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34 species of butterfly are seen regularly at Durlston, making it without doubt one of the very best places in Britain for butterfly watching. Notable species include the Lulworth Skipper, Adonis Blue and Chalkhill Blue.




Adonis Blue - Polyommatus bellargus

Adonis BlueFlight times: Late March to early September


The male has brilliant upperwings of almost turquoise blue, and outer margins edged with a fine black line. The female upperwings are mainly chocolate-brown, but often dusted near the base with turquoise-blue, and have small black eyespots within orange and blue surrounds along the lower margins. Dark veins cross the white fringes in both sexes, just entering the body of the wings. The underwings are spotted with orange near the edges.

Many female Adonis and Chalkhill Blues are identical, except on the undersides where the pupil between eyespot and wing edge is blue on this species but white on the Chalkhill blue. The Common blue has no dark veins across its white fringes in either sex.

Adult wingspan: 30-40mm.

Range & Habitat:

As with the Chalkhill Blue, this butterfly is restricted to the calcareous grasslands of southern England.

The numbers on the Park have been relatively low with none seen in some years. However, there was a dramatic increase in numbers from 1997. The reason for this is unknown. It is now common on Round Down and around the Gully area.

Brown Argus - Aricia agestis

Brown ArgusFlight times: June and Augest to early September


Both sexes of this butterfly look very similar. The upperwings are sooty brown, slightly darker in males, with a black spot in the centre of each forewing and no trace of blue, unlike the female Common Blue. Round the edges is a series of orange crescents which are generally larger on the female. The fringes are white, sometimes just penetrated with brown veins. The underwings are superficially similar to those of Common, Adonis, and Chalkhill Blues, but may be distinguished by the lack of any spot on the forewing nearer than halfway in to the body by the spots at the top edge of the hindwing, which form a colon.

Adult wingspan: 25-31mm.

Range & Habitat:

The species is found throughout much of England and Wales. It is locally common on calcareous grasslands but will also be found along woodland rides and clearings, hedgerows, and other similar sites.

This species seems to be not uncommon and widely distributed on the Park.

Chalkhill Blue - Polyommatus coridon

Chalkhill BlueFlight times: Late July to early September


The large males are unmistakable both in flight and when basking, due to their cold, pale, silvery-blue upperwings. The underwings are also distinctive - heavily spotted on a light grey background that appears almost white in the sun.

The females have chocolate-brown upperwings, tinged to a variable extent by silver-blue near the body. Elderly females overlap with the first Adonis Blues in late August and early September.

They differ from female Adonis Blues in having white rather than blue outer circles to the eye spots along the bottom edges of the upper hindwings, and from all other Blues in having brown vein ends across the white fringes, making the edges look chequered.

Adult wingspan: 33-40mm.

Range & Habitat:

This blue is restricted to the chalk and limestone downlands of southern England.

It appears to be restricted to Round Down and the Gully but is not uncommon, with a few wanderers appearing in the east sector. It would be useful to identify the location and extent of the colonies on Round Down particularly as there has been a decline. It is now found predominantly at the top of The Gully.

Common Blue - Polyommatus icarus

Common BlueFlight times: March to September


This is our commonest Blue. Males have unmarked, bright blue upperwings, females orange crescents and dark spots near the outer edges on a ground colour that varies from almost entirely purple-blue to dark brown with only a tinge of blue near the body.The underwings of both sexes have numerous black spots with white halos, and orange marks round the edges.

In males, this butterfly can be distinguished from Holly Blues which have underwings with tiny black dots. Adonis Blues are more turquoise, with black veins across the white fringes.

In females, this butterfly differs from Brown Argus which has no blue on the upperwings and no spot nearer to the body than halfway in on the under forewing. The under hindwings of the first two species have a colon mark two thirds out from the body near the top edge. Adonis and Chalkhill Blues have conspicuous dark veins across the white fringes.

Adult wingspan: 29-36mm

Range & Habitat:

It is generally common throughout the British Isles on grasslands.

It is common on much of the Park. The population has seemingly increased steadily over the last 10 to 15 years.

Green Hairstreak - Callophyrs rubi

Green HairstreakFlight times: Late April to early June


An unmistakable little butterfly that always sits with its wings closed, displaying their bright green undersides. Small areas of the plain brown uppersides are sometimes visible where the wings overlap. The tail is reduced to a stump in this Hairstreak, and the two sexes look much the same. In flight the impression is of brown blurred wings, rather like a Dingy Skipper or female Blue, but at rest it is unmistakable.

