As we reach the height of Summer, sunny weather will see many butterflies on the wing – even in a dense urban area like Blackpool.
They are a very accessible form of nature – some are very distinctive and recogniseable, you don’t need to get up early or stay out late to see them and with a modest amount of effort you can attract them to you. You also don’t need special equipment as most species are quite approachable.
There are several ways to summarise the likely suspects you would see locally, I am going to tackle it by colours as they are the most obvious feature.
White butterflies – these include the Large White, Small White and Green-veined White which sound distinctive enough but can be quite tricky to see well and definitely identify. All are regular in gardens and parks. Early in spring another white species occurs widely locally – the Orange Tip being so named as the males have Blackpool appropriate tangerine splashed on the outer wing.
Two small blue butterflies occur around Blackpool – the Common Blue and the Holly Blue. These can generally be seen in different areas, the Common preferring grassy areas and the Holly Blue gardens and woodland. The latter also rests up on trees showing powder blue and black spotted underwings.
A number of brown butterflies occur on the Fylde. The largest and the most widespread of these are the Speckled Wood, which lives around trees and flies even in cloudier conditions, and the Meadow Brown which is a grassland species. The medium sized Gatekeeper is quite common whilst the diminutive Small Heath and Small Copper are quite localised. In contrasting fortunes the Wall Brown has declined massively locally, whilst the Ringlet has begun to spread in from outside the area. The localised White-letter Hairstreak which needs elm trees to feed from has one regular site – Devonshire Road Rock Gardens.
One brown butterfly merits a specific mention – the Grayling is a scarce creature locally on the sand dunes between Blackpool and St Annes. Uniquely among British butterflies it always lands with its wings closed only showing camouflage underparts, in 50 years I have never seen the upperwings of one properly.
The vanessids are a group of brightly coloured and larger butterflies. They include a number of common and well known species such as Peacock, Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell. Formerly scarce in these parts the Comma is also now very well established, a distinctive ragged winged species with the eponymous punctuation mark seen on the underwing at rest. Painted Lady are regular but in some years huge influxes occur having migrated from the south.
Two yellow species can be found on the Fylde but both are quite difficult to catch up with. The Brimstone is all yellow and wanders from neighbouring areas annually, whilst the Clouded Yellow has black borders to the wings and is usually very rare but can turn up in numbers in invasion years.
If you want to get more butterflies visiting your garden one way to virtually guarantee success is to cultivate a buddleia bush or two. The mauve flower heads are a magnet for just about all the species that visit urban areas, and large numbers may gather to feed on a single plant. If you aren’t a buddleia fan other options include aster, hebe, lavender and sedum.
Should you get a taste for seeing new butterflies a number of limestone dependent species can be found not far away in North Lancashire and South Cumbria, including nationally threatened ones such as the charmingly named Duke of Burgundy and High Brown Fritillary. A little closer to home the scarce Large Heath can be viewed on the lowland heath at Winmarleigh Moss. Even if you stay resolutely local Lancashire Butterfly Conservation welcome records of all species at http://www.lancashire-butterflies.org.uk/report/.
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