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Latest news

200+ Clouded Yellows at Langton Herring

Bob Ford describes this amazing sighting:

"Impossible to count how many, but on one scan across a single field I counted 100 individuals in flight and settled. And there were two more fields like this! All were feeding on knapweed, not dispersing. All were fresh-looking. No helice females were seen at all."

If you see a Clouded Yellow on the wing, they are very distinctive - a mustard yellow, quite different from the bright lemon yellow of the Brimstone.

Clouded Yellow

The sighting was on 22 September. Langton Herring is north-west of Weymouth. Photo: Bob Ford.

Item added September 2014

Sydling St Nicholas walk

A report on this walk, organised by Butterfly Conservation Dorset Branch, by its leader, Richard Belding:

The walk on Saturday 2 August was held by kind permission of the owner of Court Farm, Sydling St Nicholas, and was attended by nine people in glorious warm sunshine. The walk took us over downland, through a recreated wildflower meadow, a green lane and wildlife margins with some of these areas not normally open to the public. Those that attended were rewarded with sightings of 17 species of butterfly. We also carried out a timed count as part of the Big Butterfly Count, during which we amazingly recorded 11 species with a total of 71 butterflies. It is a tribute to the owner and his tenant that the habitats on the farm are so well managed and varied and we thank him for allowing us access.

Are Essex Skippers really starting to decline in Dorset?

Bill Shreeves, Records Officer, writes:
Since the Dorset Butterfly Atlas of 1985-89 ,when the first Essex Skipper was recorded in Dorset, the numbers of kilometre squares where they have been seen steadily increased for each 5-year atlas up to 131 in 2005-09. However, so far, for the new 2010-14 atlas only 72 kms have been recorded. We need to know whether this is a real decline or whether it is a falling off in recording.

Essex Skipper

Essex Skipper, showing black tips to antennae. Photo: Gordon Cryer

It would be understandable if the latter were the case as Essex Skippers are very similar to Small Skippers & it takes some patience to look for the little black blobs on the ends of the antennae, shown in this recent photo of a freshly emerged Essex in Motcombe Meadows local reserve by Gordon Cryer. Most of the sightings of Essex Skippers have occurred in North & East Dorset but they have arrived in Purbeck & Portland. Indeed proof has just come from this photo of the caterpillar swept out of grasses west of the Pulpit Inn by Ken Dolbear. Fortunately the caterpillar’s brown & white head stripes make it much easier to distinguish from the Small Skipper than the actual butterfly!

Essex Skipper caterpillar

Essex Skipper caterpillar. Photo: Ken Dolbear.

We would be very grateful to receive records of Essex Skipper from anywhere in Dorset but especially from the West where very few have been seen so far. However please be sure that you have noticed the very clear black tips to the antennae. These tips are very abrupt & not gradually graded from the rest of the antenna. They look as if they have been pressed into a black ink pad or a little like the black ends of the old safety matches. They are most easily seen from the side or from slightly below the front of the butterfly. If these have not been observed the identification cannot be certain.

When you send in records to our web site please be sure to add comments in the notes so that we can be re-assured that the identification is reliable. Essex Skippers are out now until the end of August and should be searched for on road verges or any grassland which has been allowed to grow fairly tall.

Item added July 2014

Swallowtails return to Dorset

[Update to the article below: as of 5 July we have had six separate reports of Continental Swallowtails in Purbeck, all around the St Alban's Head area. There seem to be certainly two and probably three individual butterflies. The Continental Swallowtail is different to our native species, which is now only found breeding in Norfolk, where habitat is managed to provide the foodplant needed by its caterpillar, which is Milk Parsley.]

We had several reports of Swallowtail butterflies in Dorset last year, including one of caterpillars on carrot leaves in a garden in Wimborne, suggesting they might be breeding. You might also have seen on Springwatch that the Continental Swallowtail definitely bred in Sussex last year.