Adult wingspan: 27-34mm.

Range & Habitat:

The species is relatively common throughout much of the British Isles but never occurs in any great numbers. It is found in a wide range of habitats such as woodland glades, downland, heathland, and hedgerows.

While never occurring in great numbers, it appears to be relatively scarce at Durlston. Most records are from The Gully and along some hedgerows. Its main foodplant within the Park is likely to be Gorse.

Holly Blue - Celastrina argiolus

Holly BlueFlight times: April and March, then late July to September


Any blue butterfly seen fluttering several feet up around shrubs, trees, along hedgerows or in gardens in southern Britain is likely to be a Holly Blue. This is not a sure means of identification however. The most distinguishing feature in both sexes is the underwing, which is clear silver blue with tiny black dots and no orange marks. It gives the Holly Blue a distinctly silver look in flight and makes it unmistakable at rest. Only the Small Blue is similar, but this is very much smaller and has sooty upperwings. The upperwings of the Holly Blue are violet blue - indeed the male resembles a male Common Blue from above. The female upperwings are more distinctive because they have wide dark borders and tips.

Adult wingspan: 26-34mm.

Range & Habitat:

The Holly Blue is found throughout England and Wales. While widespread it is never numerous.

It is not uncommon on the Park with most occurring around the woodland areas of the east sector. Numbers in the west sector are presumably centred in the Gully.

Purple Hairstreak - Neozephyrus quercus

Purple HairstreakFlight times: Late July to early August


A beautiful butterfly, with inky black upperwings that turn deep purple as they catch the sun. In the male this colour is deeper and occurs over all the wings apart from the margins - the purple on females is a large blotch on each forewing, which is visible even in dull light. The underwings are a silver-grey with a white streak and a single black-pupilled orange eye beside the tail.

Adult wingspan: 31-40mm.

Range & Habitat:

This hairstreak is locally common in England and Wales and into Scotland. It inhabits woodlands with Oak.

It used to be found in the Aviaries and near Durlston Castle and may still be present as evidenced by recent reports. A small colony was discovered in Small Copse in 2006.

Small Blue - Cupido minimus

Small BlueFlight times: Late March to early September


This, our smallest butterfly, is easy to identify. The tiny upperwings have no pattern: females are dark brown, males smokey-black with a dusting of silvery-blue scales near the body. The fringes are clear white with no veining. The underwings are very distinctive: silver-grey with a scattering of tiny black dots and none of the orange markings found on other blues.

Although unmistakable at rest, its silvery wings resemble the Brown Argus during flight.

Adult wingspan: 18-27mm.

Range & Habitat:

This species occurs very locally and predominantly upon chalk and limestone grasslands throughout much of southern England but occurs sporadically elsewhere in Britain. The population is declining.

This butterfly is restricted to Round Down, the Gully area and grassland areas adjacent to the coast. In the Round Down area, numbers have fluctuated greatly. Numbers were low in the east sector but have slowly increased since the mid-1990’s. Two colonies are present in fields 7 and 9 and fields 14 and 17 and it is apparent that the species has been expanding in the last ten years.

Gatekeeper - Pyronia tithonus

GatekeeperFlight times: July to early September


This medium-sized butterfly looks more golden in flight than almost any other Brown but is not so bright as to be mistaken for a Fritillary or the Comma. Seen up close, it is easy to identify, although beginners sometimes confuse it with the much larger Meadow Brown. The Gatekeeper's upperwings have broad grey-brown borders enclosing large orange patches, which are especially bright in the males. The males also have a conspicuous dark scent band across the orange on the forewing and are considerably smaller than the females. Both sexes have a large black eyespot usually containing two white pupils near the tip of the forewings, whereas the Meadow Brown's eye has a single pupil. The Gatekeeper also has one, and sometimes several small white dots on the upper hindwing. The undersides are bright mottled brown on the hindwing and dull orange on the forewing, which again bears a distinctive eye with twin pupils. Note also that any dots on the under hindwings are white, whereas those on the Meadow Brown are black.

Adult wingspan: 37-48mm.

Range & Habitat:

This very common butterfly is found throughout much of England and Wales. It inhabits grassy areas and is the typical butterfly of hedgerow and woodland rides of high summer.

It is a common butterfly throughout much of the open habitats on the Park. Numbers were exceptionally low in 1986 and 1987 and this slump was reflected at other sites. It has since recovered and numbers seem to have remained stable.

