Recording Charlecote's butterflies

Peacock and tortoiseshell butterflies on thistles at Charlecote Park

Take a stroll through the gardens and parkland from spring until the last warm days of autumn and look out for butterflies dancing from flower to flower. We take more than a passing glance at them though.

Keeping count

Three years ago it was decided to set up a volunteer group who would formally monitor the butterflies in Charlecote Park on a regular basis.  

The Warwickshire representative of the British Butterfly Trust was instrumental in setting up appropriate transects (wide walking routes) in different areas of the parkland. It was important that each transect included different habitats for the surveys.

The Marbled White butterfly flies in the grasses of the parkland
Marbled white butterfly found in grassy parkland at National Trust's Charlecote Park
The Marbled White butterfly flies in the grasses of the parkland

We now have three transects in West Park, Hill Park and Front Park, as well as in the gardens. The team walks each of these routes weekly from April to October. The weather is recorded and the number and species of butterflies that we see is noted within the 5-metre-wide corridor as the recorder walks at a slow pace along the route.

We now have two years of detailed records, but three years of data are required before reliable trends can be identified. Before our volunteer group was established we had only carried out the occasional, rather informal, recording of the butterflies in the parkland. 

The Meadow Brown butterflies will often fly even on a dull day in the gardens
Meadow brown butterfly on aster in gardens at Charlecote Park
The Meadow Brown butterflies will often fly even on a dull day in the gardens

What might you see?

Twenty-two different butterfly species have been spotted and there have been reports of Purple Hairstreaks in West Park, no doubt due to our oak trees, their natural habitat. 

When the Charlecote data is compared with similar sites, last year saw a big increase in Marbled Whites, Small Tortoiseshells, Meadow Browns, Large Whites and Ringlets.

However, the familiar Peacocks and the Green-veined Whites saw a drop in numbers. We're hoping that the large number of caterpillars we've spotted indicate a better year for them.

The distinctive caterpillars of peacock butterflies feeding on nettles in the parkland
Peacock butterfly caterpillars feeding on nettles at Charlecote Park this summer
The distinctive caterpillars of peacock butterflies feeding on nettles in the parkland
Look out for the Large Skipper butterfly, easily mistaken for a moth
Large skipper butterfly on lavender at Charlecote Park in Warwickshire
Look out for the Large Skipper butterfly, easily mistaken for a moth

If you are walking in the gardens, the most likely butterflies that you will see are Skippers – both Small and Large species, Small Tortoiseshells, Peacocks, Commas, Whites (Small, Large and Green-veined), Red Admirals, Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers. Early on in the year, you may also see Yellow Brimstones (often the first in flight in spring) and Orange Tips. 

The comma butterfly looks like a ragged tortoiseshell - look for the white comma on the underside of the wings
Look out for the comma butterfly in Charlecote's gardens this summer
The comma butterfly looks like a ragged tortoiseshell - look for the white comma on the underside of the wings

If you are out in the parkland, look out for Marbled Whites, Speckled Woods, Holly Blues, Common Blues, and Ringlets.

Flowers for nectar

Out in the parkland, our ongoing wildflower planting will increase plant diversity and benefit all the insects in this habitat. The caterpillars of butterflies feed on many of the plants in the parkland, such as the Common Blue on bird’s-foot trefoil.

We leave patches of nettles too, as the foliage and flowers support moths, butterflies and many other insects. Dandelions are also left to flower as an important source of nectar early in the year. 

Look out for the iridescent Common Blue butterfly darting quickly from flower to flower
The iridescent common blue butterfly is a delight at Charlecote Park
Look out for the iridescent Common Blue butterfly darting quickly from flower to flower

Matt our gardener ensures that there is something in flower throughout the year for all our insects from the earliest spring bulbs and scented shrubs to nectar-rich sedums and dahlias in the autumn.

Our data is sent off to the British Butterfly Trust to add to their national records. Charlecote is now registered as a recording site for butterflies and our data contributes to the overall status of butterflies throughout the country. 

The Ringlet butterfly loves damp grassland and is becoming increasingly common
Ringlet butterfly lives up to its name when its wings are closed - spot them at Charlecote Park
The Ringlet butterfly loves damp grassland and is becoming increasingly common

We’d love to know what you see when you visit – why not take a picture and send it to us on social media.

Enjoy a walk through Charlecote's parkland this summer and look out for our wildlife
Walking trail

Download our parkland walk 

Take a stroll through our historic landscape and learn more about what you'll see. This easy walk will take you up to an hour, depending on how often you stop to enjoy the wildlife and scenery. The grounds are open from 9am to 6pm every day.

Look out for the striking Red Admiral in the gardens
Late-flowering sedums are an important source of nectar for red admiral butterflies in the gardens at Charlecote.
Look out for the striking Red Admiral in the gardens