Rare gatekeeper butterfly found at Wakefield estate

The gateway butterfly..The gateway butterfly..
The gateway butterfly..
Rangers on the Nostell estate near Wakefield have recorded a breeding population of a rare butterfly species seldom seen in the north of England.

The gatekeeper butterfly is found in the historically milder southern counties, but appears to have settled in and bred at Nostell after a lone individual was spotted in the parkland last year.

Ten of the rare butterflies have been counted by staff during a wildlife survey in the grounds this summer, suggesting that the changing climate is influencing them to migrate north beyond their previous range.

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Nostell ranger Richard Farrah said: “In previous years we haven’t seen many gatekeepers at Nostell, but it appears they’re increasing in number.

Nostel Priory.Nostel Priory.
Nostel Priory.

“This suggests the species is coping well in the Wakefield climate and are beginning to breed.

“Nostell used to be around the geographical limit of where you could regularly spot this particular butterfly and even last year, we only recorded one sighting as part of the 2020 survey.

“To know we’ve just tipped into double figures this year is a positive sign for the species.”

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The rare butterfly is usually found in the southern counties, the southern coast of Ireland and the Channel Islands, but never as far north as Scotland.

Nostell’s annual wildlife survey tracks the progress of hundreds of different species living within almost 300 acres of meadows, woodlands, and waterside areas.

This year, the park’s rangers have been increasing pockets of wildflower meadow across the parkland and gardens to help resident and emerging nature thrive.

The results also revealed an increase in wild orchids compared to previous years and a continued good level of habitat-beneficial species including yellow rattle, bird’s foot trefoil, common knapweed, and meadow vetchling.

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