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.

Friday, 2 January 2015

East Lothian Butterflies 2014

The winter of 2013/14 was the mildest I can remember. For the first time in my lifetime we didn't have any snow here and the Geraniums in our window boxes survived the winter because of the lack of a serious frost. Whether this was beneficial to the butterflies is difficult to determine.
We had a reasonably good spring and the early months of summer were warm and sunny. However, August and September were much cooler than normal and rather grey. This, I think, did have an impact on the butterflies.
Our first frost was at the beginning of October, but winter didn't really arrive until the beginning of December.
2014 was the best year I can remember for butterflies in East Lothian. Many species were seen in much higher numbers than normal. Two new species were recorded here and other species expanded their range.

Small Tortoiseshell, Aglais urticae
The first butterfly recorded in East Lothian in 2014 was a Small Tortoiseshell that I found on the pavement near where I work on 28th February. I picked it up and put it on a flower in the sun! Small Tortoiseshells continued to be recorded in good numbers through to 10th November.
Small Tortoiseshell

Peacock, Aglais io
The first East Lothian Peacock was seen on 6th March. They did very well this year with the adults being recorded through to early June. Then in the third week in July the new generation emerged and an enormous number of Peacocks were recorded throughout East Lothian. Their number reduced quite rapidly, probably not helped by the cool weather in the second half of the summer. The last records of butterflies I received in 2014 were both Peacocks flying on 30th November.

Comma, Polygonia c-album
The first Comma was recorded here on 11th March and they went on to do very well this year. They were first recorded in East Lothian in 2004, but normally only one or two are seen at a time. In 2014 they were seen regularly and in July when the second generation appeared they did particularly well. On one occasion I saw six on the Buddleia in my garden.

Small White, Pieris rapae
The first record of a Small White this year was on 5th April. The great thing about having so many people contributing sightings is that we could see a clear division between the spring generation and the summer generation. The spring Small Whites were seen until the middle of June. The summer generation started to appear in the middle of July and continued through to 26th September.

Green-veined White, Pieris napi
The first record of a Green-veined White was on my transect on 11th April. Green-veined Whites are very common here and this year was particularly good for them. The two generations follow a very similar pattern to the Small White.
Green-veined White

Orange Tip, Anthocharis cardamines
The first Orange Tip seen this year was on 14th May. Thereafter they were seen in good numbers until the end of May. I was pleased to see that they had recovered after a poor year in 2013, which was a knock-on from the flooding we had in 2012.
Orange Tip

Large White, Pieris brassicae
The first Large White was seen on 18th April. Generally we don’t see Large Whites in great numbers here, however in 2014 they were seen in good numbers. The summer 2013 generation was higher than normal and I remember seeing a lot of caterpillars later in the year. However, the caterpillars that hatched in 2014 may not have done so well. Those that hatched in August on the Nasturtiums in our garden perished in the cooler than normal weather. It will be interesting to see how many Large White butterflies emerge in 2015.
Large White

Speckled Wood, Pararge aegeria
Speckled Woods were first recorded in East Lothian in 2009. Since then they have spread across much of East Lothian. 2014 saw them continue to expand their range along the River Tyne to Haddington, right along the coast and further inland. If they continue like this they will be found all over East Lothian in 2015. The first record of a Speckled Wood this year was on 20th April and they were seen through to 18th October. In one small woodland near Aberlady they were seen in their hundreds, quite unlike anything I have seen before anywhere.
Speckled Wood

Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui
The first Painted Lady was recorded on 4th May. There were a few more records throughout the year, but they didn't reach East Lothian in any great quantity. I imagine the wet summer in Europe didn't help, as these butterflies migrate, through a few generations, from north Africa.

Small Copper, Lyceana phlaeas
The first Small Copper this year was recorded on 6th May. They continued to do well, being seen in good numbers through to the 2nd October.
Small Copper

Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta
The first Red Admiral we saw this year was on May 8th. This was a particularly good year for them, particularly once the second generation started to appear in August. They were seen until the 29th November.

