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.

Thursday 14 March 2024

Scottish Borders Garden Butterflies 2023 Part 2

Continuing from my previous post.

Small Skippers  are continuing to increase in numbers since I first saw them here two years ago. Last year I saw them in my new woodland for the first time as well as the meadow. I try to leave plenty of grass uncut over winter, so that I don't destroy their eggs.

Large Skippers  also did well last year. I had seen one here in 2020 and another in 2022. Last year I saw seven. Both these species have spread northwards into Scotland in recent years so it is exciting to see them here.

There has been a lot of concern about the reducing number of Small Tortoiseshells being seen around the country. 2023 seemed to just be about average for them here , but the previous year was a really good year for them, so nothing obvious to report. However, I didn't find any caterpillars last year, which was unusual. The caterpillars are usually very obvious, as they congregate in a mass on nettles.

2023 was the best year yet for Peacocks since I moved here. They were particularly numerous towards the end of the season on our Buddleia plants, but they suddenly disappeared towards the end of August. However, when I went for a walk up the valley less than a kilometre away a week later  I spotted more than 60 of them feeding on an area of Devil's-bit Scabious.

It was also an exceptionally good year for Red Admirals. I counted 474 individuals in total, more than double any previous years here. They were also recorded in good numbers across  South East Scotland and beyond.

Commas have been increasing year on year here over the last six years. Last year was exceptionally good and I recorded 122 sightings, more than double the previous year. I also found a number of very late caterpillars on nettles.

I only saw five Dark Green Fritillary here last year, which is probably about average, but seems a low number as they are so common in the hills above the house.

I saw one Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary in my meadow last year. Strangely, each year I have seen one here. I presume these have strayed down from further up the valley where there are Marsh Violets.

The exciting news for me was that I saw two  new species for the garden. I really enjoyed watching Speckled Woods arrive in East Lothian in 2010 and spread across the county over the next few years. They appeared to spread north along the coast of the Scottish Borders to get to East Lothian, but hadn't come further inland. However, I have been keeping an eye on records and noticed that they were slowly heading in this direction. On 30th May I was walking in my meadow when my phone rang. It was my daughter to tell me that she had just passed her driving test. While I was talking to her a little dark butterfly flew past me and landed in a Lime tree. I walked over to take a closer look and I was delighted to see it was a Speckled Wood. I am not sure if I was more excited about my daughter's achievement or the butterfly!! Later in the year I saw several more, with up to three on one occasion. They were all males, so I hope that there were also some females and I will regularly see them here in the future.

The other new species for me was a Wall Brown. Well, I had seen one here back in 2010 with my father, but that seemed to be an isolated record. On 15th August I was watching a Speckled Wood sparing with another butterfly in my neighbour's sheep field. Eventually, the second butterfly landed on a wall, so I sneaked up on it from the other side and noticed that it was a Wall Brown. It was only about 15 feet from the meadow and the next day I was delighted to find it feeding on a Knapweed in the meadow.

There were also a few species that I didn't see here in 2023. I didn't see any Painted Ladies anywhere last  year. Here, their numbers are very variable and I have never seen them in great numbers, even when they have been really numerous nearer the coast.

I was sad not to see a Northern Brown Argus last year. I saw one here in 2020 and again in 2022 I saw an adult here for a few days and later found several eggs on the Rockrose I had planted. Sadly, it seems that the eggs were not successful. I don't know why this would be.

The previous three years I have seen one or two Small Heaths here, but I didn't see any last year. The habitat isn't really ideal for them, though.

And since 2019 I have seen one or two Scotch Argus here, which has always intrigued me. We don't have any Purple Moor Grass, their normal caterpillar food plant, but I did see one laying eggs on a completely different grass. Sadly I didn't see any in 2023, but possibly I just wasn't in the right place at the right time.

Generally butterfly numbers have been increasing here over the last five years, so hopefully some of the work I have been doing trying to improve habitats is paying off.


  1. Hello Nick :=)
    Thank you for your visit, I have been indisposed with a leg injury that happened in the garden, I have to go to have a new dressing every day because it became infected and the first lot of antibiotics didn't work and my leg is swollen and very red. The nurse takes photos every day to see if there is any improvement. I am hopeful that it will improve and that I get some help soon in my very large garden that has become too much work for me to do alone. I still try, and my injury happened when I was pruning
    some hard wood and a stick went into my leg. I'm not moaning Nick, just telling you how things are. I am sure more butterflies are in evidence in part due to your diligence in attracting them to your area. Our fellow creatures are so important to our planet. Your photos of all these beautiful butterflies are always a treat to see.
    All the best Nick

    1. Thank you Sonjia. I am very sorry to hear about your injury to your leg. I hope it heals soon and you are able to get out in the garden again.

  2. Exceptional photographs and an informative narrative. I suspect that as global warming inexorably affects life on Earth we will see ever more changes in the distribution of many species, butterflies included.

    1. Thank you David. Yes, we have seen five or six species move into south east Scotland over the last 15 years. Looking back to the 1970s we now have 12 additional species. Turns out some of these species were here in the mid 1700s, but they retreated south when temperatures dropped at the start of the 1800s. The warmer temperatures may help them up here, but I am not so sure about the heavy rain and high winds that we are also experiencing!

  3. Hello Nick :=)
    I'm not sure if my comment went through as after commenting I think I forgot to post. I just came over to say thank you for inquiring about my leg which is finally on the mend. I'm still having to go to the clinic to have my dressing changed but it's not every day now but every three days. Thankfully I'll be able to get out and about quite soon.
    Best Wishes.

  4. Great information as usual. Hope the ones with lower numbers don't get further affected by the global warming issue.