Home The Butterflies of Gloucestershire Species Habitats Conservation


About this guide

These web pages show the butterflies with resident colonies in the counties of Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire, England. Common migrants and recently introduced species are also shown. The guide is based on observations made during 1975 - 1999.

The guide is in four sections:

Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire countryside

The area is shown in green on the map, with ground over 175m in altitude shaded. The Cotswold Hills are in the east, the Forest of Dean in the west, and the river Severn divides the county as it runs southwards into the Bristol Channel.

The Cotswold Hills rise steeply from the Severn Vale. Within them there are many hillsides and valley slopes which are too steep for growing crops. Cattle and sheep are farmed on grassland, though much of it is "improved" by the use of fertilisers.

Although much reduced in total area during the 20th century, there are still many patches of unimproved flower-rich grassland in the Cotswold Hills. There are also many woods. There is a long tradition of quarrying Cotswold limestone for buildings and field walls, resulting in numerous disused quarries.

The Forest of Dean has large areas of forestry plantation, deciduous and coniferous, and also the remains of heathland which was more extensive in the past. Old industrial sites (from quarrying and coal mining), disused railways and the many wide woodland tracks provide relatively open habitat for butterflies. So too do recently-felled blocks of woodland.

The Severn Vale is quite intensively farmed. Some of the woods in the Vale have good populations of the woodland butterfly species. Unimproved grassland is scarce, and some butterflies found quite commonly in the Cotswolds and the Forest of Dean are uncommon or absent in most of the area.

In the north-west, the Malvern Hills just reach southwards into the county. From the south-east corner at Lechlade westwards along the course of the river Thames towards its source at Kemble, there are many lakes resulting from gravel extraction.

Area map

Butterfly recording in the area

Several organisations encourage butterfly recording in Gloucestershire. Most of the records used to produce the species distribution maps were made by members of Butterfly Conservation, the British charity dedicated to saving wild butterflies, moths and their habitats. Butterfly Conservation ran a Millennium Atlas project, taking records from the 1995 to 1999 seasons to show distribution of butterflies throughout Britain and Ireland. The Atlas was published in 2001 (ISBN 0 19 850565 5). I was Butterfly Recorder for the Gloucestershire branch of Butterfly Conservation from 1994 to 2000.

The Gloucestershire Naturalists Society (GNS) encourages its members to record all forms of wildlife, and to pass their records to the appropriate recorder. I was Butterfly Recorder for the GNS from 1981 to 2001.

The Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust (GWT) runs a local wildlife records centre for Gloucestershire, the Gloucestershire Centre for Environmental Records (GCER). The GCER's records are used for conservation purposes including advice to councils and government agencies such as English Nature. I provided butterfly records and site information to the GWT.

The Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre (BRERC) covers the former county of Avon, including the area which is now South Gloucestershire. The Avon Butterfly Project organises butterfly recording in that area. I exchanged South Gloucestershire records with BRERC.

Members of various other wildlife and conservation-oriented organisations also provided records. Directly or indirectly, at least 360 people contributed to a total of over 85,000 records from 1975 to 1999. I personally made over 25,000 of these records, and enjoyed visiting not just the best (and well-recorded) butterfly sites but also many other interesting places throughout the area.

Species pages

The information shown for each species includes:

Need a book on British butterflies to use out in the countryside?

For a field guide with illustrations of adult butterflies and early stages (eggs, larvae and pupae), one book I would recommend is the Hamlyn Guide to the Butterflies of the British Isles by J A Thomas

First version February 2000
Revised to use additional records, March 2000
Links revised October 2005

© Guy Meredith