Grayling - Hipparchia semele

GraylingFlight times: June to August


This is our largest Brown. The sexes look similar although the female is slightly paler and larger. They always settle with the wings closed, and usually the forewings are tucked out of sight so that only the undersurfaces of the hindwings are generally visible. These are marbled in pale brown and dark grey and light grey, with no clear cut pattern although there is a zigzag boundary halfway across separating darker markings near the body from a paler outer half. There may be a tiny eyespot near the bottom corner. All in all, it looks like a grey bark or dirty sand, and is perfectly camouflaged against the bare spots of ground on which it settles. When the under forewings protrude they reveal a grey border and a brighter, almost orange centre containing two conspicuous black eyespots with white pupils. The upperwings are light brown with bright straw coloured wavy bands and distinctive eyespots, giving the Grayling a richer and brighter appearance in flight than the underwings would suggest, although the overall impression is still of grey. Graylings can be confused with no other species.

Adult wingspan: 51-62mm.

Range & Habitat:

This species occurs throughout much of the British Isles but is distinctly coastal in distribution. It is found in open, dry habitats such as heathland, undercliff, downland, and saltmarsh.

It is generally a scarce butterfly at Durlston and this may be due to the shortage of undisturbed, sparsely vegetated areas.

Marbled White - Melanargia galathea

Marbled White Flight times: Late June to early September


This delightful medium-sized butterfly has a clear cut pattern of black and white chequered markings on its wings, very different from our other native Browns, and is not llikely to be confused with White butterflies, since they do not have anywhere near as much black on them. Another difference from the Whites is a series of blue centred black eyespots which are conspicuous, at rest, towards the outer edges of the underwings. The Marbled White's chequered pattern is also recognisable during flight, partly because the wings are flapped very slowly. The ground colour on the underwings varies somewhat from white to pale yellow, and the markings are less distinct, being grey on males and dusky olive-green on the females.

Adult wingspan: 53-58mm.

Range & Habitat:

The butterfly is restricted to chalk and limestone grasslands but can also be found along woodland rides and hedgerows on similar grassy soils. It can be rather common where it occurs.

It is a common butterfly on the Park found on all grassland areas including fallow meadow. Numbers have generally increased which may be a result of the increase in rough, ungrazed grassland.

Meadow Brown - Maniola jurtina

Flight times: June to SeptemberMeadow Brown


This is the commonest large Brown butterfly in Britain. The male's upperwings are dusky brown with a blurred black patch from the central forewing to the body. In the corner of each forewing is one small white-pupilled black eyespot, usually surrounded by a circle of dull orange. There may also be a faint orange patch below this. This orange patch and the eyespot are both much larger and more prominent on the female. The Meadow Brown often sits with its wings closed, and the lower hindwing may be all that is visible. This is grey-brown with a slight orange sheen and a zig-zag boundary that divides a darker inner half from a brighter outer half. There may be one or several small black dots in the outer half. When exposed, the lower forewing is seen as a dull orange with a dusky border and a similar eyespot to that on the upperwing.

Both sexes become very faded when old. Depending on their age, several Browns look rather like the Meadow Brown in flight, but none should be confused when seen at rest. Note the lack of eyespots on the upper hindwing and compare with the Ringlet and Gatekeeper.

Adult wingspan: 40-60mm.

Range & Habitat:

This is one of Britain's most widespread and common butterflies. It can be found in large numbers in nearly all grassland habitats.

It is a common butterfly throughout much of the Park. Numbers have steadily increased in recent years and this may be a response to the increase in available foodplants.

Ringlet - Aphantopus hyperantus

Flight times: June to AugustRinglet


This medium sized butterfly has dark velvety-brown upperwings that are almost black on the male and only slightly lighter on the female. A fine white fringe runs round the outer edges, making a sharp contrast, and there are usually two inconspicuous little black eyespots near the centre of each wing. When settled, the wings are usually closed, revealing the Ringlet's most distinctive feature - a string of conspicuous eyes with white centres surrounded by black then yellow rings. There are generally five to each hindwing with at least two on the forewings, and they gleam clearly against a dark, slightly bronzed background.

Adult wingspan: 42-52mm.

Range & Habitat:

This species is widely distributed within the British Isles but is absent from north-west England and north Scotland. It inhabits the relatively sheltered areas of tall, occasionally damp, grasslands.

In 2003, a colony was located on the grassy banks of The Gully during June and July. The species was recorded in the same area in 2006 and 2007.

