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Baltic Butterfly Challenge, 2017 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jos   

Marsh Fritillary




Following on from a successful 2016 in Lithuania and Latvia, my goal for 2017 is simply to have another cracking year, hopefully exceeding the 100 species barrier again and tracking down a few species that have so far eluded me in Lithuania and/or the Baltic States.






High on my priority list are Violet Copper (never seen anywhere), Northern Wall Brown and Olive Skipper (not seen in the Baltic States) and Marsh Fritillary (not seen in Lithuania). These aside, I also hope to explore several new areas during the year and, with some luck, turn up a surprise or two, at least for me.


Scroll down this page for a full account of the year, or alternatively click on any of the links below to zoom directly to specific sections/months:


- March (first flights, including Yellow-legged Tortoiseshell)

- April (early spring, including Camberwell Beauty and Large Tortoiseshell)

- May (season begins in earnest, including Eastern Bath White, Holly Blues et al)




Very much a running account of all the butterflies I find over the season, withnotes on approximate abundances and photographs.



MARCH 2017


20-17 March. First Flights.


A full week earlier than the previous year, relative warm conditions brought the first butterflies onto the wing, so opening the 2017 season.


Yellow-legged Tortoiseshell



Ice on forest pools, temperatures hardly amazing at 7 C, but with a pleasant sun, the year kicked off in style with the first species noted being a Yellow-legged Tortoiseshell at Labanoras on the 20th! Added a Brimstone minutes later. Over subsequent days, temperatures sat at 10-11 C, I found another Yellow-legged Tortoiseshell, plus about ten Small Tortoiseshells, a Comma (on the 28th) and a handful of Brimstones.




So, spring was finally here, birds were pouring in, the first flowers of the season appearing in the meadows, plus a few frogs braving the cold waters.



  • 1. Brimstone.
  • 2. Yellow-legged Tortoiseshell.
  • 3. Small Tortoiseshell.
  • 4. Comma.




APRIL  2017



Camberwell Beauty




All about a day! April started off with a real punch - a spectacular day of high temperatures and superb butterfly action (Camberwell Beauties, Large Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, etc). Then it came to a grinding halt with temperatures dipping for the rest of the month and even a few days of snow!






2 April. Early Bonanza.






Sunshine, 22 C! Months of dreary temperatures a distant memory (for a day at least), a most impressive selection of early season butterflies were out basking in the warmth, plus the forst frogs and toads.







Choosing the extreme south of Lithuania, I harboured ambition to find two of the more dramatic species on the wing in early spring … Camberwell Beauty and Large Tortoiseshell. Site one, right on the border with Belarus, set the scene for the day – still fairly early in the morning, but already Brimstones on sun-dappled banks and bunches of Small Tortoiseshells gathering around sparse flowers, plus the first Peacocks of the year and a Comma. As the warmth of the day built, a flash of cream and dark – patrolling a sandy track, one splendid Camberwell Beauty. Five species already, pretty good for early April.





And then, as I meandered through open pinewood for an hour or so, it just got better – as well as numerous Brimstones, I notched up no less than 14 more Camberwell Beauties, one of my highest ever day totals. A few kilometres further, most gathering at pussy willow catkins, the next site added more Small Tortoiseshells, Brimstones and Peacocks, plus another couple of Commas .




Most unexpected, however, was a Red Admiral - not a species that overwinters in Lithuania, early spring examples are exceedingly rare, more usually a butterfly that can be found from June onwards.


Red Admiral


Now early afternoon, I still had not found a Large Tortoiseshell though. Remedied this en route back to Vilnius – stopping in a small meadow tucked up against forest, yellow flowers were proving a magnet to Small Tortoiseshells and Brimstones, a couple of dozen of each present. Wandered round for about an hour, soaking up the afternoon sun, then a large orange butterfly arrived, flying and gliding with fair power.


 Large Tortoiseshell



Settling on the trunk of a silver birch, there the butterfly was, my desired Large Tortoiseshell! Didn't find anything else, so eventually headed off, quite pleased with the day.






So, approximate counts for butterflies this day: 230 Brimstones, one Red Admiral, 15 Camberwell Beauties, one Large Tortoiseshell, 95 Small Tortoiseshells, 22 Peacocks and three Commas ...a grand total of about 370 butterflies!

Just for comparison, 2 April 2016 was a cool 11 C, I managed a grand total of eight butterflies, all Small Tortoiseshells.



  • 5. Red Admiral.
  • 6. Camberwell Beauty
  • 7. Large Tortoiseshell
  • 8. Peacock



5-29 April. Snow, frosts, rain and wind!

Gee, what happened to spring?! A near full month of disgusting weather - day after day of fairly abysmal conditions, dominated by cold northerlies and rare sunshine. Even had a carpet of snow on the 15-17th of the month, several centimetres in Vilnius and Labanoras!!!


Labanoras in April


After such a promising start with butterflies at the beginning of the month, high hopes of additional species faded as the days went by, not a hunt of anything.


Small Tortoiseshell



In reality, it was an almost complete wash-out on, the only butterflies seen being three Small Tortoiseshells and a Peacock braving a sunny day and 5 C on the 20th and an equally hardy Small Tortoiseshell basking in sun between snow squalls on the 23rd!







 However ...


Provence Hairstreak



Fortunately, my sanity was preserved via a mini escape mid-month to the sunny climes of Catalonia where I had a splendid time, finding an impressive 45 species of butterflies, including the much-desired Spanish Festoon, Provence Hairstreak and Nettle-tree Butterfly.

CLICK HERE for a full trip report.




MAY 2017

For updated May sightings, CLICK HERE


Last Updated ( Wednesday, 03 May 2017 )
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