecks. Our Landscapescale Conservation for Butterflies and Moths report was launched at the Houses of Parliament in 2012. We now work across over 100 different landscapes with these principles at their heart and have recently started our first project in Northern Ireland. Our new UK Conservation Strategy will be completed this year and builds on principles developed over the last 25 years. The strategy will outline our species and landscape priorities for the next decade and beyond. Recording and monitoring, building the evidence base, landscape-scale conservation, developing our reserves and harnessing the power of our volunteers remain integral to our conservation and science work. Left main: Prof Tom Brereton monitoring butterflies in 2005 Above: Grey Carpet – a Breckland moth. GARRY BARLOW

Right top: Paul Kirkland joined BC in 1994 Right middle: Parliamentary launch of Landscape-scale Conservation report in 2012. From left to right: Dr Caroline Bulman, Dr Sam Ellis, Dr Nigel Bourn Right bottom: Sir David Attenborough helps launch Moths Count with BC staff in 2007 Below: John Davis at the opening of Rough Bank reserve in 2014. JIM ASHER





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Sri Lanka

La Brenne

Spain’s Picos de Europa

The Spanish Pyrenees



The Vercors

The Swiss Alps


Southern Greece

The Italian Dolomites

The French Pyrenees

The Cévennes



South Africa

Feb - 10 days - £2,295 June - 8 days - £1,595 June - 8 days - £1,695 June - 8 days - £1,495

June - 6 days - £1,195 June - 6 days - £1,895 June - 8 days - £1,495 June - 8 days - £1,995

June - 8 days - £1,495 July - 8 days - £1,495 July - 8 days - £1,595 July - 5 days - £995

July - 8 days - £1,495 July - 8 days - £1,795 July - 8 days - £1,495

Nov - 11 days - £3,295

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Naturetrek, Mingledown Barn, Wolf’s Lane, Chawton, Hampshire GU34 3HJ


News Butterfly breeds in 130-year first


declining butterfly has started breeding in Scotland for the first time in 130 years, after eggs were discovered. A handful of Whiteletter Hairstreak eggs were found on Wych Elm trees at Lennel near Coldstream, Berwickshire, in early February. The discovery comes after Borders Butterfly Recorder Iain Cowe spotted an adult White-letter Hairstreak about 10 miles north-east of this area in 2017 – the first sighting in Scotland since 1884. Iain said: “The discovery of these eggs is hugely significant as it not only confirms the White-letter Hairstreak is breeding here, but one of the eggs was an old, hatched shell – so it looks like the butterfly could have been breeding here since at least 2016. Last year was an impossible find, but this year’s egg discovery is beyond anything we thought possible.” The White-letter Hairstreak, which has a distinctive ‘W’ marking on the underside of its wing, is widespread across England and Wales, but the butterfly has suffered a 72% decline over the last decade. The butterfly’s caterpillars feed on elm and the White-letter Hairstreak declined dramatically in the 1970s as a result of Dutch Elm disease. Right: White-letter Hairstreak

25 YEAR PLAN Earlier this year Prime Minister Theresa May launched the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan with the ambition ‘to become the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it’. The Plan promises a new nature strategy to protect our most important wildlife sites and species. It also pledges to provide 500,000 hectares of additional habitat linking existing landscapes and to draw in new investment in the natural environment. Butterfly Conservation (BC) welcomed the Plan’s emphasis on science, evidence and connecting people with nature but warned it must be underpinned with funding, legislation and a watchdog with teeth to deliver meaningful change. Julie Williams, BC Chief Executive, said: “This long-awaited plan provides a way forward that will enable us to protect nature in the future, but for the plan to deliver on its promises, it must be backed up by real action by the Government. BC will be working hard with partners to shape implementation of the Plan and ensure that it delivers lasting benefits for butterflies and moths.”

Packham launches clothing line BC Vice-president and naturalist Chris Packham has launched his first outdoor clothing range, including a children’s jacket featuring a butterfly checklist and ID guide. The collection boasts adult jackets, fleeces and trousers, as well as designs created to inspire and educate youngsters about wildlife. Children’s jackets include an integrated magnifying glass and species ID guides. The butterfly guide features BC’s website address and social media handles, encouraging the wearer to find out more about butterflies online. The jacket lining is printed with the footprints of some of the UK’s common wildlife species, like badgers and foxes and all items have been designed with nature in mind, such as no Velcro fastenings to minimise noise. Chris said: “If one child puts one of these coats on, goes out, meets nature and falls in love with it, then I’ll be happy. And if one adult says ‘no Velcro – the best badger watching jacket I’ve ever had’, then I’ll be happy.” A charity raffle on the day of the launch saw some proceeds go to BC. The range is available from for a limited time only. Left: Chris Packham modelling his clothing range. JO CHARLESWORTH




In Butterfly Conservation’s 50th anniversary year we are asking our members and supporters to raise £50 to help protect butterflies and moths. You could take part in a sponsored run, host a bake sale or hold a games night. Visit 50for50 for a fundraising guide and helpful resources. Your support will build on the successes of the past 50 years, and create a better future for butterflies, moths and all wildlife.

YOUR DONATIONS Thank you to everyone who so kindly supported BC’s Spring Appeal. Your donations will provide a future for vulnerable species like the Grizzled Skipper and Garden Tiger.

LARGE BLUE STAMP BC has been working with the Royal Mail on a new series of stamps featuring reintroduced species. The Large Blue butterfly, which was successfully introduced after becoming extinct in the 1970s, features as part of the new collection. All the illustrations on the stamps are by award winning, Wiltshire-based artist, Tanya Achilleos Lock. The collection is available from 7,000 Post Offices nationwide.

GRAND RAFFLE A grand raffle will be held in November to celebrate BC’s 50th anniversary, with a wide range of prizes on offer. Supporting the raffle helps provide funding for our ambitious conservation projects.

AUCTION BC has had a fantastic response to its appeal for art and exclusive gifts for the 50th anniversary auction – thank you to everyone who has donated so far. The online auction will run from early September, culminating in an event at Eltham Palace in London on Friday 21 September. For more information visit or email



Show love for the Heart Moth


utterfly Conservation (BC) has launched a project to locate and improve habitat for the declining Heart Moth across Northamptonshire. The Woodland Wings project was made possible thanks to £75,000 in funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and donations from BC’s Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire Branch. The Heart Moth was once widespread across

central southern and south-eastern England, but is now only found on a small number of sites across the UK, including south Northamptonshire. Volunteers are needed to help BC with the first stage of the project, which is to map the locations of the county’s mature oak trees, where the Heart Moth could be found. The moth, which gets its name from the unique heartshaped markings on its forewings, lays its eggs on the branches of oak trees during the summer. Above: Heart Moth. BEN SALE

Keeping dry on Braehead Moss BC Scotland has constructed a 200 metre boardwalk at Braehead Moss nature reserve in South Lanarkshire, to provide visitors access to see the rare Large Heath butterfly as well as other peatland wildlife. Pupils at the primary school next to the moss will also be able to enjoy and learn about this special place.The boardwalk was opened by Aileen Campbell MSP, Minister of Public Health and Sport, on 10 March 2018 as part of BC’s 50th anniversary celebrations. BC’s landscape-scale Lanarkshire’s Large Heaths and Mosses project is restoring a cluster of lowland peatland sites. Work carried out to date includes pond creation, ditch-blocking, re-profiling of former peat-cuttings, scrub clearance and building peat dams to reduce water run-off.The work has been funded by WREN, EcoCoLIFE, Peatland Action and BC members.

Above: Braehead Moss boardwalk

Thames Water BC has been working with Thames Water over the last year to establish a partnership that could help rare butterflies and moths in the future. Thames Water is the UK’s largest water and wastewater services provider, managing more than 5,000 sites. Many of these sites include important habitats that are valuable to wildlife such as chalk grassland, meadows, woodland, and hedgerows. Last year, BC worked with Thames Water on three sites across the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Two of the sites have potential to support the Duke of Burgundy, pictured. Thames Water’s Biodiversity Manager, Ian Crump, said: “This trial partnership has been excellent and we’re very keen


RAISE £50 FOR 50

to continue and expand this relationship. With so many open spaces, partnerships such as this help us to help wildlife thrive.” BC’s Upper Thames Branch volunteers have been involved in activities including habitat and foodplant assessments, butterfly surveys and potential-mapping. Branch volunteers have also undertaken practical conservation work on the sites and training has been given to Thames Water grounds maintenance staff.



