Marsh Fritillaries in Purbeck??

Orange butterfly with complex markings
Marsh Fritillary on Ballard Down. Photo: Shona Refoy

We’ve had two photos sent in recently showing Marsh Fritillaries in Purbeck. One was on Godlingston Heath (grid ref SZ 016810), whilst the other was on Ballard Down (SZ 033811) where the butterfly was described as “flying at speed from east to west, along the base of the Down. The two places aren’t that far apart, but it doesn’t seem very likely that it was the same butterfly. We have also now been told that one has also been spotted on a transect (butterfly monitoring) walk on Bishops Court on the Kingston Lacy estate – not Purbeck, but well out of the Marsh Fritillary’s usual range.

Map showing red dots where Marsh Fritillary sightings made

Had we just heard of the Purbeck sightings we might have feared an unauthorised release, but with a third of this species well out of its area we have to wonder if they are getting blown out of their usual range by the winds. You can see where they are usually sighted from the map below, which does show a very few older sightings near Wimborne and near Swanage.

Map with coloured squares showing where Marsh Fritillaries usually found in Dorset

Looking at sightings of the Marsh Fritillary for May (their main month to be on the wing) this year, we had 172 reported to the website, and looking back, this seems to be at the low end of the number usually reported in this month:

  • 2024 – 172
  • 2023 – 191
  • 2022 – 345
  • 2021 – 192
  • 2020 – 256
Orange butterfly with complex markings on a dandelion-type flower

Marsh Fritillary on Godlingston. Photo: Brian Edge

You can find more information about the Marsh Fritillary on our Species page.

3 thoughts on “Marsh Fritillaries in Purbeck??

  1. Martin Warren

    Sadly these are likely to be releases, as with the recent spate of Glanville Fritillaries being seen in Dorset and adjacent counties. A real shame that all the hard work of recorders is being undermined

    1. Lyn Pullen Post author

      Thanks for underlining this issue Martin – it does confuse our records and that stops our help to these species being so effective.

  2. Brian Arnold

    In the last few weeks, Marsh Fritillary have also been seen at Clayton Meadow (Studland), and at Durlston (Swanage) – both confirmed by photos. Last year I saw one at the base of AIlwood Down. As Martin says they are probably releases – all in all most annoying.


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