Small Copper - Lycaena phlaeas

Flight times: Late April to early SeptemberSmall Copper


Both sexes of this little butterfly are similar and easy to identify. The upperwings are brilliant-shining copper with black marks and borders on the forewings, and copper borders against a black background on the hindwings. The underwings are equally distinctive - the hindwing is grey-brown whilst the forewing is pale orange with black spots.

Everywhere there is a good deal of variation in the size of the black marks on the upperwings. Throughout its range there is a variety that has a row of blue spots on the upper hindwings - these beautiful specimens are rare in most areas.

Nothing in Britain can be confused with this butterfly, either in flight or at rest.

Adult wingspan: 26-40mm.

Range & Habitat:

It is common throughout much of the British Isles but usually occurs in distinct colonies.

The butterfly is generally distributed throughout the Park, although no colonies have been identified as yet. While it is difficult to determine with incomplete data, there may possibly be a seven year cycle.

Small Heath - Coenonympha pamphilus

Flight times: March to early SeptemberSmall Heath


This is our only small light brown butterfly - female Blues are very much darker, Skippers more golden, and other Browns are considerably larger. The Small Heath always settles with its wings closed, so only the undersides are seen. The upper hindwing is pale grey-brown, with slightly darker patches (but no real pattern) near the body, a blurred white mark halfway out, and faint white dots near the outer edge. The forewing is tucked down in bad weather, but usually protrudes as an orange triangle with grey edges and a conspicuous white-pupilled black eyespot near the top corner. The upperwings are tawny, making the whole butterfly light brown when flying.

Adult wingspan: 33-37mm.

Range & Habitat:

The Small Heath is found in open habitats, such as heathland, downland, and undercliff, throughout the British Isles.

The butterfly is found in most open areas of the Park. It seems to favour Round Down, The Gully, and Durlston Bay landslip. It is distinctly double-brooded at Durlston with the second brood much less numerous than the first. While numbers vary each year, there has been a distinct increase in numbers from 2002 to 2004 in both transects. The reasons for this are unclear.

Speckled Wood - Pararge aegeria

Flight times: April to OctoberSpeckled Wood


This medium-sized Brown often basks with its wings open, revealing an unmistakable pattern of creamy-yellow patches on a deep chocolate background. There are three separate black eyes with white pupils in the patches towards the edge of each hindwing and another eye near the top corner of each forewing. The males have slightly smaller and more blurred yellow markings than the females, and in both sexes the patches are a little paler in the summer brood.

The underwings are beautifully patterned in grey and brown, and resemble a dead leaf when the wings are closed. There are faint marks like mould-spots on the lower wing and a conspicuous eyespot at the top corner of the forewing. Note its habit of flying in shady places, where its chequered wings perfectly match the dappled light. No other butterfly is likely to be confused with this species.

Adult wingspan: 46-56mm.

Range & Habitat:

This butterfly is presently expanding its range after a spectacular decline in the early 20th century. It is found throughout much of the southern part of the British Isles and many parts of Scotland but is still absent from many other areas. It never occurs in great numbers. Its main habitat is woodland but it may also be found in gardens and hedgerows where grasses, its foodplant, grow.

The butterfly is relatively common on the Park occurring most frequently along the woodland edge and glade in the east of the Park, and around the more mature stands of scrub in the west.

Wall Brown - Lasiommata megera

Flight times: April to SeptemberWall Brown


The Wall Brown (sometimes referred to merely as the Wall) is usually seen basking with its wings open, revealing bright orange upperwings with dark borders, veins and wavy crosslines, and dusky areas near the body. The male also has a stripe of dark scent scales diagonally across the forewing. In both sexes there is a conspicuous white-pupilled black eyespot in the top corner of each forewing, and a row of four smaller eyespots around the lower edge of each hindwing.

The underside of each forewing is a paler version of the upperside, but that of the hindwing is very different . It is pearl grey with brown zigzag lines across it, and a row of six eyespots towards the outer edge, each composed of a white-pupilled black spot surrounded by rings of yellow and brown. The bottom spot often has a double pupil. With its wings closed, the Wall Brown blends beautifully with the patches of bare ground on which it usually sits. In flight, its wings are so golden as to be confused with a Comma, or even a Fritillary, but at rest the eyespots and pattern are unmistakable.

Adult wingspan: 45-53mm.

Range & Habitat:

The Wall is a common butterfly of open grassland habitats, in particular downland. It is present throughout England and Wales.

The butterfly is common on the Park, seemingly preferring sparsely vegetated sites. The species has shown large peaks in some years, namely 1989 and 1999.

