The varied habitats and relatively unpolluted environment make Woolston Eyes an excellent location for observing most of the more common species of butterfly to be found in the region. Whilst no rarities breed on the Reserve butterflies can be found in good numbers throughout the summer months. Permit holders are requested to record sightings in the logbook in the Sybil Hogg Hide (adjacent to the south screen platform on the approach to the footbridge on exiting) with details of numbers seen and locations.
A systematic list of the Butterflies recorded at Woolston Eyes can be seen by clicking on the link below;
The Butterfly species recorded at Woolston Eyes with Reserve photographs for ID and text from the penultimate published annual report follows. Click on an image to enlarge it
You can view previous Woolston Eyes Conservation Group Annual Butterfly Reports to compare and review historical records via the following links;
Found in small numbers in grassy areas in all parts of the reserve. Flight period from June to August with a peak in July. Males can be distinguished by the thin, much finer than the Large Skipper’s, dark bands (sex brands) on the forewing.
2015 Records - Numbers were down on the two previous years when there were counts of over a hundred but this season’s totals were still above average. The first sightings were on 1st July, when nine were found, and during the first week of the month a total of 15 was present. The highest counts of the year occurred at the middle of July and a maximum of 37 was well above average for a species that seems to have become more prevalent in recent years. No more than ten were reported during the remainder of July and the final record was on 16th August, which is the latest ever at Woolston.
Uncommon but annual and can be found in small numbers in June and July. Found in similar habitat to Small Skipper but tends to emerge a week or so earlier. Males are distinguished by the dark band (sex brand) on the forewing.
2015 Records - This proved to be a record year for a species that is never seen in large numbers at Woolston. The first appeared on 10th June, which is about average. What was not expected however was the exceptional numbers present at the end of June and beginning of July. No less than 34 were found across the Reserve and butterflies were present in all areas. Fourteen were on No.1 bed, five on No.2, ten on No.3, four on No.4 and one on Butchersfield Tip. The previous highest total in recent years was 16 in 2011. In contrast, this species had a poor year in the rest of the county and the reasons why this species fared so well at Woolston are unclear. Reasonable counts continued until mid-July when ten were found. The final reports were of three on 29th July and two on 8th August.
One of the earliest butterflies to emerge in the spring. Small numbers are present during April and May across the Reserve. The males are unmistakable with their orange wing tips but the females lack this splash of colour having dark grey-black wing tips and can be confused with other “whites”. The undersides of the wings which are mottled green are a good means of identification.
2015 Records - It was not until 11th April that the first was reported on No.4 bed. This was followed by three on No.3 bed on 14th and 16th April. The highest count of the year was on 22nd April when a total of 12 was present. This proved to be the only double-figure count and only small numbers were reported subsequently. Unusually, butterflies remained into June with a male and a female found on the 3rd and the latest ever for Woolston on the 5th. Although down on last year’s figures numbers were about average for this species.
Never plentiful but can be found anywhere on the Reserve during the summer months. Males are all white with dark grey-black wing tips whilst females are the same but additionally have two black spots and a black spot smudge on the forewings.
2015 Records - A fairly average year began with singles on 22nd April and 11th May. There were no further reports until 18th July. On 8th August five were counted on the northern half of No.1 bed and the maximum for the year was about seven around this time. This is similar to the previous year’s total. The only other sightings were of singles on the 1st, the 6th and 11th September.
Can be found across the Reserve in good numbers throughout the summer months. The male is distinguished by the grey wing tips and single small grey/black spot on the forewing whilst the female has similar grey wing tips but two larger black spots on the forewing.
2015 Records - The first of the year appeared on 7th April and by the 22nd ten were present. There were no further definite sightings until 27th June as all the “whites” in this period were thought to be Green-veined, although it is impossible to be certain of this. Odd ones were then reported in early July and a count of 22 on 18th July was thought to be almost entirely of this species. The highest count of what proved to be a disappointing year was on 8th August when about 30 were found, mostly on the northern half of No.1 bed. There were no further significant totals and the last sighting was on 19th September.
Pieris napi Family Pieridae
Present in good numbers during late spring and summer but often difficult to distinguish from Small White especially in flight. The veins on the underside of the wings are diagnostic.
2015 Records - This species, in common with the other “whites”, had a poor season. The first record was on 22nd April and very few were recorded until early June when a total of nine “whites” was thought to be exclusively of this species. July saw no counts into double-figures and the year maximum of about 30 was on 19th and 20th August. This is well below average and compares unfavourably with the 90 recorded in 2014. The final record was on 18th September, the latest ever seen at Woolston.
