Local naturalist and butterfly expert Terry Lyle has found another Small Blue butterfly in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, in almost exactly the same spot as he found one six years ago. These are the only inner London records of this nationally rare butterfly, which is usually found on chalk downlands.
Cemetery Park Manager Ken Greenway takes up the story: “Terry has caught a second Small Blue in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park today, within three metres of where a male was caught in May 2011. The area contains the combination of Kidney Vetch and long grass the butterfly needs. Since 2011 we have sought to sustain the kidney vetch population and have checked, though not systematically, for the presence of the butterfly. This butterfly is another male. It was holding territory over a small area. There may well have been a population here all along.”
Having caught the butterfly to confirm the identification and take photos, Terry released it unharmed back in the same area. As Ken suggests, it seems likely that a small colony of Small Blues has gone unnoticed since 2011. The nearest sites where the Small Blue is know to occur are on the southern edges of London in the boroughs of Sutton, Croydon and Bromley, or in Hertfordshire. While some butterflies regularly travel long distances to find suitable habitat, the Small Blue rarely travels more than a few hundred metres. It was therefore surprising that one should appear many miles away from its normal haunts, but the odds of another independently appearing in the same place six years later would be astronomical.
Photos by Ken Greenway (click photos to enlarge)