The earlier pictures were taken on my wee compact Canon ixus 970IS, which involved sneaking up on the butterflies. This can be very frustrating when they fly off, but very rewarding when they don't!

Since 2012 I have been using a Panasonic Lumix FZ150, which allows me to zoom in to the butterflies from a couple of metres away.



Sunday, 5 October 2014

Large Skipper - Ochlodes sylvanus

Over the last few years we have been discovering more and more species of butterflies moving northwards into East Lothian. I had a look at records for 1970 which shows only 12 species of butterflies occurring here along with a couple of regular migrants. Last year I received records of 23 different species in East Lothian.
Earlier this year, I wondered if it would be possible for this trend to continue. And sure enough it has. In an earlier post I mentioned that Green Hairstreaks had been found in the hills just inside East Lothian, but they were in an area that I hadn't realised I should have been recording in, so they may have been there for years. That was species number 24!
On 16th June I received a message from a friend from the Scottish Borders. He had been in East Lothian looking for orchids and on his way back to the Borders he had found some Large Skippers, Ochlodes sylvanus, on a bit of waste land just over a bridge from East Lothian. They were literally thirty feet outside East Lothian!
Checking the distribution maps for Large Skippers from 1999, I saw that they occur in all of England and Wales and stop almost at the border with Scotland. So, it seems that they have extended their range northwards by at least 40 kilometres in the last 15 years.
The following day I went to have a look for the Large Skippers with a friend and we managed to find the colony on the other side of the bridge. However, despite searching similar habitat on our side of the bridge we didn't find any in East Lothian!
However, two days later an enthusiast was walking the coastal path just inside East Lothian and he spotted a Large Skipper on a bramble leaf at the side of the path. Our first East Lothian Large Skipper and species number 25!!
Only two days later another Large Skipper was seen a few miles away, in a spot that I had checked out the week before!
I was pleased to know that we had yet another new species here, but I was a little frustrated that I hadn't seen one myself inside East Lothian. However, only a few days later I was visiting a community project not far from where the Large Skippers had been seen, and I thought it was worth checking out an area of grass next to the road.
I was delighted to almost stand on a Large Skipper! It was quite scruffy compared with those we had seen just over the border, but I didn't mind! It was my first East Lothian Large Skipper!
It seems that the Large Skipper has followed the same route into East Lothian that the Speckled Wood and Wall Brown did only a few years earlier. I think that the hills to the south of East Lothian form a barrier for butterflies, but they are able to skirt the hills along the east coast.
It will be interesting to see if the Large Skippers move across the county as quickly as those two species have.

10 comments:

  1. I love Skippers and didn’t know there were large ones. Great photos and landscapes!

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    1. Hi Maria. Four years ago we didn't have any Skippers here at all. Three years ago Small Skippers appeared here and now Large Skippers! There are a number of other Skippers occurring in the rest of the UK. I wonder if we will get any other new species in the years to come.

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  2. Hi nick,
    Well, it seems you are facing a butterfly invasion :)
    Your footage is amazing!
    I'll be interested to follow what happens with the Large skipper and others you monitor!
    Well done :)
    Keep well!

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    1. Noushka,
      It is fascinating that so many species are moving northwards. It makes me think that we could expect many more in the future. Yes, it will be interesting to see how the Large Skippers progress across the county.

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  3. It seems like we have something looking like that here! I still love butterflies, but hoyas these days occupy my very few hours of weekends at home. Butterflies flutter around, but i just look and not take photos. Maybe after sometime i will be chasing them again.

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    1. Hi Andrea, I am sure you will have a very similar butterfly there, or probably several similar species. I remember the pictures of butterflies you have put on your blog in the past and you obviously have many beautiful butterflies there. You will have to start photographing butterflies feeding on your Hoya flowers!!

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  4. Wow! So exciting. I wonder how many new ones you'll get next year. I also would have been frustrated not being able to find it! But so glad you did!. Nick, when does your butterfly season end?

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    1. Sylvia, I can't honestly see us finding any new species next year, but because we have had so many new species over the last few years statistically we could do! Sadly the butterfly season finished at the beginning of October. We still have the odd butterfly hanging on, but very few I am afraid. I will have to make do with looking at the blogs of people living in warmer climates!!

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  5. Wow! You've got quite a stash of new records this year!! I wonder why the butterflies are slowly moving in but I'm sure it is a blessing. Ahh well, our butterfly numbers are dropping too and not much is flying but I suppose it beats nothing at all... I hope you'll have an even better year next year!

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    1. Hi Jonny. Glad to see you are having a break from exams. Yes, who knows why butterflies are extending their range northwards. People talk about climate change, but I haven't noticed it warming up here! Certainly it isn't because the habitat is improving. Maybe something to do with less pesticides, but that is happening everywhere. Whatever it is, I feel very lucky that it is happening. The good news is that the butterflies that are expanding to the north are not reducing at the southern end of their ranges.

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