Status A rare migrant which is occasionally seen from mid-summer onwards in small numbers.
2015 Records - no records submitted for the last four years.
Photograph - no Woolston image available
Relatively uncommon but small numbers are seen annually mostly in April on emergence from hibernation. Also seen later in the summer when newly emerged butterflies are on the wing.
2015 Records - There were twelve records, which is above average for a species which is not common at Woolston. Eight of these were between 4th and 14th April and a maximum of two on three dates. From the distribution of the sightings it seems that four individuals were present at this time. There were further reports of singles on 4th and 23rd June. Other sightings were a female on Butchersfield Tip on 16th August and there were September records from Nos.3 and 4 beds on the 7th and 18th respectively.
Photograph No.3 Bed 2013
As this butterfly continues to expand its range northwards it is seen in increasing numbers at Woolston. Seen across the reserve it prefers areas of dappled shade. Present between April and September with peak numbers in late summer. It is difficult to sex individuals in the field but generally females are more brightly coloured than males.
2015 Records - Although numbers were much less than in the previous two years, they were about average for a species that is expanding its range northwards and is probably benefitting from the increase in mature woodland at Woolston. The first was seen on 7th April and then none were reported until 21st and 22nd April when seven were present. There was only one May record and only odd ones during June, with a maximum of five. Eleven on 11th July was the only double-figure count around this period and the next report of significance was of 14 on 13th August. Maximum numbers appeared in September as usual and the month opened with a count of 39, of which 34 were on Butchersfield Tip. Nos. 3 and 4 beds were not surveyed on this date so the overall total was certainly greater. A series of visits between 6th and 11th September resulted in a count of 73, the highest of the year. Fifty-eight were still present a week later but by the end of the month very few were reported and the last definite record was of four on 2nd October. A late sighting on 25th October was probably of this species but it was not possible to make a positive identification.
Despite the ‘heath’ name it is found in a wide variety of habitats but is best looked for in sunny grassy areas as its other cousins in the Brown family.
2015 Records - no reports this year. The last sightings were the single individuals located on No.1 Bed in consecutive years of 2002 and 2003.
Photograph - no image available.
This butterfly likes damp and partial shady habitats such as damp uncut grassland. In Northern areas it is found in more open and less shady environments than its more usual southern habitats. Bramble and Wild Privet flowers are favoured nectar sources for the butterfly. It was first recorded at Woolston when David Hackett found the species on the south bank of No.2 Bed on 1st July 2014.
2015 Records - Following the first ever sighting in 2014, there were a number of records this year as this species continues to expand northwards throughout Cheshire. The first of the year was found on the 1st July, not only on the same date as last year but in exactly the same area of No.2 bed, the south-east corner. This may well indicate that breeding took place in 2014, although only one butterfly was actually seen that year. There was a total of seven records this year with a maximum of three on 11th July. Of these, one was found on each of Nos.1, 2 and 3 beds. One was seen on a number of occasions in the centre of No.3 bed; other records were from the Copse on No.2 bed and the Viaduct path on No.1 bed. On 25th July one was on the Canal Track opposite the palisade gates at the entrance to No.2 bed and this was the last sighting of the year. Given the increase in records, it seems likely that this species will soon become established as a breeding species and better weather during its flight period would facilitate this.
Stitched photograph, under-wing 09/07/2016, upper-wing 13/07/2016, both from No.3 Bed
Plentiful from June to early September with maximum numbers in July and August. Found in grassy areas, rough ground and scrubland in all parts of the Reserve. The size and extent of the orange (fulvous) area of this species is variable between the sub-species but males have less extensive orange in the forewings surrounding the eye-spot than females. The underwing in both sexes are similar but with subtle differences.
2015 Records - A first sighting on 17th June was fairly typical and by the end of the month a total of 98 was recorded, of which no less than 84 were on the northern half of No.1 bed. By early July numbers had increased to around 225 and remained at this level for the rest of the month. The highest total was recorded on 18th July when 254 were counted. The vast majority of these (about 170) were on No.1 bed and Butchersfield Tip. This is a little above the previous year’s maximum of 231 but about average for this species. The usual decline then set in and during August the highest total was 112. There were no significant counts after 6th September when twelve were on No.1 bed and the final sighting of the year was on 19th September. This is one of the latest ever records of this species at Woolston but a week earlier than the record latest sighting in 2010.
