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The Butterflies of Hampshire

Woodland Butterflies

Speckled Wood - Pararge aegeria    

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The aptly named Speckled Wood flies in partially shaded woodland with dappled sunlight. The male usually perches in a small pool of sunlight, from where it rises rapidly to intercept any intruder. Both sexes feed on honeydew in the tree tops and are rarely seen feeding on flowers, except early and late in the year when aphid activity is low. The range of this butterfly contracted during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but has spread back since the 1920. The butterfly can be found in most woodlands in Hampshire especially woodland glades, and small copses, and to a lesser degree small scrubby areas on chalk downland, also woodland parks in urban areas, like allotments and parkland.

Gatekeeper - Pyronia tithonus  

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As its English names suggest, the Gatekeeper (also known as the Hedge Brown) is often encountered where clumps of flowers grow in gateways and along hedgerows and field edges. It is often seen together with the Meadow Brown and Ringlet, from which it is easily distinguished when basking or nectaring with open wings. The colour and patterning of the wings are very variable and about a dozen aberrations have been named. Favourite nectar sources include Wild Marjoram, Common Fleabane, ragworts, and Bramble. It is widespread in southern Britain and its range has extended northwards in recent years. The butterfly can be found in most woodland areas, especially where there is good growth of wildflowers for nectaring. Also can be found on scrubby downland, and in some urban areas like allotments and parkland and on heath, and coastal regions.

 Ringlet - Aphantopus hyperantus

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When newly emerged, the Ringlet has a velvety appearance and is almost black, with a white fringe to the wings. The small circles on the underwings, which give the butterfly its name, vary in number and size and may be enlarged and elongated or reduced to small white spots; occasionally they lack the black ring. Bramble and Wild Privet flowers are favourite nectar sources, and adults continue to fly with a characteristic bobbing flight in dull, cloudy conditions when most other butterflies are inactive. Can be the most common butterfly along rides in most deciduous woodlands, not so much in Conifer plantations. Good counts can come from chalk downland as well and coastal and to a lesser degree parkland and allotments.

 Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary - Boloria selene

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This fritillary is similar in size and habits to the Pearl-bordered Fritillary but is more widespread and occurs in damper, grassy habitats as well as woodland clearings and moorland. The adults fly close to the ground, stopping frequently to take nectar from flowers such as Bramble and thistles. It can be identified from the more numerous whitish pearls on the underside hind wings, the outer ones bordered by black chevrons, and from the larger black central dot. The butterfly has undergone a severe decline in England. Was once a common butterfly in Hampshire (see my page on this web-site all about this species) Can be found only on the Hampshire and Wiltshire border.

This butterfly is now probably extinct in Hampshire as it wasn't recorded at all in Bentley Wood in 2022

 Pearl-bordered Fritillary - Boloria euphrosyne

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Pearl-bordered Fritillary distribution This is one of the earliest fritillaries to emerge and can be found as early as April in woodland clearings or rough hillsides with bracken. It flies close to the ground, stopping regularly to feed on spring flowers such as Bugle. It can be distinguished from the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary by the two large silver 'pearls' and row of seven outer 'pearls' on the underside hind wing, and also the red (as opposed to black) chevrons around the outer pearls and the small central spot on the hind wing. The butterfly was once very widespread but has declined rapidly in recent decades, and is now highly threatened in England and Wales. Again was once a common butterfly in most major woodlands in Hampshire. Now only found in the New Forest, small areas in and around Winchester and Stockbridge, and on the border of Wiltshire. It can also be found on Porton Down a MOD site.

 Silver-washed Fritillary - Argynnis paphia

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The swooping flight of this large and graceful butterfly is one of the most beautiful sights to be found in woodland during high summer. It is named after the silver streaks on the underside which can be viewed as it stops to feed on flowers such as Bramble. Although the butterfly is seen mostly in sunny glades and rides, it actually breeds in the shadier parts of adjacent woodland. In southern England, a small proportion of females have wings that are bronze-green, known as the form valezina. The Silver-washed Fritillary declined during the twentieth century, especially in England and Wales, but has spread noticeably during recent decades. Once this butterfly was so common that it was never thought that it could ever decline, but over the last 50 years the butterfly has reduced its range, it can still be found in all major woodland in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and on occasions in coombs of chalk downland like Old Winchester Hill and Oxenbourne Down. 

