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.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

East Lothian Butterflies 2015

I will remember 2015 as being rather grey and cool. After a mild winter with only one dusting of snow, spring arrived in mid March with butterflies regularly being recorded from the 18th March.
Much of the summer was cloudy with only short spells of sunshine. While areas north and south of East Lothian enjoyed longer sunny periods, we seemed to miss any good weather. In fact when I was checking the Butterfly Transect results, I didn't come across one record sheet showing the temperature being above 20 degrees Celsius!
However, the weather in September and October was lovely and later in the year we avoided the heavy rain, which caused flooding elsewhere in the UK. The weather didn't really turn cold until 4th December.
Despite the weather I received a bumper number of records this year, which gave a really good picture of how the butterflies fared over the year.

Peacock, Aglais io
The first butterfly recorded in 2015 was a Peacock on 4th March. They were regularly seen with the last record of a worn specimen being seen on 30th June. On 16th July the first of the new generation was spotted and again they were seen in good numbers until 1 November.

Small Tortoiseshell, Aglais urticae
Small Tortoiseshells also did well this year with the first record being on 19th March. There was no clear division between the generations and they were recorded through to 8 December. That was our last butterfly record of the year.

Comma, Polygonia c-album
I think 2015 was the best year we have had for Commas here in East Lothian. The first record was on 23rd March and they were regularly spotted through April. I only received one record each month in May, June and July and then from the beginning of August they were seen in good numbers through to 26th October.

Small White, Pieris rapae
The number of Small Whites recorded in the spring was down on previous years, probably reflecting the poor weather we had late in the summer of 2014. The first record in 2015 was on 9th April and they were seen through to the 7th July. From 6th August the second generation appeared and they were seen in better numbers until 1 October.

Orange Tip, Anthocharis cardamines
Orange Tips did well this year. The first record was on 9th April and they were recorded through to 27 June. This was quite a prolonged flight period, maybe as a result of the cool weather.

Green-veined White, Pieris napi
Green-veined Whites always do well here. The first record for 2015 was on 9th April and they were seen in smaller than normal numbers until 16th July. On 6th August the second generation emerged and they were seen in good numbers until 14th October.

Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta
The first Red Admiral record was on 10th April and I only received three more records until July when we were literally invaded by hundreds of them. On 1st July I saw six Red Admirals flying or blowing in from the sea on a cold grey day. Six other people reported similar sightings that day and I received several records of Red Admirals over the next few days. These butterflies went on to produce a further generation and high numbers of Red Admirals were seen until 11 November.

Large White, Pieris brassicae
Like the Small White, numbers of the spring population of Large Whites were quite low. They were first recorded on 15th April until 7th July. The second generation was seen between August 6th and October 26th in far greater numbers.

Speckled Wood, Pararge aegeria
The first Speckled Wood was recorded on 18 April. Their numbers seemed a little disappointing compared with last year, but they picked up later in the season. The last record was on 26th October. They didn't extend their range as they have in previous years, but considering the weather they continued to do well.

Small Copper, Lycaena phlaeas
Small Coppers did very well here in 2015. Because I received so many records there was a nice clear division between the two generations with the first generation being between 20th April and 8th July and the second generation being between the 12th August and 1st October.

Holly Blue, Celastrina argiolus
I only received one record of a Holly Blue in 2015 on 21st April. Whilst it is sad to only receive one, it gives me hope that there may be a hidden colony of Holly Blues somewhere in East Lothian. Records in recent years have all come from three neighbouring villages, so I intend to have a thorough search of the area this year!

Small Heath, Coenonympha pamphilus
Small Heaths were recorded from 4th May until 25th September. This is a longer season than I have seen here before, which is possibly a result of the cool summer we had.

I'll continue with the remaining species in my next post.


  1. The first photo is my favorite. I love the detail on the wings.

    1. Thanks Michelle. The Peacock is really a lovely butterfly. They can be quite common here, so I think we take them for granted. If you turn the picture upside down the butterfly looks like the face of a bird!

  2. Hello Nick!:) It's lovely to see so many colourful butterflies,.. but firstly, I'm so sorry to learn that your father is in hospital, and hope he will soon be well enough to return home.I have never seen a Nuthatch in my garden, although they must be around here.

    Your photos are beautiful Nick!:)I'm jealous that you saw so many Orange Tips, they are really pretty, but I have never seen one, and only saw one Small Copper last year. Warm Regards!:)

    1. Thank you Sonjia. I love the Orange Tip,too. When they start to fly I know that spring has arrived.

    2. These photos look like paintings! What great variety you have there!

    3. Thanks Maria. Although we don't have a lot of butterflies here in Scotland, at least that allows me to study those that we do have in more detail. It is good that most of those that we do have are quite different, so easy to identify. I don't think I could cope in some parts of the world where there are hundreds of different butterflies!!!

  3. The Peacock as usual is a really beautiful butterfly. Its' blue eyes titillate and intimidating at the same time.
    Your third image shows the flower, Buddleia which I was so fascinated. I brought back some stem cuttings from Ireland but it didn't take.

    1. The Peacock is really lovely. They are very common here, so I think we take them for granted. I am sorry to hear that your Buddleia cuttings didn't take. Maybe it is just too hot for them there. Here they take from cuttings really easily in the spring. My sister gave me some cuttings from her bush and last year I put some cuttings of those in a pot and they have all taken. There are also a number of seedlings growing in the pot!!

  4. they are each so lovely
    a couple of them look like ones we have
    i am looking forward to the first butterfly of the year
    and all the ones that follow, it will be a while yet

    1. Hi Tammie Lee, hopefully it won't be too long until I see my first butterfly of the year. March is usually when they start to appear. Interestingly, I have already received a couple of records of Red Admirals being seen here. Normally they don't survive the winter, so maybe a benefit of climate change?

  5. Hello Nick!:) Thanks for your visit. Yes, seeing my first butterfly was a real treat. Nick, I will be posting some captures of a caterpillar next week, which although I have researched I cannot find the ID. I'm hoping that you might recognize it and help me out. It would be very much appreciated. Best Regards.:)

    1. Hi Sonjia, I will do my best with your caterpillar, although I am not an expert. I do like a challenge, though! We have a period of high pressure forecast, so I am hoping I may see my first butterfly soon!

  6. Good Morning Nick!:) Thank you so much for coming up with the right ID for the colourful caterpillar. You went to a lot of trouble and I really appreciate it. They are fascinating creatures, and often more colourful than the moths themselves. I haven't seen a moth like the one shown in Wikapedia, but if I do, at least I'll now know what it is. Many thanks!:)

    1. It was a pleasure. I like a challenge and I was pleased to be able to solve this one!

  7. Gorgeous photos, Nick!
    The Orange tip on the cardamine flowers is especially beautiful, it is one of my favorite butterflies!
    Let's hope 2016 will be glorious season for them!
    Sorry I missed this post.
    Your info is very interesting since I observed the same kind of weather down here in the France.
    Best wishes and enjoy the day :)

    1. Thanks Noushka. I hadn't realised that the poor weather reached France, too! Yes, let's hope for a better 2016!

  8. Hello Nick!:) I just came over to wish you and your family a Happy Easter.:)

    1. Hello Sonjia, Thank you. We have been away for a couple of days, so out of contact with the internet! I hope you and your family had a good Easter.