Whilst walking along the shoreline, woodland, meadow and paths of Stokes Bay you may be lucky to spot one of our native butterflies. The following examples have all be recorded (with the exception of the last one) by Gosport resident and butterfly expert Dr David Tinling on the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Branch of the Butterfly Conservation website.
One of the commoner garden butterflies throughout the UK, the small tortoiseshell is bright orange and black with a row of blue crescents around the wing edges. Underneath, they are camouflaged dark grey and brown. Adults emerge from hibernation in barns and outbuildings on the first warm spring days and look for mates. It can often be found in places where nettles grow, such as field margins.
This butterfly can be recognised by its red wings with black markings and distinctive eyespots on tips of fore and hind wings.
The Peacock’s spectacular pattern of eyespots, evolved to startle or confuse predators. The underside is almost black giving it excellent camouflage when resting on a tree trunk.
The Brimstone is usually found in open areas such as grasslands, woodland rides, gardens and waste places, usually in areas adjacent to woodland, scrub and hedgerows where the larval food plant (Buckthorn sp.) occurs. It is often seen visiting suburban gardens in spring and late summer.
Red Admirals have dark black-brown wings, each with an orange-red band. The forewing tips are black with white spots; the underside is orange, blue and white, while the hindwings are camouflaged dark brown. It is now considered to be a resident but is really a migrant, arriving in May and June. Most are unable to withstand our cold however. It can be found almost anywhere in parks, gardens and hibernation sites include hollow tree trunks, wood pilles, outbuildings, sheds and barns.
The Small White, together with the Large White, are popularly known as cabbage white butterflies. This a highly mobile species and each year the resident population is boosted by individuals flying in from mainland Europe. A common and widespread butterfly often seen in gardens, the adults are attracted to white flowers where they feed and on which they are well camouflaged when roosting.
Widespread in southern Britain, the Comma gets its name from the only white marking on its underside, which resembles a comma. The larvae can often be found feeding on the Common Nettle. Found primarily in woodland it also can be found in gardens.
The Large Tortoiseshell was common in southern regions during the Victorian period but it has been officially recognised as being extinct in Britain since c1953. There are still regular sightings (confirmed by photographs) and these seem to be increasing, raising the hope that this butterfly may have survived in small numbers and is slowly making a come back. Two reported sightings (unconfirmed by a photograph) were made at Stokes Bay in 2007. It is found primarily in woodland containing Sallows. If you spot what you think is one, take a photograph!
The Speckled Wood can be found in dappled woodland, as well as gardens and hedgerows. Adults feed on honeydew while the caterpillars feed on a variety of grasses including False Broom and Cock’s-foot. The Speckled Wood is dark brown with creamy yellow spots. The best way to identify the ‘brown’ butterflies is by looking at the eyespots on their wings. The Speckled Wood is the only brown butterfly with three small, cream-ringed eyespots on each hindwing and one on each forewing. Dr Tinling reported seeing some along and near the Gosport coast from Haslar to Gilkicker in 2014.
The Painted lady is a large butterfly with a wing span of 2.0–3.5 in. It can be identified by the black and white corners of its mainly deep orange, black-spotted wings. It has five white spots in the black forewing tips and while the orange areas may be pale there are no clean white dots in them. This species is a migrant to our shores and cannot survive our Winters. It usually arrives in great numbers in Summer.
The Clouded Yellow a regular visitor to Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. It is a migratory butterfly coming from mainland Europe every year, sometimes in masses. It is a medium-sized butterfly with golden-yellow to vivid orange upper wing surfaces, lined with broad, black edges, and a yellowy-green underside. It can be found in grassy places particularly near the south coast. Foodplants of the caterpillars include wild and cultivated clovers and Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil.
Its black and white markings distinguishing it from all other species found in the British Isles. 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. This specimen was seen in July 2016 in the grassland overlooking the old School Of Electric Lighting site, at the Gilkicker end of Stokes Bay.
A common and widespread species, this one was photographed in July 2016 on a bramble bush on the plateau at the Gilkicker end of Stokes Bay. Orange and brown, with black eyespot on forewing tip. The underside is generally duller than that of the Gatekeeper (Hedge brown)
|Hedge Brown (Gatekeeper)
The Hedge Brown is often found in hedgerows. It is often seen in association with the Meadow Brown and Ringlet butterflies. Of these three butterflies, the Gatekeeper is probably the most attractive with its bright orange/brown wings fringed with a wide earthy/grey brown and distinctive black and white eyespots (two pupils).
The colour and patterning of the wings can be very variable and there are several named aberrations. They are particularly fond of feeding on Bramble and Ragwort. This example was photographed close to the spot where the Meadown Brown above was found, at the Gilkicker end of the Bay. The underside of the Hedge Brown is generally brighter than the Meadow Brown often with an uneven row of white spots.
Do you need to identify a butterfly you have seen?
This website will help: Butterfly Conservation
If you fancy trying to spot butterflies at Stokes Bay then download this handy I-Spy sheet to take with you. Remember: They are timid creatures and you will not spot them all on one day or in the same place. Patience is needed.
Remember: Butterflies are protected by a number of acts. The most significant of these is the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Read about this here:
Butterflies and the Law