Glasgow & SW Scotland Butterflies

Glasgow & SW Scotland Branch Website

April 27, 2009

Butterfly Walk, Little Drum Wood

Filed under: Events — Tags: , , — Heather Young @ 4:24 pm

Sunday May 24th. 2pm., Little Drum Wood, Brig o’ Turk.  


Meet in the Car Park at NN548063, on the south side of the A821 opposite Lendrick Lodge, just east of Brig o’ Turk. For a map of the location click here 

Little Drum Wood is part of the Woodland Trust’s Glen Finglas Estate, and borders the north shore of Loch Venacher. There are several waymarked routes throughout Glen Finglas ranging from ½ an hour to 7 hours duration, but we will be exploring suitable butterfly habitat within, and around the periphery, of the wood itself, at a leisurely pace, so the walk will be suitable for anyone used to a little bit of physical exercise. The event is being organised as part of Scottish Biodiversity Week, and amongst other things there is a photographic competition with the theme ‘Colours of Nature’, so don’t forget your camera (for more information click here).

Butterflies are obviously the primary targets, but if the weather refuses to co-operate, there will be lots of other interesting things to look for instead. Little Drum Wood is ancient woodland, well known for its carpets of bluebells and rich birdlife (including both pied and spotted flycatchers).

Bluebells © Ramsay Young

The butterflies we are particularly hoping to see are Green Hairstreak; tiny, feisty little creatures that glitter like jewels as they tilt their wings to catch the sunlight, as they (the males) hold territories amongst the bilberry and heather at the edge of the wood.

Green hairstreak © Maurice Young

Green hairstreak © Maurice Young

On the wing from the end of April and continuing well into June, we should be sure to find them if the sun is shining! See the ‘species’ pages for further information on their ecology. We will also be searching suitable habitat for the Pearl-bordered Fritillary, the subject of a co-ordinated survey effort in 2009 – if you would like to get involved please see our ‘surveys’ page for details. On the wing from the beginning of May, if they are present in the woodland clearings we should be able to find them, but need to be careful about identification, as they are easily confused with the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, which emerges a little later, but could well be around by the 24th. May.



Small pearl-bordered fritillary © Ramsay Young

Small pearl-bordered fritillary © Ramsay Young

We will look for this BAP priority species as well anyway, probably more likely to be found in the damper areas nearer the loch shore, and although a little early in the season, may well be present if the weather is warm between now and then (fingers crossed).


Brig o’ Turk village has a small café, with another restaurant a little bit further along the road towards Aberfoyle, and of course Callander and Aberfoyle both have plenty of  places to eat and drink either before or after the walk – you could even bring a picnic as we’re almost certain to have gloriously sunny weather on the 24th! See you then.


Heather Young.






April 24, 2009

Pick of the Week 2

Filed under: Moths — Tags: , , , — Heather Young @ 10:49 am

The weather has not been terribly conducive to bumper hauls in the trap over the last couple of weeks, with several quite sharp frosts (compensated for by some stunningly nice sunny days), but there have still been a few Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi), and Hebrew Character (O. gothica), accompanied by a couple of Brindled Pugs (Eupithecia abbreviata), an Early Tooth-striped (Trichopteryx carpinata) and an Engrailed (Ectropis bistortata).

For this ‘Pick of the Week’ however, I am going to encourage you to venture out into the countryside in search of one of our most spectacular moths, the Emperor (Saturnia pavonia). You may not have to go too far; many towns have a local ‘moss’ retaining some good quality habitat, although much of it has disappeared in recent years under housing developments in our branch area.

On the wing during April and May (although I have seen one at the end of June in Lochaber), the males fly during the day, and restlessly patrol the area searching for females. They fly very rapidly, and are often mistaken for butterflies, but don’t seem to settle and bask in the sunshine like peacocks and small tortoiseshells, making them extremely difficult to admire at close quarters! One sunny afternoon at the weekend on my local heath, after half an hour of what must have been, to the casual onlooker, highly amusing antics with a net, I eventually succeeded in capturing one to confirm identification. Unfortunately, he just would not sit still and pose for a photograph like the far more co-operative individuals that populate the egg trays in my trap at the moment, so I set him free to resume his quest, and borrowed some pictures of a newly-emerged male (with the orange hindwings) and female which had been bred from larvae: 

© John Bebbington, FRPS (Secretary, Somerset Moth group)

© John Bebbington, FRPS (Secretary, Somerset Moth group)

© John Bebbington, FRPS (Secretary, Somerset Moth group)

The female is a much better bet for observing in the wild, as she flies at dusk, and can sometimes be found at rest on vegetation before the light fades. She will also come to light, so why not try taking a portable trap if you have one, or a torch and sheet if you don’t, and see if you can tempt one to come to you. Females will lay eggs on just about anything if they do end up in the trap, and larvae can be raised on bramble, heathers or sallows if you fancy giving it a go. If you do, please remember to release the adults back where you found them the next year (unless a new housing estate has sprung up in the meantime, in which case the nearest suitable habitat).


Later in the spring and summer, have a look for the caterpillars – these ones were photographed near Fort William in late June, feeding on the shoot tips of heathers in the perpetual drizzle of a Scottish summer. Each instar, or stadium, of the larva is a little different (these are quite well developed), culminating in a large, fat, green caterpillar with black hoops and yellow or pink warts with little tufts of hair sprouting from them.







Emperor moths are not rare, and are widely distributed across the country in suitable habitat, but for such a spectacular creature, are surprisingly often overlooked: let us know using the comments facility if you manage to find any near you.


My thanks to John Bebbington for allowing me to use his excellent photographs.


