Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Low Flying Butterflies at Risk.


Although the rare pearl bordered fritillary butterfly has been here for some time we haven't been able to do as much as we would have liked to encourage it, a little bit of ride clearance here and there, some bracken control etc. However we have recently signed up to a 10 year land stewardship scheme with the aim of doing more to help it survive. This will involve increasing the stocking rate on the farm, making more rides through the bracken and brambles, cutting back some of the scrub growth and some more coppicing of the overstood hazel stands.

There are a number of reasons for the butterflies demise, most linked to the way the land is managed, among them is the decline of violets , the principle food plant; the spread of dense scrub due to an absence of foraging/browsing animals hasn't helped either, and the overgrowth of traditional coppice into small woodlands presents high barriers that the butterfly cannot fly over or around.

The english countryside has been managed by man for so long there are no pockets of wilderness left and while it is often over managed or badly managed, I am broadly speaking in favour of any kind of management that will increase rather than diminish the biodiversity of an area. It is true the pearl bordered fritillary with its reluctance to fly high, requiring low level heathland without too many obstacles like hedges and woodland to hinder it, will not be quite as versatile as its more adaptable cousins like the silver washed fritillary, but it will be a great challenge to see if we can bring a greater variety of life to this hillside and help the butterflies at the same time.
With only 2 months left before the nesting season starts we start work this week. If you live locally and would be interested in helping out for a day or two please get in touch.

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