Butterfly Sightings in 2019

Earpiece 2

 Only pictures taken in Winsham appear here. Seeing a butterfly is one thing-photographing it is often much more difficult!
For illustrations of the other species, search on-line-they are easily found.
Try the Butterfly Conservation web site-Click HERE or on the links below

We all delight at the appearance of butterflies in the early spring and summer months.

In Winsham we are fortunate in having Liz Earl, a keen nature lover and Henk Beentje, also a nature lover and  a professional botanist who undertook the preparation of a pictorial diary of these ephemeral visitors, and the notes below relating to the various species and their life cycles.

There are estimated to be some 20,000 species  of butterfly around the world. In the UK we have about sixty. This does not include moths.
The life-cycle of the butterfly

Butterflies have a complicated life-cycle, emerging from the egg (usually less than 1 mm across!) as a young caterpillar. The caterpillar feeds on plants, with each butterfly species having its preferred plant or group of plants. As they grow, the caterpillar changes its skin several times, shedding the old one and growing a new one. Once fully grown, it anchors itself to a plant or wall and sheds its skin for the final time, revealing a young soft chrysalis. This will slowly harden and grow, with a lot of re-arrangement, to develop into the emerging young butterfly.

The males emerge first, choose a territory to defend, and produce alluring scents (pheromones) to attract the females. After mating the females lay their eggs on their preferred plants, and the whole cycle begins again.

The butterfly stage can be very short, with some Blues living just a few days; and even the longest-lived, such as the Brimstone or the Peacock, live less than a year – as butterflies, that is. The other parts of the cycle: egg, caterpillar and chrysalis, can take a whole year in some species; or, again, just a few weeks in others.

Most species spend the winter as chrysalis or caterpillar, though a few species (like the Blues) do so as eggs. A few species hibernate: we can often find Peacocks or Small Tortoiseshells in outbuildings or church towers, and Brimstones hibernate in dense stands of Holly or ivy. And a few other species choose easier climates: Red Admirals and Painted Ladies migrate to continental Europe and North Africa, respectively.


Liz Earl

Henk Beentje
The two authors of the 2019 Winsham butterfly diary


Sightings between February and September 2019 in Winsham parish; not just in our gardens but on walks, too!

Comma – Polygonia c-album

Our only butterfly with deeply scalloped wing margins; with its wings closed this looks like a dead leaf, but when open it is a spectacular black-speckled orange. The food plant is Common Stinging-nettle.

 Observed in Winsham on February 27th, and again in July and August. Not all that common, but can still be seen regularly.


Orange-tip - Anthocharis cardamines - no picture

The herald of spring! The males have bright orange tips to their wings and are unmistakable, the females looks a bit like the Whites, but has a handsome green/white mottling on the underside. Food-plants are Cuckooflower or Jack-by-the-hedge.

 First seen in Winsham on April 6th this year, with more in later April and May. 

Clouded Yellow

Clouded Yellow – Colias croceus

A migrant from North Africa and Southern Europe, common in some years, rare in others Very distinctive in flight, with its bright yellow wings. Food plants are leguminous plants such as clover, lucerne and birds foot trefoil.

In Winsham seen a few times in early September.

Marbled White – Melanargia galathea - no picture

Very distinctive with its black-and-white marbling on the open wings; and with a slow, flapping flight. Has a short summer flight period; food plants are fine grasses.

In Winsham seen only once this year, on July 16th.


 Red Admiral

Red Admiral – Vanessa atalanta

One of our commonest species, from late May to November – but these are immigrants from the European continent. The food plant is the common Stinging nettle, and the early arrivals produce the second generation we see in summer and autumn. They love Butterfly bushes (Buddleia) and fallen apples.

Seen in Winsham on March 26th, and every month since to August (so far).


Brimstone – Gonepteryx rhamni

The butterfly that gave butterflies their name: the males are butter-coloured. Females are much paler, almost greenish white. A long-lived species, which can be seen in most months. Food plants are Buckthorn or Alder buckthorn.

First seen in Winsham on February 26th, seen every month since then so far.