Dingy Skipper - Erynnis tages

Dingy SkipperFlight times: March to July


Both sexes of this moth-like Skipper look much the same. The upperwings are mainly grey-brown, with a blurred pattern on the forewings of darker patches and shiny areas, and an oily looking sheen in sunlight. Tiny white dots embellish the outerwing edges of all wings and the fringes are pale grey. There is some variation in the strength of this pattern, and old adults look truly dingy and very pale. The underwings are light grey-brown, unmarked except for small white dots.

Although it is easy to identify in Britain, beginners sometimes confuse Dingy and Grizzled Skippers: the latter has a much more contrasting pattern, especially on the underwings, and distinctly chequered black and white fringes.

Adult wingspan: 27-34mm.

Range & Habitat:

This skipper is found through out much of the British Isles but is rather restricted in Scotland and Ireland. It prefers chalk and limestone downland and coastal landslips but is generally localised to areas of sparse vegetation.

The butterfly is generally distributed on the Park on areas of short turf and other sparsely vegetated sites.

Essex Skipper - Thymelicus lineola

Essex SkipperFlight times: Late June to early August


The wing markings in both sexes are almost identical, with the male scent mark no more than a fine black line across his upper forewing. The ground colour is bright orange-brown on the upperwings, with faint black veins and black wing margins. The underwings are dull orange-brown tinged with grey-green, and are plain.

Essex and Small Skippers are indistinguishable in flight and very similar at rest.

Adult wingspan: 26-30mm.

Range & Habitat:

This skipper is restricted to the south-eastern part of England but numbers are increasing and its range expanding.

Grizzled Skipper - Pyrgus malvae

Grizzled SkipperFlight times: Late April to June


Both sexes look much the same and are best distinguished by the shorter, stumpier body of the female. On the uppersides, the wings are a chequerboard of black and white markings and the fringes have conspicuous black and white bars. The undersides are similar, but duller, and the hindwing has large white marks on a greenish background.

It is unlikely that any other British butterfly could be confused with this species except, possibly, the Dingy Skipper.

Adult wingspan: 23-29mm.

Range & Habitat:

The species population has declined and is currently restricted to parts of Wales and the southern half of England. Woodland clearings, chalk and limestone downland and other similar habitats are the main haunt of this skipper.

As with Dingy Skipper, it is often encountered on areas of short turf and bare ground. It is fairly common throughout much of the Park.

Large Skipper - Ochlodes venata

Large SkipperFlight times: June to July


A robust Skipper with long antennae, distinctly clubbed at the tips. The upperwings are brown around the edges with large bright orange patches towards the body, divided by black veins. This pattern is clearer in the female, whilst the male has a large black scent line across the middle of each upper forewing. The underwings are duller in both sexes, with a faint pattern of orange patches against the greenish-brown background.

This is the only common Skipper with orange and brown patterned wings. The female Lulworth Skipper, though much smaller, is superficially similar.

Adult wingspan: 29-36mm.

Range & Habitat:

This is a common skipper of unimproved grasslands, hedgerows, woodland clearings, and frequently overgrown gardens.

It is widely distributed on the Park with most found in sheltered areas of scrub and meadow.

Lulworth Skipper - Thymelicus acteon

Lulworth SkipperFlight times: June to early September


The smallest and darkest of the 'golden' Skippers, the upperwings are dun or olive-brown, dusted with gold, with black margins. The female is lighter and has a distinct circle of gold rays on the upperside of each forewing, faintly visible on some males which also have a black scent bar across each forewing. The underwings of both male and female are uniformly straw coloured.

The female Lulworth Skipper is distinguished from Large Skippers by the 'peacock's feather' of gold marks, its much smaller size, and plain underwings. The male is smaller and darker than the Small Skipper and the underside of each antenna is cream coloured.

Adult wingspan: 24-28mm.

Range & Habitat:

The range of this skipper is restricted to the coastal grassland and downland of Dorset.

The species is restricted to grasslands along the coastal fringe of the Park and is common along the stretch of Round Down to the Gully and east to Durlston Head. It is not found inland beyond the area of maritime slopes and the Gully. Occasional stragglers are seen along the back fields and hedgerows, but their occurrence usually coincides with strong onshore winds.

Small Skipper - Thymelicus sylvestris

Small SkipperFlight times: June to August


The sexes are similar in size and appearance, apart from a black scent line across each upper forewing on the males. The upperwings are bright orange-brown, with faint black veins and black margins. The underwings are a dull orange-brown, tinged with grey-green, and are not patterned.

It can be distinguished from the Lulworth Skipper which is smaller and less golden.

Adult wingspan: 27-34mm.

