At Fairburn Ings over the years we’ve lost some species and gained some too. Below shows a table of species that have been recorded on the reserve as well as a few species of what to look out for.

Butterfly SpeciesStatus
Dingy Skipper Uncertain
Small SkipperResident: usually common
Essex SkipperNew addition in 2018 (unknown provenance!)
Large SkipperResident: frequent
Orange TipResident: very common
Large WhiteScarce resident & common migrant
Small WhiteResident: uncommon
Green-veined WhiteResident: very common
Clouded YellowMigrant
BrimstoneResident: frequent
Wall BrownResident: probably extinct
Speckled WoodResident: very common
Small HeathNon resident
RingletResident: extremely common
Meadow BrownResident: extremely common
GatekeeperResident: extremely common
Marbled WhiteNon resident: very scarce
Red AdmiralAnnual migrant: very common
Painted LadyMigrant: sometimes frequent
PeacockResident: very common
Small TortoiseshellResident: frequent
Camberwell BeautyMigrant: extremely rare
CommaResident: very common
Silver-washed FritillaryAccidental
Small CopperResident: frequent
Purple HairstreakOccasional resident: very scarce
White-letter HairstreakNon resident: extremely scarce
Holly BlueResident: frequent
Brown ArgusOccasional resident: scarce
Common BlueResident: very common
Data from Fairburn Ings Nature Reserve 2018 Report

Brown Argus

Aricia agestis

A small dark brown butterfly with orange half-moons around the edge of the wings. Both sexes have a dark spot in the centre of the forewing, the female common blue lacks Females slightly lighter with stronger orange markings and a bit bigger than the males.

Wingspan 28mm
2 Broods May until the end of September

Top – Darren Starkey
Bottom – Keith Boyer

Small Copper

Lycaena phlaeas

The forewings are copper coloured with black markings and a brown boarder; the hindwings are mainly brown with a copper coloured crescent at the base. The Yorkshire lepidopterist Adrian Haworth called it the Common Copper in 1803

Wingspan 28mm
3 even 4 broods late April until November

Top – Keith Boyer
Bottom – Darren Starkey

Common Blue

Polyommatus icarus

The male of this species is blue whereas the females are normally brown with orange markings. The females can also be blue but they keep the orange markings whereas the males don’t. Both have white margins around the wing. Unlike the brown argus the common blues have a cell spot on the underside of the forewing.

Wingspan 35mm
1 brood June until September

Top – Keith Boyer
Bottom – Martin Dove


Anthocharis cardamines

Only the males have the orange tip to its forewing; the female is white black wingtips. Both have a distinctive green underside, a unique feature to this species.

Wingspan 45mm
1 brood April until early July, occasional individuals seen August or September

Top – Martin Dove
Bottom – Mark Coates

Painted Lady

Vanessa cardui

Theses butterflies are mainly an orangey brown colour with white spots to the black tips on their forewing., which distinguish them from the Small Tortoiseshell. When newly emerged they have a rose-pink tinge to their wings.

Wingspan 57mm
Several broods through to October/November
Occasional mass migrations

Top – Keith Boyer
Bottom – Mark Coates

Red Admiral

Vanessa atalanta

The majority of this butterfly is black/brown. The forewing is separated with a striking red band and a red crescent, with 2 iridescent blue spots to the bottom of the hindwing. This makes the Red Admiral an easy recognisable butterfly.

Wingspan 64mm
Migrants appear in late May/June lasting through until November.

Top – Keith Boyer
Bottom – Darren Starkey

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