Climate chance for butterfly


espite causing difficulties for many species the UK’s changing climate means conditions may now be suitable for one of Sir Winston Churchill’s favourite butterflies to return, a study has revealed. The Black-veined White became extinct in the UK in the mid1920s after once being found across parts of southern England. The species was much-loved by former Prime Minister and butterfly enthusiast Churchill who attempted to release hundreds in the grounds of his Chartwell home in Kent in the mid-1940s, a practice that would be frowned upon today. It is thought that one of the reasons behind the butterfly’s extinction in the UK was a period of climatic unsuitability including a series of wet autumns. But studies, whose results were revealed at Butterfly Conservation’s (BC) International Symposium in Southampton, found that average climate conditions may be suitable for the Black-veined White in the UK once again, especially in the warmer parts of southern and eastern England. Professor Tom Brereton, Associate Director of Monitoring at BC, who supervised the research, said: “Although average climatic conditions now appear suitable it is not known if the butterfly could withstand the increased frequency of extreme events which is also a feature of our changing climate. More research is needed in this area before any reintroduction would be considered.” Left: Black-veined White


WINGED IT Congratulations to BC’s Dr Dan Hoare, who flew around the London Marathon course in four hours and nine minutes, complete with butterfly costume, and raised more than £4,000 to help butterflies and moths. BC member Lucie Bromfield from South Wales ran the London Marathon in six and a half hours and raised £500 fo the charity. We have five runners braving the challenge of the Great North Run this September, to support their efforts visit If you are interesting in fundraising for BC visit to download your free fundraising pack and find out more. Right: Dr Dan Hoare

Help for Heddon Fritillaries

Packham’s bioblitz

BC is to play a key role in a project to help one of the UK’s most threatened butterflies, the High Brown Fritillary, in one of its last remaining strongholds. The butterfly is restricted to a handful of sites in North West and South West England and one in Wales. BC will provide conservation advice on a new scheme led by the National Trust to transform 60 hectares of lowland heath and wood pasture into prime butterfly habitat in the Heddon Valley in Exmoor, Devon. The project has been made possible as part of a generous award by the People’s Postcode Lottery. The butterfly once bred in most large woods in England and Wales but its distribution has declined by 96% since the 1970s. The butterfly is struggling in Morecambe Bay in North West England with research revealing dramatic changes in this landscape. Violets, the butterfly’s caterpillar foodplant, have declined by 50% in 12 years. To prevent further losses we need to understand why the habitat is changing and develop new approaches to its management. You can help by supporting our summer appeal –

BC Vice-president Chris Packham will be visiting Silver-studded Blue hotspot Prees Heath reserve in Shropshire as part of a 10-day dash to carry out wildlife audits at 48 sites across the UK. The results of the campaign – ‘nature reserves are not enough’ will be recorded to create a benchmark to help measure the rise and fall in numbers of different species on these sites in the future. Chris will be visiting Prees Heath on 19 July. At each site Chris and a bioblitz team will pinpoint the species found. He said: “I’m doing this because I want to highlight that the UK’s landscape is in big trouble.”



Branch News



A day of celebration


BEDS & NORTHANTS Martin Izzard BEM T: 01933 355688 E: CAMBS & ESSEX Mike Gittos T: 01223 833345 E: CHESHIRE & PEAK Luciano Pinto E: CORNWALL Alison Norris E: CUMBRIA Chris Winnick T: 01539 728254 E: DEVON Marjory Taylor T: 01404 881250 DORSET Robin George T: 01747 824215 E: EAST MIDLANDS Jane Broomhead T: 01623 824688 E: EAST SCOTLAND Glyn Edwards T: 01259 752094 E: GLASGOW & SW SCOTLAND Jason Newton E: GLOUCESTERSHIRE Peter Hugo T: 01453 882134 M: 07789 361874 E: HAMPSHIRE AND IOW Mary Macmillan E: HERTS & MIDDLESEX Liz Goodyear E: HIGHLANDS & ISLANDS Peter Moore T: 01479 872261 E: KENT & SE LONDON Peter Riley T: 01892 529569 E: LANCASHIRE Chris Winnick T: 01539 728254 E: LINCOLNSHIRE David Wright T: 01472 501053 E: NORFOLK Judy Dunmore T: 01263 822550 E: NORTHERN IRELAND Abigail Dunn T: 028 4277 10820 E: NORTH EAST ENGLAND Peter Webb T: 01833 650772 E: NORTH WALES Julian Thompson T: 01492 592595 E: SOUTH WALES Dave Slade T: 02920 753420 E: SOMERSET & BRISTOL Keith Gould T: 01823 277462 E: SUFFOLK Peter Maddison T: 01473 736607 E: SURREY & SW LONDON Simon Saville T: 07572 612722 E: SUSSEX Jamie Burston E: UPPER THAMES Dave Wilton E: WARWICKSHIRE Mike Slater T: 01788 335881 E: WEST MIDLANDS Peter Seal T: 01684 564524 E: WILTSHIRE Hugo Brooke T: 07967 323949 E: YORKSHIRE Jax Westmoreland T: 01723 341193 E: EUROPEAN BUTTERFLIES GROUP Simon Spencer T: 01691 648339 E:



Branch contacts


utterfly Conservation’s UK-wide Conservation Day of Action held in March to celebrate the 50th anniversary was a huge success, thanks to massive Branch involvement. West Midlands Branch hosted five events in three of their four county areas. Surrey & SW London Branch ran a wellattended event on Barnes Common, which included stalls, work parties, nature walks, a family butterfly trail and an anniversary cake baked by a volunteer. The Branch raised more than £100 for BC on the day. Highlands and Islands Branch braved the snow and freezing conditions at Glen Orrin, near Muir of Ord, to improve habitat for the Pearl-bordered Fritillary butterfly.

Marking the charity’s birthday, BC President Sir David Attenborough said: “Half a century ago a small group of naturalists became so concerned about the plight of the UK’s butterflies that they decided to join forces to protect them. That organisation became Butterfly Conservation and 50 years later the need for people who care about our butterflies and moths is greater than ever before. By working together we can all take some simple steps to provide butterflies with a future.” Thanks again to all Branches that took part. Above: Upper Thames Branch event at Aston Upthorpe Above inset: Event in Wales fuelled by 50th anniversary biscuits. CLARE WILLIAMS


Walking guide A second edition of the popular booklet Butterfly Walks in Gloucestershire has been produced by the Branch to take in a number of new routes. With a foreword from recently retired National Trust wildlife advisor Matthew Oates, the guide includes old favourites as well as new routes with two around BC’s recently purchased Rough Bank reserve. A total of 43 walks are described and come complete with site photographs, information on opening times, access, conditions, parking, key species and best time to visit. For purchasing information visit





Hedge your bets for Brimstones S

uffolk Branch gave away more than 500 Buckthorn plants this year in a bid to boost Brimstone numbers across the county. This latest effort to help the butterfly is part of a Branch project originally set up in 1998. The Buckthorn for Brimstones campaign ran for five years, before being resurrected for one year only in 2011 and again in 2018 - but this time a special effort has gone into targeting areas in Suffolk with no Brimstone records. The distinctive sulphur-coloured Brimstone butterfly is a widespread species of spring and summer, which feeds and breeds on Common and Alder Buckthorn. Suffolk Branch member Julian Dowding said: “I would love to hear of any sightings of the Brimstone or its caterpillar. Please include the date seen and a postcode or map grid reference - you can email sightings to We’d especially like to hear from people living in towns and villages across Suffolk where few or no sightings have been recorded.” A full list of these places can be found at:

Far left: Brimstone egg-laying

Create a wildlife-rich future Gifts in Wills of any size make a huge difference to the future of butterflies and moths

Leaving a gift in your Will to Butterfly Conservation is quick and easy. For more information or to request a copy of the Will Guide please contact Sandra Muldoon on 01929 406002 or email