Swallowtail butterfly

We have been waiting to see what would happen this year, and two separate reports of Swallowtails have just come in from St Alban’s Head (also called St Aldhelm's) in Purbeck. On 28th June a group running orienteering relays saw one pitched on the path and on 29th June a watchkeeper for the National Coastwatch Institution at St Alban's Head saw two circling around; she had recently seen them in Switzerland and was very confident of the identification. We do not know if these are migrants, have bred locally or are releases, deliberate or accidental, but we would like to know of any other sightings, with a photo if possible. Please send your sighting to

Item added Juloy 2014

Moors Valley Country Park Bioblitz on 24 July - could you join in?

A bio-blitz means trying to identify as many species of flora and fauna as possible in a given time. Moors Valley Country Park are looking for help of all sorts for their bioblitz on 24 Jly, and you don't have to be an expert. It's great fun. Click here for a link to a press release on thier website explaining what they need.

Item added June 2014

Branch Stall publicity triumph

The Dorset Branch education stall has recently spent four days at Moors Valley Country Park, for their 'Butterfly, Moth and Minibeast Festival".

More than 1200 people attended, mostly families. The star attractions were living examples including Orange Tip eggs, caterpillars and chrysalis. December moth caterpillars, all hairy and camouflaged against hawthorn twigs, were admired. Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars, chrysalis and an emerging adult came from Moors Valley. A selection of moths were on show, all described by the 10 expert volunteers.The Buttterfly Conservation's national Munching Caterpillars" initiative also joined us, with Catherine Mason keeping young people busy potting plants to take home.

On the next weekend Winterborne Whitechurch Farm Open Day saw the stall have another 200 plus visitors looking at Poplar Hawk moths and their caterpillars, plus red, white and black Knot Grass caterpillars.

Knot Grass Caterpillar

Knot Grass Caterpillar. Photo: Lyn Pullen

Most amazing was an Orange tip caterpillar changing into a chrysalis as we watched. Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars were also making this wonderful change. This farm has been surveyed by Butterfly Conservation volunteers and has 31 species of butterfly on its ‘managed for conservation’ areas. Eighty moths have also been seen on the farm, and our display included Privet Hawk Moth, Lobster Moth and the stunning Green silver lines. Our picture displays showed the link between food production and conservation.

You too can volunteer for stall help, it is wonderful to look up and see 4 pairs of eyes riveted on you!!
Contact Bridget on

Item added June 2014

New record for Weymouth Relief Road

Dingy Skippers have been recorded for the first time on the wildflower banks lining the bridle path of the Weymouth Relief Road. This was an exciting discovery for the guided walk on 17 May. Common Blue was seen in abundance and at least 3 separate colonies of Small Blue.

Dingy Skipper

The branch has been monitoring this site since its creation in 2011. The cutting is now a delight with horseshoe vetch in full bloom creating a carpet of golden yellow. There has been a year-on-year increase of butterfly species seen. Who knows? – maybe the next will be the Chalkhill Blue.

If you would like to help with our survey please just walk the bridle path from the Ridgeway down to the Bincombe turning. We are also recording the banks alongside both of the lay-bys. Please let Georgie Laing know you would like to help so she can send you a recording form. (

To get to the main walk along the bridleway, park at the truncated end of the Broadmayne road. The bridleway goes along the side of the hill. Map: SY674859

Urgent: Please look for butterflies at Maiden Castle (near Dorchester)

The records we have received since 2010 suggest several butterly species known to have been present at Maiden Castle previously have disappeared. We hope it is a lack of recording rather than a lack of butterflies, but we urgently need you to go there and tell us what butterflies you see. The species not recorded recently are:

  • Grizzled Skipper (out in Dorset now - April)
  • Green Hairstreak (out in Dorset now - April)
  • Brimstone (a common butterfly seen throughout the year - it is most odd that no records have been received for this very easily identified species).
  • Small Blue (usually out in May/June)
  • Brown Argus. This was last recorded with just a single sighting in the 2005-09 period. (May be seen at times between May and September).
  • Chalkhill Blue. This was also last recorded with just a single sighting in the 2005-09 period. (Usually out July-Aug-Sep).
  • Dark Green Fritillary (normally on the wing late June thorough to August)
  • Marsh Fritillary (late May-June-early July)

Grizzled SkipperGreen Hairstreak

On the wing now: Grizzled Skipper (left) and Green Hairstreak (right).

