August is the perfect time to go in search of a master of camouflage – the Grayling butterfly. In this blog, Natural England volunteer Janet Ritchie, shares her enjoyment of surveying for this summer butterfly and describes some of their unique characteristics.

Grayling butterfly on heather
Graylings sit with their wings closed while at rest

…To me, one of the interesting things about the month of August is looking for Grayling butterflies on Trendlebere Down. There are two transects I cover, the bigger one just below the top car park, and the smaller one beside the middle car park. The first circuit takes an hour, the lower one half an hour.

Graylings are very well disguised when on the ground, often on or near cow and pony dung. The fascinating thing to me is that they “leap” up into the air in front of and around me, as I walk along the track. Usually they fly off behind me so I can’t count them twice by mistake, very considerate of them. Sometimes they land on me for a quick ‘hug’.

This year I did my first survey solely of the upper transect on 25th July and counted 66. The weather has not been very helpful, so the next time I went on a survey was 10th August on a sunny morning. This time I counted 104 Graylings, spread quite regularly around the top route, in previous years they have been grouped in certain parts of the track. This time they were often flying up in pairs or threes. Then on the lower route, 33 appeared, by which time cloud cover was beginning to increase, though the temperature was still ok. So a total of 137 on the day.

I also note any other butterflies I see, such as Red Admiral, Meadow Brown, Brimstone, and Gate Keepers which have been quite prolific this year. But to me, you can’t beat the Graylings.

Written by Janet Ritchie on 18 August

To read more about the Grayling follow this link to the Butterfly Conservation website

2 responses to Graylings

    • KateSmithWT says:

      It is really encouraging that Janet recorded high numbers on her butterfly transects this year. Hope you see some while you are on site!


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