White Admiral - Limenitis camilla

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Male White Admiral on Blackberry flowers

The White Admiral is a spectacular woodland butterfly, with white-banded black wings and a distinctive delicate flight: short periods of wing beats, followed by long glides. Adults are often found nectaring on Bramble flowers in rides and clearings. It is a fairly shade-tolerant butterfly, flying in dappled sunlight to lay eggs on Honeysuckle. Population monitoring has shown a dramatic decline in the last 20 years for reasons that are as yet unclear, although Forestry operations have tended to clear Honeysuckle when timber is extracted from major woods, which may cause the species to decline locally. Can still be found in most major woods in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and in wooded coombs on the chalk.

Purple Emperor - Apatura iris

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This magnificent butterfly flies high in the tree-tops of well-wooded landscapes in central-southern England where it feeds on aphid honeydew and tree sap. The adults are extremely elusive and occur at low densities over large areas. The males occasionally descend to the ground, usually in mid-morning, where they probe for salts either from road surfaces or from animal dung. The Purple Emperor declined steadily during the twentieth century and is now restricted to some of the larger woods in southern England. There has been a recent slight re-expansion in some areas. There are more pages on this species with an indepth look at its behaviour and where and when to see it in Hampshire. Probably one of the most under-recorded species in Hampshire due to its arboriel nature, it is probably exists in most deciduous woodland in Hampshire in very low densities, where its food plant Sallow grows in abundance.

 Duke of Burgundy - Hamearis lucina

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This small butterfly frequents scrubby grassland and sunny woodland clearings, typically in very low numbers. The adults rarely visit flowers and most sightings are of the territorial males as they perch on a prominent leaf at the edge of scrub. The females are elusive and spend much of their time resting or flying low to the ground looking for suitable egg-laying sites of Cowslip on chalk downland. The Duke of Burgundy is found in scattered colonies across southern England. It has declined substantially in recent decades, especially in woodlands. (There are more pages on this species especially on the Chalk Downland where this butterfly is more common in Hampshire). This species is not common in woodland, as we have lost it from some of the major woodland complexes like the New Forest, around Winchester, Andover, and the south around Botley and Buriton. The biggest woodland colony is on the MOD ranges at Porton Down (see separate page on Porton Down on the Sites page) and still exists on private estates in and around Stockbridge, where its foodplant Primrose grows in coppiced stands of Hazel and Oak. Now extinct on the Isle of Wight

White-letter Hairstreak - Satyrium w-album

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White Letter Hairstreak Ruth Greenfield.

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The White-letter Hairstreak is a small butterfly with an erratic, spiralling flight typical of the hairstreaks. It is distinguished by a strongly-defined white 'W' mark across the undersides. The dark upper sides are seen only in flight as the butterflies always settle with their wings closed. Adults are difficult to see because they spend so much time in the tree canopy, although they occasionally come to ground level to nectar on flowers near elm trees or scrub saplings. The species declined during the 1970s when its foodplants were reduced by Dutch Elm Disease, but it seems now to be recovering in some areas. The species can be found in hedgerows where its foodplant Wych Elms grow. It could be found in Bentley Wood, and Botley Wood where old Wych Elms managed to avoid the Dutch Elm disease, also roundabouts in Southampton and Basingstoke and at North Harbour in Portsmouth seem to be the 'hot-spots' and Newport on the Isle of Wight, where Wych Elm seems to sucker and exist in small numbers, helping this butterfly to breed in small isolated colonies. However new colonies are being found every year, but its range is still in decline

 Purple Hairstreak - Favonius quercus

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This handsome butterfly is widely distributed throughout southern areas wherever there are oak trees; even a solitary tree may support a colony. It is frequently overlooked as adults remain largely in the canopy where the main adult food source is honeydew; they fly more commonly in the evening of a warm summer's day. They are only driven down to seek fluid and nectar during prolonged drought, as occurred in 1995-6. Good numbers of this species can be found in some woods like Pamber Forest and Creech Wood in good years where its foodplant Oak can be found also numbers are counted well into double figures in Alice Holt Forest, most years. 