Range & Habitat:

This is a widespread and common species throughout England.

This butterfly is common throughout the country Park in areas of open grassland and scrub.

Brimstone - Gonepteryx rhamni

BrimstoneFlight times: April, June and early August


The Brimstone is a fairly large butterfly and one of the easiest to identify. The male has clear yellow wings which, in flight, can be mistaken only for the Clouded Yellow. The latter is smaller, darker, and a deeper orange-yellow. The female Brimstone has much paler upper wings compared to the male, with a green tint that, at a distance can easily be misidentified for a Large White. Both sexes are unmistakable at rest. They always sit with their wings closed, so only the undersides are seen. These look extraordinarily like a pale yellow leaf, with pointed corners, prominent veins, and even a spot of 'mould' in the centre. The body and legs are the same pale yellow, but the eyes are large, black and shiny. Note, too, the beautiful clubbed antennae which sprout from between the eyes like a pair of pink stalks.

Adult wingspan: 60-74mm.

Range & Habitat:

This is a relatively common butterfly found in England and Wales although population densities are usually low. It occurs in woodland, hedgerow and scrub wherever its foodplant Buckthorn Rhamnus cathartica and Alder Buckthorn Frangula alnus occur.

At Durlston it is regularly recorded along both butterfly transects. Numbers early in the year tend to be less than those recorded later but this may be due to the fact that the survey does not start until mid April, long after many overwintering adults have emerged from hibernation.

Clouded Yellow - Colias croceus

Clouded YellowFlight times: June to October


When settled, the Clouded Yellow hardly ever opens its wings so normally only the underwings are seen. These are deep yellow, with a black spot halfway across the forewing. In the centre of each hindwing is a pair of silver spots surrounded by reddish brown forming a conspicuous figure-of-eight. Yellow-green eyes peer out from a yellow head and body. The butterfly is usually seen in rapid flight, thus revealing rich orange upperwings with broad black borders that cannot be confused with any other species. There is, however, a pale form of the female, called helice, in which the orange ground colour is replaced by grey. It is quite common in some years.

Adult wingspan: 25-62mm.

Range & Habitat:

This regular migrant from the continent has been recorded throughout much of the British Isles with records predominant in the southern part of the country. The numbers recorded in the country are dependant on conditions that lead to immigration. The foodplant is varied but restricted to the Pea family, invariably clovers including introduced species.

At Durlston, the species has been recorded as common in some years and has become more regular in recent years. Most records are of immigrants occurring from mid summer to early autumn. There has been no proof of breeding.

Green-veined White - Pieris napi

 Green-veined WhiteFlight times: March to early August


This common, medium-sized White butterfly looks very like a Small White when flying, but at rest broad grey-green stripes along the veins of the underwings distinguish it from all other butterflies. This veining, which gives the butterfly its name, is highly conspicuous on all adults except for second (summer) brood females, when it is rather faint.

When the wings are open, note that the tips of the upper forewings have dark marks extending further down the outer edge than on the Small White, and that the veins are picked out as fine grey lines on all adults except first (spring) brood males. Upperwing markings are always heavier on second brood adults - the males then have a spot in the middle of each forewing whilst the females have two large spots, the lower of which merges with a black streak along the forewing's lower edge, rather like a miniature female Large White.

Adult wingspan: 40-52mm.

Range & Habitat:

It is a widespread and common species throughout the British Isles.

It is a not uncommon butterfly on the Park but nowhere as numerous as other members of the genus. Peaks have occurred in some years but there seems to be no regular temporal pattern.

Large White - Pieris brassicae

Large WhiteFlight times: May to September


The upperwings of this large butterfly are gleaming white, with conspicuous black tips to the forewings. The female also has a pair of black spots in the middle of each forewing and a black smear along the lower edge. These marks are slightly greyer in the spring brood. The underwings are pale yellow dusted with grey, and have no pattern.

Size alone distinguishes the Large White from our other white butterflies, but note that the female Brimstone looks similar in flight. The occasional small individual may be distinguised from the Green-veined White and female Orange Tip by its unpatterned underwings, whilst the dark tip on the upper forewing of the Small White is confined to the extreme tip, and does not extend down the outer edge. In addition, the male Small White has a black spot in the centre of the forewing.

Adult wingspan: 58-63mm.

Range & Habitat:

This is a rather common butterfly found throughout much of the British Isles. It is found on grasslands, along hedgerows, in areas of scrub as well as woodland clearings and gardens.

