Welcome to the Yorkshire Branch of Butterfly Conservation

Butterflies are not only beautiful and fascinating creatures but are also highly responsive to the environment. David Attenborough described them as 'A thermometer of the health of our natural world' Almost every species of butterfly is in decline and a quarter are facing extinction. We have lost more than 97% of our traditional meadows and woodland in recent times so it is crucial we raise awareness about the threats facing our butterflies, moths, their habitats and our natural environment. Yorkshire Branch work in partnership with land owners, local authorities, conservation bodies, businesses and the local community to achieve this.

Here in Yorkshire the Duke of Burgundy and Pearl Bordered Fritillary are particularly vulnerable due to habitat loss and increasingly susceptible to extinction. Yorkshire also has the only remaining colony of the Dark Bordered Beauty Moth in England, on Strensall Common and is on the brink of extinction.

Become a member today and help us save butterflies, moths and their habitats. There are many rewarding roles volunteering in recording and conservation; you will be surprised to find out what is on your doorstep! We have a real challenge when 60% of children in the UK have never seen a Peacock butterfly according to a YouGov Survey and 78% of parents are concerned that children don’t spend enough time interacting with nature. Founded in 1981 Yorkshire branch wil be 40 years old next year and has more than 1800 members.

This month best picture goes to Jessica Bone, taken in York on 25th April

April Highlights

Old Man Winter delivered icy kisses throughout the month which was dominated by northerly air streams and high pressure anchored over Greenland. Mereologically a weak polar vortex has lead to our jet stream being not only weak but undulating resulting in cold air being sucked out of the Arctic on all three northern hemisphere continents. Greece and Spain have suffered the largest snowfall for many years and the situation is mirrored in North America and Asia with crops ruined. Here our tender plants and blossom and even stinging nettles have been burnt. There was frost somewhere in the UK everyday of the month and Yorkshire had snow flurries for 10 days in a row over the Easter holiday. April was the driest, coldest, and sunniest almost ever recorded. Butterfly sighting however were good even with the cold and 300 sightings came into the website. Species continued to emerge illustrating its not just air temperature but the ground level microclimate warmed by the very sunny conditions led to Dingy Skipper being a day earlier than last year. Duke of Burgundy have appeared on time on the 26th. Orange Tip numbers have built up as have the Whites However the weather has seriously disrupted transect walking with some only achieving 1 walk so far this season. Thank you all those trying.

NB To have a chance of winning Picture of the month please do make entries in our sighting system of your latest pics.

Join us for an evening exploring one of the most delightful areas of Yorkshire where life runs at a different pace and nature steps back in time. From the craggy heights of Whitcliffe above Swaledale to the near wild moorland; Catherine Jones has a unique perspective on this wonderful mixed landscape. Catherine, who was previously a botanist and has always been passionate about butterflies and moths, is fascinated by the unique, often hidden, flora and fauna of this ancient valley. Book HERE

Limestone Lepidoptera Project

Call for Volunteers

We need volunteers to help monitor Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Northern Brown Argus butterflies across the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The surveys involve independent visits to sites across the National Park to carry out timed counts and/or habitat assessments for these species. Training will be given.

Have an eye for moths or regularly carry out moth trapping? We also need help to search for several high priority species. We want to learn more about the distribution of Barred Tooth-striped, Chestnut-coloured Carpet, Forester, Heath Rivulet, Least Minor and Yellow-ringed Carpet across the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Some of these species may be found flying during the day, some can be monitored by searching for their larvae and others through light trapping. Training will be given.

Please contact Limestone Lepidoptera Project Officer Kay at: kandrews@butterfly-conservation.org.uk for more information

Your Guide to the Website

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Save Brockadale from Quarrying: Sign the Petition

For more information how you can help and lobby the correct person HERE


5th May The first Wall Brown was recorded on the Kiplingcotes transect today.

3rd May Frustration grows amongst our transect walkers who have hardly ventured out due to minimum walking conditions not being met through most of April's weather. The first week of May also looks a right off!

Photos by Dave O'Brien

2nd May Pearl Bordered Fritillary has begun to emerge at one of its Kirkbymoorside sites but concerns grow as a rally bike track has been created directly through the centre of this tiny, but important private site.