BUTTERFLY & MOTH HOLIDAYS Butterfly Safari in South Africa

Butterflies of Sri Lank a

25 September – 7 October 2018

25 February - 8 March 2019


outh Africa is home to almost 700 species of butterfly. They are as diverse in size and colour as they are in number, from the smallest blues and coppers to the largest swallowtails and emperors. What makes this holiday so special and unique is that it is the first time our expert guide Steve Woodhall has been able to run a tour at this time of year! Steve has been studying the butterflies of South Africa for over 30 years and has published 2 field guides; as well as finding time to be the president of The Lepidopterists’ Society of Southern Africa. Steve will be joined by Callan Cohen, one of South Africa’s top bird experts. Callan has vast experience and has led over 100 bird, flora and other wildlife tours. We will drive from Johannesburg to the hills to the north. There we will explore grassland and savanna hilltops in search of some of South Africa’s most spectacular spring Lycaenids, such as Hutchinson’s Highflier and Bowker’s Marbled Sapphire. We should also find iconic Nymphalidae such as Gaudy Commodore and Yellow Pansy. Then we will move south-east to the central hills of Mpumalanga Province, where there are high altitude grasslands. The area is home to many species of blues, coppers, skippers and browns. It’s South Africa’s Alpine grasslands. Highlights include the rare Satyrine Red-banded Widow & the beautiful Patrician Blue. Finally we will move to the Mpumalanga Escarpment to explore a mosaic of high mountain grasslands, forested gorges, and valleys. Some of South Africa’s rarest and most beautiful butterflies are found in this area, such as Violescent Blue and Cloud Copper. In the forests there is a chance of finding the endemic Kite Swallowtail, as well as other Swallowtails and the early Charaxes species such as Pearl Charaxes. We’ll finish the tour off with two nights in the world-famous Kruger National Park, where we’ll supplement our experience with some large mammals, hopefully including lion, elephant, leopard and more, and a diversity of birds including more than 5 species of eagles.


he tropical island paradise of Sri Lanka is astonishingly rich in wildlife and contains a wide variety of habitats ranging from misty highland forests and lush rainforest to arid, scrub-filled plains and an abundance of fresh water lakes. Although geographically close to India ecologically the island displays many affinities to Indonesia and there is a marked degree of endemism, particularly in the remaining tracts of lowland forest to the south of the island where many of the birds, plants and insects are unique to Sri Lanka. 242 species of butterfly have been recorded, 42 of these endemic to the island. The moist forests of the hill country and the south are home to some of the most interesting species but butterflies are a welcome sight throughout Sri Lanka and the aim of this trip is to visit some of the very best areas to observe & enjoy them. We are sure to see a variety of other wildlife, particularly birds, but our focus will be very much on the butterflies. We aim to show you about 100 species, including some of the special endemics, such as Sri Lanka Birdwing, Ceylon Rose, Lesser Albatross, Sri Lanka Tree Nymph & Sri Lanka Tiger. And there will be many other beautiful butterflies to see, such as Red Helen, Common Birdwing, Leopard, Banded Peacock, Tawny Rajah, Nawab, and a fine selection of Peacock, Yellow, Blue & Grey Pansies. We will visit several locations and habitats, such as Sinharaja Forest, the largest and most important lowland rain forest in Sri Lanka. And in contrast we’ll also take time to visit the city of Kandy. It is steeped in history and is home to the famous ‘Temple of the Tooth’, one of the best known Buddhist temples in the country. Leading the tour will be a Sri Lankan naturalist who specialises in butterflies. He has participated in many research projects, is a member of the Butterfly Conservation Society in Sri Lanka and runs his own Sri Lankan butterfly page online.

About greenwings & more butterfly & moth holidays in 2019... Greenwings is proud to specialise in butterfly & moth watching holidays. We work with the very best experts & guides, including Martin Warren, Tristan Lafranchis, Richard Lewington, Patrick Barkham, Adrian Hoskins, Simon Spencer and Steve Woodhall. The main focus is butterflies & moths but other wildlife of interest is always included too. We often focus on botany as well, since butterflies, flowers & host plants are inextricably linked.

As a company with a strong conservation ethos we are delighted to donate 10% of profits to Butterfly Conservation, to help fund British and European conservation of butterflies, moths and their habitats. Looking ahead to some of the fabulous locations we’ll be offering in 2019… Sri Lanka, South Africa, False Apollo, French Pyrenees, Corfu, North Greece, Norfolk, South Greece, Italian Alps, French Alps, Slovenia, Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Kackar Mountains in Turkey, Taurus Mountains in Turkey, Ecuador, Montes Universales in Spain & Romania - visit our website to find out more!



Reserves News by Head of Reserves John Davis


ard working Comptois horses Celine and Fleur hauled more than 70 tonnes of felled conifers out of dense scrub on Alners Gorse reserve in Dorset last winter. Comptois are a very old breed from the Jura in France that also gave rise to renowned cavalry and artillery horses.

They are still widely used in agriculture and forestry work on the continent and demonstrated their calm obedience, strength and abilities on difficult wet ground as they hauled out the trees felled by their master, forester Toby Hoad. The careful restructuring of the scrub and developing woodland in

Stephen’s hard work rewarded Silver-studded Blue hotspot Prees Heath Common reserve in Shropshire has won this year’s Natural England (NE) Conservation Award for West Midlands. Volunteer reserve warden and former Prees Heath Officer Stephen Lewis, who oversaw the establishment and transformation of the reserve, was presented with the award by Andrew Sells, NE Chairman. The results of our heathland recreation work continue to develop and are a subject of much interest to other practitioners. Left: Stephen Lewis receiving his award from NE Chairman Andrew Sells. NATURAL ENGLAND


Heavy horsepower this corner of the reserve is opening up opportunities for the grassland to recover as well as reviving the growth of dense lowgrowing scrub needed by the Nightingales and Brown Hairstreaks. Above: Comptois horse hard at work

Grazing helps Marsh Fritillary The number of Marsh Fritillary webs recorded at Caeau Ffos Fach and Median Farm reserves in Wales has surged following restoration grazing during 2015 to 2017. Cattle and ponies were used to reduce the bulky Purple Moor-grass, resulting in 87 Marsh Fritillary webs being counted last September on the largest of the Caeau Ffos Fach meadows. This number represents an eight-fold increase on 2016. Marsh Fritillary adults had also moved back over the fencing onto one of the adjoining Median Farm meadows. An alternating grazing regime is being followed to lessen the pressure on individual fields. Before BC purchased the fields some 20 years ago they were seldom grazed and often cleared by controlled burning. Planned rotations of grazing and cutting should result in a continuous succession of the meadows coming into ideal condition before each then needs renewal. Right: Marsh Fritillary. MARK SEARLE




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Watch, count and be merry



Get out for the Count • Visit to download a free app and ID chart • Spend 15 minutes in a sunny spot counting the number of different butterflies you see • Send us your sightings via the website or using the app • Tell us what you’ve seen via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram #butterflycount • Count again - you can complete as many counts as you like


aking part in this year’s Big Butterfly Count is not only good for the UK’s butterflies but might also have positive effects for those taking part. Research has revealed that being able to see wildlife can help people’s mental health and this summer Butterfly Conservation (BC) is being supported by mental health charity Mind in championing the wellbeing benefits of nature. BC President Sir David Attenborough said: “Taking part in the Big Butterfly Count is good for butterflies and it is also good for us all. The Count is good for butterflies because your sightings will tell us which species need help and in which areas we need to help them. “But the Big Butterfly Count is also good for you because 15 minutes spent watching butterflies in the summer sunshine is priceless; spending time with butterflies lifts the spirits and reinvigorates that sense of wonder in the natural world.” Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at Mind said: “We’re delighted to see that Butterfly Conservation is promoting the mental health benefits of getting outdoors. At Mind, we have found that being in nature can have a powerful, grounding effect, with research indicating that it can help alleviate mental health problems like depression and anxiety. “The Big Butterfly Count is a wonderful way of interacting with the environment so we really welcome the project and would encourage people to look at the tips and ideas on our website for even more ways to bring nature into our lives.” Last year proved difficult for many of the UK’s common

butterfly species, with numbers well below long-term averages. The total abundance of our wider countryside butterflies has more than halved since the 1970s, for reasons that are not fully understood, and familiar species such as the Small Tortoiseshell, Gatekeeper and Large White declined significantly over that period. In contrast, several Big Butterfly Count species, including the Red Admiral, Comma, Ringlet and Marbled White, are generally doing well in the UK and enjoyed a bumper year in 2017. BC is delighted to announce that this year the Big Butterfly Count is being sponsored by B&Q. Helena Feltham, People Director at B&Q, said: “As the UK’s largest garden centre, B&Q has a long-term commitment to helping the UK public attract wildlife to their gardens. “We were the first UK retailer to ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in our flowering plants, and as part of our ongoing work in this area we’re delighted to be sponsoring the Big Butterfly Count.” The Big Butterfly Count is the world’s largest butterfly survey, which encourages people to spot and record 17 species of common butterfly and two day-flying moths during three weeks of high summer across the UK. Sir David Attenborough will officially launch the Count on Friday 20 July. The Count runs until 12 August. To find out more about nature and mental health visit the Mind website nature Top left: Sir David Attenborough Left: Spending time with butterflies lifts the spirits



