Volunteer wildlife monitor Val Perrin nearly aborted an afternoon butterfly count at Lark Rise Farm in Cambridgeshire when the weather started to close-in, but he was pleased he chose to press on after spotting the rarest butterfly species ever recorded on a Countryside Regeneration Trust farm ­– a Camberwell Beauty.

The Camberwell Beauty is not native to the United Kingdom, has a large wingspan, with the upper side of the wing a dark shade of maroon with distinctive blue dots and a very pale-white border. Val’s afternoon butterfly walk had started with very little activity because of the weather conditions.

“All I had seen by section 5 were 4 or 5 white butterflies, mostly too far to count or identify, and I realised I would have to return in better weather to re-walk the transect,” he revealed.

“At the end of section 5 I saw a dark butterfly flying rapidly around the tops of the bushes at the end of the meadow. Thinking it was probably a Peacock or Red Admiral, I retraced my steps a bit to keep it in view. Luckily, it landed on a willow branch about 8-feet up and I almost fell back with surprise as I was looking at a Camberwell Beauty.”

Val, who has been interested in butterflies since childhood and has been walking the area at Lark Rise Farm for 23 years, had never previously seen a Camberwell Beauty in the UK.

“I managed 4 or 5 poor photos of it with wings closed on my camera phone, wishing I had my proper camera to hand. On gently trying to bend the branch down to get a better picture, it took flight and disappeared completely from the area” he added.

The CRT’s head of Wildlife Monitoring Vince Lea explained that although this Summer’s exceptionally hot weather has proved challenging for native species, it has meant that rarer migrant species, such as the Camberwell Beauty have made it over here and are surviving while the weather remains warmer.

“The rarity of the Camberwell Beauty makes this identification very special and I’m a bit disappointed I didn’t see it too, as I was in the area at the same time. But it’s a huge reward for Val who has been dedicated to counting the species at Lark Rise Farm for a very long time,” said Vince.

“We’ve been walking the transect and keeping the butterfly data 26 times a year for 24 years, and as this is the first time a Camberwell Beauty has been identified, it really underlines just how unexpected this species is.”