Photos: Mark Pike (left) and Ken Dolbear (right)

The total number of species at Maiden Castle previously compared to now are:
The area covered by map ref SY 66/88: 30 down to 23 species
The area covered by map ref SY 67/88: 26 down to 20.

We record butterflies in five-year cycles, so we are comparing the four years of the current cycle (2010-2015) with the 1995-2009 records. The need for records in 2015 is urgent because we are in the last year of the recording cycle.

One bit of good news is that Adonis Blue & Dingy Skipper both seem to be OK.

When you send any records in, if you looked for any particular species but were unable to find them at the right time and in good weather, please add a note - we need to know you have looked.

The map grid reference for the area is SY 6688 and SY6788.

Alners Gorse walk 12 April

Brian Arnold reports:

"I went on the guided walk at Alners Gorse and Rooksmoor with Nigel Spring today. It was most informative and an enjoyable day.

Group of people walking round Alners Gorse Butterfly Reserve

Photo: Brian Arnold

We did not have the best of weather, so only a few butterflies in their adult form were seen: Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Speckled Wood. It was a good reminder, though, that butterflies take other forms, and we found both Brown Hairstreak eggs and Marsh Fritillary caterpillars.

Brian's photo of a Marsh Fritillary caterpillar can be seen on our Gallery page.

Item added April 2014

Orange Tips

Orange Tips are out! We have had sightings reported from Poole, Marnhull and Monkton Wylde. Spring really is here!

Orange Tip

Fresh Orange Tip. Photo: Brian Arnold

Keep up with all sightings on our Recent Sightings page or check our First Sightings page to see what has come out.

Astonishing number of March Butterflies

We've just done the maths and are astonished at how many butterflies have been reported to us in March:

Number of records received = 244 (a record is a report of butterflies at one time in one place)

Number of butterflies = 712

This compares to 2013 figures of 17 records containing 20 butterflies.

The 712 butterflies were:

  • Brimstone 233
  • Comma 40
  • Holly Blue 2
  • Painted Lady 1
  • Peacock 96
  • Red Admiral 8
  • Small Copper 1
  • Small Tortoiseshells 309
  • Small White 12
  • Speckled Wood 10

Remember - if you want to keep up with which species are out, we have a First Sightings page.

Please keep the records coming in: we would like to report a huge number in April as well.

Small Tortoiseshell egg laying in mid March

It seems reports that Small Tortoiseshells were exhibiting courtship behaviour in late February and early March were correct: Andrew Cooper has now photographed one laying eggs on 15 March at Pamphill.

Small Tortoiseshell laying eggs on nettle leaves

Small Tortoiseshell eggs on underside of nettle leaf

Small Tortoiseshell laying eggs (top) and the eggs on the underside of a nettle leaf (bottom).
Photos: Andrew Cooper

This is a month earlier than we would normally expect, which is presumably a reflection of the mild winter and the good weather we are having now. Let's hope this means we are going to see lots of this butterfly later in the year!

The search for the White-letter Hairstreak

White-letter Hairstreaks have been very under-recorded in the current five-year recording cycle, and as 2014 is the last year of it, we need to go looking for them this summer.

Map showing where White-letter Hairstreaks have been recorded

The red markers on the map above show the seven records which have been received since 2010. The yellow markers show those gathered between 1995 and 2009, during which time the White-letter Hairstreak was recorded in 47 locations. We do not think the butterfly has declined this drastically, but that there has been a lack of recording. Click here for a spreadsheet listing all the squares involved. To see much more detail, open this link to Google Earth (you will need to have the free Google Earth software on your computer for this to work) which allows you to zoom right in to understand the position of the relevant kilometre squares.

White-letter Hairsteaks breed on elm trees, and were very badly hit in the 1960s and 1970s when Dutch elm disease wiped out two-thirds of the country's elm trees. They prefer wych elm, but may also use English elm and smooth elm.