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Man the ramparts for marching butterflies


ig Butterfly Count participants are being asked to take a closer look at castles this summer in a bid to track the march north of a butterfly success story. Marbled White, one of the UK’s most striking butterflies, has seen its numbers soar with a 50% increase in the last 40 years. The butterfly, which historically had its heartland in central southern England, has expanded its range considerably, particularly in south-east England, the Midlands and Yorkshire. Climate change is thought to be the main cause of the increasing range and abundance of the Marbled White with warmer temperatures enabling it to colonise areas of long grass that have escaped intensive modern farming methods.

Much needed habitat

Butterfly Conservation (BC) and English Heritage are asking people to look out for the Marbled White and other grassland butterflies when they visit English Heritage castles and other historic properties. The grasslands surrounding many English Heritage castles provide much needed habitat for other Big Butterfly Count species and offer a fantastic place to take part in the project. Key English Heritage sites to take part in the Count include Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire, Framlingham Castle, Suffolk and Scarborough Castle, North Yorkshire. Results from the Big Butterfly Count will help track the ongoing spread of the Marbled White and could shed more light onto the long-term population fluctuations of this beautiful butterfly.

Christopher Weddell, Senior Gardens Adviser, English Heritage said: “We are delighted to be getting behind the Big Butterfly Count this year. The landscape around our castles and historic properties can offer a rich habitat for flora and fauna, and some butterflies seen by their historic inhabitants, may still be enjoyed by visitors today. Why not come along and see if you can spot them!”

Greatest numbers

Other common grassland butterflies also had a good year in 2017 including the Meadow Brown, the UK’s most abundant butterfly, which recorded its greatest numbers for over a decade. Ringlet also had one of its best years and continues a longterm trend of increasing abundance. Common Blue bounced back from a horrendous 2016 to have an average year in 2017. Small Copper, another grassland species, has had a run of bad years and its numbers remained well below the long-term average in 2017. The Gatekeeper suffered an awful 2016 but recovered slightly last year so its progress this summer will help scientists find out if it has finally turned a corner. Richard Fox, BC Associate Director of Recording and Research, said: “Taking part in the Big Butterfly Count is not only good for our understanding and conservation of native butterflies but also good for people too, whether by taking 15 minutes out of a busy day to enjoy the beauty of butterflies or engaging your children or grandchildren with their natural heritage.”

Top: Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire Above: Marbled White




Meadow Brown  

Speckled Wood   IAIN COWE






critical for some browns, with species like the Wall and Grayling preferring broken or sparse turf and others like the Marbled White and Gatekeeper, preferring taller grassland. The browns vary in size but each species has a conspicuous black eyespot near the tip of the forewing which is visible on both the upper and undersides. In most browns this eyespot has a white pupil and there are other similar eyespots elsewhere on the wings which help distinguish between species.



ften neglected for more seemingly colourful butterflies, the 11 species of browns found in the UK, including five Big Butterfly Count species, are fascinating, subtly beautiful and definitely worthy of closer inspection. The browns include some of our most common and widespread butterflies like the Meadow Brown, or the Scotch Argus in Scotland, and some of our most threatened such as the Large Heath and Grayling. They also feature once widespread species like the Wall and Small Heath that are now in steep decline for reasons which are not fully understood. Although browns use a wide range of habitats, they are most often associated with grasslands – and for a good reason, with the exception of the Large Heath, their caterpillars feed on grasses. The species of grass is often less critical than its type, with some like the Small Heath preferring fine-leaved grasses and others broad-leaved grasses. The structure of the habitat is also


Director of UK Operations, Dr Sam Ellis, provides identification tips for these overlooked species





Flight Period Habitat


Meadow Brown

Mid-June to mid-Sep




Late June to early Aug

Tall damp partially shaded grassland

UK (absent parts NW England, NW Scotland)

Speckled Wood

April to Sep

England, Wales, Northern Ireland; Woodland; scrub; Scotland (absent most of central hedges; parks; gardens and southern Scotland) Tall grassland near England (local in north); Wales hedges, rides and scrub (lowlands)

Marbled White

Tall unimproved grassland

Late June to Mid-Aug

S England, Midlands, NE England (local); Wales (local)



Gatekeeper July to Aug



Widespread browns

The first four species below are those most likely to be encountered in your garden (though not everywhere in the UK). The Speckled Wood, with its pattern of upperside creamy-yellow patches on a chocolate coloured background, is the most distinctive. In addition to the forewing whitepupiled eyespot, there are three more on the hindwing upperside. The creamy-yellow spots are paler in the male. The beautifully patterned grey-brown hindwings provide excellent camouflage when the butterfly is at rest. Few butterflies are active in really overcast conditions, but the Ringlet can be seen slowly flying in quite dull weather. When fresh it is easy to separate from the similar sized Meadow Brown as the wings are a darker velvety-brown with an obvious white fringe to the outer edges. In older specimens the colour fades and the fringe becomes worn. Then you need to look more carefully for the distinctive eyespots which give the

butterfly its name. Whilst also present on the upperside it is those on the underside that are more obvious, with their white-pupils and yellow halos.

Black dots

The Meadow Brown is one of our most widespread and abundant butterflies. The wings are dusky-brown and the males have a small single-pupiled black eyespot on the forewing upperside, usually with a small orange patch below. The hindwing is plain with no orange and in contrast to the Ringlet, there are no upperside eyespots. In the larger female both the forewing eyespot and orange patch are much larger. When at rest with its wings closed, look out for one or more black dots in the paler outer half of the hindwing underside. The Gatekeeper is slightly smaller than the Meadow Brown and in flight looks quite golden. The upperside ground colour is grey-brown and encloses large orange patches, with males having a dark band

Marbled White  

across the orange on each forewing. What readily distinguishes this butterfly from other browns is the fact that there are usually two white pupils in the black forewing eyespots. There are also usually one or more small white dots on the hindwing upperside. When at rest with wings closed, the white dots in the outer half of the hindwing underside also help distinguish this butterfly from the Meadow Brown. If you can see the forewing underside, the double-pupilled black eyespot will also still be visible.

Odd one out

Whilst the ground colour of most browns is light to dark brown, there is one obvious exception. At first sight you might not think the black and white chequered wings of the Marbled White belong to a brown, but if you have a clear view of the underside look out for the black eyespot on the forewing and the more obvious row of eyespots on the hindwing.




Temperature hybrids


his type of hybrid started with the Brown Argus (BA) butterfly and can occur in any wide-spread species which has a similar history over the last 1 million years. Just as people can react to the challenge of climbing Everest, or mastering a Sudoku problem, so the complexities of these hybrids can be verified and form an accessible part of common knowledge. Individual BA butterflies have a life-span of 3 weeks. Subsequent hybrid formation has led to a single 8-week flight period in the northern race and two

8-week periods in the southern. Other hybrid butterflies have similar periods. When colours and patterns allow there is sequential darkening through the flight periods.

Flowers can show a similar hybrid variation and as an example, Cowslip flowers can vary from all-yellow to having considerable patches of red (left photo below). In all cases, darker colours increase near the end of any flight or flowering period because slower growth and darkening go hand in hand.

and position as in the two central photos. The orange is merely a fine mixture of yellow and red.

The British situation can be replicated world-wide where any adjacent areas experience similar temperature variations due to a combination of height and latitude. Bird’s-foot Trefoil (BFT) starts all yellow for several weeks, then some orange specimens occur (second left). The orange is seldom uniform, although it can appear so to the naked eye. Towards the end of a flowering period there are relatively low numbers of flowers with distinct red areas. All colours can vary randomly in shape, size

BA butterflies vary from mid-brown to the very occasional all-black example (left photo courtesy Karen Bullimore). Variation in the Speckled Wood is shown (centre and right). Will members or friends please send me photos with smaller speckles, or even possibly none, as in the left-hand BA photo.

