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Lochaber is an exciting place for butterflies, with 23 resident species and three migrants seen in recent years. 15 species are widespread in the district, and 11 are more localised or rare, or seen irregularly – see lists below. Several species have expanded their range into Lochaber in recent years, including Orange Tip, Peacock, Speckled Wood and Ringlet. For help with identification visit the Butterfly Conservation Highland Branch website http://www.highland-butterflies.org.uk/species/butterflies/index.html . A leaflet on Highland Butterflies is available from the Highland Council Ranger Service. The Highland Biological Recording Group has published an Atlas of butterflies in Highland and Moray http://www.highland-butterflies.org.uk/atlas.html which has tips for identification and details of flight periods.



Which are most special?


Seven of our species are UK BAP Priorities, as indicated in the list below. The Chequered Skipper is restricted in Britain to sites within just 30 miles of Fort William! The caterpillars feed on Purple Moor-grass in wet woodland glades. Lochaber is also a stronghold for the Mountain Ringlet which lives on mountain slopes east of the Great Glen.


Pearl-bordered Fritillary is another species which favours woodland glades, typically with bracken and plentiful violets on which the caterpillars feed. Marsh Fritillary can be found at only a small number of sites, generally close to the coast, where Devil’s-bit Scabious is abundant. The caterpillars feed on this plant and live in communal ‘webs’.


Where to see butterflies in Lochaber

Nature Reserves in Lochaber


Butterflies can be found throughout Lochaber, if the sun is shining (!), apart perhaps from the mountain summits, though species such as Red Admiral can even turn up there when ‘hilltopping’.


Many nature reserves in Lochaber are important for butterflies, but there is one site managed especially for butterflies at Loch Arkaig – Allt Mhuic Nature Reserve run jointly by Butterfly Conservation and Forestry Commission Scotland. Here you can see Chequered Skipper as well as commoner species such as Green-veined White and Scotch Argus.


Ariundle Oakwood NNR, Doire Donn SWT Reserve and Glen Nevis are also good sites for woodland butterflies including Chequered Skipper. For Pearl-bordered Fritillary and other woodland species try Glenborrodale RSPB Reserve. Ben Nevis, Glencoe and Creag Meagaidh have Mountain Ringlets and other upland specialists.





List of Lochaber Butterflies (UKBAP priority species are asterisked)



Green-veined White

Orange Tip

Green Hairstreak

Common Blue

Red Admiral (regular migrant)

Small Tortoiseshell

Painted Lady (regular migrant)


Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary*

Dark-green Fritillary

Speckled Wood

Scotch Argus

Meadow Brown

Small Heath*

Large Heath*


Local or rare:

Chequered Skipper*

Pearl-bordered Fritillary*

Marsh Fritillary*

Mountain Ringlet*

Purple Hairstreak

Large White

Small White

Small Copper



Clouded Yellow (irregular migrant)