As this species extends its range northwards it can be found in huge numbers during July and August. In good years more than a thousand can be present. Males can be identified by the dark bands on the forewing extending from the body towards the eye-spots.
2015 Records - The first emerged on 3rd July and three were seen the following day. Two visits on 15th and 18th July resulted in a Reserve-wide total of 492 and the maximum for the year occurred typically around 27th July. At this time a total of 640 was present, almost exactly the same as the previous year. Of these about two hundred were found on No.4 bed and 160 on No.1 bed. This was a reasonable total given the relatively poor weather conditions and the fact that it was not possible to survey the outer banks of No.4 bed, which had become overgrown with vegetation. Although numbers declined during August, 270 were still present on the 13th and 37 were found on the centre path of No.4 bed on the 19th. Reasonable numbers remained until 26th August and four were seen on 1st September. It seemed likely that butterflies would persist for a few days into September and this was in fact the case, the last being found on the 6th, which equals the latest ever sighting at Woolston.
Status A rare visitor which does not breed locally. First recorded in August 2013.
2015 Records - no sightings were reported this year. The first record of this species found by Roy Peacock, a permit holder, on 2nd August 2013 feeding on Buddleia on the south bank on No.3 Bed remains the only record todate.
Essentially, an occasional visitor to Cheshire, there are almost annual reports of a few individuals in the county. It does not breed in Cheshire and reports are usually of wanderers from breeding sites in the Peak District. There were 7 reports in Cheshire in 2013 which is above average.
Photograph No.3 Bed 2013
This common migrant can be found in small numbers anywhere on the Reserve with maximum numbers usually present in the autumn.
2015 Records - Although fewer than the previous year’s record totals were present, reasonable numbers were seen with the first on the evening of 16th June. Two were found on the Butterfly Transect two days later, although one of these could have been the one seen on the 16th. Numbers increased from early July, with eight on the 3rd and 13 on the 11th. No more than ten were reported during August and the maximum count was of 14 towards the end of September. These included 12 on the northern half of No.1 bed on the 19th. On 26th October three were on No.4 bed. With mild conditions continuing into late autumn and winter, butterflies were recorded locally until December and one was found on No.3 bed on the 20th, the latest ever at Woolston by one day! A week later, on 27th December, a butterfly was seen briefly in flight in the same area and, while it seems highly likely that this was the same insect, a positive identification was not possible.
This is another summer migrant with variable annual numbers reaching the UK from June onwards. It favours open sunny areas especially where the food plants such as Thistles and Knapweed are common. The sexes are alike in the field.
2015 Records - The eight records of this migrant were above average. The first record was on 21st June and all sightings were of singles apart from 23rd August when two were on No.1 bed. The final record was on 25th September, the second latest ever for Woolston.
Very common with good numbers in the spring and also from late July when maximum numbers are usually found.
2015 Records - The first was reported on 7th March and there were four other March records, all of single insects. In early April numbers increased and on the 7th a total of 74 was counted across the Reserve. The spring brood peaked at 90 on 14th April and of these 31 were on No.4 bed. There was little change for the rest of the month and 79 were still present on the 22nd. Numbers decreased during May with a maximum of 20 on No.3 bed on the 13th. The last of the first brood was seen on 3rd June and there was then a gap until the summer brood began to emerge on 2nd August. This is later than normal, with butterflies usually appearing around the third week of July. Not only was the second brood late to emerge but numbers were very disappointing, with a maximum of 82 noted around mid- August. It is most unusual for the summer brood to be less numerous than the spring totals at Woolston but this was the case this year. By the first week of September about eight remained and two were reported on each of the 11th and the 19th. The last of a poor year were singles on 25th September and 2nd October.
Photograph No.3 Bed 2012
Status A very rare visitor, the most recent record being in 2003.
2015 Records - no sightings submitted.
Photograph no Woolston image available
Present in good numbers on emergence from hibernation in April and May. Found across the reserve and often attracted to Buddleia. Maximum numbers normally occur in late summer.
2015 Records - For the second successive year numbers peaked in April and the summer brood was disappointing. The first was seen on 7th March and the only other March records were of one on the 22nd and the 25th. The main emergence began in early April with 28 on the 8th. The maximum count occurred on 14th -16th April when 54 were counted across the Reserve. This is down on the previous year’s total of 77 and much lower than in 2012 and 2013, when well over a hundred were seen. Twenty one were still present on the 22nd and up to twelve persisted until mid-May. Very few were reported thereafter until the emergence of the summer brood on 3rd July. This peaked around mid-month when 32 were found. On 8th August 12 were still present on the northern half of No.1 bed and this proved to be the last count in double figures. September began with nine on the 6th and the final records were of five on the 19th and one on the 25th.