They are not easy butterflies to spot, and it has been suggested that the problem is that recorders are searching at the wrong time. The best time to look is the last week of June and first week of July on, or very near, elm trees, when the males will be flying around in the tops of the trees. There cannot be any confusion with the Purple Hairstreak as, although that butterfly flies in a similar fashion, it is not out this early in the year. In July you may find the butterflies lower down, nectaring on flowers such as creeping thistle, bramble, ragwort, marjoram and hemp agrimony.

White-letter HairstreakWhite-letter Hairsteak under elm leafWhite-letter Hairstreak

White-letter Hairstreaks. Photo on left Rob; photo on right Mark Pike

You might actually have more luck spotting the caterpillar. When it is at its biggest in June, it is 15-16mm long, and though it is very well camouflaged, it is sometimes posible to stand under the tree and look up when the sun is shining on the leaves and see the dark shape of the caterpillar in silhouette. You may also be able to spot where the leaves have been damaged by the caterpillars eating them, but there are also around five species of moth caterpillar which may be doing this - however, it might at least help you to narrow down where to look more carefully.

If you do find any White-letter Hairstreaks, please let us know. You can use the sightings form on this website, or email us your sighting at If you can send us a photograph, that would be even better.

Item added March 2014

Small Tortoiseshells courting in February?

We have had two reports of pairs of Small Tortoiseshells showing what may be mating behaviour amazingly early in the year.

Mike Ridge described two as "pairing" on 24 February, in Lyme Regis, while Mark Spencer reported: saw "2 Small Tortoiseshells today [28 Feb] courting each other high up in the sun at 12.15 p.m. in a garden half way up Glenferness Avenue in Bournemouth"

Lyn Pullen also saw two showing interest in each other on 9 March.

Two Small Tortoiseshell butterflies close together

Photo: Lyn Pullen

Dorset Branch Records Officer, Bill Shreeves said: "Small Tortoiseshells don’t usually mate until late in the afternoon. Once the male has found a possible mate he has to follow her all day through thick and thin in order to mate, but it may be if it is cold the process can be speeded up. Small Tortoiseshells flying high might be males jousting with each other rather than courtship."

Whatever they were doing, let's hope we see lots of them this year!

Item added March 2014

Ponies move to Lankham

Our four Dartmoor ponies have gone on their winter holiday to our Butterfly Reserve at Lankham Bottom, where the ground is less muddy and where there is more grass and a change of scenery!

Four ponies grazing in the long grass

This is the first time they have been moved since their arrival at Alners Gorse in November 2012, and despite our anxieties, the loading up and journey went very smoothly with a minimum of bickering between them. The corral and gate system at Alners Gorse proved itself to be very workable. The four immediately made themselves at home, running the entire perimeter of the reserve then across the middle, obviously carrying out a quick assessment of their new quarters.

We are having to replace some of the fencing along the southern and western borders of the reserve as it is barely stockproof and a team of nine branch volunteers spent a bright sunny day on February 16th clearing the gorse and bramble from the old fence and getting it ready for the contractor to start the job. A Peacock butterfly flew past, tempted out of its slumbers by the warmth of the day.

Volunteers clearing the fenceline ready for the new fence

The new fence has been now been installed by local contractor David Wareham and completed in record time with the help of local BC volunteers and members of the EuCAN CIC Cerne Valley group (see )

New fence in place

We are very grateful to Wessex Water for agreeing to fund the new fencing.

The ponies are checked daily by our team of pony 'lookers' - if you would like to be involved, please contact Kathy Henderson on 01963 23559.

Item added Feb 2014

Weymouth Relief Road is a hit with butterflies

Georgie Laing has pulled together the information gathered in 2013 on how the sides of the Weymouth Relief Road, built in 2012 for the Olympics, are doing. This area was deliberately not grassed, but seeded with butterfly-attracting wild flowers, which certainly seem to be doing their job.

