Small blue – #6 Butterfly Challenge

Small Blue#1
The small blue has only a dusting of blue, unlike the two other species of blue (photograph taken on 6 May 2016)

The small blue is the third species of blue that occurs in Ireland, but you really shouldn’t confuse it with the others as it is tiny, often no larger than 20mm. And whereas both the holly blue and common blue often announce themselves with a flash of bright blue, the small blue is a butterfly that one needs to search to find. Even where it occurs, you need a sharp eye to see it, and even sharper one to follow its erratic flight. It is found in very dry habitats, mostly along the coast but also at a few inland sites. Dune grasslands, esker ridges, disused quarries, and the limestone of the Burren region are the habitats where it can be found.

When speaking to Jesmond Harding, one of the foremost authorities on butterflies in Ireland, he mentioned to me that the Gortlecka area of the Burren National Park was one of the best places to see this species. This surprised me greatly for I walked a regular butterfly transect along that area for about four years in the mid-1990s when I was a Park Ranger in the Burren, and I never once saw it in that location.  So to satisfy my curiosity I visited the area in May. And sure enough, after a short time of searching to ‘get my eye in’, I found one, then another, and another…  Jesmond, of course, was right and they are to be found there in good numbers. However I find it hard to believe that I would have missed them back in the 1990s, particularly since I spent so much time at Gortlecka recording butterflies. The only explanation I have is that they must have colonised the area since the 1990s; an alternative explanation is that I should have gone to Specsavers earlier!

Speckled wood #1, Dingy skipper #2, Wall brown #3, Common blue #4, Holly blue #5  & Small blue #6.

One of the best places to find small blue is at the magnificent Burren National Park, a ‘must see’ site for anyone interested in butterflies.