Wall brown was one of the species that I thought might be difficult to find and photograph. It is one of six butterfly species threatened with extinction in Ireland, having suffered an alarming 50% reduction in range over the last 20 or so years. I have personal experience of this decline, for wall brown used to be seen at Bramblestown until about 2000, but I have not seen it there since. Indeed it is now a very scarce, if not already extinct butterfly in County Kilkenny, which is a shocking thing to report.
The last time I saw wall brown in any great numbers was in 2003 when on a visit to Inisbofin off the Galway coast. As luck would have it, in May this year I was invited over to Inisbofin to officiate at the launch of the locally-led Nature Plan developed for the island, a visit that coincided with glorious weather. I took the opportunity to revisit where I had seen wall brown 13 years previously, and sure enough, along the road to Cloonamore, east from the pier, exactly where I had seen them in 2003, they were in abundance. Wall brown are described as ‘being alert and difficult to approach’, but here many butterflies were basking along the sheltered warm earthen and stone banks by the roadside, so I did not the let photo opportunity pass.
Wall brown is a butterfly of unimproved dry grassland and is another of our species that is becoming much more localised in its distribution. At one time it would have been found across most of the country, but it is becoming increasingly confined to the coastal fringe and to fewer and fewer sites in the midlands. The 50% reduction in range was reported in the Red List of Irish Butterflies published in 2010 but based on data up to 2009. Wall brown occur in too few sites for its population to be monitored effectively under the Irish Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, so it is unknown how its population has fared in Ireland since 2010. But my guess is that its population continues to decline, which is a shame.
Speckled wood #1, dingy skipper #2, wall brown #3.