The right-hand photo is of an east-coast Australian yellow pea family shrub, the Showy Parrot Pea (courtesy Denise Greig). The upper part of the lower flower is all yellow. So is the left half of the upper flower. However, the right half is orange with a diagonal yellow line. The shrub flowers in winter and spring, and is widely distributed in heath, woodland and open forest in Eastern Australia. It would be helpful if interested volunteers would take photos of these Australian flowers, particularly near the end of their flowering period, to provide a detailed comparison with variation in BFT.

More general information is in the blogs: and E-mail 20

BUTTERFLY SUMMER 2018 www.butterfl


50 years of thanks by Sandra Muldoon, Head of Fundraising Volunteers and members are the very heart of Butterfly Conservation (BC) and we could not have achieved such tremendous success over the last 50 years without your help


More than 170,000 days of effort are given each year by our wonderful volunteers – the equivalent value of this is an amazing £11 million per year. Volunteers are vital for the sustainability of our conservation work as well as recording and monitoring to ensure that newly created and restored areas of butterfly and moth habitat continue to thrive. We are grateful to each and every volunteer who freely gives up their time to help – thank you. To find out more about volunteering opportunities please visit:


BC’s 32 regional Branches are run completely by volunteers. Each dedicated Branch Committee member helps ensure that a variety of interesting and inclusive activities are run across the UK. We are indebted to everyone who contributes to making our Branch network so strong and successful – Chairs, Newsletter Editors, Conservation Officers, Publicity Officers, Membership Secretaries, Event Organisers, Treasurers, Moth and Butterfly Recorders to name just some of the important roles undertaken.

Branching out

You could become a member of as many additional Branches as you wish for just £6 each. To find out more call the Membership Team on 01929 406015 or go to:


Butterfly Conservation now has more than 34,000 members, a 75% increase in the last five years. Each and every membership subscription helps to fund vital work and, along with additional support for appeals and legacy gifts, guarantees a brighter future for butterflies and moths in the UK.

Why your ongoing support is essential

Over the past 10 years we have seen government grants fall dramatically from 41% to just 22% of our annual income and pressure on public funding looks set to continue. Thank goodness we can rely on your ongoing support to help fill this gap and enable important projects to continue. We are grateful and very proud to have such forward thinking and generous supporters who appreciate that a world without beautiful butterflies and moths would be unthinkable. BC Chief Executive, Julie Williams, said: “I would like to personally thank each and every supporter of Butterfly Conservation for their wonderful contribution. We are extremely fortunate to have such loyal and dedicated members and volunteers who share our passion for butterflies and moths. The time and money they donate is crucial to our success.”


Above: Pearl-bordered Fritillary Left: Volunteers restoring habitat at a work party at Carrick, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland



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Conservation and Research News


Above: Forestry operations Below: Small Phoenix. GARRY BARLOW

Revealing Stourhead’s butterflies and moths by Patrick Cook, Conservation Officer

The benefits of CCF include a more structurally diverse woodland with mature trees, natural regeneration and small glades. The focus is at the ecosystem scale and the production of quality as well as quantity of timber which results in a stable and sustainable forest environment. CCF has the potential to benefit biodiversity including moths and butterflies. To investigate how CCF in a coniferous system can deliver for biodiversity, we have set up butterfly transects and moth trapping sites to test the effects of the long-term change in forestry techniques on butterflies and moths. Early results show that habitat on site has proved to be very suitable for the Silver-washed Fritillary with dappled conditions and abundant violets needed for larvae to feed on. Other finds include an abundance of the Small Phoenix and conifer feeding specialists such as the Spruce Carpet. There is also considerable potential for lichen feeding moths such as the Red-necked Footman. Moth trapping by Wiltshire Branch Chair Hugo Brooke has already found several exciting immigrant species including a Clifden Nonpareil and a Dark Crimson Underwing in one trap. The BC project will continue to collect data over the next two years which will help advise the estate on how their transformation to CCF delivers for Lepidoptera.




oodland management can have a significant impact on butterfly and moth numbers. Woodland habitats support 67% of the UK’s butterfly species, including 16 species which rely on woodland in all or part of their range. More than a third of the larger moths are ‘tree dependent’. Butterfly Conservation (BC) has been given the fantastic opportunity to look at an alternative approach to coniferous woodland management on a private estate in Wiltshire. The Stourhead (Western) Estate comprises a mixture of coniferous woodland, broadleaved woodland and low intensity farmland. Belonging to the Hoare family the estate has a long history of forestry, pioneering new techniques in forestry management. Nick Hoare and his father Henry own and manage the estate’s forestry operations alongside their forester, David Pengelly. In 1997, the transformation of the coniferous woodland to a continuous cover forestry (CCF) system was instigated. Continuous cover is an approach to forest management that seeks to create more diverse forests, both structurally and in terms of species composition. Nick, Henry and David have been strong advocates of CCF, as an alternative to traditional clear fell methods. Collectively the estate has achieved recognition from the forestry sector for its CCF accomplishments in a stride toward more sustainable forestry management. BC is working alongside the estate to investigate how this form of forestry can deliver for wider countryside species of moths and butterflies.



Conservation and Research News

Poor summer weather dampens butterfly revival by Professor Tom Brereton, Associate Director of Monitoring


here had been hopes that UK butterflies would bounce back last year after the summer of 2016, the fourth worst on record. Although there was a modest recovery, figures were still way below average, with 2017 being the seventh worst in the 42 years of monitoring through the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS). Butterflies have now experienced five below average years in succession and seven of the 10 worst years have occurred this century. Of the 57 species studied, 18 showed annual decreases, 38 species (two-thirds) showed an increase, whilst the Silverstudded Blue showed no change. No species managed to record its best year on record, while two species showed their worst year on record: Grizzled Skipper and Grayling. Both these species show significant longterm declines of 54% and 72% respectively. The Grizzled Skipper is faring particularly badly in south-west England, with a 74% long-term decline compared with 34% in the south-east of England. Grayling fortunes were similar in England and Scotland,



with the butterfly having its worst year on record in both these countries, while in Wales there was a small annual increase. The whites had a poor year with annual decreases in all three common species (Large, Small and Green-veined White). Large White was particularly low in numbers early in the year and a 19% decrease in numbers over 2016 means the overall long-term trend for this species across the UK is now a significant decline of 38%. Other species which showed sharp and worrying annual declines included Lulworth Skipper (-43%) and Brown Hairstreak (-35%). Common Blue and White-letter Hairstreak in particular had good years – up by 90% and 55% respectively. This is particularly good news for White-letter Hairstreak after three extremely poor years, and a long-term decline of 93%. Poor mid-summer weather was likely the main factor supressing butterfly numbers, with 2017 being colder and slightly duller than average, whilst it was the ninth wettest summer in the UK in 118 years. The season had started off promisingly. It was a fairly warm start to the year and as a result most species (88%) were out earlier than both 2016 and the series average and this warm start is perhaps what helped annual increases in a number of spring species such as Orangetip (+23%), Pearl-bordered Fritillary (+57%) and Wood White (+50%). But a cold snap at the end of April saw other spring species such as the

Grizzled Skipper, Dingy Skipper and Duke of Burgundy struggle, with the latter decreasing in annual abundance by 45%. Over the long-term (since 1976), 34 species of butterfly (59%) have decreased in abundance in the UK; with 22 of those species showing statistically significant declines. In comparison, 22 species have increased (41%) of which 11 species show statistically significant long-term increases. The UKBMS involves thousands of volunteers collecting data through the summer. Last year a record 2,693 sites were monitored

across the UK, with new monitoring including 182 standard all-species transects, 18 reduced effort singlespecies surveys, and 96 wider countryside butterfly survey squares. For further details see The UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme is organised and funded by Butterfly Conservation, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, British Trust for Ornithology, and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee. Left inset: Grizzled Skipper – long-term decline of 54% Below: Pearl-bordered Fritillary – increase of 57%



Help survey butterflies by Dr Zoë Randle, Surveys Officer


o you want to ‘get-off the-beaten-track’ and count butterflies in places where they haven’t been counted before? Maybe you’re a casual recorder or Big Butterfly Count participant who is keen to make a bigger contribution? Can you spare a few hours in July and August to help us find out what is happening to our common and widespread butterflies across the UK? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions then the Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey (WCBS) is for you. The WCBS is perfect for people with busy lives as only two to four visits per year are required. Each visit takes approximately an hour and the data gathered are invaluable. Since the WCBS was launched in 2009 a total of 844,244 butterflies of 51 butterfly species have been recorded from 1,755 randomly selected WCBS squares across the UK. These data have fed into the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, which produces annual population trends for butterflies in the UK. The WCBS data also contribute to the UK Biodiversity Indicators. These indicators are used to assess the progress towards international biodiversity targets which impact environmental and biodiversity legislation in the UK. It is incredible to think that counting a few butterflies a couple of times a year can make such a great contribution at a national and international level.