Holly Blue

Holly Blue – Celastrina argiolus

Widespread and common, but not easy to distinguish from the Common Blue; the giveaway is that the Common Blue has orange spots on the underside of the wing, and the Holly Blue only black ones. The food plants are Holly (for the spring brood) and Ivy (for the summer brood).

First seen on April 19th, with more in May, and the occasional second-generation one in July.

This picture was taken by Roger Lawrence in Lime Kiln Lane on the 5th August.

Large White – Pieris brassicae-no picture

Gardeners call this the Cabbage White, and that is one of the favourite food plants of this species; they love Brussels sprouts as well. Can be confused with the Small White, but the Large has more black on the wingtips. The caterpillar is well known to gardeners: green/black spotted, with long yellow stripes all along the body. First seen on April 19th, with more in May and July.


Small White – Pieris rapae

Smaller than the Large White, and just about as common. This comes in two generations, a spring one and a summer one; food plants are Cabbage, Sprouts and Nasturtiums.

In Winsham, first seen on March 29th, with more in every month since (so far). One of our common butterflies.

Speckled Wood

Speckled Wood – Pararge aegeria

Easy to identify, as no other butterfly has these cream or yellow markings on chocolate-brown wings. They mostly sip honeydew, a sticky liquid produced by aphids and scale insects high up in trees; but will come down to feed on flowers, or to bask in the sun. Eggs are laid on various grasses.

In Winsham first seen on April 21st, with more in May, and later in July.


Painted Lady – Vanessa cardui

A beautiful immigrant that can be rare or absent for several years at a stretch, but is common in some years, including in 2019! Ours come from North Africa in a series of steps: some of ours (the faded ones) are probably straight from Africa, but the fresher ones come from their breeding on the way or even from England itself. In autumn returning migrants have been detected at altitudes of up to 500 metres. The food plant is Thistle.

In Winsham, first seen on June 1st, then none until August.

Meadow Brown

Meadow Brown – Maniola jurtina

Very common around our area, and can only be confused with the Gatekeeper (which has more orange on its wings, and two white dots in its wing roundel). It usually flies close to the ground, and its food plants are grasses.

In Winsham first seen on June 15th, and in every month since (so far).


High Brown Fritilliary

Silver-washed Fritillary – Argynnis paphia

A butterfly of woodland, whose caterpillars feed only on Common Dog-violets. Not seen every year.  In 2019 it was seen on July 4th, and only once or twice since.

Small Tortoiseshell – Aglais urticae

Easily identified by the blue-on-black spots along the wingsides. Can be seen in almost any month, though not always outside: they hibernate in sheds and attics! Their food plant is the Common Stinging-nettle.

First seen on March 25th (apart from one in an attic in January), with only a few more in April and July;

suddenly re-appearing in numbers in early September!



Peacock – Aglais io

Handsome and unmistakable with its large ‘eyes’ or wing roundels; and almost black undersides of wings. They will flick their wings at potential enemies, scaring them off with those sudden flashes of their ‘eyes’. Their food plants are the Common Stinging-nettle.

In Winsham first seen on March 24th, with more sightings in every month (so far). One of our common butterflies.

Small Copper – Lycaena phlaeas-no picture

A spectacular black-and-orange colour, this is pretty unmistakable. The males are very territorial and will attack any insect coming on their patch. Food plants are Sorrel.

Seen only once this year, on July 20th.


Gatekeeper – Pyronia tithonus

A small and common species, mostly orange with a darker edge to the wing, and two small white spots in its wing roundel. Food plants are fine-leaved grasses. Also called Hedge Brown: this likes to be by brambly hedgerows, and can often be seen by our cemetery.

 First seen on July 10th, and from then on very common to the end of August.


Small Skipper – Thymelicus sylvestris-no picture

Very bright orange species could be mistaken for a moth, but the club-end antennae make this a proper butterfly. A real summer species; the food plant is Yorkshire Fog, a common grass. Seen only once this year, on July 28th.


The purpose of this diary is to provide a record for the Winsham Web Museum for the interest of the residents of Winsham, and future generations. This record may prove useful information, for comparison purposes, in the context of global warming and changing patterns of agriculture.


Click HERE to return to Main Fossil Index