The first Dorset butterfly of 2016 – a Painted Lady – was recorded by Neil Croton on the 3rd January within the Sadborow Estate in Thorncombe, close to the border with Devon.This migrant butterfly, native to North Africa, is more commonly encountered during the spring and summer months, with the earliest sightings here in Dorset usually being March or early April. This year however, the southerly winds have brought over a number of these powerful fliers from the near continent with a flurry of sightings across the south and even stretching to Dublin, Ireland. Believe it or not, this is not our earliest sighting of this butterfly in recent years: it is beaten by one recorded in 2013 on New Year’s Day!
These mild winds have brought over not only Painted Lady butterflies but a number of migrant moths that are rarely found in the UK. One of these such moths, a micro species named Syncopacma polychromella, is native to Southern Europe and the Middle East with only seven ever turning up on UK shores. December 2015 turned out to be record breaking, with an influx of at least 69 recorded individuals, 23 of which were confirmed in Dorset!
On the 6th January we also received a report from Paul Cobb of a Red Admiral butterfly at Upton Country Park, a less surprising sighting as the species is now one of the most commonly observed species during January here in Dorset. The Red Admiral was once unable to survive our UK winters but in recent years, with the climate warming, they are considered to be resident all year round, spending the winter in tree trunks, old buildings or even in rabbit burrows!
Please keep an eye out this year and remember to send us your Dorset butterfly sightings and photographs over the course of 2016.
Happy New Year!
List of national First butterfly sightings 2016 can be found on the Butterfly Conservation website