Garden Butterfly Survey 2015

Butterfly Conservation Ireland’s Annual Report 2015 has just been published. I get some mentions in the Garden Survey Report and the article I co-wrote on the Comma expansion is also included which I deal with elsewhere. There was no sign of 2014’s newcomers, Common Blue and Small Copper, or any Orange Tips but a late appearance by a lone battered looking Painted Lady on 2nd October brought my species count to 11. I ‘rescued’ the gutsy little Small Tortoiseshell seen here twice, bringing it into my conservatory, and each time it made its way out again. I then annoyed it so much photographing it that it flew up into the apple tree, literally on a wing and a prayer!

On a wing and a prayer!


Overall numbers were down for the second year in a row and I’ll deal with this in more detail soon. This graph compares Red Admiral and Peacock numbers.

Peacock-Red Admiral bar chart
Red Admiral and Peacock numbers




‘My Butterfly Garden’ article & 2014 Garden Survey

Butterfly Conservation Ireland’s Annual Report 2014 is now available online. It includes an article of mine entitled ‘My Butterfly Garden’ and I get a few mentions also in the Garden Survey Report. The exciting development for me was the first appearance in the garden of both Common Blue and Small Copper – more details on this are in my article. This brings my overall species count now to 14 – it was 13 for 2014 as I didn’t see a Painted Lady.

There was no room in either the printed or online versions of my article for these two graphs which are produced by the Transect Walker software package into which I put my garden butterfly counts. In the 2013 graph, the first peak is strongly influenced by Small Whites and the later peaks in September by the build-up of Small Tortoiseshell numbers. The first peak in the 2014 graph is dominated by an early surge in Small Tortoiseshells in July and they are complemented by Red Admirals to produce the second peak in September.

BCI article 2013 graph
2013 butterfly numbers


BCI article 2014 graph
2014 butterfly numbers

A piece on my plum feeding Red Admirals was posted on Butterfly Conservation Ireland’s website last September including this YouTube video clip

Butterfly Video Clips & 2013 Garden Survey

April 2013. After the coldest March on record butterfly activity is very slow to get going so here’s a couple of video clips, taken in my garden, to keep us going (this is my first YouTube effort – click on the captions!).

January 2014. I couldn’t continue my night-time activities with Kildare Bat Group last summer but I did manage to keep my butterfly counts going.  It turned out to be a good summer afterwards and my garden sightings get a mention in the Garden Survey Report of Butterfly Conservation Ireland’s recently published 2013 Annual Report. The Orange-tip was back but no sign of a Painted Lady so my species count stayed at 11.

Garden Butterfly Survey 2012

November 2012. The Clouded Yellow, along with the Painted Lady, is our other great periodic migrant but hasn’t been seen in any significant numbers in Ireland since 2006. A couple of Painted Ladies actually turned up in my garden in early September when I had something of an explosion of butterflies, most spectacular of which was up to 50 Small Tortoiseshells on my autumn flowering buddleia – a late and welcome reprise to what was in general another poor summer for butterflies – this photo is courtesy of my friend Tom Buckley from Kildare Bat Group who is an amazing wildlife photographer.

small tortoiseshell on buddleia 5 Nov 2012


January 2013. I didn’t see any Orange Tips on the wing in my garden in 2012 although their larvae were on the Lady’s Smock (below) but the return of the Ringlet and aforementioned Painted Lady brought my number of species up to 11 in 2012. See Garden Survey Findings in Butterfly Conservation Ireland’s 2012 Annual Report.

holly blue on runner bean 7
Holly Blue
orange tip larvae 6
Orange Tip larva


Garden Butterfly Survey 2011

We have our own remarkable migrant in the Painted Lady which comes all the way from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. I didn’t see any last year, in fact their last big year was 2009 which was when I took the photograph below of a Painted Lady on a Corn cockle in my garden. This flower used to be a weed of cornfields before the advent of herbicides but it is now virtually extinct in the wild. I sow it in my own miniature herbicide free ‘cornfield’ or annual bed and I have a small quantity of self-saved seed if anyone would like some.

The 10 butterfly species I recorded in my garden in 2011 is also referenced in the Garden Survey Findings in Butterfly Conservation Ireland’s 2011 Annual Report. Overall, I have seen 12 different species in my garden and my immediate aim is to get this up to 15 or 16. This will require planting specific larval foodplants and providing the right conditions.

Painted Lady 2