Stitched photograph, left image 18/07/2015, right image 06/06/2013 both taken from No.3 Bed
Seen in variable numbers from spring onwards.
2015 Records - One of the few species to be seen in above average numbers this year. The first report was on 8th April when two were seen. There followed two further April records but none were then reported until 4th July when three were present. A rapid increase to mid-month produced an excellent count of 40 between 15th and 18th July. This is the third highest total since systematic recording began in 2003 and was exceeded only by counts of 60 in 2006 and 45 in 2011. It is interesting that this species performed so well when Small Tortoiseshell, which emerged on the same date in July, had a poor season. There were no further large counts, the maximum August total being four on the 16th. September saw four records and the last of the year was on 2nd October.
Stitched photograph left image David Bowman 15/10/2012 right image Andrew Weir 05/10/2013 No.3 Bed
First discovered in 2011, this elusive species is found in the canopy of mature oak trees from July to mid-August. The colony now appears to be well established in oaks along the canal track between the ferry and the entrance to No.3 bed and on the south bank of No.3 bed. The best time to search for this species is on sunny evenings during its flight period. Patience is required as often only fleeting views are obtained.
2015 Records - This species fared poorly this year and butterflies were hard to find, even when conditions appeared favourable. The first was seen on 20th July on the south bank of No.3 bed and there were a number of further reports, all of one butterfly, from this area. The highest count of the year was of six on the evening of 12th August, again on the south bank of No.3 bed. Unusually, four of these were found in Sycamores rather than their usual habitat of Oaks. None were seen along the Canal Track in spite of repeated searches.
Photograph of a rather poor quality individual from No.3 Bed 31/08/2014
Uncommon but seen annually in small numbers from May onwards. The highest ever count is of thirty. Butterflies can be found across the reserve in areas of shortish grass, including the canal track between the ferry and the entrance to No.3 bed.
2015 Records - This was one of the worst years on record for this species. None were seen before 7th June, the latest ever for a first sighting, when three were found on the northern half of No.1 bed. There were just four further records, all of singles, on the 10th and 26th August, 1st September and 5th November, the latest ever record at Woolston. Although cyclical variations are the norm for this species, the exceptionally low numbers present do give rise for concern but hopefully next year will see an upturn in the fortunes of this attractive little butterfly.
Photograph from No4 Bed 18/04/2014
A first record for Woolston.
2015 Records - no sightings reported. The first record of this species for Woolston Eyes on 27th July 2013 in front of the John Morgan Hide on No.3 Bed remains the only sighting todate.
Although there are a number of colonies locally, notably at Rixton Claypits and Moore Nature Reserve, it was a surprise to find one at Woolston as this species is normally associated with Elm trees. There are few if any on the Reserve and this individual was seen on Thistles rather than in the tree canopy.
There is some evidence of range expansion in recent years and the unexpected appearance of this butterfly in 2013 may be part of that trend.
Photograph No.3 Bed 2013
An uncommon species at Woolston with only a few records each year.
2015 Records - Following two blank years it was encouraging to witness the return of this species to Woolston. There were four records between 3rd June and 1st September, all of single butterflies. The other sightings were on 25th July and 8th August. As all these records were from different beds it seems likely that at least three different butterflies were present during the summer.
Photograph - no Woolston imaga available.
Variable numbers but can be found form May onwards in areas of short grass, preferably with Bird’s Foot Trefoil. Again the canal track is a good area to search for this species.
2015 Records - After two excellent years with numbers well in excess of two hundred, this year’s totals were disappointing and this was only the second time since 2008 that less than a hundred were recorded. The first report was on 30th May and during the first week of June 36 were present, including 30 on the favoured northern half of No.1 bed. A survey of the whole Reserve on 23rd and 27th June produced a total of 38 and the last of the first brood was reported on 1st July. The beginning of August marked the emergence of the second brood and by mid-month a total of 58 was found. Of these 27 were on the northern half of No.1 bed and eleven on No.4 bed. This proved to be the highest count of the year for both Woolston and the county as a whole. Butterflies remained in reasonable numbers until the end of August when 19 were still on the recycling area of No.1 bed. The last report of a disappointing year was on 19th September.
Stitched photograph male taken 15/06/2013 on No.3 Bed, female taken 03/06/2017 on No.1 Bed by David Bowman