A riot of colour now greets travellers when the yellow blanket of kidney vetch blooms on the cuttings and bridleway on the ridgeway. This is important as the caterpillar food plant of the Small Blue.

View of the bridleway with mass of yellow kidney vetch all along the side of it
Kidney vetch on the Bridleway 2013. Photo: John Elliott

For the last two years Butterfly conservation volunteers have been monitoring the site to record the species of butterflies.

2013 proved to be a good year:

  • 25 visits were made
  • 20 species recorded
  • 621 individual records
  • 8 new species were recorded:
    • Large Skipper
    • Clouded Yellow
    • Brimstone
    • Green-veined White
    • Orange-tip
    • Adonis Blue
    • Peacock

3 species showed large increases from last year

  • Small White (144 recorded)
  • Common Blue (213 recorded)
  • Small Tortoiseshell (79 recorded)

Small Blue butterfly
Small Blue. Photo:John Elliott

Species list for 2013

  • Large Skipper (new 2013)
  • Clouded yellow (new 2013)
  • Brimstone (new 2013)
  • Large White
  • Small White
  • Green-veined White (new 2013)
  • Orange-tip (new 2013)
  • Small Copper (new 2013)
  • Small Blue
  • Brown Argus
  • Common Blue
  • Adonis Blue (new 2013)
  • Red Admiral
  • Painted lady
  • Small Tortoiseshell
  • Peacock (new 2013)
  • Wall
  • Marbled White
  • Gatekeeper
  • Meadow Brown
  • Ringlet (2012 only)

We would like to continue the monitoring in 2014 and are hoping to design a formal butterfly monitoring (transect) walk. More volunteers are needed. If you would like to help or would like a more detailed report of the records please contact Georgie Laing (

Item added January 2014

Thank you for the records

Many thanks all of you who contributed butterfly records to the website in 2013.

You sent us 2,948 records, totalling 22,720 butterflies!

Graph of number of butterfly records received each month in 2014

These will be added to those that come in via other methods to form a vital count of Dorset's butterflies.

We couldn't have done it without you!

Item added January 2014

Work on Lankham Bottom Butterfly Reserve

A team of 10 BC volunteers spent a beautiful still autumn day on Sunday November 17th at Lankham Bottom Reserve continuing the clearance work on the gorse and bramble scrub at the top of the south-facing slope.

Work party bonfire at Lankham bottom

Lankham Bottom Conservation Work November 2013. Photo: Ann Evans

The bushes have been extending inexorably over the downland for over 40 years (according to local sources) but with all the efforts of volunteers and contractors in recent seasons, the large blocks of scrub are being broken up. This will provide not only a greater area of valuable habitat for butterflies, moths and other wildlife that favour open grassland, but also more agricultural land for our tenant's cattle to graze.

The next scheduled event at Lankham Bottom is on Sunday January 19. See the Events Page for more information.

New foodplant for Orange Tip?

Darryl Green was visiting the Chickerell Down Woodland Trust site, near Weymouth, in the Spring of 2013 when he saw Orange Tip butterflies laying on on a plant he didn't immediately recognise. Subsequent research suggested it was dittander (lepidium latifolium), which is a rare plant in Dorset. Returning to the site a few weeks later, Darryl was able to find 2 large caterpillars (full size, nearly ready to pupate), plus 3 smaller (less than 20mm), so the plant was obvioulsy well suited to these butterflies.

Orange Tip caterpillar on plant thought to be dittander

Orange Tip caterpillar on plant thought to be dittander. Photo: Daryl Green

Dittander is a plant that it is native on some coasts in east and south England, as well as being naturalised at some sites inland like the Grand Union Canal in London. In past days it was a standard herbal treatment for leprous sores, as well as being used as a food flavouring before horse radish - Darryl can confirm the latter (not the former!) because he tried it and says it has a hot, peppery taste.

Robin Walls, Dorset Plant Recording Officer, comments that that though the plant is rare in Dorset, Chickerell Downs could be a possible site. It will have to wait until next year to check the identification: there are other plants of the pepperwort family present in Dorset with which it could be confused, especially if early grazing had damaged the growth of the plant.

