RECENT mild weather means two of the south coast’s rarest butterflies have been spotted a month earlier than last year, experts have confirmed.

The first Lulworth Skipper of 2014 was recorded at Lulworth Cove, on May 21, compared to July 1 in 2013, the Butterfly Conservation says.

Indeed, experts at the Dorset-based Butterfly Conservation charity have found many of the UK’s rare spring butterflies have emerged at least three weeks earlier than last year.

Butterfly Conservation surveys manager Richard Fox explained: “Over the longer term, many butterfly species have shifted their emergence to earlier in the year in response to climate change.

“Our first encounter with a favourite butterfly species each year is a special moment to treasure, but these sightings are also important indicators of how our native wildlife is responding to changes in the environment.”

The glanville fritillary was first seen on the Isle of Wight in April, four weeks earlier than last year.

Meanwhile, the small blue emerged in Hampshire a fortnight earlier this year, compared to the past decade’s average.

Even Dorset’s holly blue has put in an appearance a week earlier than usual.

Thanks to a warm 2013 summer, species hibernating over the winter – such as the brimstone, small tortoiseshell and peacock – have also been seen in large numbers.

The Butterfly Conservation has now launched the free iRecord Butterflies app, which allows users to submit butterfly sightings and photos to form part of the charity’s long-running national recording scheme.

More than 4,000 sightings of the 29 different butterfly species have already been logged through the new app since it was launched in April.