When the Butterfly Atlas of the Scottish Borders was published in 2009, based on records received by 2006, this species was described as “rare” in the Lothians and Borders, with the very few reliable recent records scattered widely across the area. This situation is clear from distribution maps in the Millenium Atlas and later publications which basically have a ‘white hole’ across the Borders. By 2014, after some targeted recording had been carried out, more sites were confirmed and some new ones located, but the butterfly then and now can only be described as local here, in contrast to the situation across much of Scotland, particularly in the wetter western parts, where it is often regarded as quite common.

The conservation status of the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary varies across the UK. In England there have been major losses and it is no longer present in many of its former areas and addressing this is consequently an important priority. Here in Scotland, as the overall picture looks better there is probably less urgency. However, because it remains relatively scarce in the Borders and the patches of habitat it occupies are small and often very isolated, there is a current focus on finding out more about its locations. This survey aims to provide well-defined maps of colonies and an assessment of their status in terms of habitat quality and potential threats. This information will be fed through to planning and forestry agencies so that colonies can be safeguarded.

Surveys started in 2023 and the list of known sites is currently about 80, of which around 30 have been visited, two-thirds having the presence of the butterfly confirmed. The map indicates which sites have been surveyed so far – some of these will need more survey work to be sure that they still hold a colony and/or to better define the area of habitat being used by the butterfly.

The peak flight period is mid-June to mid-July. In warm sunshine the adults can be very active, frequently feeding on Marsh Thistles, but can be less easy to find in cool or damp conditions when they may be deeper in the often tall vegetation so typical of the habitats used here. It seems that many of the surveyed sites could be categorised as alongside streams or on basin fens and raised bog edges; in appearance from site photos many look very similar – tall, lush, grassy vegetation with nectar sources and perhaps a scattering of trees such as birch.

The data generated can lead to practical conservation actions (for example the removal of self-seeded conifers from a plantation adjoining a site) and will also be publicised to planning and other agencies to help divert any developments which can damage or destroy breeding sites.

This survey provides a great volunteer opportunity to help with conservation and also to get out to parts of the Borders which are much less visited and to see some wonderful habitats and hopefully also sightings of this lovely butterfly. You can read more about the butterfly in the species factsheet.

Please get in touch if you’re interested in helping with surveys this year. Details of site locations and full survey guidance will be provided. Please use the contact form on the Branch Welcome Page.

Butterfly Factsheets