Dawlish Warren does not hold any of the rarer British breeding species which may be found elsewhere in Devon, but at least 37 species have been recorded (with two or three others thought to probably be the result of deliberate introductions, either on site or elsewhere). This figure includes most of the more widespread species found in the southwest. However at least five species have become extinct here over the years, mostly before the reserve was designated. In recent years it is thought that the numbers of butterflies present on site have been in decline. Unfortunately regular transect monitoring, begun in the 1980s was stopped in the mid 1990s and any changes in population since then have only been noted on an ad hoc basis. Several factors may have contributed to population declines; population fluctuations, changes in vegetation and management as well as in the local climate.
Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris
A formerly common resident, this species is now seen in much lower numbers than previously, although annual populations are prone to fluctuation. Despite searching the similar Essex and Lulworth Skippers have yet to be recorded.
Large Skipper Ochlodes venata
This butterfly has a similar status to the above species, although there appears to have been a slight improvement in numbers since 2004.
Grizzled Skipper Pyrgus malvae
Former resident? last recorded in 1956.
Swallowtail Papilio machaon
One was reported in the Buffer Zone on 17/7/06, a period of high migrant activity and in line with other recent county records. However these other records are now known to be deliberate releases.]
Clouded Yellow Colias croceus
This migrant from continental Europe is recorded in most years, but in widely fluctuating numbers. In good years, small numbers of the pale form helica are often recorded.
Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni
A widespread species in Devon, there have only been a handful of records on the Warren. Most of these are from the early autumn.
Large White Pieris brassicae
A common species on site occurring as both a resident and a migrant.
Small White Pieris rapae
Another resident species, which also is recorded as a migrant.
Green-veined White Pieris napi
A common resident.
Orange-Tip Anthocharis cardamines
A common resident with fluctuating numbers, currently at a very low ebb. Cuckooflower is one of the larval foodplants.
Green Hairstreak Callophrys rubi
This species was previously present on the reserve but has not been recorded since 1992. It feeds on a variety of plants including Gorse, so reasons for this decline are unclear. A single was in the Back Meadow on 21/5/05, the first record for 13 years, it was recorded again on 08/05/07. However with at least six individuals in 2008 this species may well be re-establishing itself on the reserve.
Purple Hairstreak Quercusia quercus
This species occurs in nearby woodland and could occur as a vagrant, it is recorded in the Reserve card index prior to 1980 but with no details.
White-letter Hairstreak Satyrium w-album
Rare vagrant. One was recorded on 31/7/1980.
Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas
A common resident with three broods in most years. In warm summers several individuals have been recorded with blue in the upperwing, a potential identification pitfall.
Long-tailed Blue Lampides boeticus
The first reserve record of this rare continental migrant was a male seen well near the Visitor Centre on 25/8/06.
[Small Blue Cupido minimus
A single was photographed behind the Visitor Centre in early August 2006, presumably a migrant, this was the first reserve record. A second individual was seen along the Back Path on 16/5/07. This individuals are now thought to be the result of deliberate introductions.]
Silver-studded Blue Plebejus argus spp. argus
This scarce species breeds on some areas of Devon Heathland, but rarely wanders far. The only record here was a female taken by W.A. Eley on 29/8/1981. The specimen is now in the Clifton Park Museum, Rotherham.
Brown Argus Aricia a. agestis
Although reported in 1989, this species was not found again until the late 1990s. It is now present as a breeding species on site, especially around Greenland Lake and Warren Point.
Common Blue Polyommatus icarus spp. icarus
A widespread species, which can be found in good numbers on the Warren, especially in Greenland Lake and the Back Meadow.
Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus
Recorded regularly on the Warren, but in much lower numbers than the previous species.
The first Warren record was of one in Dead Dolphin Wood on 14/7/2006. This was closely followed by one seen along the Dune Ridge on 08/07/07. However Southern White Admiral has been illegally released at several south Devon site in recent years.
Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta
An annual migrant in varying numbers. In the late autumn can be seen feeding on areas of late flowering Ivy.
Painted Lady Cynthia cardui
Another annual migrant, which can appear in huge numbers. Along with the above species is often recorded feeding on Buddleia.
Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae
This species has declined on site, in line with large parts of the UK, although numbers appear to have improved recently. It also occurs as a migrant.
Large Tortoiseshell Nymphalis polychloros
The first reserve record of this rare migrant was in a clearing near the First Pond on 1/7/07. The second was in Greenland Lake on 3/4/08.
Camberwell Beauty Nymphalis antiopa
This rare migrant has been seen twice in the recording area, on 26th July 1982 and 3rd August 2010.
Peacock Inachis io
A common resident and migrant.
Comma Polygonia c-album
This widespread species is recorded annually in small numbers, although records have increased in recent years, especially in autumn.
Dark Green Fritillary Argynnis aglaja
Former resident? Recorded before 1960. One on 11 August 2012 was therefore the first record for over 50 years.
Silver-washed Fritillary Argynnis paphia
One record, an individual around Dead Dolphin Wood on 4-10/08/10.
Speckled Wood Pararge aegaria
A common resident, found mainly along rides in the wooded areas of the reserve.
Wall Brown Lasiommata mergera
An uncommon resident on site, most often recorded along the Dune Ridge. A noticeable increase in numbers in 2004, with three generations appearing through the year.
Marbled White Melanargia galathea
A scarce resident, which has seriously declined in recent years. It was first recorded as a breeding resident in the 1990s, mainly around the Back Meadow. This population slowly increased but by 2003 only one adult was seen, a slight improvement in 2004 saw four sightings.
Grayling Hipparchia semele
Former resident? Recorded before 1960.
The Gatekeeper Pyrona tithonus
A widespread and sometimes abundant species on the Warren, frequently seen around areas of bramble scrub during the summer months.
Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina spp. insularis
Another widespread and abundant butterfly. This species is probably the most frequently encountered on the Warren, individuals can be found almost anywhere on site and in all weathers.
Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus
Another widespread butterfly in the UK, however the first record for the reserve was not until 2008. The first was seen in Dead Dolphin Wood on 07/07/08, where it was noted occasionally until 13/07/08. A second fresh individual was then seen on 20/07/08 with a third the next day. Recorded in every year since.
Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus
Recorded in Devon Butterflies as present from 1980 onwards but with no details.
Monarch Danaus plexippus
A rare vagrant with three recent records. Two were seen on the same day in October 1995, one over the Bight and another around the Cuckoo’s Nest. The most recent record was in October 2001.