The coming survey season will be the 10th for the WCBS and we are keener than ever to improve the uptake and coverage of WCBS squares. We are planning on analysing the 10-year dataset in 2019 to compare patterns of change across different geographical regions and in different habitats to help us understand how species are faring in the general countryside and in urban areas. Butterflies are widely regarded as indicators of the health of the environment; unfortunately as a group the UK’s common and widespread butterflies have declined by 57% since 1976. The key reason for this is likely to be agricultural intensification. The WCBS provides the opportunity for us to monitor butterflies on farmland and assess the impact of agri-environment schemes that promote wildlife-friendly farming practices. The majority of WCBS squares are on farmland, many of which can be accessed and monitored by public rights of way. There are also squares in the uplands, enabling you to ‘get-off the-beaten-track’ and count butterflies in places where they haven’t been counted before. Available WCBS squares can be found all over the UK (see map). To find out where your nearest available square is and for further details about the survey methodology please contact the UK WCBS Co-ordinator via or 01929 406006. Above left: Marbled White

For further information Read the 2017 WCBS newsletter at:



Conservation and Research News

Crossing borders for the Marsh Fritillary by Catherine Bertrand, Head of Conservation, Northern Ireland

Above: View of one of the CABB core sites – the Pettigo Plateau SPA – from the top of Breesy Hill, Co. Donegal


eveloping large-scale conservation projects is an essential part of Butterfly Conservation’s (BC) work. This approach enables us to work systematically to connect fragmented landscapes; work that not only links habitat and populations of species together, but also better connects the people and communities within those landscapes.



For the past few years there has been a bubbling undercurrent of activity in the border counties of Northern Ireland. Interreg VA, a European Union funding programme, was making significant funds available to support crossborder working in Ireland and Scotland for threatened species and habitats. Interreg identified the Marsh Fritillary as a key species in need of support across a range of our most threatened habitats, so although the application procedure was long and complex, it offered us a unique and exciting opportunity. BC is very proud to now

be working with a number of partners including RSPB Northern Ireland (who took the lead on developing our successful application), along with Northern Ireland Water, BirdWatch Ireland, Moors for the Future and RSPB Scotland. Our ‘Co-operation Across Borders for Biodiversity’ (CABB) project officially launched in November 2017 and will run until December 2021.

Why do we need this project? The Marsh Fritillary has a single larval foodplant, Devil’sbit Scabious, which grows in a variety of wildflower-rich habitats. As land is abandoned

or intensified for agricultural production (over-grazed by livestock, ploughed up, reseeded or fertilised) Scabious disappears and with it populations of Marsh Fritillary and many other species that rely on these habitats. Currently the Marsh Fritillary occurs in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with substantial populations existing on networks of sites that straddle the Irish border, especially in the western counties. Although the butterfly is fairly sedentary, research has shown it requires a network of closely linked sites in suitable condition that it will move around in from year to year



Above: Grassland patch management – removing thatch – at Montiaghs Moss SAC, Co. Antrim

for the Marsh Fritillary. Our first priority is to encourage as many people as possible to help us identify and map the foodplant of the Marsh Fritillary larvae. We then encourage people to get out (with permission of course) and see if they can find Marsh Fritillary caterpillars in March/April when they emerge from winter hibernation. At this time of year the caterpillars are large, black and conspicuous as they bask together in small groups.

Any sites in the CABB target area where Marsh Fritillary habitat is found, especially sites which form ‘stepping stones’ between established populations, are eligible for support from CABB. This may simply be a visit to map and survey the site with follow-up advice on entering an agri-environment scheme. On sites that are ineligible for statutory support there is potential for us to assist landowners with capital works to help them improve the quality


For further information Contact Rose Cremin, CABB Invertebrate Field Officer:

and condition of their habitats to support the Marsh Fritillary. Over the life of the CABB project we are confident we will not only expand our knowledge of the Marsh Fritillary across the island of Ireland, but also the physical area of habitat in suitable condition for the butterfly. Watch this space for updates as the project progresses.

Thanks This project is supported by the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

Left inset: Marsh Fritillary. IAIN H LEACH

(a ‘metapopulation’). If the butterfly becomes isolated to small, fragmented habitat islands, or if the overall condition of the network decreases in quality, then the butterfly is unlikely to persist. It is only by working cross-border and improving the condition of the whole network that we will be able to ensure this species persists and thrives across the island of Ireland into the future. Through CABB, BC has recruited a part-time Invertebrate Field Officer, Rose Cremin, who will co-ordinate work across the border counties


What will CABB do?

Above: Marsh Fritillary workshop at Sliabh Beagh, Co. Cavan



Conservation and Research News

Fritillary habitat work benefits rare moth by Martin Wain, North West England Regional Officer


funding for the High Brown Fritillary. Large sunny glades had been opened up which were connected by wide rides. It was obvious that the moth’s foodplant, Goldenrod, had also benefited from the scrubby woodland clearance, the open bare ground and the extra sunshine. Lizz, with help from lecturer Stuart Sharp and a local volunteer for BC Lancashire and Cumbria Branches, Brian Hancock, first counted the moths along a route, then went back and caught as many moths as she could, giving each moth a unique mark. In her 17 days of surveying throughout May and June, she counted an astonishing 188 moths. At one of the sites, managed by the Forestry Commission, Lizz managed to catch and mark 81 moths and had nine recaptures. These figures enabled us to estimate, using scientifically recognised methods, that

the population of the micro-moth was an amazing 495 moths. Lizz concluded that the success of the moth here is directly proportional to the abundance of the Goldenrod foodplant. Her work highlighted that the moth does not fly very far and is easily restricted by scrub and woodland, leading us to consider further targeted management. The study has really focused attention on the White-spotted Sable and has stimulated further research in Morecambe Bay such as rearing and photographing caterpillars, raising Goldenrod plants for planting in newly cleared glades and including the plant in a species re-introduction project. The study also flags up the benefits of research and the valuable partnerships that can be formed between BC and universities.

Left inset: White-spotted Sable. BOB EADE Below: A limestone site at Morecambe Bay


rare micro-moth has benefitted from conservation work intended to help the High Brown Fritillary in North West England. Numbers of the nationally scarce Whitespotted Sable Anania funebris have soared on two sites where habitat work has taken place for the moth in Morecambe Bay, research by Butterfly Conservation’s (BC) Morecambe Bay Fritillaries project and Lancaster University has revealed. The project aims to improve habitat for rare fritillaries including the High Brown Fritillary and other butterflies and moths in the area. In 2017 an MSc student at Lancaster University, Lizz Willott, carried out a study of White-spotted Sable in the project area. Morecambe Bay has long been considered a hotspot for the micro-moth. Prior to 2008 the moth was known from only nine sites but has subsequently recolonised eight sites in the landscape. The BC project team identified two limestone sites that had originally been managed through WREN and GrantScape



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The Butterfly Isles effect by Patrick Barkham


that I failed to complete as a child, when my passion for butterflies was a geeky secret I shared with my dad. I also hoped this mission would make a quirky little book. I set out in the spring of 2009, rediscovering the wonder of butterflies and slowly improving my rusty identification skills. I travelled from Ham Lands to the Highlands and from Northern Ireland to the North Downs in


Above: Long-tailed Blue. BOB EADE Below: Patrick at Lulworth Cove, Dorset, during his butterfly marathon in 2009

en years ago, when Butterfly Conservation was celebrating its 40th birthday, I was stuck in London, feeling increasingly desperate to reconnect with the countryside of my my childhood. One wintery day I suddenly wondered: could I repair my relationship with wildlife by finding all 59 species of British butterfly in one summer? This was a quest



search of rare species. I enjoyed that infamous ‘barbecue summer’ and had the good fortune to go butterflying with lepidopteral legends including Matthew Oates, Jeremy Thomas, Martin Warren, Stephen and Gail Jeffcoate and Neil Hulme. I was dazzled by more Purple Emperors than I dared hope but then plunged into despair when my obsession with butterflies caused my girlfriend, Lisa, to end our relationship. These experiences became my first book, The Butterfly Isles.

