Probably the most interesting species that breed in Hastings are white-letter hairstreak, small blue and dark green fritillary. Sadly pearl-bordered fritillary and grayling are now most likely both extinct in Hastings but there has been a national decline in both these species despite the availability of habitat, and in the case of grayling available habitat has increased and been improved in Hastings.
White-letter hairstreak used to be extremely rare but in recent years regular records have been coming from one location near an area of the species foodplant, elm. Small blue occurs from only one known small colony on the undercliff at Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve. Patches of kidney vetch occur on the undercliff around Covehurst Bay which is where this species breeds. Dark green fritillary is also very hard to track down as it seems to occur in very low numbers breeding on dog-violets growing on the Firehills and Warren Glen, Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve.
Pearl-bordered fritillary was once recorded at Marline Valley Nature Reserve but there have been no records for many years. Grayling used to be found at Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve but again has not been reliably recorded for many years, although a recent unconfirmed record may hold out hope that the species may come back now that the habitat within Warren Glen has been greatly improved in recent years.
Other interesting species to be found in Hastings include green hairstreak, purple hairstreak and grizzled skipper. Green hairstreak is common at Hastings County Park Nature Reserve breeding on gorse throughout and dyer’s greenweed at Ecclesbourne Meadow and Barn Pond field. The species can also be seen within Combe Haven Valley and on the gorse bordering the road along Queensway.
Purple hairstreak is probably greatly under-recorded in Hastings, and probably occurs throughout but it is hard to track down due to it’s habit of staying high up in the canopy. A good way to find the species is to loudly tap, with a stick, the lower branches of oak growing on woodland edge and then to scan the canopy above with binoculars. This method has produced records in Alexandra Park, Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve and Church Wood. There have been recent records from Combe Haven Valley and Summerfields Wood Nature Reserve (near the ambulance station).
To find grizzled skipper a trip to Big Meadow in Marline Valley Nature Reserve is required, but it has also been recorded from Combe Haven Valley.
And of course due to Hastings coastal location migrant butterflies can be seen in abundance in some years. Most notably being painted lady which can occur in huge numbers turning buddleia bushes from purple to orange, with counts of over a thousand being made on a single patch of buddleia. Clouded yellow is also a welcome find, but numbers of this migrant vary each year. And amongst the common migrants occasionally much rarer species have been recorded such as large tortoiseshell, (continental race) swallowtail and monarch. Other rare species have been recorded in Hastings but it is difficult to find reliable supporting information for some of these records.
If anyone has photos or reliable records of other rare breeding species and migrants please add a comment at the bottom of this page.
Butterfly species recorded in Hastings & St. Leonards.
Thymelicus sylvestris Small Skipper Very common [photos]
Thymelicus lineola Essex Skipper Very common
Ochlodes sylvanus Large Skipper Very common [photos]
Erynnis tages Dingy Skipper Local and scarce
Pyrgus malvae Grizzled Skipper Local and scarce [photos]
Papilio machaon gorganus Swallowtail (continental race) Very rare vagrant
Colias croceus Clouded Yellow Common migrant [photos]
Gonepteryx rhamni rhamni Brimstone Locally common
Pieris brassicae Large White Very common [photos]
Pieris rapae Small White Very common [photos]
Pieris napi Green-veined White Very common
Anthocharis cardamines britannica Orange Tip Common, scarce in some years [photos]
Callophrys rubi Green Hairstreak Locally common
Neozephyrus quercus Purple Hairstreak Scarce but probably under recorded
Satyrium w-album White-letter Hairstreak Scarce
Lycaena phlaeas eleus Small Copper Very common [photos]
Cupido minimus Small Blue Very local, one small colony
Plebeius agestis Brown Argus Local and scarce [photos]
Polyommatus icarus icarus Common Blue Very common [photos]
Polyommatus coridon Chalk-hill Blue Rare vagrant to Hastings
Celastrina argiolus britanna Holly Blue Very common
Boloria euphrosyne Pearl-bordered Fritillary Very rare in Hastings, possibly extinct
Argynnis aglaja Dark Green Fritillary Very scarce and local
Argynnis paphia Silver-washed Fritillary Scarce, some years frequent
Limenitis camilla White Admiral Locally common [photos]
Vanessa atalanta Red Admiral Very common [photos]
Vanessa cardui Painted Lady Very common migrant, occasionally very abundant (counts of 1000 on a single buddleia for example) [photos]
Nymphalis polychloros Large Tortoiseshell Very rare vagrant
Aglais urticae Small Tortoiseshell Common, some years scarce [photos]
Inachis io Peacock Very common [photos]
Polygonia c-album Comma Very common [photos]
Pararge aegeria Speckled Wood Very common [photos]
Lasiommata megera Wall Locally common
Melanargia galathea serena Marbled White Rare and local
Hipparchia semele Grayling Very rare in Hastings
Pyronia tithonus britanniae Gatekeeper Very common [photos]
Maniola jurtina Meadow Brown Very common [photos]
Aphantopus hyperantus Ringlet Locally common
Coenonympha pamphilus Small Heath Very common
Danaus plexippus Monarch Very rare vagrant