Speckled Wood – #1 Butterfly challenge

Speckled Wood on sun spot
Speckled Wood, in a typical pose, guarding its territory (Photo taken 4th June, 2016)

Speckled wood is a common and constant summer companion around us here in Bramblestown.  It has a long season, fitting in three generations between April and October, and can be seen flying daily throughout this period. It is perfect here for them as we have many overgrown shaded hedgerows and areas of tall, unmanaged grass. It is wonderful to watch them on our sun-speckled  lane;  males standing guard over individual patches of sunlight, then flitting out to entice passing females or scare off encroaching males. On dull, overcast days their behaviour is very different as they bask low down on grasses and other vegetation.

Speckled Wood habitat #2
Our sun-speckled lane, ideal speckled wood habitat.

It is appropriate that speckled wood is the first species of my butterfly challenge as, surprisingly, all is not well with this common and widespread species. The Irish Butterfly Monitoring Scheme which monitors butterfly populations across Ireland each year, found that the speckled wood is one of three common butterflies species that has experienced a steep population decline between 2008 and 2015. Declines of this kind in common species is something that should be taken seriously, as it means that habitat changes in Ireland are no longer local, but happening at a landscape-scale. Perhaps the widespread clearance of patches of scrub and improvement of rough grazing areas that has continued apace over the last couple of decades is now reaching a tipping point where even our common countryside species are being affected?  Now that is something to stop and think about! Do we really want to create a countryside that lacks vibrancy and richness? And rob the next generation of all the wonderful benefits, both intrinsic and tangible, that nature has to to offer?

Now as I watch speckled wood on the lane, knowing that they might become yet another species that is seen less commonly in the countryside, I look on them with far more affection.

Could you image the countryside without speckled wood? (photo taken 3rd July, 2016)

No. 1 – Speckled Wood