Plant thought to be dittander

Flower of plant thought to be dittander. Photo: Darryl Green.

Bill Shreeves, Records Officer for the Dorset Branch of Butterfly Conservation said: "I have had a quick search through ancient & modern Butterfly literature and can find no mention of dittander as a food-plant for the Orange Tip, though it belongs to the crucifer group as do the butterfly's other food plants. It is possible that the counties on the east and south coast, where the plant is thought to be native & grows on shingle, might have recorded it as an Orange Tip food-plant".

The certain identification of the plant will have to wait until it comes up again in 2014, but if you have any knowledge of it as an Orange Tip food plant, please let us know. Well done to Darryl for his sharp observation, and thanks to him for letting us know about it.

Superb Dorset Butterfly and Moth Calendar for sale (limited quantity)

January update - reduced to £4.00

This large calendar features a full colour photograph of a butterfly or moth for each month of the year, all taken by our members, and has space below to note your appointments for the month. It is A3 in size i.e. 29.7cm x 42cm (11.8" x 16.8")

Limited quantity - order quickly so you can have these gorgeous pictures brightening up your home next year.

Calendar page for October with Blood-vein moth

We have been able to produce these calendars for sale at no cost to ourselves, by partnering with Marquee Print of Bournemouth, who produce a calendar each year to send to their customers. They invited Dorset Branch of Butterfly Conservation to collaborate with them for their 2014 calendar, the theme of which is Dorset Butterflies and Moths. Information about Butterfly Conservation is also included, so this is a great marketing opportunity for us. They have donated us 50 copies to help raise funds for the Branch

To see all the calendar pages click here.

Calendar page for March showing a Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth

We are offering the last few calendars at £4.00 + £3.50 p&p (inc VAT) each.

Contact Jane Smith to reserve a copy by email if possible at or by telephone on 01935 814029. Please send a cheque for £7.50 made payable to "Butterfly Conservation Dorset Branch" to Jane Smith at 32 Kings Road, Sherborne, Dorset, DT9 4HU, on receipt of which she will post the calendar to you.

Butterflies Galore in November

We have had an astonishing 101 butterflies recorded on this website between 1 November and 21 November 2014, no doubt largely due to the unusually mild weather and helped by the number of butterflies that were brought about by the good summer.

Red Admiral on ivy flower

  • 73 Red Admiral (latest 19 Nov)
  • 8 Clouded Yellow (latest 10 Nov)
  • 8 Small Tortoiseshell (latest 15 Nov)
  • 3 Peacock (latest 10 Nov)
  • 3 Small Copper (latest 4 Nov)
  • 2 Painted Lady (latest 13 Nov)
  • 2 Brimstone (latest 10 Nov)
  • 1 Speckled Wood (latest 10 Nov)
  • 1 Holly Blue (latest 7 Nov)

If you want to see the full details, go to our Sightings Archive.

It seems doubtful this will continue, now we are experiencing weather that is cold in the day and frosty by night, but if you do see any butterfly, please do report it via our sightings form; we'd also be interested to know, if you saw it nectaring, what flowers were being used.

Butterflies defy the storm

After the recent storm [late October], you might think there would be no butterflies, but not so. We had three reports the next day:

Report One, from Brian Arnold:

"I was quite surprised to see butterflies in my garden at Harman's Cross today.Survivors of the storm - two Red Admirals and a Speckled Wood were flying aroundmy lawnclose to a huge branch from an oak tree that is lying on the ground after being blown down during the storm on Sunday night."

Red Admiral on fallen leaf

Report Two, from Bobby Knowles in Canford Magna:

"After the gales and torrential deluge on Sunday night, it was a relief to wake up to a blue sky and sunshine yesterday morning. We were even more pleased to have two sightings of a Red Admiral during the day in our walled garden at Canford Magna (where we moved only two months ago.) Lacking Phil Grey’s acute observation skill, we cannot say whether this was the same butterfly coming to the late flowers twice, or two different butterflies. Some of you may remember that Phil could sometimes tell individual butterflies apart. Whichever it was, it is a tribute to a butterfly’s powers of endurance."

