Rare grizzled skipper butterfly takes flight in Derbyshire after 52-year absence

Press release
A grizzled skipper butterfly on a yellow flower
Published : 31 May 2019

A rare butterfly, the size of a postage stamp, has been reintroduced to a site in Derbyshire where it has not been seen for 52 years, as part of an ambitious project by the National Trust and wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation (BC).

The grizzled skipper has declined by 55 per cent across the UK over the last 40 years and in 1967 it disappeared entirely from its former stronghold in Derbyshire at the National Trust’s Calke Abbey.

A joint project launched between Butterfly Conservation East Midlands, Natural England and the National Trust to bring the butterfly back to Calke, with rangers and volunteers working together to prepare for their arrival.

Iain McGowan, ranger at Calke Abbey, said: “People often assume that environments in our care look after themselves, but in fact a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to ensure we safeguard nature for years to come. 

“We’ve removed some tree cover to provide sunny, open areas where the butterflies can thrive and breed, and grassy areas have been raked to expose bare soil and encourage the growth of the caterpillars’ food plant, wild strawberry. We’ve also planted an additional 600 strawberry plants on the estate.

“We’re delighted to reintroduce 10 butterflies to the estate at Calke and bring this rare species back to Derbyshire. We’ve worked closely with Butterfly Conservation and Natural England to create new habitats for the grizzled skipper and we look forward to seeing them thrive in their new home. 

Butterfly Recorder for Derbyshire and BC’s East Midlands Branch, Ken Orpe, said: “I began working on this idea with the National Trust around five years ago, so to see the butterfly back in the county is just fantastic and shows what working in partnership can achieve.

“The grizzled skipper is easily identified by the black and white chequerboard markings on its wings and the best time to see the butterfly is while it basks in the sunshine, usually between May and June. 

“We hope the newly released butterflies will go on to breed, but it will be a few years yet before we can confirm whether or not the population has become established at Calke Abbey.”

Butterfly surveys will be carried out each week during the summer to record numbers of grizzled skippers in the area.

Images and footage are available for download from Dropbox: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/q0egeew70e2pqiw/AABkpXCFtilqkVQGxYuYlvPga?dl=0