Heather Young

April 23, 2009

Recording and Monitoring Butterflies and Moths in South West Scotland

One of the most important aspects of conservation is the recording and monitoring of our native species. Monitoring a species over time allows us to determine whether the population is declining or increasing, and also provides data on the distribution of a particular species and whether they are increasing their range or becoming extinct at previous strongholds.

Small Tortoiseshell Survey

Small Tortoiseshell Survey


There are a range of ways in which you can get involved and I’ve listed a few below.

1. Monitoring specific species of Butterfly
The branch is looking for volunteers to help with species-specific surveys targeted to some of the most threatened butterfly species in Scotland. Participating in butterfly surveys is fun, informative and very rewarding. Plus it’s a great way to see some of the
UK’s rarest species. It involves a wee bit more than just counting butterflies as we also need to know a bit about the plants which comprise the habitat and the overall condition of the site.  To help conserve the UK BAP species in Scotland which are currently under threat, we need to revisit historical sites to see if the butterfly is still there and also to identify sites where the habitat has deteriorated and is a threat to the survival of the butterfly colony. These sites can then be flagged up with Butterfly Conservation, Scottish National Heritage and LBAP partners with the aim of getting appropriate management work done to improve the condition of the sites. This survey potentially requires only a single visit to a site (although return visits can help gain more data), and therefore you can choose to visit as few or as many sites as you wish. Every piece of information you collect could be immensely useful.
Surveys for the Chequered Skipper, Dingy Skipper, Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Mountain Ringlet, and Northern Brown Argus are detailed on the branch website:
2. Monitoring specific sites looking for butterflies
There are two ways that volunteers can help monitor butterflies and moths at particular sites.
2a. The first is the Butterflies of the Wider Countryside Survey.
This is a research project collecting data that can be used to monitor the abundance of butterfly species across the countryside. It involves only 2 visits to a particular site, once in July and once in August, but further optional visits in May and June would provide more data. The sites are all 1 km map squares that have been chosen randomly to provide an unbiased assessment of butterfly abundance in the countryside. The methodology involves walking across your
1km square twice in as straight a line as possible counting all of the butterflies that pass near to you. You can record others that are further off your route separately, but for the study you need to only record those that come within 5m of your position as you move along the route. This survey is being tried in our branch area for the first time during 2009 after trails in England and up in the Highland branch area of Scotland.
For more information on sites to be surveyed in the branch area and more on the methodology see
2b. The second type of site-specific survey is a Butterfly Transect.
This survey monitors butterflies on a set route through a particular site over the course of the Summer. The methodology requires one visit each week between April and September. The recorder takes a note of all butterflies that pass within a
5m by 5m ‘imaginary box’ in front of them as they walk along the route. It provides a wealth or information about the butterfly population on that site and can give an early warning of population declines, as well as providing data on when species are on the wing each year. There is a network of monitored transects (normally in nature reserves or on sites where threatened species are found) that are co-ordinated by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, but anyone can set up their own independent transect in their local park or along a canal footpath where they regularly walk with support from Butterfly conservation. A group can share a transect, which helps cover holiday weeks etc. For more information see.
3. One of the easiest ways to record butterflies is to send in casual records of butterflies you see when out for a walk, or in the garden. Every sighting is useful to build a picture of the distribution and abundance of all the species throughout the country. Each record requires a few details for it to be useful: The recorders name and address, the date, the species of butterfly seen, the number seen, and the location with a grid reference. A recording form is available here at All records are passed onto the national Butterflies for the New Millennium scheme organised by Butterfly Conservation and will be used to create distribution maps that can track changes in butterfly distribution throughout the country. Every county in the UK is covered by the recording scheme, so please keep a note of any butterflies that you see when on holiday too.
A good description of how to work out a grid reference can be found here:
4. South West Scotland is home to a large number of Moth species. Moth recording is an important part of Butterfly Conservation’s work. There are many varied species of moths throughout SW Scotland and it is well worth spending the time to study them. The National Moth Recording Scheme was set up in 2007 to provide a national database for macro-moths in the UK. This is a major step forward for moth recording in the UK. The branch area contains a number of moth species that are declining, rare or extinct in other parts of the UK, with over 854 species of macro-moths recorded in the branch area so far.

Conservation work is currently underway in the branch area to preserve the habitat of endangered burnet moths on the West Coast of Scotland. However you don’t need to travel to remote areas to record moths and provide useful data. You can record moths found in your garden using a light trap or a technique called wine/sugar roping to attract passing individuals, but even records of moths that come to your kitchen window could be very useful!

The branch has a number of moth traps available for members to borrow so they can have a go at light trapping, and a number of moth trapping events are run each year where you can come along and get an idea of what it’s all about (see events page on the branch website). There is also a network of vice county moth recorders throughout the UK, who collate all of the moth records in a particular county and who would be more than willing to help you with identifications and offer advice on how to get started. There is also a Yahoo group for Scottish moth recorders where members can post details of what they’ve caught recently or ask for Id help. We are luck enough to have some fantastically knowledgeable and experienced moth recorders in Scotland willing to help beginners get started.

For more information on recording moths and details of free training courses see the Moths Count website at

Please get in touch if you’d like to take part in any of the surveys, try moth trapping or set up your own transect and the committee will be glad to help with any questions and advice. If you’d like specific training for any of the recording schemes or just want to discuss your ideas, please get in contact and we’ll do are best to help you.

Best wishes and happy recording in 2009!

Scott Shanks


April 16, 2009

Transect Volunteers - Kirkconnell Flow

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Neil Gregory @ 7:15 pm

Message received from Beth Wilson:

“I am the reserve officer for Kirkconnell Flow National Nature Reserve (a lowland raised bog with mixed woodland) located close to New Abbey in Dumfries. I have set up a transect at the reserve and would like to find a volunteer(s) to carry out a weekly survey from April-September.

If anyone is interested in helping out please contact Neil Gregory from the committee page:

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress