Butterfly spotting has become a major expedition as species suffer decline
Some once-common butterflies now require "major expeditions" to find, as changes to the countryside have affected species in the past half century.
The National Trust's Matthew Oates, who is celebrating his 50th butterfly season this year, said butterflies had been hit by urban sprawl, intensive farming and forestry, a changing climate, and diseases affecting plants and animals.
And the future is likely to see more changes as some species are forced to adapt to climate change while others colonise a warmer UK.
Although some species have done well since the 1960s and a number have even colonised new areas, the losers have outweighed the winners, Mr Oates said.
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"Some of the species I was most familiar with and took for granted are now major expeditions to go and see, and that's significant," he said.
One of these is the wall brown, which used to be common along road verges, woodland rides and rough grassland, but started to disappear in the mid 1980s for reasons experts do not really understand, and is now rare away from the coasts.
Other species found in woodland clearings, such as the pearl-bordered fritillary and the Duke of Burgundy butterflies, are also struggling, while the small heath, one of the UK's commonest butterflies, has virtually disappeared from woods, although it is still found on grassland.
The white-letter hairstreak, which breeds on elms, collapsed as a result of Dutch elm disease, and although it has made a comeback, it is only a shadow of its former self.
However there have been some winners over the past 50 years too, in particular species which have been helped by conservation efforts.
The large blue was reintroduced in the UK from Sweden after being declared extinct here in 1979.
The Adonis blue and and silver-spotted skipper were in "dire straits" in the 1970s, after their habitat of close-cropped grassland disappeared when rabbits were hit by Myxomatosis, but have been encouraged back with conservation and recovery of rabbit populations.
Mr Oates said: "It shows that if you value these things, if the scientific knowledge and practical conservation resources are there, we can have a countryside and gardens with butterflies, we don't have to be losing these things."
Other species that have done well in the past few decades include the Essex skipper which saw a sudden expansion in central southern England during the 1980s in a run of good summers.
The brown argus, gatekeeper, marbled white and silver-washed fritillary have also increased, and are expanding their range, while there are signs the purple emperor – a species on which Mr Oates is an expert – is also on the up.
There have also been highs and lows for butterflies as the result of weather, such as the long hot summer of 1976 when the insects boomed, and species have also been making the most of the first good July since 2006 this year.
Mr Oates said: "They are so massively influenced by weather, not just on them as little delicate creatures that fly, but the importance of weather on their breeding habitat."
And he said: "Climate change will impact on butterflies massively, but we already have a very varied climate, no two summers are ever alike.
The weather already does impact on them massively, it's going to get bigger, I'm sure of that."
One of the impacts of the less adverse side of climate change which may lead to milder winters and hotter, drier conditions in the summer in the UK, could be the colonisation of our shores by butterflies from the continent.
Arrivals could include the swallowtail, three of which have been spotted in southern England this year, and the large tortoiseshell which has been extinct for many years but which could recolonise and has been spotted on the Isle of Wight this year.
There have also been huge changes to butterflying in the 50 years since Mr Oates was given his first butterfly net for his birthday on August 7, 1964, with the old habits of catching, killing and collecting butterflies replaced by photographing them.