Rare migrants

Already, the summer of 2009 looks like another country. Our butterfly populations and our knowledge of them, is constantly changing, season by season. The Duke of Burgundy was then the

most endangered British butterfly; now its populations look more secure. Britain’s newest butterfly was Real’s Wood White, which has since been identified as a different species, the Cryptic Wood White. The Large Blue could only be seen on one public site – Collard Hill; now there’s a greater concentration of Large Blues in Somerset and Gloucestershire than anywhere else in the world. Two charismatic woodland species, the Silver-Washed Fritillary and the Purple Emperor were much more elusive in 2009. In recent summers, they’ve reconquered East Anglia, just as the Comma, Speckled Wood, Small and Essex Skipper, Marbled White and Brown Argus have continued their climate change-assisted pilgrimages northwards through Britain. In the south, in 2009, the idea of Long-tailed Blues or Continental Swallowtails regularly appearing on our shores was science fiction, although my memorable butterfly year was adorned with another rare migrant, the Queen of Spain Fritillary. Back then, I wondered if it might become our 60th resident species; sadly, it hasn’t – yet. Most significantly, perhaps, in 2009 we suspected that pesticides were driving the ongoing declines of common species but we didn’t yet know of the impact of neonicotinoids. Recent science is pointing strongly to this group of pesticides being the prime cause of a ‘silent spring’ for our insect life. My 2009 butterfly marathon changed my life. Renewing my acquaintance with butterflies reaffirmed the importance of wild nature for me. I moved to the countryside and changed my job to spend all my time writing about the most important challenge of our era: how to repair our fractured relationship with the rest of the natural world upon which we depend.

Writing butterflies

The Butterfly Isles fluttered off into the world and found an audience. It’s been a genuine privilege to hear from readers who enjoyed it. Its sales crept up slowly, almost exactly matching the growth in Butterfly Conservation members. I think the book’s unexpected success helped open publishers’ eyes to the wonder of butterflies too: it’s brilliant to see more new butterfly books, from Matthew Oates’ In Pursuit of Butterflies to Peter Marren’s Rainbow Dust. I’m not claiming any credit for BC’s



Above: Esme Barkham with a Small Tortoiseshell Below inset: The Butterfly Isles cover

remarkable recent success over the last decade but I’m heartened by readers’ stories: many say they never paid butterflies much attention but have since joined BC. Whenever I visit my favourite butterflying spots, I bump into someone undertaking a similar butterfly marathon. Most people, wisely, are taking five summers rather than one – quality is better than quantity. I still write about butterflies as much as I can for The Guardian, and give talks about butterflies to anyone who will listen. I’ve also been lucky enough to lead butterfly tours for Greenwings, seeking Swallowtails on my home turf of the Norfolk Broads, and undertaking a bigger ID challenge – European butterflies – on trips to Greece and, this summer, Romania. I’d love to write The European Butterfly Isles but strangely I can’t find a publisher willing to fund that epic jolly! Whenever I give a talk about butterflies, someone in the audience asks what happened to Lisa. Luckily, there was a happy ending. We got back together and have three young children. One twin, Camilla, is named after the scientific name for the White Admiral, the most graceful of butterflies. Another, Esme, is a butterfly fiend who breeds Small Tortoiseshells and knows more about moths than I do. If you’re one of Butterfly Conservation’s newer members, or coming to this magazine for the first time, welcome to this warm, sunny community. I hope butterflying brings as much joy to your life as it does to mine. BUTTERFLY SUMMER 2018


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Above: Humming-bird Hawk-moth feeding on Phlox

Gardening for moths by BC Ambassador Kate Bradbury


oths are often overlooked when it comes to wildlife gardening, but there’s a lot we can do for them in our gardens. There are some 2,500 species of British moth and they all have different habitat needs. So, by growing a wide variety of plants in the garden you will attract a wider range of moths. Try to include a mixture of large and small flowering plants plus a few shrubs, and a small tree if you have room. As a general rule, I grow native trees and shrubs, plus a mix of native and non-native nectar plants, the latter of which extends the season of nectar for pollinators. The native trees and shrubs are known caterpillar foodplants for a wide range of moth species, while the non-native flowering plants provide nectar for the adults. Most moths need nectar to give them the energy they need to fly. Night-scented plants are particularly good for night-flying moths, and they’re good for us too – I grow Honeysuckle and Night-scented Stock around my tiny seating area, so I can sit and enjoy their fragrance on warm summer evenings, as well as watch moths flit between the blooms. A few of my favourite night-scented plants include Tobacco Plant Nicotiana alata (not Nicotiana sylvestris, as the trumpet-shaped flowers of the latter are too long for the tongues of British moths), Evening Primrose Oenothera, Star Jasmine

Trachelospermum jasminoides and Common Jasmine Jasminum officinale, Honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum, Bell Heather Erica cinerea, Red and White Campions Silene dioica and Silene latifolia, Nightscented Stock Matthiola longipetala, Perennial Phlox Phlox paniculata and Sweet Rocket Hesperis matronalis.

Block planting

It’s thought that palerflowered plants are more attractive to moths as they are easier to find in the dark. Also planting in groups or blocks can provide a big bank of colour and scent, which lures the moths in. Honeysuckle and jasmines are climbing plants, so should be planted against a south-facing wall or fence in well-prepared soil with a good dose of well-rotted manure or compost, and a trellis or other structure to climb up.


It’s worth gardening for, and looking out for, day-flying moths such as the Silver Y and the wonderful Humming-bird Hawk-moth. These can be lured in with Sea-lavender Limonium, Buddleia, Red Valerian Centranthus rubra and Verbena

bonariensis. The tiny Mint Moth can make a home on your Catmint and salvias. It’s also important to provide food for the caterpillars of moths, as this enables them to complete their life cycle in your garden. The greater the range of plants you grow the more moths you will attract. Native plants tend to be more likely to attract egglaying moths than non-natives – I grow Hawthorn and Ivy. Smaller plants, such as Lady’s Bedstraw, Foxglove, Primrose and Thyme provide food for caterpillars of various moths, while egglaying Elephant Hawk-moths may be lured to your garden by Rosebay Willowherb and Fuchsia. Long grasses, too, create the perfect habitat for some species, and if you have room for nettles and thistles, then all the better. Above inset: Mint Moth. PATRICK CLEMENT

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My problem with micros by BC Vice-president Nick Baker


n my formative years I never really differentiated between micro-moths and macro-moths. They were just moths, both as interesting as each other. The only difference was that there were guidebooks for the large ones and none for little ones meaning my learning was inadvertently funnelled towards butterflies and macro-moths. Yet as my experience grew, these tiddlers continued to tease. I would chase down pallid grass moths and marvel as these apparently large insects folded up and disappeared to become small roll-winged cylinders. Tantalising Mother of Pearl moths left a lasting impression as they stalked the nettle patches that I was scouring for Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars.

They were moths – that I was sure of – but for me they remained an enigma. As my mothing experience grew I became more aware of the ‘holes and hypocrisies’. There were moths that turned up in some books and not in others – micro-moths bigger than macros and vice-versa. Why were some of the most amazing and spectacular insects that I witnessed in my own garden, seemingly ignored or passed over in the tiny amount of literature available? Occasionally a book would dip its toe in the water. My 1977 copy of Chinery’s A Field Guide to the Insects of Northern Europe boasted three colour plates of what we now know as ‘micros’ but given that there are some 1,627 in the UK alone this was embarrassing.

In the net they were small and black, their ridiculously long antennae however always impressed...