2nd May The first Brown Argus seen today at Fordon Chalk banks. It should only be a day or so before the first Wall and Small Heath

Being out in nature is important for our physical and mental well-being and that’s why we're encouraging more people to enjoy the outdoors as part of our #NurtureForNature campaign with Dr Amir Khan and Dobbies Garden Centres. Download your free gardening and wellness guide below and discover how you can help both your health, and the health of butterflies and moths this Spring. Boost your health and the health of butterflies and moths with loads of great ideas DOWNLOAD HERE

Science Spotlight: Identifying fine‐scale habitat preferences of threatened butterflies using airborne laser scanning

Jan Peter Reinier de Vries Zsófia Koma Michiel F. WallisDeVries W. Daniel Kissling First published: 03 April 2021 https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.13272

Associations of two grassland butterflies with LiDAR metrics. (a) Typical habitats of the Small pearl‐bordered fritillary (Boloria selene; a wet grassland species, left) and the Grayling (Hipparchia semele; a dry grassland species, right). (b) Relative variable importance, showing the contribution of each LiDAR metric to explain butterfly distributions by the mean and standard deviation of 100 model runs (empty rows are metrics discarded from the model). (c) Response curves of included LiDAR metrics, showing how they are associated with the species’ probability of occurrence by the mean and confidence interval of 100 model runs. In (b) and (c), colours indicate LiDAR metrics related to low vegetation (green), medium‐to‐high vegetation (orange) and landscape‐scale habitat structure (purple).

Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) is a promising remote sensing technique for ecological applications because it can quantify vegetation structure at high resolution overlareg areas like a country Using country‐wide airborne laser scanning (ALS) data, we test to what extent fine‐scale LiDAR metrics capturing low vegetation, medium‐to‐high vegetation and landscape‐scale habitat structures can explain the habitat preferences of threatened butterflies at a national extent.

All Species distribution models showed a good to excellent fit, with woodland butterflies performing slightly better than those of grassland butterflies. Grassland butterfly occurrences were best explained by landscape‐scale habitat structures (e.g., open patches, microtopography) and vegetation height. Woodland butterfly occurrences were mainly determined by vegetation density of medium‐to‐high vegetation, open patches and woodland edge extent. The importance of metrics generally differed between wet and dry habitats for both grassland and woodland species.

Vertical variability and horizontal heterogeneity of vegetation structure are key determinants of butterfly species distributions, even in low‐stature habitats such as grasslands, dunes and heathlands. LiDAR thus offers great potential for predictive habitat distribution modelling and other studies on ecological niches and invertebrate–habitat relationships particularly important for difficult to reach, and where habitat assessment like phase 1 are incomplete.


March Highlights

Picture of the Month

This months best photo goes to Chris Cox taken on the Rail Trail at Keyingham VC61

The 2020 UKBMs results were published this month with Small Tortoiseshell being the stand out winner with some sites showing 300% increase in numbers. large and Small Whites, Brimstone, Holly Blue, Marbled White and Meadow Brown did well but even with this third good butterfly year in a row more species did badly than well. More on Yorkshire results HERE

It's been a long wait for the butterfly season to really start in Yorkshire taking till mid March for some sunny weather. This was followed by a 'Spanish plume' of warm air on 20-21st and then Saharan winds from North Africa on the 29th brought us our best spell with temperatures in the 20's and nearly 70 sighting records coming in during the last 3 days of the month. Its great to have 135 records in March into the new sightings system and over 200 so far this year from 33 recorders; see HERE. Thank you. The picture of the month goes to Chris Cox; see opposite. There have been very good numbers of our hibernators and some fantastic Brimstone counts from Bishop Wood and Brockadale plus a battered Painted Lady in Scarborough and a Hummingbird Hawk moth also seen. The first Holy Blue and Orange Tip have been seen and we can expect Speckled Woods, Wall, Small Heath and Green Hairstreaks any day. Nationally 2021 sees both the Large Tortoiseshell and the Clouded Yellow successfully overwinter on the Dorset coast, yet again indicating that they really want to become UK residents.

March saw the launch of our interactive Butterfly Atlas for Yorkshire which has won some international admiration as a first of its kind. Its a great tool to explore our countryside. It would be great if we can add our moth records as the next big challenge. Watch the demo video HERE and explore HERE

We also launched our online events and You tube channel to mark our progression to a new medium HERE. It has already allowed so much more interaction with our membership and brought people together throughout the county which was never practical before. We have used the opportunity to reinvigorate our formal recording which lags well behind our tremendous casual recording effort with training on UKBMS and species identification. There will be a number of transect restarting and some new ones this year including two of our best sites at Brockadale and Fordon Banks but we still need more interested volunteers with lots of spare time to repair the damage of the pandemic and staff losses from our charities.