 Brown Hairstreak - Thecla betulae

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The Brown Hairstreak is an elusive butterfly that spends most of its life either high in the tree canopy or hidden amongst hedgerows. It is worth looking up at prominent Ash trees along wood edges to see if small clusters of adults may be flitting around a 'master' tree where they congregate to mate and feed on aphid honeydew. Alternatively, adults sometimes feed lower down on flowers such as Hemp-agrimony, Common Fleabane, and Bramble. The females are most frequently seen as they disperse widely along hedgerows where they lay conspicuous white eggs on young Blackthorn. The butterfly is locally distributed in southern Britain and has undergone a substantial decline due to hedgerow removal and annual flailing, which removes eggs. Over the last few years the Brown Hairstreaks range has expanded due to more monitoring of Blackthorn thickets, it is certainly under-recorded, and it is worth looking for in the Autumn as the female lays her eggs on Blackthorn, or in the winter looking for the eggs, and this has proved to be fruitful as many 'new' areas have been discovered, in Hampshire.

Chalk & Limestone  Downland Butterflies

 Marbled White - Melanargia galathea

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The Marbled White is a distinctive and attractive black and white butterfly, unlikely to be mistaken for any other species. In July it flies in areas of unimproved grassland and can occur in large numbers on southern downland. It shows a marked preference for purple flowers such as Wild Marjoram, Field Scabious, thistles, and knapweeds. Adults may be found roosting halfway down tall grass stems. Most chalk downland and grassy areas like woodland rides have good numbers of this species in good years. Old Winchester Hill, Beacon Hill, Pitt Down, Butser Hill and Brook Down on the Isle of Wight are examples of where there this species can be found in hundreds if not thousands of individuals in the height of the summer.

Small Heath - Coenonympha pamphilus

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The Small Heath is an inconspicuous butterfly that flies only in sunshine and rarely settles more than a metre above the ground. Its wings are always kept closed when at rest. The number of broods and the flight periods are variable and adults may be seen continuously from late April to September on some sites in our area. This relatively widespread butterfly can occupy a range of habitat types and, although its range has changed little, many colonies have disappeared in recent decades.Can be found in good numbers most years on most major chalk downland sites like Old Winchester Hill, and can be found in woodland rides as well but this is quite uncommon.

Dark Green Fritillary - Argynnis aglaja

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This large and powerful butterfly is one of our most widespread fritillaries and can be seen flying rapidly in a range of open sunny habitats. In some parts of Hampshire it can be found in woodland areas such as Bentley Wood, Creech Wood and West Wood. Mainly found on the chalk and limestone it has a very powerful flight and when it stops to feed it can be approached quite readily, and it mainly feeds on Thistles and Knapweed plants. The female is larger and has a more darker tinge to its patterning on top of the wings, and usually is seen deep in the grass at rest, after laying her eggs on Hairy Violets. Although known as a chalk downland specialist, it can be also found in woodland rides, on Heathland, especially in the New Forest, and on the coast in and amongst scrubby sand dunes, very common on the Isle of Wight.

Green Hairstreak - Callophrys rubi

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The Green Hairstreak holds its wings closed, except in flight, showing only the green underside with its faint white streak. The extent of this white marking is very variable; it is frequently reduced to a few white dots and may be almost absent. Males and females look similar and are most readily told apart by their behaviour: rival males may be seen in a spiralling flight close to shrubs, while the less conspicuous females are more often encountered while laying eggs. Good sites to find this lovely butterfly are Butser Hill NNR, Oxenbourne Down, Martin Down, Old Winchester Hill, Beacon Hill Exton, Portsdown Hill, Compton Chine, and Brading Down on the Isle of Wight to name but a few.

Small Copper - Lycaena phlaeas

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The Small Copper is usually seen in ones and twos, but in some years large numbers may be found at good sites. Males are territorial, often choosing a piece of bare ground or a stone on which to bask and await passing females. They behave aggressively towards any passing insects, returning to the same spot when the chase is over. Though it remains a common and widespread species, the Small Copper declined throughout its range during the twentieth century. Laying its eggs on Sorrel which is a fairly common plant on chalk downland on Old Winchester Hill, Beacon Hill, Stockbridge Down where it can be seen in very good numbers, also seen in woodland as well, at Alice Holt Forest, also along the coast at Southsea, where it is common on the man-made defences at Eastney.