Above inset: Mother of Pearl Pleuroptya ruralis. MARK PARSONS Below: Green Longhorn Adela reaumurella – likely to be the ‘sun-dancers’


But the micros that really caught my attention were the ‘sun-dancers’ as I called them. Every sunny spring day just as the Hazel unfurled its velvety foliage, the space above the tree overlooking my bedroom window would thrum with a cloud of glitter; hundreds of metallic green shards of iridescence bouncing in the sun. The sum of these insects was far greater than the individual moths. Investigating, I would be slightly disappointed. In the net they were small and black, their ridiculously long antennae however always impressed – but again, little was found in the books. Even my best mate ‘Skinner’ couldn’t help.

Lean in

I did in time, while sitting around moth traps with better lepidopterists, start to get a handle on things; the definition of micros was more about a distinction at family level. As for putting names to faces, well things are a lot easier, and while I still struggle with some, the current wave of excellent modern field guides has helped massively. Give micros time and lean in close (very close and with a hand lens) and you will meet insects of extraordinary beauty and interest.




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Red Admiral dominates

Garden Butterfly Survey by Richard Fox, Associate Director Recording and Research


utterfly Conservation’s Garden Butterfly Survey (GBS), run last year in association with retailer B&Q, recorded a bumper year for the Red Admiral, which was both the most abundant butterfly seen in UK gardens in 2017 and also the species seen in the largest proportion of gardens. It was the first garden butterfly of the year to be recorded (on New Year’s Day) and the last (two were recorded in different gardens on 28 December), and the 24,500 Red Admirals logged by GBS participants represented almost one in five of all butterflies spotted during the survey. The species was reported from 78% of the almost 1,500 gardens that were monitored in 2017, up from 62% of gardens in 2016.

Records rise

Although fewer gardens took part in GBS in 2017 compared to 2016, the level of recording was much higher, with many more people noting sightings right through the year, which is the aim of the scheme. Overall, the number of records submitted through the GBS website increased by over a quarter year-on-year to 74,000 reports (of a total of 132,000 individual butterflies) in 2017. Aside from the Red Admiral, other winners

in 2017 included the Comma, which, thanks to a mild spring, produced an excellent summer generation and was recorded in 58% of gardens (compared to just 35% in 2016). Among the less frequent garden visitors, Ringlet, Marbled White and Small Copper all seemed to have a better year than in 2016. The full results can be found on the GBS website. The common whites (Large White, Small White and Green-veined White), on the other hand, remained at relatively low levels and were particularly scarce in gardens during the spring. The Holly Blue showed the opposite pattern, with a much stronger spring generation than summer one. Species generally appeared earlier in 2017 than 2016, as a result of a succession of warmer than average months from December 2016 through to June 2017. For example, Orange-tip GBS reports peaked in April in 2017 compared to May in the previous year.

Important data

The aim of GBS is to understand how important the UK’s 24 million gardens are for butterfly populations, but with only two years of data so far, it is too soon to draw any conclusions. It is clear, however, that many butterflies visit gardens and so there is clearly scope for people to provide nectar and caterpillar foodplants for these beautiful insects. The 2017 survey showed that 50% of gardens were visited by Brimstones, 49% by Speckled Woods and 47% by Orange-tips, but how many of us have Buckthorn, long grass and Garlic Mustard growing in our gardens to provide the respective breeding habitat for each of these butterflies? Many thanks to all those who took part in GBS during 2017. Anyone with access to a garden can help track the fortunes of butterflies this year by taking part at www.

Top right: Red Admiral. TIM MELLING Left: Comma. IAIN COWE

Top 20 species recorded in the Garden Butterfly



% Gardens % Gardens 2017 2016

Red Admiral



Small Tortoiseshell



Small White






Large White









Speckled Wood



Holly Blue






Meadow Brown






Green-veined White



Painted Lady






Common Blue



Small Copper



Small Skipper



Large Skipper



Marbled White





Reviews A Swift Guide to Butterflies of Mexico and Central America Jeffrey Glassberg Princeton. £24.95 This is the second edition of a superb photographic field guide to almost all of the 1,700 species of Mexico and more than two-thirds of those of Costa Rica, covering more than 2,000 species in all. Identification tips are included for most species and many have broad distribution maps. Understandably perhaps, there is nothing on behaviour or ecology. This is, simply, an identification guide, but amazingly good value. The book is a hugely impressive achievement and has a poignant dedication to the author’s late wife, Jane, who accompanied him on many butterfly trips. Paul Kirkland

Searching for Butterflies in Northern Spain Paul Wetton £15 The Picos de Europa in Northern Spain has been on my list of top European butterfly destinations to visit for some time and this DVD provides an extremely useful summary of the region’s wildlife. This twin-disc DVD records the butterflies seen during the author’s two week holiday in 2017 to the area. Altogether 94 of the 100 butterfly species seen were captured on film, including high mountain specialities like Gavarnie Blue and species of the foothills like the endemic Piedmont Ringlet. Nearly all the photography is of high quality and testament to the author’s field skills. Many useful identification tips are provided, though you need a working knowledge of wing areas, markings and venation, to get the most out of these. The author is also refreshingly honest where he is less than certain about identification. The narrative includes details of flight periods and altitude, although not their larval hostplants. The film also includes some excellent footage of the spectacular mountain scenery, as well as much other interesting wildlife encountered, including moths, flowers, dragonflies and birds. Dr Sam Ellis



i-SPY Butterflies and Moths

Collins in association with Michelin. £2.99

i-Spy books have been around since the 1940s. These handy spotter guides, that introduce an element of competition to noticing everyday objects, have truly stood the test of time – still selling in their millions across the world. The latest addition to the relaunched range is i-Spy Butterflies and Moths Moths. This pocket-sized publication is perfect for small hands and features plenty of colourful, close-up photography to inspire young naturalists. Collins has managed to cram in a decent introduction to the Lepidopteran life cycle, 10 caterpillars, 50 butterflies and 35 moths, alongside fun facts and a plug for BC’s Big Butterfly Count. I’m tempted to get one for each family member and start a summer holiday spotting challenge that will keep the kids outdoors. Catrin Hollingum

Chasing the Ghost Peter Marren Square Peg. £16.99 This book will launch a thousand hobbies. In the same way that Patrick Barkham’s The Butterfly Isles lifted the lid on the fascinating world of the UK’s butterflies, Marren’s latest work offers a captivating glimpse of the addictive and often criminally overlooked world of botany. The ghost in question is a mythically rare orchid that exists in a world of rumour, shadow and rotting leaf mould. The search for this and 50 more British rarities that have so far evaded Marren, forms the backbone of the book’s quest narrative that whisks the reader to some of the UK’s most beautiful and inaccessible locations to witness some of our most beguiling plants. This is a book that anyone with even the vaguest interest in natural history should seek out. Liam Creedon

Swiss Butterflies: East Jason Sargerson Charaxes Films. £15 This DVD follows a similar format to the author’s Swiss Butterflies: A Site Guide, but focusing on just 11 sites in Eastern Switzerland, all in the cantons of Graubünden, Uri and Schwyz. Filmed over four years from 2014 to 2017, footage of over 60 species is included. As in the Swiss Butterflies: A Site Guide booklet, the selected sites encompass a wide range of habitats, including woodland, wetland, rocky steppe, mountain and high mountain. Footage of the sites provides a useful

Butterflies of Hertfordshire and Middlesex

Andrew Wood Hertfordshire Natural History Society. £34 A joint publication from the Hertfordshire Natural History Society and the Herts & Middlesex Branch of Butterfly Conservation, this is a brilliant local atlas. Each of the 34 resident and migrant species have detailed accounts that include current and historic distribution maps and trend data from the extensive transect monitoring undertaken in the area. The book is beautifully illustrated and packed full of information. Really you get two books for the price of one with a wonderful section on where to see butterflies in Herts and Middlesex that includes maps, key species and how to get to 51 of the best green spaces in the two counties. Quite expensive but worth every penny and highly recommended to all who live in or just visit this part of the UK. Dr Nigel Bourn introduction to the descriptions of the distribution, flight period, and habitat preferences (both adult nectar sources and larval hostplants) of each species filmed. The butterflies filmed are mostly typical of the Alps and include 20 species that are resident in the UK, as well as several species considered rare in Switzerland such as Alcon Blue, Escher’s Blue, and Thor’s Fritillary. Filming butterflies can be quite challenging, so the quality of footage varies, but overall is good for most species. The narrative does not include much in the way of identification tips which would have been very useful for the viewer. Dr Sam Ellis

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Butterfly Conservation Summer 2018  
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