WARMING temperatures in East Lancashire have led to an increase in the numbers of butterflies, birds and insects which previously lived in the south.

Wildlife experts say speckled wood butterflies and species of dragonflies which were rare in the North West 20 years ago are now very common.

A study of 250 species carried out by scientists at the University of York also found that nightjars and woodlarks are now more widespread in the North of England.

Recent records at Brockholes, the Wildlife Trust reserve at Samlesbury, pointed to a total of 20 species of dragonfly and damselfly spotted since the reserve opened just over a year ago.

Conservation officer Kim Wisdom said: “Emperor and migrant hawker dragonflies have spread more than 200km north since 1995, both into this area and onwards to the Scottish border.

“Over the last 25 years, moths such as red underwing and buff footman have moved north into Lancashire. Many people will have seen the hummingbird hawk moth hovering in front of the garden flowers in the last few years. Formerly a migrant which only occasionally reached this area, this moth now appears to be able to breed and survive the winter.”

Lancashire Wildlife Trust senior reserves officer John Lamb said: “There has been a noticeable increase in the number of some species, over the past 20 years.

“In the mid-90s we were recording 11 species of dragonfly on trust reserves, now there are 23 – so the figure has more than doubled.

“Birds are certainly nesting earlier. Wildlife has responded to the changes in climate and there is a lot of evidence in Lancashire.”

Lancashire Telegraph wildlife expert Ron Freethy said: “The warm weather increases the amount of food as there are more snails and slugs around so we have seen a rise in goldfinches and nuthatches.”

Professor Chris Thomas who carried out the study at the University of York said that while there had been an increase in some bird species, that there was ‘a substantial chance that nature reserves are just losing species as they move north and not actually gaining new ones’.

He added: “Although the north is gaining new species, some of the species found in the north may suffer as a consequence of the warmer weather. ”

From caterpillar to buttferfly

  • Butterflies were the last major group of insects to appear on the planet.
  • The earliest known butterfly fossils date to the mid-Eocene epoch, between 40 to 50million years ago.
  • Butterflies go through complete metamorphosis: The first part is the egg, the second part is the caterpillar, then the chrysalis (pupa) and the fourth part is the adult (the imago).
  • Butterflies are protected by a number of acts. The most significant of these is the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
  • Several species of butterfly hibernate in the UK – brimstone, comma, large tortoiseshell, peacock and small tortoiseshell.
  • The top butterfly flight speed is 12 miles per hour.