Small Blue - Cupido minimus

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Our smallest resident butterfly is easily overlooked, partly because of its size and dusky colouring, but partly because it is often confined to small patches of sheltered grassland where its sole foodplant, Kidney Vetch, is found. Males set up territories in sheltered positions, perching on tall grass or scrub. Once mated, the females disperse to lay eggs but both sexes may be found from late afternoon onwards in communal roosts, facing head down in long grass. The butterfly tends to live in small colonies and is declining in most areas. The best sites known for this species are Portsdown Hill, Magdalen Hill Down, Martin Down, Ventnor Down, and Brook Chine, where this species can be counted well into three figures in a good year.

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Common Blue - Polyommatus icarus

The Common Blue is the most widespread blue butterfly in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and is found in a variety of grassy habitats. The brightly coloured males are conspicuous but females are more secretive. It remains widespread but there have been local declines within its range. Best sites are most chalk downland, also can be found in woodland, sites and coastal regions, and on Heathland, and in allotments and gardens.

 Adonis Blue - Polyommatus bellargus

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This beautiful butterfly is one of the most characteristic species of southern chalk downland, where it flies low over short-grazed turf. Despite its restricted distribution, the butterfly can be seen in large numbers on good sites. It has undergone a major decline through its entire range, but has recently re-expanded in some regions. It has a very limited range on the chalk, and has been seen in good numbers on Martin Down NNR, also seen at Old Winchester Hill where it was re-introduced in the early 2000's, also seen in very low numbers at Stockbridge Down , Broughton Down, Bonchurch Down and Ventnor Downs on the Isle of Wight also Magdalen Hill Down, Beacon Hill at Exton, and odd ones have turned up at Butser Hill as well.

 Chalk Hill Blue - Polyommatus coridon

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At some sites many hundreds may be seen in August, flying just above the vegetation, searching for females. Large numbers of males may also congregate on animal dung and other sources of moisture and minerals. Females are much less conspicuous, being duller in colour, more secretive in their habits, and spending less time than the males in flight. The butterfly is confined to calcareous grassland in southern England and has declined in some areas during recent decades. Uses the same foodplant as its cousin the Adonis Blue but can tolerate longer turf where the Horseshoe Vetch grows, it can be found in abundance at most sites on the Isle of Wight, on the mainland Charlton Down, Oxenbourne Down, Old Winchester Hill and most other chalk and Limestone downland.

Brown Argus - Aricia agestis

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This small butterfly is characteristic of southern chalk and limestone grassland. It is a close relative of the Northern Brown Argus, which is restricted to Scotland and northern England. The adults have a silvery appearance as they fly low to the ground and they stop frequently either to perch or feed on flowers. They may be confused with Common Blue females, which also have brown upperwings but usually with some blue at the base. The butterfly spread rapidly in the mid-1990s but lost ground in the last three years of the twentieth century. One of the best sites for this butterfly is Martin Down NNR, and also Beacon Hill at Exton, also on the Isle of Wight good numbers can be seen at Brading Down, Brook Down and Ventnor Down.

Grizzled Skipper - Pyrgus malvae

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The Grizzled Skipper is a characteristic spring butterfly of southern chalk downland and other sparsely vegetated habitats Its rapid, buzzing flight can make it difficult to follow, but it stops regularly either to perch on a prominent twig or to feed on flowers such as Common Bird's-foot-trefoil or Bugle. It can then be identified quite easily by the black and white checkerboard pattern on its wings. Sympathetic management of our Hampshire reserves has resulted in an encouraging increase in numbers over recent years. Can be seen in woodland clearings especially damper flowery meadows, but mainly downland like Martin Down, Stockbridge Down, Butser Hill, Oxenbourne Down, and tends to be on the western side of the Isle of Wight in most seasons.