It is a common butterfly at Durlston and found throughout the country Park. Numbers are frequently inflated by immigrants as in 1986, 1992, and 1998.

Orange Tip - Anthocharis cardamines

Orange TipFlight times: May to early June


The male Orange Tip is unmistakable - a medium sized White butterfly with bright orange wingtips. The female is less conspicuous, with grey-black tipped wings instead of orange, and a large black spot in the centre of each upper forewing. On the undersides, the hindwing is similar in both sexes, with a mottled, moss green pattern, looking like lichen against a white background.

In flight, the female looks very like a Small or Green-veined White but is slightly greener. At rest, her underwings are unmistakable, and neither of these other Whites has her black central spot on each upper forewing.

Adult wingspan: 40-52mm.

Range & Habitat:

The butterfly is found throughout much of the British Isles but is scarce in northern Scotland. It inhabits areas of damp grass in woodland, meadow, and hedgerows where its main foodplants, Garlic Mustard Alliaria petiolata and Cuckooflower Cardamine pratensis can be found.

It is generally a scarce butterfly within the Park but it is unlikely to be found in great numbers anyway. Identification of its foodplant and a search for the distinctive eggs may provide a truer picture of its distribution on the Park.

Small White - Pieris rapae

Small WhiteFlight times: May to September


This is the smaller of the two 'Cabbage' Whites that are common garden pests. The underwings of both sexes are dull pale yellow, dusted with grey, and differ greatly from the patterned underwings of our two other medium-sized White butterflies - the Green-veined White and female Orange Tip. The upperwings of the Small White are clear white with black markings that differ slightly between the sexes and in the two generations. The first brood, in spring, is much more faintly marked. The males, in fact, may be pure white, but usually the summer markings of dark wingtips, dark scales near the body, and a black spot in the middle of the forewing can be seen as faint grey marks. The female has all these marks plus an extra spot on the upper forewing and a faint grey streak along the lower edge.

Compared with the Large White the dark tip on the upper forewing of the Small White is confined to the exteme tip, and does not extend down the outer edge. In addition the Small White has a black spot in the centre of the forewing.

Adult wingspan: 38-57mm.

Range & Habitat:

This is a common species throughout the British Isles. It is found in a wide variety of habitats such as downland, meadows, woodland edge and ride, and gardens. Its foodplants belong to the Cabbage family.

The species is common and widespread within the Park. Numbers are augmented by migrants.

Comma - Polygonia c-album

CommaFlight times: Late March to early May, July to October


This is our only butterfly with really jagged edges to its wings. When they are closed, the Comma looks like a dead leaf with a distinctive white comma mark on the hindwing, which gives this butterfly its name.

The upperwings are orange with brown and black blotches and a dark edge to the ragged outline. In the midsummer emergence, up to one-third of the adults are of a form called hutchinsoni which has faint markings and is brighter and more golden, with less ragged wing edges.

No other British butterfly is remotely similar when seen closeup, although flying adults, and hutchinsoni in particular, may be mistaken for Fritillaries.

Adult wingspan: 50-64mm.

Range & Habitat:

This butterfly is restricted to England and Wales and can be locally common. It is found principally in open woodland and hedgerows where Common Nettle, its main foodplant, is found.

It has been a rare butterfly on the Park, but since 1990 records have increased and can now be regarded as an uncommon but regular butterfly. However, although annual totals are highly variable this may be more to do with observer coverage than anything else. It is presumed to breed on the Park but confirmation has not been made.

Dark Green Fritillary - Argynnis aglaja

Dark Green FritillaryFlight times: July to August


The Dark Green Fritillary has black spots on large golden upperwings and greenish-orange underwings.

Adult wingspan: 58-68mm.

Range & Habitat:

This is a widespread species within the British Isles but it can be local. However, individuals can be free-ranging. Its main habitat is downland as well as other grassy places.

The species is regularly but rarely seen on the Park. However, its rapid flight and ability to disappear upon landing make this butterfly difficult to detect. There is no pattern to the recent increase in records since 1997. It presumably breeds on the Park but no colonies have been located.

Painted Lady - Vanessa cardui

Painted LadyFlight times: June to early November


The Painted Lady usually settles with its wings wide open, displaying a chequered pattern of black veins, spots and patches against a background that varies from pale salmon-pink to dull orange. As in the Red Admiral there is a small patch of blue on the bottom corner of each hindwing, and the apex of the forewing is black with shining white markings.

The underside of the forewing is a very pale version of its upperside, but the under hindwing is quite different. It has a mottled and intricate pattern of brown, grey, white and blue, with small and slightly fuzzy blue, black and yellow eyespots.