Report Three, from Lyn Pullen in Winfrith Newburgh:

The day after the storm we enjoyed quite a long spell of sunshine - and so did the Red Admirals. There were six in my garden, all nectaring on ivy flowers", together with various flies and wasps. If you would like to see a photo, go to my blog:

Peacocks trying to hibernate

The Peacock is one of only a few of our native butterflies hibernates as an adult over the winter, so at this time of year it is looking for places to tuck itself away. We've had a couple of reports of Peacock hiding places - if you can add any, please email

  • Lyn Pullen has found one in a stack of flower pots. She says: "I was potting up some plants, and retrieved a stack of black pots from my outside stash. I took the bottom one and poured some compost into it. As I did so, I glimpsed something in the pot, and my brain said 'that was butterfly shaped'. I hastily tipped the (fortunately light) compost out, and an unharmed Peacock appeared - they are so dark with their wings closed that I hadn't noticed him there."
  • Whether it was the same butterfly or not, a couple of days later Lyn found a Peacock outside her back door, looking as though it wanted to come in. She said "it would have been most welcome, but houses are too warm for butterflies to hibernate in them - I moved it to somewhere better."

Peacock to side of back door

  • Brian Arnold reports: "We lit our woodburner for the first time last night, and a Peacock butterfly came out of the brick arch above the fireplace: it had gone in there for winter - I guess it must have thought that all its summers had come at once!

    I put it at the top of the spiral staircase that leads to our roof - there are already several butterflies sitting up there on the walls for the winter; they come in through windows left open for the summer, and obviously like the stone internal walls up the spiral. Only thing is I have to make sure that when they wake next year that they can get out."

Long-tailed Blue

Long-tailed Blue butterfly

Cath Walker writes (on her Flickr Page - reproduced with permission):

The Curious Incident of the Unfamiliar Butterfly In the Kitchen

This morning I was slaving over a hot tax return form when Liz called me from the kitchen: "Do you want to see a butterfly?" Any sentence with "butterfly" in it gets me running, and so I ran to the kitchen to find this butterfly on a window pane. It looked like nothing I had ever seen before. Oh, the excitement!! I rushed (lots of fast exercise here) to get the camera and a glass jam jar to put the butterfly in so I could take its portrait before releasing it into the wild. Once released into the wild, ie the garden, it flew quickly away, so I only have indoor pictures to show.

Cath contacted our Records Officer, Bill Shreeves, who replied:

"You are completely correct in your identification as a male Long -Tailed Blue & in your comment on Flickr that it is very rare. With global warming we are hopeful that in time it might become a regular inhabitant – it does after all occur commonly all over southern Europe & Asia, Africa & even Australia. Our problem is that none of its stages seem to be able to get through the British winter. One of the first ever recorded in Britain was back in 1859 in Christchurch. After that it was seen fairly regularly but only in big numbers in 1945 & 1990. It is a very bold migrant & in Asia steadily climbs the foothills of the Himalayas reaching Nepal at as high as 3,650 metres & reverse migrating to the lowlands! In Dorset at least one has been reported yearly since 2005 except for 2006 & 2008. Yours is the only one so far for 2013. Many of the records are in September but in 2007 there was one around the same time as yours – 14th October in that case – also found indoors. This makes me wonder whether the caterpillar or chrysalis might somehow have been brought inside. The caterpillar feeds inside the pods of leguminous plants like everlasting peas, lentils & Bladder-senna. A famous example was in 1999 when butterflies found indoors were shown to have emerged from batches of mange-tout peas brought all the way from Kenya! Not long ago I was invited to verify a Long Tailed Blue which suddenly appeared in a pantry. The householders had bought legumes some while back in an outdoor market & we hypothesised that they had contained a caterpillar or chrysalis. If you can remember anything similar which might account for how yours came to be on a window pane in your kitchen please let me know!"