Dingy Skipper - Erynnis tages

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In sunshine, the Dingy Skipper often basks on bare ground with wings spread wide. In dull weather, and at night, it perches on the tops of dead flower heads in a moth-like fashion with wings curved in a position not seen in any other British butterfly. This small brown and grey butterfly is extremely well camouflaged. It may be confused with the Grizzled Skipper, the Mother Shipton moth, and Burnet Companion moth, which sometimes occur on the same sites at the same time. The Dingy Skipper is locally distributed, but has declined seriously in recent years. Good numbers can be found at Martin Down NNR, Stockbridge Down, Oxenbourne Down, Butser Hill, and on the Isle of Wight good numbers are recorded at Brook Down, Ventnor Down, St.Boniface Down, and Tennyson Down.

Silver-spotted Skipper - Hesperia comma

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This rare skipper is restricted to chalk downs in southern England where it can be seen darting low over short turf, stopping frequently to bask on bare ground or feed on flowers such as Dwarf Thistle. It can be distinguished by the numerous silver-white spots on the undersides of the hind wings, which can be seen quite easily when it rests with wings in a characteristic 'half-open' posture. The Silver-spotted Skipper has declined rapidly over the last 50 years but has re-expanded partially since 1980. Known only on the chalk where it can be found in good numbers in the Meon Valley most seasons, and chalk downland in and around Winchester. The best counts can come from Broughton Down and there is a good colony on Porton Down MOD ranges.

Heathland Butterflies

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Grayling - Hipparchia semele

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Cryptic colouring provides the Grayling with excellent camouflage, making it difficult to see when at rest on bare ground, tree trunks, or stones. The wings are kept closed when not in flight and the fore wings are usually tucked behind the hind wings, concealing the eyespots and making the butterfly appear smaller. In flight this is a distinctive, large butterfly with a looping and gliding flight, during which the paler bands on the upperwings are visible. The Grayling is widespread on the coast and southern heaths, but is declining in many areas.

Silver-studded Blue - Plebejus argus

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This small butterfly is found mainly in heathland where the silvery-blue wings of the males provide a marvellous sight as they fly low over the heather. The females are brown and far less conspicuous but, like the male, have distinct metallic spots on the hindwing. In late afternoon the adults often congregate to roost on sheltered bushes or grass tussocks.

Meadow Butterflies

Marsh Fritillary - Euphydryas aurinia

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The wings of this beautiful butterfly are more brightly patterned than those of other fritillaries. The larvae spin conspicuous webs that can easily be recorded in late summer. The Marsh Fritillary was once widespread in Britain and Ireland but has declined severely over the twentieth century, a decline mirrored throughout Europe. Its populations are highly volatile and the species probably requires extensive habitats or habitat networks for its long term survival. There has a been a long term plan to re-introduce this species back into the MOD ranges in North Hampshire around Fleet. Management has been a success and the butterfly has had several broods in the area over the last couple of seasons. (see 36 years and counting on this website for full story) Over the past couple of seasons it seems to have turned up in some bizarre places, whether these are released or just natural wanderers only time will tell, but it remains one of Britain's most endangered butterflies.

Brimstone - Gonepteryx rhamni

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The Brimstone has spread in recent years. When this butterflies roost among foliage, the angular shape and the strong veining of their wings closely resemble leaves. There is a view that the word 'butterfly' originates from the yellow colour of male Brimstones. This is the first butterfly to emerge from hibernation in the very early spring, can be seen on a warm day in January, but mainly seen at the end of February and into March with several broods seen over the butterfly season. Lays its eggs on Alder Buckthorn and Buckthorn which grows everywhere in woods, and chalk downland. The females eggs are very easy to find after watching a female laying on the leaves of the Buckthorn.

Orange-tip - Anthocharis cardamines

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Orange-tips are seen commonly in late spring along hedgerows, road verges, and woodland edges. The mottled pattern of yellow and black scales on the underside hindwings provides excellent camouflage when they roost on flower heads such as those of Cow Parsley. The butterfly can be quite common in some years, it likes damp situations mainly where its foodplant Lady's Smock and Garlic Mustard grows. Heralds spring with its lovely orange markings as the flits from one flower to the next mainly Purple flowers like Bugle. Its only the male with the Orange Tips to its forewings, the female has a grey patterning on the end of its fore-wing see picture.

