In the mid-1990s Liz Goodyear was admiring multiple Peacock butterflies in her Ware garden when a thought struck her that someone, somewhere ought to be interested in the record. Inspired by memories of her mother’s interest in botany and having collected ‘British Butterfly’ cards sold with Brooke Bond tea when she was a child, she joined the Hertfordshire and Middlesex Wildlife Trust.
Armed with a copy of the late Brian Sawford’s The Butterflies of Hertfordshire she became increasingly involved in recording, initially as a contributor to Butterfly Conservation’s Millennium Atlas project. Not long after she became Hon. Secretary of the Herts and Middlesex branch of Butterfly Conservation and has remained in that role ever since, administering its meetings, organising its butterfly walks programme and – most importantly – creating its website with daily updates on sightings.
Two years before that, however, survey walks for butterflies in private woodland near North Mymms led her and the North London naturalist Andrew Middleton to discover Hertfordshire’s first verified colony of Purple Emperor for many years.Their subsequent monograph in the 2008 Hertfordshire Naturalist detailed eight years of patient fieldwork across the county which discovered that Apatura iris, while not a common butterfly, was by no means the extreme rarity supposed.
Liz characterises their neck-aching technique for observing congregations of male Purple Emperors in high woodland canopy as “sitting in a collapsible chair, elbows on the arm-rests and scanning with binoculars”. She and Andrew gradually extended their annual search across much of East Anglia, achieving comparable results and only stopping when they reached the north Norfolk coast.
They also pursued the White-letter Hairstreak – a butterfly presumed to be exceptionally rare following the destruction inflicted on its foodplant by Dutch Elm Disease. They demonstrated that the species is not that hard to find where Elm is present – although the locations may be distant from the standard transects used to measure butterfly populations. Other species they have jointly studied to prudcutive effect have been the Grizzled Skipper, Small Blue and – so far only in Middlesex – Brown Hairstreak.
In addition to her important administrative role with Herts and Middlesex Butterfly Conservation, Liz has engaged with Network Rail to enable escorted trackside surveys for the Grizzled Skipper as well as working with farmers in Herts to promote butterfly and caterpillar-friendly practices.
She operates a nightly moth trap at home and recently caught 299 Jersey Tigers in one night (without succumbing to any understandable temptation to call it 300!). A hot trapping night in September 2023 also produced no fewer than 669 macro moths, requiring hours of careful ID and recording.
Asked which of her lepidoptera interests gives her most pleasure, Liz simply says: “I enjoy looking for butterflies and finding colonies of rare species.” She is also a lifelong sailing enthusiast with a boat on the Norfolk Broads – happily named the “Chalk Hill Blue”
Photo of Liz Goodyear receiving her Award crystal from HNHS Secretary David Utting ©Tim Hill