Our butterflies in the Dunes – Review of the Year

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Butterflies and insects in general have been having a hard time of late with many species in decline. So as we say goodbye to the last of these beautiful creatures for another season, how have our butterflies in the Dunes fared this year.

Since recording on the Portstewart Strand transect started just under a decade ago, 18 different species have been recorded and 14 of these showed up in 2017. The 3 regular whites – Green-veined, Small and Large were there in reasonable numbers from early season and could still be seen through August and there were good numbers of Small Heath for a short period in May and early June but no sightings thereafter.

The usual numbers of Meadow Browns and Ringlets could be seen in peak summer but the numbers of Common Blue which have traditionally been Portstewart Strand’s most abundant species appeared to be significantly down this year. The Dark Green Fritillary which is not a particularly common species in Northern Ireland but a regular at Portstewart Strand was with us in very large numbers for 1 – 2 weeks in July but quickly disappeared thereafter.

Grayling, a species that was previously more abundant was disappointing with only a few sightings late in the year and we also had occasional appearances from the Speckled Wood.

The Painted lady, a migrant butterfly that occurs in massive numbers in North Africa and makes it’s way north in stages to our shores visited a few times throughout the year.

The other migrants – the Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock - showed up late in the year but only in small numbers
So to sum up, Portstewart Strand populations probably reflected the overall British Isles status with some species still in difficulty. The high point was the large numbers of Dark Green Fritillary albeit short lived but no sightings of a couple of species (Small Copper and Cryptic Wood White) which were recorded in some previous years demonstrate that work is still needed to conserve the specific habitats and food plants used by some of these beautiful insects.

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