Green-veined White - Pieris napi

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The Green-veined White can be found throughout the countryside, but prefers damp, sheltered areas. It breeds on wild crucifers and is not a pest of cabbage crops. The dusky vein markings on the undersides of the wings are variable in colour and make it well camouflaged when it roosts among vegetation.

Meadow Brown - Maniola jurtina

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The Meadow Brown is the most abundant butterfly species in many habitats. Hundreds may be seen together at some sites, flying low over the vegetation. Adults fly even in dull weather when most other butterflies are inactive. It is one of our most widespread species, but many colonies have been lost due to agricultural intensification.

Large Skipper - Ochlodes sylvanus

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Male Large Skippers are most often found perching in a prominent, sunny position, usually on a large leaf at a boundary between taller and shorter vegetation, awaiting passing females. Females are less conspicuous, though both sexes may be seen feeding on flowers, Bramble being a favourite. The presence of a faint chequered pattern on both sides of the wings distinguishes this species from the similar Small and Essex Skippers, which fly at the same time.

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Small Skipper - Thymelicus sylvestris

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Small Skippers are insects of high summer. Although they spend much of their time basking or resting among vegetation, they are marvellous flyers, manoeuvring expertly through tall grass stems. It is these darting flights, wings glinting golden-brown in the sunlight, that normally alert an observer to their presence. Closer examination will reveal many more individuals nectaring or basking with their wings held in the half-open posture distinctive of skipper butterflies.

Essex Skipper - Thymelicus lineola

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Essex Skipper butterflies closely resemble and are often found in company with Small Skippers. Because of the similarities, the Essex Skipper has been overlooked both in terms of recording and ecological study, and it was the last British resident species to be described (in 1889). The simplest means of distinguishing between the two species in the field is by examining the undersides of the tips of their club-shaped antennae; they are black in the Essex Skipper and orange or brown in the Small Skipper. However misidentifications still occur. The distribution of the Essex Skipper in Britain has more than doubled in the last few decades. A good tip is to try and ID these butterflies early in the morning when they can be found roosting on various grass stems.

Coastal Butterflies

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Glanville Fritillary - Melitaea cinxia

The Glanville Fritillary is virtually restricted to coastal landslips on the southern half of the Isle of Wight. It was named after Lady Eleanor Glanville who was the first to capture British specimens in Lincolnshire during the 1690s. The status of the butterfly appears to have changed little in recent decades, though there has been some loss of habitat due to coastal protection measures. However, there are only a handful of core breeding areas and it remains a vulnerable species. It was found in the 1980's and 1990's on the mainland at Milford-on-sea, and around Hurst Castle in the Solent. The species tends to expand its range when the species is really abundant. However these sites seem to have died out naturally. Over the last couple of seasons it seems to be having a renaissance and it has been found on many 'new' sites on the Isle of Wight.

Wall - Lasiommata megera

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The Wall is aptly named after its habit of basking on walls, rocks, and stony places. The delicately patterned light brown undersides provide good camouflage against a stony or sandy surface. In hot weather, males patrol fast and low over the ground, seeking out females. In cooler weather, they will bask in sunny spots and fly up to intercept females, or to drive off other males.The Wall was widely distributed, but rarely occurs in large numbers. Over the last decade, it has declined substantially in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, the prime sites now are still the Isle of Wight and the MOD ranges around Tidworth and Shipton Bellinger. It is now one of the most endangered species especially in Hampshire, quite why it has or is disappearing from sites is probably due to pollution, and global warming may well be affecting it, although in Sussex and Dorset the neighbouring counties it is still quite common on some sites.

Clouded Yellow - Colias croceus

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The Clouded Yellow is one of the truly migratory European butterflies and a regular visitor to Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Although some of these golden-yellow butterflies are seen every year, the species is famous for occasional mass immigrations and subsequent breeding, which are fondly and long remembered as ''Clouded Yellow Years''. A small proportion of females are pale yellow (form helice), which can be confused with the rarer Pale and Berger''s Clouded Yellows.

