Monday 6 April 2020

Large Tortoiseshell.

As the weekend was very warm and there would have been many people over the local Downland footpaths I stayed very much at home, as I must keep well clear of people while this virus crisis continues due to Pen being so vulnerable.

With the weather not being so good today I decided to do my allowed exercise from home, just having time to check out a few butterfly haunts.

On the path out I saw my first Swallows of the year, but apart from several Chiffchaff showing and calling well, that was about it.

Fortunately the paths were pretty quiet though and only a handful of dog walkers were seen so I felt quite safe.  The hoped for Grizzled Skippers didn't materialise and just a couple of Brimstone, Peacock and a Large White were seen. I also checked out some patches of Stinging Nettle hoping to see my first Small Tortoiseshell of the year, but no luck here either.

I then headed home as my allowed hour was just about up and I was about 300 metres from home when I spotted a Tortoiseshell in some Ivy growing on the ground just off the pavement.  Thinking I had found my first Small Tortoiseshell I had a closer look when it suddenly dawned on me that I had found the very rare Large Tortoiseshell.

This species was quite a common sight in the UK in the early to mid 20th century, but it has since around the 1950s been classed as extinct in the UK as a resident butterfly.  With sightings increasing slightly in very recent years I have wondered if the butterfly may be re-classed and once again become a British butterfly again.  This would have meant I could no longer say that I had seen all the British species.  Now of course, I don't have to worry about that happening.

After first spotting the butterfly today, I managed a quick record shot before it flew high up near the canopy of the tall trees.  Fortunately, after landing briefly high up it descended back down where it landed twice near me allowing a few better shots of it.  It wasn't the most pristine example, after all it has been hibernating for several months, and it didn't land in the most photogenic location, but for such a rare beast that doesn't matter.  It was also doubly rewarding as I had found it myself, always better than twitching someone else's find!!

Large Tortoiseshell.


  1. Congratulations Bob. A super find and photo.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Marc and Brian. With reports of a few coming in widespread along the coast it seems to point towards it being a genuine rather than a captive bred one.