Wall Brown, Lamiommata megera
Wall Browns were first recorded in East Lothian in 2010. They have continued to spread slowly along the coast and to a couple of inland sites. The first Wall Brown this year was recorded on 9th May and they were seen through to 5th September. On 21st May I saw a male Wall Brown near Haddington, a long way from any other colonies. Despite checking the area regularly for the next few weeks I didn't see any more in that area.

Small Heath, Coenonympha pamphilus
The first Small Heath was recorded on 21st May. It is a common butterfly along the coast in East Lothian and it is also found in the Lammermuir Hills. This year they appeared to do exceptionally well.
Small Heath

Green Hairstreak, Callophrys rubi
On 30th May a Green Hairstreak was reported to me just outside East Lothian. The following day I found some, again within feet of the East Lothian border. However, as butterfly records still use the old Vice County areas both of these records turned out to be East Lothian records. There are old records of Green Hairstreak in other areas in East Lothian, but despite looking for them, I have never seen them there. Now I know what habitats they like I will need to spend some time looking for them this year.
Green Hairstreak

Common Blue, Polyommatus icarus
The first Common Blue was recorded on 1st June. They did really well this year and were seen in good numbers. They were seen through to 19th August.
Common Blue

Northern Brown Argus, Aricia artaxerxes
There are only four colonies of Northern Brown Argus in East Lothian that I am aware of. Three of them are very small, only a few feet across. The first record of a Northern Brown Argus was on 11th June. They did really well this year, with good numbers being seen at the main site. The other sites are perilously clinging on, but work is being done to try to ensure their future survival.
Northern Brown Argus

Ringlet, Aphantopus hyperantus
Ringlets bounced back in 2014 after a poor previous year. They were first recorded on 14th June and continued in very good numbers until 9th August, which is very late here.

Grayling, Hipparchia semele
Graylings appear to only occur at three sites in East Lothian. Unfortunately one of these sites is earmarked for development, so may soon be lost. 2014 was a good year for Grayling. The first record was on 16th June and they were seen through to 24th July.

Meadow Brown, Maniola jurtina
The first Meadow Brown was seen on 16th June. Again, they did really well, being seen in good numbers right through to the end of August. I also saw a very ragged individual on 5th September.

Dark Green Fritillary, Argynnis aglaja
Dark Green Fritillaries are never seen in great numbers here. They mainly occur along the coast and in the Lammermuir Hills. The first record for 2014 was on 16th June. Numbers on the coast were about average, but they seemed to do well in the Lammermuirs.

Large Skipper, Ochlodes sylvanus
The most exciting news this year was the arrival of Large Skippers into East Lothian. They have been expanding their range in the Scottish Borders for a number of years and in June they were found just over the border within sight of East Lothian. Despite searching suitable sites on our side of the border we weren't able to find any here. However, on 19th June I received a report that one had been found a couple of miles inside East Lothian. Six days later I was walking along a road verge and spotted one right in front of me. This is the same area that Wall Browns and Speckled Woods first entered East Lothian, so I am looking forward to hearing about Large Skippers working their way along the coast.
Large Skipper

Small Skipper, Thymelicus sylvestris
Small Skippers were first seen in East Lothian in 2011 at Aberlady. A couple more were seen in 2012 and in 2013 they had increased considerably. In 2014 they not only increased in numbers again, but they were also seen at a number of sites, quite far apart. They seem to have spread right along the coast to Levenhall and were found at a couple of inland sites. They were seen between 30th June and 5th August.
Small Skipper

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Boloria selene
I found Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries for the first time in East Lothian last year. As far as I am aware they only occur at one site. They were seen there again this year on 11th July and again a few days later.

So, 2014 was another great year for butterflies in East Lothian. Two more new species were recorded and I wonder how long we can continue to find new species here! The sad news was that I didn't receive any reports of Holly Blue this year. It would be sad if they have died out here, having been seen at a few sites in 2012.

