Monday, 21 July 2008

Changeable Weather and Butterflies!

With the weather being so changeable recently, we’ve not had nearly as many opportunities to visit the reserve as we would have liked. As a result, I’ve not really had too much to report about, I’m afraid.

I run a butterfly transect as part of my duties, which I report on to Butterfly Conservation. I’m supposed to walk the reserve counting the butterflies present each week, but as a result of this year’s weather, there has been five weeks so far where I’ve simply not been able to get onto the reserve for an hour to do this. It’s either been too wet, too cold or too windy. Still, on the occasions I have been able to do the transect, it’s shown that the butterflies are not nearly as bothered by the weather as us humans are. It’s proving to be a bit of a bumper year for them!

Just last week, whilst walking the transect I recorded over 70 butterflies throughout the reserve in just a single hour.

The species recorded on the reserve so far this year are:

Small White

Large White

Green-Veined White


Small Copper

Small Tortoiseshell


Common Blue

Dark Green Fritillary


Meadow Brown

That’s 11 of the 56 species found in the UK, just on one site! There's also another 2 more to come, i suspect - the Red Admiral and the Painted Lady. Ok, to some, that might not sound very impressive, but if you consider how many different species the average person gets in their garden, it’s almost a totally different world.

The reason we have so many butterflies on the reserve is partly due to the way the reserve is managed. I‘ve mentioned before that we have the Flying Flock graze part of the reserve, and this helps to keep certain invasive species under control. We also have a management program in place for the flower meadows, where we cut these just once a year at the end of summer. This allows a good spread of flowers to come up the following year, which in turn provides a great source of food for the butterflies on the reserve. One of the best examples of this is the bird's-foot trefoil (shown below) which can be seen throughout the reserve at this time of year.

This year has been particularly good for the plant, which has in turn resulted in a bumper year for the Common Blue butterfly. This plant is the main food plant for the caterpillar of this species, so having more of it, means a greater opportunity for the species to breed. Last year, the most I saw of the Common Blue was 3 or 4 butterflies of a day, where as this year it’s not uncommon to see at least a dozen of them!

I’ve included photos below of one of the butterfly species which can be found on the reserve just now, so that people can get an understanding of what they’re looking at when they’re on the reserve.

Dark Green Fritillary

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