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, 21 January 2018

East Lothian Butterflies 2017 - Part 2

Following on from my previous post here are the remaining species recorded in East Lothian in 2017.

Green Hairstreak, Callophrys rubi
The Green Hairstreak is probably very much under-recorded in East Lothian. There are old records from the Lammermuir Hills, but they have not been seen in those sites for many years. They have, however, been discovered in other areas of the Lammermuirs and in woodlands on the East Lothian side. They require blaeberries as food plants for the caterpillars, and everywhere we have found them is within a few feet of conifer trees. Numbers appeared to be down in 2016, but it is difficult to tell how they are doing without more specific monitoring.

Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui
Painted Lady numbers are very variable year on year, depending on many factors on their long migration from Africa to the UK. We don't ever see enormous numbers of them in East Lothian. The first record for East Lothian was on 5th May and it looks as though there was a better than average arrival of Painted Ladies. They didn't go on to produce a large second brood, presumably as a result of the summer weather.

Small Heath, Coenonympha pamphilus
The Small Heath confuses me a little! In the south of the UK there are two generations a year and up here we are supposed to get just one generation. However, I have noticed a big difference between sites in East Lothian. They are rarely seen beyond the end of June in John Muir Country Park, yet in other sites are seen through until the end of August. In 2017 the first record was on 6th May. They started off doing well, but their numbers were lower later in the season. We have been getting later records each year, but in 2017 we had a remarkably late record of one being seen on 20th October. I can only imagine this was from a second brood.

Common Blue, Polyommatus icarus
The Common Blue was seen in slightly lower numbers than normal in 2017, with sightings being lower than average towards the end of the season. The first Common Blue was recorded on 31st May and they had a fairly normal year with numbers just a bit down on the average.

Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary, Clossiana selene
The Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary is a very rare butterfly in East Lothian, only being recorded in a couple of places in the Lammermuir Hills and at John Muir Country Park. This year I only received one record on 7th June from John Muir Country Park.

Ringlet, Aphantpopus hyperantus
Ringlets did reasonably well in 2017. The first record received was on 14th June and their numbers built up quickly to a maximum, three weeks later and then back down to zero in the next five weeks.

Northern Brown Argus, Aricia artaxerxes
The Northern Brown Argus only occurs in a few small colonies in East Lothian. There is one very well established colony in the Lammermuirs, a very small and precarious colony on a golf course near Dunbar and possibly another couple of inaccessible sites where they occur. They tend not to travel far from their food plant, Rockrose, and therefore don't have much likelihood of spreading in East Lothian. The first record in 2017 was on 17th June and because we receive so few records it is difficult to assess how well they are doing.

Large Skipper, Thymelicus sylvestris
It was very pleasing to receive two records of Large Skippers in 2017. In 2014 we received our first record on the coast just inside East Lothian. We had expected them to continue along the coast, as many other species have, but despite many people searching there were no sightings in 2015 or 2016. Then on 17th June 2017 someone spotted them in two locations in the foothills of the Lammermuir Hills. They had caught us all off guard and sneaked west! I am sure there will be plenty of us out checking appropriate sites along the Lammermuirs in 2018!

Meadow Brown, Maniola jurtina
The Meadow Brown is normally the most numerous butterfly in East Lothian, but this year it was knocked back into four place. The first record we received was on 19th of June and this coincided with the start of the horrible rainy weather. It is interesting to see that numbers picked up to almost normal levels in August once the rain had stopped!

Small Skipper, Thymelicus sylvestris
The Small Skipper was first recorded in East Lothian in 2011 and since then it has been increasing in number and spreading across the county. This butterfly was first spotted at Aberlady bay, then in Saltoun Wood, other sites along the coast, Gifford, Linn Dean and Haddington to mention just a few. It would be interesting to know it manages to get to all these sites. Does it fly large distances, or is it that we just haven't noticed it in places between these sites?

Grayling, Hypparchia semele
The Grayling is only regularly seen in two or three sites in East Lothian. Unfortunately, one of those sites, Blindwells, is due to be developed and public access is being restricted. They are normally seen between mid-June to the end of August. The first record I received in 2017 was on 24th June and numbers seemed low this year.

Dark Green Fritillary, Argynnis aglaja
The first record in 2017 of a Dark Green Fritillary was on 1st July. Sadly, because their emergence was during the rainy weather 2017 was their worst year of the last five years. Numbers of ad hoc and transect records were both less than half what would normally be expected.

Sadly, 2017 was the first year that I haven't received a record for a Holly Blue since 2009. There was a colony around the Newhailes and Brunstane area, which sadly seems to have died out and each year I have received one or two records from around the Gullane/North Berwick area. I live in hope that there is a little colony hidden away somewhere in that area.

I am very grateful to all of those who have contributed butterfly records. It shouldn't be too long before we are seeing butterflies again in 2018!


  1. Hey, you have a great variety here. I love the Common Blue, Polyommatus icarus, against the purple flower. That’s sad for the Dark Green Fritillary, Argynnis aglaja.

    1. Hi Maria,
      I was very pleased with the Common Blue on the cranesbill, but I waited ages for it to open its wings more (which it didn't!). Hopefully the Fritillaries will bounce back next year if the weather is better.

  2. Hello Nick!:) Lovely captures, but that first image of the tiny Green Hairstreak is outstanding. I haven't seen one in a while. It was a pleasure to see all these butterflies. Keep up the good work!
    All the best.:)

    1. Hi Sonjia,
      The Green Hairstreaks are lovely. Maybe it is because there are so few green butterflies in Europe, but possibly because it has the beautiful colour on the underside of the wings, unlike most members of the blues.
      Funnily, the first ever Green Hairstreak I saw was in Portugal!

  3. Another great set of images Nick and very interesting records.

    1. Thanks Brian. I enjoyed putting it all together.

  4. Such a lovely collection of photos and sightings.
    It will be a while before some butterflies emerge from the bark of trees in our forests.

    Though in some recent above freezing days I did see a few moths.

    1. Thank you Tammie Lee. Strangely a colleague saw a butterfly two days ago, but this morning we have four inches of snow!

  5. That blue one is truly beautiful, i think that is just newly eclosed.

    1. Yes, I think you are right. It did seem particularly bright and in good condition.