You are here


Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

A quite common species on the Dorset heaths but far less so elsewhere


  • Grayling: the forgotten one

    Post date: Tuesday, 29 July, 2014 - 00:00

    The grayling (Hipparchia semele) is the butterfly we all forget! If asked to list the butterflies of Dorset without referring to any documentation I reckon I could name most but if I am going to forget one it will be the grayling. The grayling is very restricted in its habitat; it has preference for heath or down land with patches of bare soil, preferably near the coast. Then, it only flies for about three weeks in August so it is not on the wing for very long.

    It has very dull, well camouflaged undersides to its wings. It rests with its wings closed on patches of bare earth and it so it can easily be missed. Often, it is only as you are about tread on them and they take off that their presence is revealed.

    This actually quite a common species on the Dorset heaths but far less so elsewhere


  • Grayling in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

    Post date: Wednesday, 15 May, 2019 - 19:12

    The grayling is considered to be a mainly coastal species favouring a variety of open habitat types from heath to limestone grassland. It does not seem to be a woodland species as it likes to sunbathe on dry, bare soil or rock and as such it can also be found in disused quarries and we have few of those here on the Dorset coast. It rarely rests with its wings open and when the wings are closed it can be incredibly well camouflaged and hard to spot; the first you see of it is when it suddenly taking flight as you pass close by its resting place. It also has the amazing ability to tilt to one side to reduce its shadow on the ground! 

    The Textbooks indicate that the grayling flies in July and August. Here in Dorset it seems to emerge in week 25 towards the end on June and then there are reports every week through until week 35 which is the first week in September. The most reports come in week 29 and July certainly seems the prime month for them. There is one record in the Nature of Dorset database for week 41 in late October which is certainly a late record and well separated from the main stream of reports.

    Forty two locations have recorded grayling in Dorset with Tout Quarry on Portland seemingly a hot spot for them; Tout is a disused limestone quarry which ticks most of the boxes for the grayling's preferred habitat. The distribution map, though, clearly shows that outside of Portland it is the heathland around the Poole basin where grayling are most likely to be seen.


Common Name Grayling
Scientific Name Hipparchia semele
Species Group Satyrid Butterflies Browns
Interest Level
Look for
Identification Notes
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Satyrid Butterflies Browns