The arrival of rare visiting butterflies on British shores has always been a source of excitement among naturalists. The recording, and collecting, of these vagrant species gained popularity in Victorian times, and today the thrill of finding these species is widely shared on social media. Jon Dunn explores the history of butterfly vagrancy in Britain and describes how the status of these species has changed.
It is a bittersweet trope beloved of nature writers and wildlife columnists to look back, wistfully, to their childhood and the abundance of biodiversity that surrounded them in those golden, halcyon days and then to compare that with the paucity of nature that surrounds us today. Like the very best clichés, however, it has more than a kernel of truth to it.