There have been several sightings of Small Blue butterflies in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park during June 2019. This is the third year running that this nationally-rare butterfly has been recorded in the park, following an earlier sighting in 2011. The 2017 sighting is described here.
The first sighting this year was on 1st June, during local butterfly expert Terry Lyle’s regular butterfly transect. It was a female, nectaring on Kidney Vetch, the Small Blue’s caterpillar food plant, in Scrapyard Meadow. It was captured for confirmation of identification and photography (see photo above by Ken Greenway), before being released on the same patch of Kidney Vetch where it had been caught. Terry followed this with another sighting of a female in the same area the following week. Most excitingly, this female was laying eggs on Kidney Vetch. This seems to confirm what has been suspected for some time, that there has been a small breeding population of Small Blues in Cemetery Park, presumably since at least 2011. There have been a number of further sightings of egg-laying females, on two widely-separated clumps of Kidney Vetch.These involve at least two individuals, and probably more, and there is presumably at least one male around too. Interestingly, this year’s sightings have all been in Scrapyard Meadow, a completely different part of the park to previous sightings, which were in the Lodge Graves area in front of the Soanes Centre.
The latest sighting, again a single female in Scrapyard Meadow on 20th June (see photo below), was particularly timely, as it occurred while Cemetery Park was being assessed for its Green Flag Community Award. Seeing such a rare butterfly in inner London will hopefully have impressed the judge, London Wildlife Trust’s Director of Conservation Mathew Frith!