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, 1 February 2017

East Lothian Butterflies 2016 (2)

Continued from my previous post about the butterflies recorded in East Lothian in 2016.

Wall Brown, Lasiommata megera
The first Wall Brown was recorded on 12 May and they were seen in reasonably good numbers through to 15th September. We are now getting regular records from Bilsdean, right along the coast to North Berwick. Each year we get one or two inland records, but we don’t seem to have any inland sites where they are regularly seen year after year.

Holly Blue, Celastrina argiolus
Yet again we had a single record of a Holly Blue in East Lothian. This time it was in North Berwick on 15 May. I am sure there must be a little colony of them in one of the coastal towns around there.

Small Heath, Coenonympha pamphilus
The first Small Heath seen in East Lothian in 2016 was on 15 May and they were recorded until 29 August. Numbers were a little down on previous years, but not by too much.

Common Blue, Polyommatus icarus
Common Blues were first seen on 8 June and regularly recorded through to 3 September. The numbers were very similar to previous years.

Ringlet, Aphantpopus hyperantus
Ringlets seemed to have a pretty good year, with numbers only a little lower than in previous years. The first record I received was on 19 June and they were seen until 17 August.

Small Skipper, Thymelicus sylvestris
The first record in 2016 of a Small Skipper was on 19 June and they were seen through to the end of August. They are very well established now along the coast from Longniddry to North Berwick and at a couple of inland sites.

Meadow Brown, Maniola jurtina
The first Meadow Brown record was on 2 July and they were seen in good numbers through to the 30 August. They didn’t seem to be affected by the miserable summer.

Dark Green Fritillary, Argynnis aglaja
The first record was on 3 July and they were seen in reasonable numbers but only until early August when I received the last record of the year.

Northern Brown Argus, Aricia artaxeres
I only received two records of Northern Brown Argus this year on 14 July and 30 July, both from the same site in the Lammermuir Hills. There are only another three locations that I am aware of them occurring in East Lothian, and I think the poor weather prevented other sites from being checked.

Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary, Clossiana selene
We had a record of a Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary from the usual site in the Lammermuir Hills on 14 July. There were also two records of a Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary from John Muir Country Park on the 16 and 18 August. These are quite late in the season, but were recorded by different people in more or less the same area.

Grayling, Hypparchia semele
The first record was on 18 July, which is about three weeks behind the norm. They were still seen in reasonable numbers, though. I am only aware of three small sites where Graylings are found in East Lothian, so they are quite vulnerable to habitat loss.

Camberwell Beauty, Nymphalis antiopa

I heard of a very exciting record that a Camberwell Beauty had been seen feeding on a Buddleia on 26 August in a garden in Dunbar. It was seen in the same place the following day. This is the first record of this very rare migrant that I am aware of in East Lothian since 1983. I have no reason to doubt this record even though there were no further records of it having been seen elsewhere.

The other butterfly that we may have expected to see was a Large Skipper, Ochlodes sylvanus. We had three records of them in East Lothian in 2014, but none since. There is a good colony of Large Skippers just over the border at Cockburnspath and I have no doubt that they are still in East Lothian. It is just that the weather has been very poor over the last two summers so people haven't been down to that corner of East Lothian to look for them. I will certainly make an effort to search for them in 2017.

So, all in all, it wasn't a bad year for butterflies given the weather. Most species did as well as ever, but there were worryingly few Small Tortoiseshells, Peacocks and Commas later in the year. I thought that this could be because the weather was poor at a critical time just after the caterpillars had hatched. However, Red Admirals and Painted Ladies did well and they would have been caterpillars around the same time.

We have found a few hibernating Small Tortoiseshells and Peacocks, so hopefully their numbers will bounce back this year. Already I have received a record of a Peacock and a Small Tortoiseshell flying this year!


  1. The Common Blue is quite lovely.

    1. Hi Michelle,
      Yes the blues are beautiful. Definitely my favourites!

  2. Another visual treat Nick, the variety is amazing!

    1. Hi Maria,
      We are lucky that, although we don't have a great number of species here, they are all quite different and easy to identify!

  3. A great post with beautiful photos, Nick!
    Your findings are quite interesting, especially for the specialists trying to preserve the species.
    Small Tortoiseshells and Peacocks among others are known to go through winter and fly when the temperatures rise and the sun is out. They lay the first generation in spring before dying.
    The Greyling is my favourite pic here :)
    Keep well and warm!

    1. Thank you Noushka,
      the Grayling is surprisingly difficult to photograph. They fly off at the slightest movement and when they land they can be very difficult to spot, particularly on the main site they are found in East Lothian, where their wings match the lichen on the ground perfectly.

  4. Oh Nick, they are all beautiful...But i am familiar with some of those genus even if we don't have your species, i know just how they look in nature. But your photos enhanced their beauty with your composition, to give them more beautiful look. Actually, i wish i had your camera, hahaha.

    1. Thanks Andrea. Yes, the camera should really take the credit. It is a Panasonic Lumix FZ150. It is such a good compromise of being light to carry around without the need for additional lenses, but with a good zoom.

  5. Hello Nick!:) Thank you for your welcoming visit.:) It's been hard to get back, as I couldn't cope most days, but,... let's see how it goes. Your East Lothian butterfly sightings are so varied and a pleasure to see. I love your Meadow Brown image, and your Ringlet and Grayling captures. Graylings, Meadow Browns, and Small Heaths were quite numerous here last year, but here too, there was a worrying lack of the more colourful species of butterflies. The maroon coloured Camberwell Beauty, would have been a treat to see! Best Regards.

    1. I hope you will be up and raring to go when the weather warms up! Just in time to look for butterflies. Let's hope 2017 is kinder to them than last year.

  6. They are all so lovely to see.
    For now I can only dream of them and planting flowers hoping to spy on them a bit longer this summer.

    1. Yes, I have actually already seen one butterfly this year, but not for long! I have been planting various plants that I hope will attract butterflies for me to enjoy, but also hopefully to help them thrive.

  7. Hello, Nick! I am very happy that the butterfly season has started and I see that you already have a good collection. The Grayling (Hipparchia semele) is relatively easy to see for my land. I hope you have a happy spring and may also be a good year for our beloved butterflies. Saludos desde Asturias.

    1. Hi Belen,
      Yes, it is great that there are butterflies flying again. Although this post is about those I saw last year. I think I have seen nine species so far this year. The weather has been cold this April, so hopefully there will be a lot of butterflies when it warms up.