Orange-tip on Cowslip

And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.

Extract from “Tintern Abbey” by William Wordsworth (1798)
Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting
the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798

Nature inspires everyone at some time in our lives. Perhaps it is the dawn chorus, the increasing day length in a dark, dank January, the first snowdrop, the first Swallow, the first Orange-tip butterfly seen after a long, wet winter.  This spring butterfly inspired Butterfly Conservation Ireland member Felicity Laws to craft the following verse. Based in West Cork, Felicity watches the changing seasons bring nature’s beauty to focus. Joy is often elevated by long absence, a sensation Felicity captures in her verse.


A creeping, insidious longing
As the sun rises higher each day
Every brightening moment might reveal
A butterfly/damselfly/dragonfly
In all its shimmering glory.
Frissons of fear and love
Bubbling like quality champagne
As I try to extend the moment
A flutter catches my eye:
Will there be an identifying view?
Smooth slide for a photograph?
Will it bask? will it dematerialise
As if it had never been?
Whichever way it goes
The craving is slightly assuaged
Enough that ‘it’ exists
Whether or not I know
What ‘it’ is; fear dispatched,
Only love remains.
At the next exciting air tremble
Another opportunity or ten
Never too many!
And so on, a summer addiction,
Winter rehab flown with the first
Chitinous flicker of unfeathered wings
Magical natural beauty.

Felicity Laws, April 2024

Orange-tip at rest.

Photos copyright J. Harding

Poem copyright Felicity Laws

Let them Go

Spring is here!

20 April 2024 gave us the first good weather day this spring. The forecast is for the sunny weather to extend into the middle of next week at least.  Several Small Tortoiseshells that entered my house to overwinter only for the central heating to disrupt their sleep, a late Peacock I caught in my garden and a late Comma from a nearby lane were overwintered in two sealed plastic containers. How many survived? There were around 20 butterflies. All but five survived, presumably higher than would in the wild.

See the release here:

If you have kept any butterfly or moth indoors, now is the time to let it go. Please check sheds, outbuildings and unused rooms for trapped butterflies.


Waiting for Spring by Jesmond Harding

Crown Daisies, Dwerja, Gozo. Photo © Jesmond Harding

On 1 April 2024 on a sunbaked hillside east of Qala village in Gozo, I enjoyed Swallowtails, Red Admirals, Painted Ladies, Clouded Yellows, Long-tailed Blues and Wall Browns. The temperature exceeded 31 Celsius that afternoon, the highest ever recorded in Malta during April. The airborne Swallowtail is eye-catching, blending silk with steel as it manoeuvres intense hilltop gusts. On ethereal high ground, this elusive butterfly evanesces beyond and within view, the ubiquitous cream Coraline limestone absorbing it only for it to condense to a just perceptible presence on a buff senescent sprig, typically African Carline Thistle, a relic of last summer’s moisture-starved ground. The Swallowtail’s command of the air in these windswept hills is soul-gripping, its beauty refreshing in the harshness of heat and naked rock.

Swallowtail, east of Qala, Gozo. Photo © Jesmond Harding

Malta in spring sees no shivering in the rain and dank wind or peering at a murky sky for a hint of direct sunlight, a staple for early spring butterflies in Ireland. Ireland’s butterflies did not get much encouragement from the March and early April weather. Wet spring weather inhibits butterflies. March was wet so its above-average temperatures were unavailing. April 2024 shows no signs of being suitable but three weeks lie ahead.

Clouded Yellow female on Pitch Clover Psoralea bituminosa, on garrigue habitat east of Qala. Hopefully, we will see this migrant in Ireland in 2024. Photo © Jesmond Harding

I noted some positives this year. In his impressive book on British and Irish butterflies, Peter Eeles states that the Speckled Wood caterpillar can overwinter only in the third instar (instars are inter-moult stages in the caterpillar) with other instars dying with the onset of extreme cold. However, the fourth instar caterpillars I reared outdoors in County Meath survived the prolonged low temperatures during January 2024. Our Speckled Woods are tailor-made for the Irish winter.

The Peacock flies from July to September and after hibernation March-May. Photo © Jesmond Harding

Regarding winter survival strategies our butterflies occupy three categories: the species that migrate south, species that overwinter as adult butterflies and those that pass the colder months in juvenile stages (egg, caterpillar, chrysalis). Four hibernate as adults: Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Comma, and these have been seen this spring. They return to rest when spring weather reverts to winter. These species are long-lived as adults and can play a longer game.

For the rest of our resident butterflies, carpe diem applies. Ireland’s spring butterflies are particularly adept at exploiting brief good weather to transact their life’s work. On 3 April Lisa Scarff saw her first butterflies of the year on the Sheep’s Head peninsula in West Cork: a Holly Blue and three Green Hairstreaks. Green-veined whites were reported on 31 March (Lullymore, Kildare) and 5 April (Marlay Park, Dublin). A Large White was seen on 31 March (Sutton, Dublin). The increasing day length added to milder temperatures tempted these out of their pupae. These emerge over several weeks, spreading the risk, so that some will appear at the right time.

Spring beauty: Green Hairstreak from 3 April on Common Holly, West Cork. Photo © Lisa Scarff

Another early spring butterfly, the Speckled Wood (unique in its ability to overwinter as a pupa or larva), is awaited. In 2023, the first Speckled Wood reported to Butterfly Conservation Ireland appeared on 30 March. Most of our spring butterflies are yet to emerge: Dingy Skipper, Cryptic Wood White, Small White, Orange-tip, Small Copper, and Wall Brown. As connoisseurs of butterfly beauty, you will be impatient to savour these delights. Of some delights, the delay makes the taste sweeter. Enjoy your butterfly recording in 2024: the weather will turn!

Records can be emailed to us at:

The information needed for a valid record is described at


Our 2024 records are here:


Jesmond’s book, The Irish Butterfly Book, is available in bookshops and by email