Cath responded:

"It seems most likely that the long-tailed blue must have entered our kitchen as a caterpillar or chrysalis in something, although I can’t think what, as most of the vegetables we buy are in shrink-wrapped supermarket packets and kept in the fridge. Home-grown vegetables enter the house accompanied by various insects – but then how would the caterpillar have got into them in the first place, if it’s a migrant from warmer climes? In the hot weather we have the kitchen door open all day, but even at the butterfly peak, only about one managed to fly into the kitchen. So in all, it’s a bit of a mystery how the long-tailed blue got here!"

Nearly 600 Small Tortoiseshells counted in Wool

Postman Rob and his colleague had noticed lots of Small Tortoiseshells around so they thought they'd count them as they went about their deliveries, and they reached an amazing total of nearly 600.

Small Tortoiseshell on sedum spectabile

Small Tortoiseshell on sedum spectabile. Photo: Lyn Pullen

It is great to see this species, which had seemed to be in lots of trouble, apparantly bouncing back. It is likely that it has been helped by the (eventual) good weather this year, but it may also be that it has been being hit by a parasite which has been less present recently.

Item added August 2013

Alners Gorse Butterfly Reserve - great butterflies and wood for sale

The recent sunny dry weather has led to spectacular numbers of butterflies at Alners Gorse and very satisfying views of Brown, White-letter and Purple Hairstreaks, White Admirals and Silver-washed Fritillaries for the crowds of butterfly watchers and photographers who have visited the reserve.

White Admiral

White Admiral. Photo:Chris Becker.

The warm conditions have also dried out the ground beautifully, which has enabled us to bring the mobile sawbench into the woodland to process some of the oak, pine and spruce trunks that have been stored there for the last two years. We have supplies of standard sizes in softwood (2"x"2, 6"x1", 3"x2" etc) and a number of oak posts and other pieces for sale at very reasonable prices! Please contact if you would be interested in buying some of this timber, ot placing an order for our next session - ideal for raised beds, nestboxes, fencing, or that garden shed or kennel you are yearning to build!

Item added August 2013

Silver-spotted Skippers Seen on Fontmell Down Walk

18 August saw Dorset Branch and the Somerset & Bristol Branch of Butterfly Conservation get together for a walk on Fontmell Down in North Dorset, led by Lawrie De Whalley.

Left: Walkers on Fontmell Down. Right: Clouded Yellow

Left: Walkers on Fontmell Down. Right: Clouded Yellow: unusual shot of topside. Photos: Brian Arnold.

Brian Arnold, who went on the walk said:
"The walk was most interesting, as the leader Lawrie De Whalley imparted his knowledge of the butterflies and plants to be seen. We hoped to see Silver-spotted Skippers, Chalkhill Blues plus about a dozen other species, and we were rewarded by many sightings, despite several unexpected downpours of rain, including a Clouded Yellow."

Left: Silver-spotted Skipper. Right: pair of mating Chalkhill Blues

Left: Silver-spotted Skipper. Right: pair of Chalkhill Blues, mating. Photos: Brian Arnold.

The people on the walk thoroughly enjoyed it, seeing 30 Silver-spotted Skippers and a total of 18 species of butterfly.

Item added August 2013

Lankham Bottom camp and mothing session August 9/10 2013

Over 35 people attended the Open Day and moth trapping session at Lankham Bottom Butterfly Reserve on August 9th and 10th - ranging in age from five to ..well, shall we say over 50?

It was a cool clear night for the BBQ (with a great view of the International Space Station going over) and the moth numbers were reasonable - well over 500 moths of 80 different species, with plenty of large colourful macros to satisfy everyone. Grateful thanks to Jack Oughton and Vince Giavarini for his help with the identification of the tricky micros.

Pebble Hook-tip moth

Pebble Hook-tip moth. Photo: Lyn Pullen.

The full list of moths trapped can be seen by clicking here.

The highlights of the guided walk were the discovery of very good numbers of Marsh Fritillary larval webs on the eastern slopes of the reserve, and a view of a Redstart presumably moving through on its southward migration.

Item added August 2013