A collaboration of coast and countryside organisations on The Lizard Peninsula

It was with eager anticipation that I awaited the beginning of April this year – the start of the butterfly recording season for those of us who walk a set route regularly, noting down the butterflies we see. The route I walk (called a transect), once a week from April to the end of September, is on the south-western fringe of Goonhilly Downs in the centre of The Lizard peninsula. My enthusiasm was slightly dampened by the weather conditions – cold and wet, not conducive to butterflies taking to the wing!
During the first four weeks of walking the transect I have only seen three species of butterfly: a rather tatty and faded Peacock, which probably overwintered somewhere close by; a freshly emerged speckled wood and a green-veined white fluttering around a cluster of primroses. Despite this, however, I have enjoyed walking the route again, passing through some beautiful woodland, heathlands and fields, with their hedges coming into leaf. I been fortunate to see a young fox emerging from the heather, as well as snipe, and hear the sound I associate with Spring, a chiffchaff calling from a nearby tree.

Speckled WoodSpeckled Wood

I started walking this transect in July last year so have yet to have the enjoyment of seeing the Spring and early Summer butterflies that use the various habitats that this transect passes through. I am excited to see what fritillary butterflies are still in the area; small pearl-bordered fritillaries, dark green fritillaries and marsh fritillaries have been recorded here on the heathland in the past, as well as the impressive silver-washed fritillaries in the wooded areas. I spotted a number of the silver-washed fritillaries last year, as well as the purple hairstreak, which is usually hard to see as it flies high up, above the canopy of oak trees. I was fortunate to be in the right place, at the right time, when one flew down and landed on a bramble leaf a few metres away from me. That’s the beauty of looking for and recording butterflies, you never know what you may encounter!

One of the two wooded sections along the transectOne of the two wooded sections along the transect

If you would like to get involved in recording the butterflies you see on The Lizard, choose a favourite walk or area, or even your garden, and note down the butterflies you see on any particular day. If you walk the same route regularly (monthly or weekly) you will soon build up a picture of the butterflies of the area and notice how the species you see change throughout the seasons. The information you gather is also important to help build a picture of the health of our local butterfly populations when collated with the records made by other people. This in turn helps Natural England, the National Trust, farmers and other landowners manage the land for wildlife, based on using local information.
If you would like further information about recording butterflies on The Lizard and Cornwall in general, take a look at Butterfly Conservation Cornwall branch’s web pages at www.cornwall-butterfly-conservation.org.uk or contact me, Sarah Board, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
As I write this (5th May 2018), it’s starting to warm up. Let’s hope it continues and we have a wonderfully warm and sunny summer with lots of butterflies on the wing and lots of people enjoying them!


Published: May 2018
Author: Sarah Board (Volunteer with Natural England Lizard NNR team)