Rare species of butterfly not frequently seen in the north is recorded breeding at Nostell Priory near Wakefield for the first time

Rangers on the Nostell Priory estate in 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 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. This suggests the species is coping well in the Wakefield climate and beginning to breed.

Nostell Priory

“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.”

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

The gatekeeper butterfly