2013 was a good year for many of our common garden butterflies, giving them a boost after a run of miserable summers. This year started off even better, with many butterfly species emerging earlier and in higher numbers than in previous years, thanks to the mild spring temperatures. Small Tortoiseshells were particularly dramatic with 23% of BTO Garden BirdWatch gardens reporting them in 2013, in comparison to only 12% in 2012.
This early emergence promised a good year and it was. Whilst seen in slightly lower numbers than last year, Small Tortoiseshell was still reported from almost half of BTO Garden BirdWatch (GBW) gardens, but interestingly the peak was a month earlier than in 2013. Peacock butterflies also had a good year, reported from 55.6% of GBW gardens, only 4% fewer than last year.
However, the star species for Garden BirdWatchers this year was the Red Admiral. It started to increase in gardens three weeks earlier than in 2013, and by the end of August 42.5% of GBW gardens had reported seeing them, a 26% increase from 2013. By the beginning of October, unprecedented numbers were still being reported. Despite being migratory, Red Admirals are increasingly being reported well into the winter thanks to the mild weather, so it will be interesting to see how they fare over the next month.