The large blue butterfly

Back in 1979 I remember talking to Stephanie Tyler about the extinction of the large blue butterfly from the British Isles. The last live specimen was recorded on Dartmoor in Devon.

I find the idea of the extinction of any wild animal or plant abhorrent: extinction usually comes down to human activity directly or indirectly. In the case of the large blue butterfly it was a matter of habitat loss, with the areas suitable for this butterfly’s habitation being changed for alternative types of farming. The reasons for this happening are quite complex.

I remember feeling particularly sad about this extinction. Suddenly the chance of seeing a native species in our own country was gone.

This week I worked as wildlife cameraman on a series featuring Iolo Williams travelling around England. One of the locations we visited was in the Cotswolds, where I was privileged to have the chance of filming the large blue butterfly! This is why I encourage people to join conservation organisations. A huge amount of research and effort has gone into reintroduction programmes for the large blue butterfly. Using stock from Sweden a breeding programme has enabled the repopulation of a number of sites in England. Without doubt it is a conservation success story.

When we arrived at the filming site we split up to scour the south facing grassy bank. Large blues had been seen that morning, but it was a bit cool. The marbled white butterflies were not deterred by the coolness, but the blues were proving to be elusive. I found a sheltered spot at the top of slope and stood for a while scanning the low vegetation with my binoculars. Opticron Explorers are brilliant for this as they focus very close. As I was about to move on I spotted a large blue about 5 feet away feedng on an orchid. Maybe I should have dragged the camera along with me, because by the time I had grabbed it the butterfly had moved on.

After that the crew got together again and between us we spotted and filmed these brilliant butterflies over the course of a couple of hours.

Back from the dead – the large blue. Travelling as a wildlife cameraman can bring you into contact with refreshingly brilliant wildlife events, and this was right up there at the top for me.