For a few years now I have enjoyed photographing butterflies at home and on holiday. Before we go anywhere on holiday I try to find out as much as I can about the butterflies there. Sometimes this proves very difficult, so I thought I should start a blog to keep a record of what I have seen.
I hope that this information will be useful to others.
I am no expert photographer, preferring to capture the moment than get a perfectly composed shot. The pictures on my blog are either taken with a compact Canon, a Panasonic Lumix FZ150 or on my phone.
The Small Copper isn't a butterfly that is
normally seen in large numbers, most often being seen individually, as males
aggressively defend their territory or chase after females. In 2018 there were
regular records of more than ten being seen. It was certainly the best year I
can remember for Small Coppers. The first record was on 8th May and they were
seen through to 2nd November. The most exciting news is that that we had a very
obvious third generation in 2018, which we haven't previously seen here.
Number of Small Copper records received each week in 2018
Brown, Lasiommata megera
The first record of a Wall Brown in 2018 was on 11th May. The Wall
Brown has continued to increase in numbers year on year since it was first
recorded here in 2010. As with many other species, the spring population did
pretty well, but it was the second generation that did particularly well. In
previous years we have found the odd pioneering individual exploring further
afield, but this year there did appear to be an expansion of the range of this
butterfly with it being found in numbers at various sites where it hasn't
previously been recorded.
Distribution of Wall Browns in 2018 compared with previous years.
Small Heath, Coenonympha pamphilus
The Small Heath seems to have two overlapping
generations a year, although it is not really possible to separate the two
generations. There also seems to be quite marked differences between different
sites, and in my experience those in John Muir Country Park appear to finish
quite a few weeks before those found in Aberlady and Yellowcraig. Most years
there are also a few quite fresh-looking individuals later in the season making
us question if there could be a partial third generation. 2018 wasn't
particularly different from previous years, with the first record being on the
18th May and the last hanger-on being seen on 23rd September.
Common Blue, Polyommatus icarus
As with most other species, the Common Blue
did very well in 2018. Numbers weren't dramatically higher than normal and it
is interesting to speculate why some species did so much better than others.
Possibly it may be to do with how their food plants coped with the hot, dry
summer. The first Common Blue was seen on the 29th May and the last one was
seen on the 7th September.
Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui
Painted Ladies were quite late to arrive in
East Lothian in 2018. There were a couple of records in early June, but it
wasn't until later in July that they were seen in any numbers. 2018 turned out
to be one of the best years we have had recently for Painted Ladies.
Brown, Maniola jurtina
Meadow Browns were the only butterflies that
didn’t do particularly well in 2018. I think that they suffered from the poor
weather the previous summer. Although numbers were higher than last year, they
were lower than we would normally see. The first record in 2018 was on the 12th
June and they were seen through until the 29th August.
Ringlets did reasonably well in 2018, but not
as well as many other species. I think they may also have been a victim of the
previous poor summer. The first Ringlet was recorded on the 18th June and their
short flight period lasted until the 5th August. It will be interesting to see
if the great weather of 2018 will allow numbers to bounce back in 2019.
Dark Green Fritillary, Argynnis aglaja
We don't tend to see a lot of Dark Green
Fritillaries and they are generally limited to coastal sites and one or two
valleys in the Lammermuir Hills. Numbers in 2018 were about average, but they
had a terrible year the previous year, so it was good to see them bouncing
Northern Brown Argus, Aricia artaxerxes
I am only aware of four places in East Lothian
where Northern Brown Argus occur. Three of those sites are very small and
vulnerable. Because of this I don't receive many records of Northern Brown
Argus, so it is difficult to assess how they are doing. However, at one site
near Dunbar, despite several visits only one Northern Brown Argus was recorded.
Maybe this is a butterfly that we need to look at a bit more closely in the
Skipper, Thymelicus sylvestris
The Small Skipper has been increasing in
number year on year, since it was first discovered in East Lothian in 2011. Unsurprisingly,
2018 was its best year yet. They were initially found along the coast in the
Aberlady and Gullane area, but in more recent years have been found in the
Lammermuir Hills, lowland woodlands and various areas of rough grassland across
the county. The first record in East Lothian was on 21st June and they were
seen through to 27th August.
I am only aware of three sites where Grayling
are found in East Lothian. One of these is very remote and I didn't receive any
records from there this year. The other two sites are close to Prestonpans and
one of these colonies is about to be lost to a housing development. There is an
exciting project currently underway to create a new habitat to try to relocate
one of these colonies. The first Grayling was recorded on 27th June and they
were seen through to 21st August.
I didn't receive any records for Large Skippers in 2018, but I suspect
they will be out there somewhere, unlike Holly
Blues, which I fear have died out in East Lothian, having not been recorded
here in the last two years. I didn't receive any records of Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries from
East Lothian, either, but I am sure they would have been out and about
somewhere in the Lammermuir Hills. Given the prolonged period of great weather
I was surprised that we didn't receive any records of Clouded Yellows or any other unusual migrants.
Many species were late to appear because of
the cold weather, which lasted into April. It was interesting to note that the
hot weather didn't result in prolonged emergence and may have shortened the
time that each generation was around because they all emerged quite close
together. In contrast, poor weather can extend the flight period, because
butterflies have to spend time sitting out the rain, rather than flying around,
potentially damaging their wings.