A bit of sunshine today drew me, complete with Man-flu, out into the garden at the same time as this little fellow.

Most of you will recognise it as a Speckled Wood, although if you live north of about Blackpool, Leeds or York, there's a big gap in their distribution until you reach the Highlands. They are expanding their range north in England, however, so we might expect them nationwide before too long.

The name is perfect - yes, it's Speckled. And it is our most shade-loving butterfly, most often found in large woodlands.

I get ones and twos in my garden from April through to October, and it's a fascinating and rather endearing little thing. The males tend to do exactly what mine did this morning, coming down into sheltered spots where the sun casts pools of warm light, just as in a woodland glade. And there, a metre or so above the ground, he sits and sunbathes and waits for love.

All too often, what does pass by is not Miss Speckled Wood but actually some other butterfly or hoverfly, or even worse another male Speckled Wood, and up he'll dance to check them out and if necessary see them off.

Of course, one of my main interests is to give them the conditions they need to breed, for which they need isolated tufts of coarse grasses on a sunny woodland edge. The green caterpillars are difficult to find, but in November 2007 I was fortunate enough to find this beautiful Speckled Wood chrysalis (left), delightful proof that my garden is fulfilling their Home Needs throughout their lifecycle.

  • Good stuff, Jef. Nice to know they are continuing their march northwards.

  • Lovely photo and I am very pleased to report that I photographed a Speckled Wood in my garden a few days ago. I live about 50 miles? north of Blackpool in Cumbria on the edge of the Lake district. We have just finished clearing our garden, which had not been touched for about ten years when we bought it. It was completely overgrown with brambles and rhohodendron. Two years ago we grassed over a large sloping area (to turn into a meadow) and I hope this helped to attract the butterflies. I will keep a good look out for the caterpillars! Thank you.