Welcome to Alan Thornbury's Hampshire Butterflies

This site is dedicated to the wild butterflies of Hampshire and the places they live and breed. My aim in creating it is to share my interest in these beautiful creatures and help maintain momentum in their conservation, both at UK national level and in my locality in Hampshire, Southern England.The web address I chose for this site is named after Hampshire's largest butterfly and one of its most spectacular - the Purple Emperor - and Hampshire is a stronghold for this species in the UK.  It's an elusive butterfly, but the Purple Emperor can be observed in several of the county's larger woodlands during July, spending much of its time high in the treetops, but sometimes treating the observer to a flying display of immense speed and agility. Then, if you are really lucky, you may witness a much closer encounter as His (or Her) Majesty fearlessly descends to ground, to imbibe from a puddle or feed on - well let's just say something brown and strong smelling, as apparent from the underside photo of him below.

Purple Emperor - Apatura iris

Only the male has the iridescent purple sheen on its wings

Magnificent though it is, this site is not just about the Purple Emperor - of the 59 butterfly species considered native or regular migrants to UK, around 45 can be found every year in  Hampshire, making it one of the richest counties in this respect.

So, please take a few minutes to browse this site using the menu on the left - it contains a wealth of information, both in words and pictures, which I hope will stimulate or strengthen your interest in observing, studying and ultimately conserving these insects and their habitats.

Highlights include:

  • In the Butterfly Species pages, photographs and descriptions of each species, organised according to their family names, together with information to assist the observer, including flight period, observation tips and examples of sites in Hampshire where they can be found. 
  • In the Butterfly Sites pages, summary notes on each of the Hampshire sites mentioned in the species section, with a link to a location map. For some of the sites which I know well, a longer feature has been prepared, with photos, a more detailed description and other  useful information.
  • A flight period chart, providing guidance on when each of Hampshire's butterfly species should be on the wing.
  • A comprehensive photo archive arranged into several galleries, providing higher resolution butterfly photos taken by myself during recent years, from visits mostly within Hampshire but also from further afield in UK. You may have guessed by now that I am also a keen photographer! The galleries are arranged into:
    • Species galleries which, like the butterfly species pages, are arranged by butterfly family
    • Recent season highlights showing my selection of photos from last season
    • Current season galleries showing only photos taken during the current season. For the most recent photos there is a separate "Recent Photos" gallery.
  • A butterfly video and slideshow page with links to butterfly videos and photo diaries of my visits to butterfly sites.
  • A blog page which I will  update, hopefully regularly, during the flight season, with notes on recent visits and sightings.
  • A links page providing links to websites of relevant conservation organisations and also sites providing good sources of additional reference information.

There is also a 'What's New' page so you can see if the site has been updated since your last visit and a Contact Form, in case you would like to provide feedback on the site or ask me a question on Hampshire Butterflies. I can't guarantee I will have the answer, but I will try to reply.

Finally, to conclude this introduction to my website, I have a mixed message: during the 20th century several previously native UK species became extinct, and although successful attempts have been made to re-introduce one of those, the Large Blue, into the West Country, others are probably lost for good. Furthermore, as a result of factors such as habitat destruction, intensive agricultural practices, overgrazing of grassland and the phasing out of traditional woodland management methods, many of the UK's current butterfly species are in decline, several at an alarming rate - and the situation is similar in Hampshire. Butterflies and wildlife now face a new threat - from global warming - which ironically may assist some species to expand their range, whilst having potentially catastrophic consequences for others, as they struggle to adapt to their changing environment.

Conservation efforts, energised by greater environmental awareness and concern for wildlife in general, are beginning to make a difference, but there is no place for complacency and much work is still to be done if we are first to halt these trends and then begin to reverse them.

All photos on this site are © Alan Thornbury unless indicated otherwise