No other European butterfly is similar to the Painted Lady. It is the palest and pinkest of all the Nymphalids, and appears especially so when flying.

Adult wingspan: 58-74mm.

Range & Habitat:

The butterfly is predominantly a Continental migrant to much of the British Isles. Numbers vary each year but it can be quite common.

This is a regular migrant to the Park with between 10 and 25 records and can appear anywhere within its boundaries. However, a nationwide influx in 1996, along with Red Admirals, resulted in nearly 2,500 being recorded in an eight week period on the Park. A smaller but significant influx also occurred in 2003 when nearly 250 were recorded. While it is likely to have bred on the Park there has been no confirmation.

Peacock - Inachis io

PeacockFlight times: April to early May, Late July to September


This spectacular large butterfly is one of the easiest to identify. The wings have scalloped edges and are often opened, revealing a ground colour of deep chestnut with broad smoky-grey borders. Dominating each hindwing is the unmistakable 'peacock eye' - glossy blue and black within a fuzzy halo of white. There is also an 'eye' on each forewing, but this is blurred and of mixed colours, as if painted in abstract.

The underwings make a stark contrast, for they are beautifully camouflaged to resemble tree bark. Grey-black, with a steely blue sheen, black wavy lines and prominent black veins, they are darker and less patterned than the underwings of any related species. An old Peacock seen flying in spring may sometimes be mistaken for the Small Tortoiseshsell - note the latter has a weaker, more whirring wingbeat.

Adult wingspan: 63-75mm.

Range & Habitat:

The Peacock can be found in most habitats throughout the British Isles although it is scarce in much of Scotland.

This is a relatively common butterfly on the Park and noted in nearly all habitats. Peaks in annual numbers seem to follow a succession of good breeding season such as in 1992. However, numbers often peak as a result of migration from the Continent. 1996 saw a large influx and this occurred along with Red Admiral and Painted Lady. Numbers were also relatively high in 2002 and in subsequent years but this was not reflected by the other two species and suggests a run of good breeding seasons as in 1992.

Red Admiral - Vanessa atalanta

Red AdmiralFlight times: March to November


The Red Admiral is one of Britain's largest and most vividly marked butterflies, and is unmistakable whether settled or in flight. The males are slightly smaller but otherwise the sexes look similar. When not flying, it usually basks with its wings wide open, exposing soft velvet black upperwings with a brilliant band of scarlet diagonally across each forewing and round the bottom edge of each hindwing. The top corner of the forewing contains striking white patches, and there is a series of black spots in the lower band of scarlet, with a blue patch at the bottom.

The underside of the forewing is a duller version of the uppersides, and is generally less conspicuous. However, when roosting, it is pulled down between the underwings so that only its dark tip is visible. The underwings are then camouflaged to resemble dark bark in shades of mottled brown, grey and black.

Adult wingspan: 64-78mm.

Range & Habitat:

This is a widespread butterfly throughout much of the British Isles and can be found in a wide range of habitats such as downland, scrub, woodland glades, and gardens. The native population is continually boosted throughout the long season by immigrants from the Continent.

It is relatively common within the Country Park. Their foodplant is reasonably common throughout much of the Park. Large influxes occasionally occur, the largest in 1996, which occurred over a period of four to five weeks.

Small Tortoiseshell - Aglais urticae

Small TortoiseshellFlight times: Late March to early November


Both sexes of this familiar butterfly look similar. It basks with the wings wide open, displaying bright reddish-orange uppersides with a dark border containing blue crescents around all outer edges. Six black patches break up the orange of each forewing, and there is a white spot near the outer tip. On the upper hindwing, a large area near the body is black, although obscured by orange hairs.

Adult wingspan: 45-62mm.

Range & Habitat:

It is a common butterfly throughout much of the British Isles being recorded on the wing from March to October. It is found in a number of habitats, principally areas of scrub, woodland clearing, hedgerow, and garden where its only foodplants, the Common Nettle and Small Nettle, grow.

It is a relatively common butterfly on the Park. Counts in 1997 are inflated due to large numbers recorded on the 30th Aug. (116 along the west transect) and on the 26th Aug. (111 along the east transect). No other counts during the year were abnormal suggesting a very brief influx. Similar counts were also noted and again are indicative of short-lived influxes. Other influxes are usually smaller and apparently protracted.

Sources: Butterflies of the British Isles, Jeremy Thomas; Durlston 'Black Book' of Park Species; Durlston Butterfly Survey data.