A rare butterfly, normally found on the other side of the Atlantic, has been discovered feeding on bushes on England's south coast. The Monarch, a spectacular black and orange vagrant butterfly, was seen on Buddleia plants in Ringstead Bay, in Dorset, yesterday lunchtime. It is not known whether the butterfly was blown here as a result of the Indian summer currently gripping the UK or was deposited by hurricane winds from America.
Monarchs are large and unmistakeable with the majority being found in North America, but a smaller population survives in Southern Spain and on the Canary Islands. Richard Fox, Surveys Manager at Butterfly Conservation, said: "Monarchs are one of the wonders of the natural world. At this time of the year they migrate an astonishing 3,000 miles to their overwintering grounds in the Mexican mountains. But storm systems on the Eastern Seaboard of America can pick them up and deposit them on the west coast of Ireland and the southwest of England."
Monarch (Shane Austin).
The last few weeks have also seen many rare vagrant birds from North America arriving in the UK as a result of the hurricane season. The last good Monarch year was in 1999, when scores turned up in the UK.
The butterfly was spotted by accountant Shelley Cunningham, 24, from Yeovil and trainee wildlife guide Shane Austin, 39, from Taunton. Shelley, who three years ago was confined to a wheelchair, is walking the South West Coast Path to raise money for the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) where she was treated for curvature of the spine. Shane said: "I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the Monarch. It was feeding on Buddleia with around 20 Red Admirals. It's big and beautiful and doesn't look like any butterflies you see here. It is just awe-inspiring when you think how far it has flown."
Monarch (Shane Austin).
Shelley underwent three years of surgery to enable her to walk again. She is five weeks into the gruelling six-week walk and has so far raised £3,000 for the charity Above and Beyond. She said: "The BRI really helped me get back on my feet so this walk is to give something back; seeing the Monarch was just a fantastic added bonus."
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