Now that I am receiving records from the Ranger Service and about 15 volunteers, we are beginning to build up a really good picture of how butterflies are doing here. There is a lot to look forward to in 2015. It will be interesting to see if Large Skippers increase in numbers or extend further into East Lothian. Now that I know what sort of habitat Green Hairstreaks like I am going to check out some of the areas where they used to occur. I wonder if there will be any more new species this year!


  1. What beautiful photos, Nick. Happy New Year and I hope the year will bring new species and large numbers your way.

    1. Thank you Sue. I hope you have a great 2015. I am looking forward to reading about your adventures and what you see.

  2. Such colourful butterflies, Nick! Here's to more of them in 2015!
    Very clever of you to keep a record of when they were first sighted. I think I should do that too.

    1. Thanks Sunita. Yes, I really hope 2015 is a good year for butterflies. The longer I have been keeping records the more interesting they become. It is interesting to see how the weather impacts on when they occur and also watching new species spread across the county.

  3. Nick, these images are striking, the colors are amazing. My blog address changed to:

    1. Thanks Maria,
      I thought you had been quiet for a while! I will add your new blog to my list.

  4. Hello Nick!:) Thank you for your visits, nice to know I have not been forgotton.:) You have a really good selection of documented butterflies, and great photographs. I also saw many Meadow Browns, Speckled Woods, and Large Whites here in Portugal. The Red Admirals and Peacocks were around as late as November, which is quite unusual. It's good news about the Large Skipper,in your área, and I hope you see more this year. All the best, and a very Happy New Year.:)
    Warm Regards.

    1. Thank you Sonjia. I hope we all see plenty of butterflies this year!

  5. Great and useful summary of the butterflies your recorded last year,
    I am sure this must be of great interest to the specialists in England :)
    I can only hope the climate does not change too drastically.... seeing more butterflies species is nice but it does not mean necessarily that it is a good thing for the planet in general...
    Anyway, this my my humble opinion, you did a lovely job recording all your sightings :)
    Keep well Nick!

    1. Thanks Noushka,
      Yes, it is great finding new species that have moved up here, but it is rather worrying to speculate why they are moving north. Species do move their range north and south over time as proven by isolated populations that have been left behind, so I wonder how much of this is natural movement and how much is induced by human activity. I certainly appreciate receiving records from all those who look out for butterflies in East Lothian. They are helping to build up a really interesting picture of the movement of species during a very interesting period.

  6. Hello Nick,
    Wishing you a belated Happy New Year and may it be another great butterfly year.
    It is inspiring to see all of these gorgeous butterflies. Your portraits are amazingly beautiful. They are all stunners but the peacock and the orange tip and the blues are just wow! It is especially wonderful to see these when our landscape is coated in ice and snow. I think I may follow your lead and sort all of my butterflies of last year. It was an off year here. I had not had time till now, for the year was so busy with my manuscript group. Great to visit you again and thanks so for remembering me. Love all the green here too. Very soothing. Best Wishes, Carol

  7. Hi Nick, a few of those look like ours here in the hot tropics.

    1. Andrea,
      It always amazes me how similar some butterflies look, which apparently are not closely related. This seems particularly true for some of the blues and skippers.

    2. I am back here, i appreciate not only the butterflies but your photos are great too! I forgot if i already asked about your camera, haha! Regarding my hoya posts, yes processes here in the tropics are so fast compared to those in cold countries like yours. Even the water droplets here are difficult to take because they easily evaporate. I am amazed when taking droplets in New Zealand because i can watch them to my hearts content and they are still the same size as when i started to shoot.

    3. Andrea. I use a Panasonic Lumix FZ150, which is a great all rounder, but my little Canon ixus is better for macro. The Panasonic has a great zoom. They are much easier to carry around than a SLR with a variety of lenses! Yes, water droplets last for hours here in the winter!!