Painted Lady - Vanessa cardui

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The Painted Lady is a long-distance migrant, which causes the most spectacular butterfly migrations observed in Britain and Ireland. Each year, it spreads northwards from the desert fringes of North Africa, the Middle East, and central Asia, recolonizing mainland Europe and reaching Britain and Ireland. In some years it is an abundant butterfly, frequenting gardens and other flowery places in late summer.

Man-made habitats

Red Admiral - Vanessa atalanta

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Starting each spring and continuing through the summer there are northward migrations of red Admiral, which are variable in extent and timing, from North Africa and continental Europe. The immigrant females lay eggs and consequently there is an emergence of fresh butterflies, from about July onwards. They continue flying into October or November and are typically seen nectaring on garden buddleias or flowering Ivy and on rotting fruit. There is an indication that numbers have increased in recent years and that overwintering has occurred in the far south of our area.

Comma - Polygonia c-album

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The Comma is a fascinating butterfly. The scalloped edges and cryptic colouring of the wings conceal hibernating adults amongst dead leaves, while the larvae, flecked with brown and white markings, bear close resemblance to bird droppings. The species has a flexible life cycle, which allows it to capitalize on favourable weather conditions. However, the most remarkable feature of the Comma has been its severe decline in the twentieth century and subsequent comeback. It is now widespread in southern Britain and its range is expanding northwards. Female lays its eggs on Nettle and Hop, and sometimes blackcurrant. Seen in gardens and allotments, parks, and other man made spaces throughout the year, also woodland and wooded downland, feeding in the summer on buddleia and bramble.

Peacock - Aglais io

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The Peacock's spectacular pattern of eyespots, evolved to startle or confuse predators, make it one of the most easily recognized and best known species It is from these wing markings that the butterfly gained its common name. Although a familiar visitor to garden buddleias in late summer, the Peacock's strong flight and nomadic instincts lead it to range widely through the countryside, often finding its preferred habitats in the shelter of woodland clearings, rides, and edges. Probably the most common butterfly out of the Vanessids when seen in the springtime, especially in gardens and allotments where its foodplant nettle grows in profusion.


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Small Tortoiseshell - Aglais urticae

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The Small Tortoiseshell is among the most well known butterflies in Britain and Ireland. The striking and attractive patterning, and its appearance at almost any time of the year in urban areas have made it a familiar species. It is one of the first butterflies to be seen in spring and in the autumn it often visits garden flowers in large numbers. The Small Tortoiseshell is one of our most widespread species and has shown little overall change in range, in some parts of the country. It has been regarded now sometimes of a rarity in parks and gardens, there has been seasons where it has become very rare although the reason for this is probably due to the caterpillar and predation, this can obviously wax and wane with some years the butterfly can be common and then its population tends to crash, this has been noted in some parts of Hampshire.There can be good numbers on downland in the late summer like at  Old Winchester Hill where dozens can be seen nectaring on Small Scabious, but this has been rather the exception than the norm recently.

Large White - Pieris brassicae 

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The Large White is our largest white butterfly and is a strong flyer. It is not always welcomed in gardens and fields because of the damage its larvae inflict on brassica crops. Many adults seen in Britain and Ireland have flown from mainland Europe. Numbers of both residents and migrants of this common and widespread species vary considerably from year to year.

Small White - Pieris rapae

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The Small White is a highly mobile species and each year the resident population is boosted by individuals flying in from mainland Europe. It is a common visitor to gardens where it breeds on brassicas and Nasturtium, though it relies less on cultivated brassica crops than the Large White and breeds on a range of wild foodplants. Adult butterflies are attracted to white flowers where they feed and on which they are well camouflaged when roosting. This is a common and widespread species.

Holly Blue - Celastrina argiolus

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The Holly Blue is easily identified in early spring, as it emerges well before other blue butterflies. It tends to fly high around bushes and trees, whereas other grassland blues usually stay near ground level. It is much the commonest blue found in parks and gardens where it congregates around Holly (in spring) and Ivy (in late summer). Like other butterflies it can be common one year and then the next be rather scarce in the next season. It is susceptible to predation by wasps which lay their eggs in the caterpillars, causing temporary crashes in some populations. In woodland and heathland it lays its eggs on other foodplants, like spindle, dogwood, snowberry, and heathers  can be used.

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