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.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Butterflies through time (2)

Following on from my previous post I have been continuing to read up about the butterflies that have recently been recorded in East Lothian. It would seem that many of the "new species" found in East Lothian in recent years did once occur here in the past.

Grayling, Hipparchia semele
I can find very little information about the distribution of the Grayling in East Lothian. "The Butterflies of Scotland" shows some records on the east coast of East Lothian between 1900 and 1980, but it says that the Grayling has been lost from many of its inland sites. The 1970 "Provisional Atlas of the Insects of the British Isles" showed it to no longer occur here. I found a stray Grayling in East Lothian in 2001, but the first recent records of it breeding here are from 2005 at the western side of East Lothian. I have also received records of it occurring in a remote valley or "cleugh" in the Lammermuir Hills. However, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it has been around for a lot longer, unnoticed in some remote location. Certainly it has become more numerous in the few sites it is now found in the last five years.

Speckled Wood, Pararge aegeria
Recorded around Edinburgh in 1811, but another species that disappeared from Edinburgh and the Lothians in the mid 1800s. By 1970 it no longer occurred in the North of England. It was first recorded back in East Lothian in 2009 having spread north up the east coast from the Scottish Borders. Since then it has continued to extended its range, now being commonly found right around the coast and in many wooded areas inland in East Lothian.

Wall Brown, Lasiommata megera
Again, it seems that this butterfly was found in much of Scotland in the early Nineteenth Century. It appears that it was reasonably common until it was wiped out after a series of cold summers from 1860. Thereafter only occurring in the south west of Scotland. It was first recorded in East Lothian again in 2010 arriving on the east coast and it has since worked its way around much of the coast.

Small Skipper, Thymelicus sylvestris
There are a couple of dubious records of the Small Skipper occurring in Scotland, but it is thought these could be mis-identification. The first records of the Small Skipper in East Lothian were from the Aberlady area in 2011. Since then it has slowly spread westwards along the coast as far as Levenhall and in 2014 it was also found at a couple of inland sites. There seems to be no obvious pattern to where they have been found here. It could be that, unlike many other species, they have come around the western side of the Lammermuir Hills.

There are three more species of butterflies that have recently been found in East Lothian. I will put details of them in my next post.


  1. This is amazing Nick! For me this is good news. What a nice collection you have there!

    1. Hi Maria. I am not quite sure what to make of these new arrivals. I am delighted to have them there to look for, but I do worry about why they are coming here. If it is a natural cycle in the weather then all is good, but I would hate to think that this is a sign of climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

    2. I thought Skippers were highly adaptable anyway.

  2. i love seeing butterflies
    and they seem so special now that we are in winter
    it will be months before they fly around here
    wishing you lovely winter weather now that it has arrived for you

    1. Thank you Tammie Lee. We are hoping for snow, but seem to be getting nothing but rain at the moment!

  3. Hi Nick, i remember commenting here before, i wonder where it went.

    1. Hi Andrea,
      You commented on my more recent post a couple of days ago. Maybe it is that you are thinking of. The posts are quite similar!!

  4. Thanks for your reply, Nick, I am whole heartedly with you.
    I am about to move following my husband's passing and times are quite difficult for me too. Life can be a bitch, so chin up and let's enjoy nature as much as we can :)
    Kind regards